Category Archives: Hand-laid Papers

Yama’s Grand Run with the Handmade Paper Swatch Swap

Yama Ploskonska makes paper as a means to an end, but make no mistake – he is obsessed with the papermaking process. How else to explain the stupendous projects with DIY equjpment, the stupendously ambitious printing projects with his paper as star, the patent-pending chiaroscuro watermark in his own contribution to this book, and most of all his noble efforts to develop community among papermakers.

The final point is exemplified by the 2021 Handmade Paper Swatch Swap Yearbook, which culminates a 21 year run. Yama worked hard to publicize and recruit for the project, garnering 82 papermaking artists from around the world to contribute over a hundred swatches of one or more of their papers, with descriptions of their fiber sources and recipes for preparation and formation of sheets.

The papermakers listed below hail from 19 countries, such an amazing achievement given the physical, personal presence created in each of over 100 scrapbooks, that they are worth listing: all over the USA, Japan, Italy, the UK, Portugal Denmark, France, Mexico, South Africa, Haiti, Ghana, Ecuador, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Micronesia, Germany, Brazil, and Peru.

Each artist sent small swatches in an edition of a little over a hundred (so less than a dozen standard sheets) and Yama assembled the group’s collection into the scrapbooks. The fiber sources and techniques are as varied as the geography of the studios: Aviva W. Fontes from California collected discarded leis on a Hawaiian vacation and combined them with her morning tea bags to tinge her pulp. Alicia Canary in Massachusetts collected the highly invasive Japanese knotweed for its strong fibers. Suzi Ballenger in Rhode Island used Japanese indigo (in the banana family) to create a spectacular color in her rough-textured sheets. Julie Johnson in Oregon grew her own kozo (the traditional Asian fiber) and used okra slime as a sizing and formation aid. One of her samples was infused with tiny bits of turkey feathers! My favorite technique came from the premiere papermaking studio in the US – Amy Jacobs, Master Collaborator at Dieu Donne‘ in NYC, re-laid dark pulp on white , covered with lace, and used a fine nozzle spray to get a lacy stencil effect. Her “Ghost lace cotton” is truly unique!

Fibers used included lots of linters, the by-product of textile production that is a staple supply, and much recycling of everything from used clothing and junk mail to backyard weeds and old Brazilian bank notes. Raw fibers were cooked in lye or soda ash and usually beaten in a Hollander. Recycled stock was common, usually reduced to pulp in a blender.

Yama deserves great praise for coordinating and physically producing this marvelous scrapbook. Find him on Facebook and tell him so!

FB Paper SwatchSwap group



Kozo Creations From Local Mulberry

gently pounded strand of kozo fiber

Kozo, the traditional Japanese paper fiber, comes from the same mulberry trees that dot our local landscapes as a mild invasive (our native red mulberry is the counterpart). My new papermaking friend, Lauren Bacchus, has been exploring fiber work with locally foraged fibers for some time. We had a sharing session and had a lot of fun with partially beaten kozo from branches we had harvested that day.

We cut the mulberry branches into manageable lengths and then cooked them in water with about a cup of my homemade “farmer’s lye.” (Water slowly run through hardwood ashes). Then we rinsed and stripped the bark off the central pith. After more soaking, we could pull off the brown outer bark and expose the white and green layers of the cambium.  Lauren showed me how she takes the broader pieces of cambium and gently pounds them on a hand beater surface to spread and delineate the individual fibers without destroying the strand. She explained that some cultures take these pieces and laminate them together into sheets.

Lauren also had a neat trick of pounding little ovals out of a strand of kozo – what a great inclusion object for a paper collages! Love this technique.

sheet of partially beaten kozo

We made a few sheets with the whole partially beaten fibers. It was amazing to see that our short beating session had indeed produced enough pulped fibers to make a sheet of “real” paper with the heavy inclusion of long fibers. I was ready to make some production paper!

After more extensive beating I cut up the kozo into blender-friendly lengths and used a blender mostly full of water to beat a few chunks at a time. After adding a little potato starch, the pulp was ready.

We had a great time, I got to have a big enough fire to make some bio char in tin cans, and it was a lovely warm winter day in Baird Cove. This was a great boost for my intentions to do more natural fiber work in the new studios. Add kozo to my current list of grown or foraged fibers in the studio: okra stems, heirlom green cotton, flax, hibiscus, yucca, iron weed, thistle down, wasp nests  and banana!

First Hundred Sheets for The Natural History of Raleigh

Above are the first hundred sheets of ONE THOUSAND I will eventually make for the covers of my new book, The Natural History of Raleigh, which will arrive from the printer soon and be out by Mid-November 2018. The sheets are made of high quality scrap and cotton linters, with bits of dried oak leaves suspended in the pulp.

The sheets are 12 1/2 by 20 inches, formed on wove screens of medium coarse silkscreen. I use two screens for extra draining time before couching (laying off on to the wet felt) each sheet.

When I’ve got a stack of a dozen or more between felts, I slide my hands under the stack and lift it into my big press, which is framed by 4×4 lumber and powered by the lovely jack you see (another story sometime). After a good sqeeze and another later, the sheets are ready to lay on boards – or in this case, washed glass.

They dry with the pieces of dehydrated oak leaves down on the glass, which makes that outside cover surface extremely smooth and perfect for printing. Each sheets uses up a good sprinkle of oak leaves and I add pulp and fresh oak leaves between each sheet. I pick a batch of dark un-scarred leaves, sandwich them between screens in a 105 degree dehydrator for a couple of hours, then shred the pieces with my fingers. The project will require many, many pieces of oak leaves.

The Natural History of Raleigh will be published by The Paper Plant Press and includes over 30 line drawings by me, the author. I have worked on this book for over a decade and can’t wait to share it with you!

Folded cover with letterpress block for back

Cover with scored spine and polymer block for front

The finished project is HERE!

Summer Flowers Make Fall Notecards


We grew lots of flowers in our Asheville garden this summer and I picked and bookpressed or dried between screens LOTS of petals for papermaking. We incorporate the sheets into the pulp, though a great deal of “cheating” – repositioning and adding petals, anchoring with bits of pulp – is done to make them look good.


The petals are fragile and vulnerable to all kinds of problems, from drying to papermaking to drying again. I used a fan to quickly dry boards of petal sheets this year, since I was in a rush to use the petals. Usually, they cure for up to a year.


larkspur notecard

The cards have a writing sheet tipped inside and come with an all-deckle edge envelope. They are $4 apiece; a set of 5 in a ribbon is $17. You can check them our on our Etsy page, or order what you see here.

bee balm card

bee balm card

cornflower card

cornflower card

sunflower card

sunflower card

Each type has a little foliage included. The yellow card above has regular and Mexican sunflowers, black-eyed susan, and dried leaves of artimesia. If you take my class, you may bring about any 2-D material to put in your paper; we have a few surplus jars of petals you may dip into as well.



Screenprinting Again After 30 Years

Meander prints

Screenprinting is easy and my kind of slightly crude; it was the first printing process I used on my hand-laid papers in Greensboro in 1977-78. The last screenprint I did was in 1983, when GG and I screened an image for some anti-war group she was part of.  Now I have screenprinted a souvenir to hand out at the Black Mountain College conference in Asheville.  The theme of the conference is craft, and my image is a detail from Anni Albers’ fabric artwork entitled Red Meander.  Her work,in turn, is based on an ancient motif that appears on early pottery around the world.

after Red Meander by Anni Albers.  silkscreen on hand-laid paper.

after Red Meander by Anni Albers. silkscreen on hand-laid paper.

To make this, I blew up the original image (from the book  Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay, by Christopher Benfey) until the lines were about an inch thick.  then I darkened the dark areas and taped the image to the underside of a silkscreen.  I cut roughly one inch strips of masking tape and filled in the dark areas I saw through the screen with lines of the tape.  All this flipped and reversed the areas of print, but with the meander, that doesn’t really matter!

Meander screenand inks

I picked up some red screen printing ink at Askew-Taylor’s and added a little aquamarine and yellow to get the brick red I wanted. I had whipped out 50 extra sheets of our hand-laid 6×9 card stock over the weekend. Laying the sheet on a registered spot (with a new scrap larger sheet under each lay), I then set the corners of the silkscreen on register corners and lay it on the paper.  Spooning a generous dose of ink along the top line, I pulled my blade tool over the screen, running the print (which was slightly larger than my sheet) to the edge of the paper.  Lift, separate, and lay to dry.  There is a letterpress credit on back done with our small brass stamper.

Meander page ready to print

Meander screen printing

I look forward to more screen printing as my new schedule allows for some projects like this one.  And three cheers for Black Mountain College and the amazing presence it continues to have in the arts of our land!

pulling a Meander


Delphinium Card Set

Our flower petals are bookpressed, then suspended in the pulp as we make the sheets. A  writing sheet is tipped into the folded card. All-deckle envelope. Set of five is $17, single cards are $4..


Our note cards at Etsy

Large Sheets and Commissions

We make a screen-dried sheet 29×36 inches and we stock small quantities of screen-dried and felt pressed 20×20 and 21×25 sheets.  We have done many unique jobs for weddings, commercial PR packets, artists, and others.

Happy to correspond about your needs at

paperplantpress  AT

Marbled papers

We marble without alum on our cured hand-laid paper.  We use distilled water, pigments and oxgall on a methyl cellulose sized vat.  The papers have full color but are slightly muted.  Each sheet is unique.

9×12 laid sheets: $3.50 per sheet.   12 1/2 x 20 sheets: $8.00 per sheet.

to order click here

browse individual sheets on Etsy

6×9 Collage Book

Our 6×9 collage books have eight inside sheets – 32 pages – which are repressed with linen and cured dry for a very authentic European book paper look.  The collages are each unique.

Currrent blank book offerings on Etsy

Bee Balm Notecards

Our flower petals are bookpressed, then suspended in the pulp as we make the sheets.  A writing sheet is tipped in. Set of five is $17, single cards are $4.

single card with handmade paper envelope


Our note cards at Etsy