It has begun...well, sort of.
I've never made paper before so a few months ago I contacted a long time family friend, Shirlee Aho Daulton at The Arthouse in Ottertail, Minnesota, for advice and insight. Shirlee was nice enough to send me some of her paper samples and processing tips. I also met with Karen O'Neal at Out of Hand Papermaking Studio in Ann Arbor. Karen lent me a mould an deckle and showed me several types of paper she had made from plants. Most recently I corresponded with May Babcock (http://maybabcock.wordpress.com/) regarding her experiments with making paper from Phragmites. What I have garnered from my discussions with each of these artists is that paper making is not an exact science and requires a lot of trial and error.I started with cutting the Phragmites stalks into pieces (now realizing I should have cut them shorter). I boiled them with soda ash for two plus hours, rinsing them afterwards for another 2 hours until the water ran clear. I tested the PH, which was normal and then started blending the material one cup at a time. This is where I ran into some difficulty. The Phragmites stalks are so thick and strong that my blender is unable to break them apart sufficiently. My first attempt at making a piece of paper resulted in thick clumps instead of a consistent film of pulp across the screen. I will spare you the picture of this unsightly scene.
This week my task is to figure out how to break the Phragmites down even further so I can make some paper.