Day 4 Saturday Week 2:

Forming the Sheets of Paper

The prepared fibre was kept refrigerated until the second weekend of the workshop. The next stage of the process was the same as any hand made paper. The fibres were distributed in a vat of water, scooped up in a mold and deckle, shaken, drained and couched. However, first an extract of hibiscus roots was added to the water to increase it's viscosity and act as a formation aid in the sheet making process.

hibiscus rootsThese roots, a variety of hibiscus, contain a clear, mucilaginous extract which is added to the vat.
The roots are well beaten to break down the fibre and free the neri the name of the extract which is added to the vat.The same wooden mallets are used to beat the roots
The extract from the roots is called neri - it's a clear slimesoaking the beaten roots in water and then adding that water to the vat helps keep the fibres suspended and slows the draining during the sheet forming.
Once the vat is stirred up so the fibre is evenly distributed, the sheet is scooped out using a mold and deckle. This is shaken gently to evenly align the fibres across the screen of the mold.scooping the fibres up into a sheet
the sheet looks very thick and felty at this pointOnce enough of the water has drained off, the deckle can be lifted off and the sheet of paper examined. If it is uneven, or has water drops marring it - it can be returned to the vat.
If the sheet is acceptable it is carefully couched which is the term for transferring it off the mold onto another surface - usually a felt or piece of blanket. For this paper we used sheets of a tough but thin tissue which strongly resembled sewing interfacing material.couching the sheet
A pile of couched sheetsEach sheet is couched onto a felt over the sheet below forming a pile called a post.
At the end of the day, the posts were weighted down by boards to allow the excess water to drain over night. They could also be put in a press for the same purpose.

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