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In a couple of weeks I’ll be moving. I’ve sold my one-bedroom apartment and am on the hunt for a two-bedroom. (It’s big news that I’ll have an extra room? This must be Manhattan!) Anyway, I’m putting most of my things into storage before I shoehorn myself and all of my painting materials into Tom’s apartment in the East Village for a few months while I search for my new place. That means that all of my handmade papers will be out of reach, so I thought a post about beautiful papers was timely.


Since summer’s almost here, my mind is on the greenery and the trees that were recently in full bloom and all of the emerging flowers. Some of my favorite papers contain flower petals, leaves and even small object that are bound into the pulp. These types of sheets are called inclusion papers.

This is an Indian floral using rose petals. Inclusion papers come in many weights, from tissue paper to card stock.


Inclusions can be flower petals from roses, chrysanthemums, asters, bougainvilleas, corn flowers, marigolds and so on; stems, leaves or grasses; and fibers such as threads. Even small objects like seashells can be incorporated into the sheet.

But how do they become part of the paper? Why don’t they fall off?

Most handmade paper making methods are based on the same process. Plant or other fibers are made into pulp by cooking, shredding or pounding, or some combination of the three. The pulp is then poured into a vat with water. Sheets of paper are pulled using a mould and a deckle. The deckle, which is just a frame, fits over the mould, which looks like a window screen. They’re dipped into the vat together under the pulp and shimmied until the pulp has settled onto the screen. Both are lifted out of the water, the deckle frame is set aside and the wet sheet is removed.

As it dries, the cellulose in the plant fibers bind together, giving the paper its strength. In the case of inclusion papers, the flower petals or other additions can be incorporated into any stage of the process. They bind to the pulp with their own cellulose fibers. In the sheet below, the flowers were floated above the pulp before the sheet was pulled, so they’re right on the surface of the sheet.


Between the varieties and thicknesses of the pulp, combined with the inclusions and their placement, in addition to the size and color of the sheet, the possibilities are endless.

This is a gorgeous, deeply textured sheet. The orange flowers are about 1-1/2 inches wide.


Inclusions can be quite small to simply lend a texture to the paper.


Or they can be composed to create patterns and designs.


This one is on an especially smooth sheet. It’s made with pressed flowers.


Here’s another pretty one. Composed, but it’s not so obvious.


This is one of my all-time favorites.


Here’s a sheet with seashells embedded into the pulp. What a great idea!


The pulp can be dyed any color you choose.


One of the valuable aspects of many handmade papers is that no trees are harvested to make them. Any raw material can be used as long as its fibers will bind into a continuous sheet. Pulp can be made from vegetable matter (including leaves, tree moss, potatoes and flowers), paper and jute waste, fabric waste (old ropes, canvas, linen and cotton), as well as agricultural waste.

This is a recycled mulberry-bamboo mix.


Papers that take advantage of agricultural waste are especially smart. For example, banana trees and mango bushes produce fruit only once a year and are then cut down, leaving abundant waste. Recycling the waste fiber into paper protects the region’s ecosystem from becoming polluted while providing local paper artists with a large supply of raw materials. Many handmade papers tend to be environmentally conscious in this way.

This is a mango sheet. In this case, the inclusions are mixed in with the pulp.


Bdlow is a banana sheet from Thailand.


That’s the great thing about handmade papers. No trees are cut down, an artist can practice his or her craft, and you end up with a gorgeous sheet. Everybody wins!