Category Archives: Studio

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!

Making Wasp Nest Paper for E. Lily Yu

My friend Richard Butner runs a science fiction conference every summer just an hour north of me and last summer he brought a prominent up-n-coming SF writer, E. Lily Yu, to meet me and see the Paper Plant studios. She was very intrigued by the collection of wasp nests in my display of fiber materials, and I explained that the wasp was truly the first papermaker. When I investigated her online writings, I discovered the reason she was so interested in the wasp nests – her story entitled “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees.” I emailed her, saying I would probably make some wasp nest paper soon, and she asked me to letterpress print the first line of the story on some of it for a museum exhibit she was helping to curate.

E. Lily Yu at the Wing Luke Museum. pic by Amanda Chen

The show, at the Wing Luke Museum, is called Worlds Beyond Here, and runs through October 2019. I have already been inspired to make a different kind of hand-laid paper piece for Ms. Yu, and I am thoroughly enjoying reading her work. I’ll keep you apprised!

DIY Intro to a Sinewed Monster – blank book project

I created a book celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s publication of Frankenstein for a show at Asheville Bookworks.

The inside has pockets with body parts exemplifying major systems.

Asheville Bookworks show info 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.



Papermaking Workshops

Learn how to make paper at home in one session! Following a brief history of hand-laid papermaking and its techniques, you will make a dozen sheets or more. Session tailored to your interests. Kids 6 and up welcome!

students pulp painting with basters

Hand-laid Recycled Paper

The Paper Plant makes utilitarian printmaking paper for small press publishing. The paper is half cotton, half high-quality scrap. Natural fibers such as yucca, flax and okra are pounded and used as strengthening additives. We ferment and grind recycled fabrics and also use decorative inclusions such as dried flower petals, threads and confetti.

teaching display

One-time intro, future production sessions same price.

After exploring papermaking around the world and seeing how our studio works, you will have at least 6 different pulps available for plain sheets or pulp painting. Production sessions may require trade or fee for supplies.

hand-laid white sheet in studio

2 1/2 hour session: $30 (3 or 4 people, $25 each)

John Dancy-Jones, instructor, has been making paper since 1977. He publishes chapbooks, broadsides, and bookmark quotes as The Paper Plant, which operated as a bookstore, gallery and book arts center in downtown Raleigh, NC from 1982-1990. The Paper Plant won the Southern Book Awards prize for alternative publishing in 1987. John has taught workshops in schools and colleges, and at every age level, often assisting working artists in their exploration of papermaking.

Contact us to tour the studios or schedule a workshop:

Phone: 919-618-6883

| Email: | Web:

Book arts studios are open!

Salisbury St sign

The new studios of the Paper Plant have opened for business just outside of Asheville,  NC. John Dancy-Jones is producing paper and printing, as well as scheduling papermaking workshops.

work area

Main work area of papermaking workshop.

I am just doing a trial run of my book arts camp in July, I hope to offer it officially summer 2017. Regular workshops are ready to go now, and I have several already on the calendar.

educational materials for teaching book arts.

educational materials for teaching book arts.

I am letterpress printing handbills now and will be addressing a couple of leftover projects before doing any new letterpress projects. But if you want a unique business card…

printing shop

The handbill is pictured below. Come see us!

Paper Plant flyer

The Paper Plant website

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


Papermaking Classes

Papermaking Intro Workshop

We offer a 3 hour workshop at our studio in Asheville, NC in which you will get basic history and techniques, making about a dozen sheets of paper. Cost is $30, $25 @ for groups of 3 or 4.

Call John Dancy-Jones at (919) 618-6883

or email me at:     paperplantpress AT


Science, Art and Nature:

Mr. DJ’s Summer Seminar

 John and Cara Dancy-Jones offer a one week 9-3 camp in our residential studios, garden and home.  Ages are 8-12.  Book arts, herbs and cooking, turtles, chickens – something for everyone.  A level of interest in arts and culture is required – that said, we are both special educators and can work with a wide range of students.

Call or contact per above.  2012 dates TBA.

Papermaking Open Studio


The Paper Plant presents an Open Studio Thursday and Friday, August 14 and 15 from 10 AM to 4 PM.  Papermaking, marbling, printmaking and letterpress printing will all be showcased with opportunities for hands-on interactions.

Location: 528 N. Person Street, Raleigh, NC

For information call 839-8277