The last time I made recycled paper was when I was cycling in Africa. I was looking for a fun project to do with the nieces of my friend. They had a big bag of used sheets of papers from school which was destined to get burned so we decided to recycle it instead.

Fast forward to present times. I needed business cards for my new craft business – which as it turns out is not so much of a business since I kinda suffer from imposter syndrome when I try to sell something. It’s more of an excuse for me to take pretty pictures of the projects that I’d be doing anyway – Anyhow. I needed business cards for my new craft business and the postcard sized drawing paper that I use to make postcards was running low so it seemed like the right opportunity to recycle the discarded paper that I kept from the last projects like this hollowed-out book box.

Walk-through


Making the frames

I went to the hardware store in the little village close to my home to get the required supplies: a length of wood, a mosquito net screen and some small nails.

Unfortunately they only had carpentry nails which were not exactly suitable for this project. I ended up using some epoxy paste from the $store that I had laying around. It looked good and I was pretty proud of my ability to “make it work with whatever is available”. Yeah…it didn’t work. The frames started coming apart after one round in the water and I ended up using needles as impromptu nails.

With the length of wood that I had purchased I was able to make:

  • two A5 format screens (allowing me to make two from each sheet of paper since standard postcard dimensions is usually A6).
  • one additional frame that will come on top of the screens to help scoop up the paper paste/water mix and shape the sheets.

Preparing the paper paste

After tearing down the discarded paper into little pieces, I let them soak in water overnight.

I then used a hand blender to blend everything down to a fine pulp.

Finally I filled up my sink with enough water to allow me to submerge the frame+screen and threw in a handful or two of paper pulp that I gently stirred around.


Shaping the sheets of paper

The process is quite simple:

  1. With the frame positioned on top of the screen, I scooped up the pulp+water mix in the sink, waiting on top of the sink with the frame horizontally held in my hands until most of the water drained and the pulp was deposited evenly on the screen.
  2. I removed the frame, laid another mosquito screen on top of the layer of paper and drained some of the excess water from the pulp by dabbing a sponge over it. The idea is to get it dry-ish enough so that I can peel the sheet off the screen without tearing it.
  3. I peeled the sheet off the screen and laid it on a towel between two pieces of mosquito net. I laid another towel on top and compressed it with my thermos bottle a kitchen roller. This will even out the paper fibers, drain a bit more water and thin out the sheet.

Drying

Finally the sheets will spend a day or so between volumes of the encyclopedia of the fauna iberica to finish drying out.

If you have some old bed sheets that you are willing to sacrifice you can sandwich the piece of paper between two pieces of rag to help during the drying process.

If they are still a bit damp after that I finish them off by hanging them for a bit.


Final result

I experimented with different styles and thicknesses.

To embed the dried flower petals, I prepared a sheet as described above. When it was transferred on the towel, I placed the petals on it and covered it with another thinner sheet of paper fibers and pressed my roll onto this sandwich to fuse it together.


Ideas to use your recycled paper


Recycled paper postcards

Before branching-off to other crafts, making postcards with dried flower petals (and in that case also pieces of fabric that I got from the local tailor’s trash) was my main hobby.

This picture is from the work that I did with the girls when I was in Senegal. All the postcards are made from recycled paper.


Recycled paper business cards & product tags

I prepared two sheets of especially thick paper for this.

I used a metro pass as a template to divide up the sheets and and X-acto to cut it up into business card sized pieces.

Finally I stamped my design on.

About the stamp: I designed it especially for this purpose of making my own business cards. The vector file of the design was sent to this etsy vendor and a few weeks later I received a custom rubber stamp. The inkpad is nothing special, it was a couple of euros from the $store.

I used the excess from the cutouts to experiment with making product tags.

This stamp is the one that I use to brand leather goods. I also found that it was very good at embossing or stamping paper. It was manufactured by this etsy vendor.


Papier mâché decorative bowl

I used the paper pulp to make a decorative papier mâché bowl.

I pressed the pulp against the bottom and the sides of a bowl and dabbed it with watercolor paint to create the effect that you can see here.

At the time being this is still an ongoing experiment as it has been drying forever for a few days.


Footnotes


The following online content provided some assistance and/or inspiration during the making of this project:


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