Handmade Paper from India

by Judy Gula

Handmade Paper from India

by Judy Gula
Judy Gula, Linda Snow and Libby Fritsche in India, March 2020

I was so excited for my Colouricious Holidays Block Printing Tour of India in March 2020... and then the Covid-19 lockdowns hit as it as finishing! Focusing on Jaipur and surrounding areas, we enjoyed block printing workshops taught by local artisans, plus we saw demonstrations of authentic crafts and textile techniques, interacted with local shopkeepers and workers. Linda Snow is pictured here (left) with me and Libby Fritsche, both of whom joined me on tour. I’m sharing many of Linda’s photos here for you and I want to thank her for documenting our trip so well!

One highlight was a tour of this paper making factory, Salim’s Paper, one of the largest paper factories in the country.

Salim's Paper in Jaipur, India

Cotton rags and scraps to pulp into paperThe handmade paper boxes and decorated papers that were featured in this week’s newsletter were made here! This factory includes a component that aims to employ workers who are not qualified for other jobs, including women unskilled rural workers who receive training.

When we visited, I was impressed with the amount of recycling that the entire Indian culture supports. The amount of textiles produced in India is enormous, and every bit is used to create products for resale. Another recent addition to our online shop are handmade journals (filled with wonderful cotton rag paper) that are beautifully covered in silk fabric that is upcycled from vintage sari and traditional clothing. Upon entry to the factory, one of the first things we saw were the large bags of cotton fabric scraps (pictured here). The fabric scraps are then processed and put in a tub, ultimately creating paper pulp.

Cotton fabric turned into paper pulp

These two men are dipping a screen into the pulp bath, shaking the water out, laying the frame paper side down on to the stack of paper, removing the paper from the screen – and doing it all again and again.

Part of the paper making process at Salim's Paper Part of the paper making process at Salim's Paper

Such a labor-intensive process! Based on how heavy the paper is, I would say you must be pretty strong and have good stamina!

Part of the paper making process at Salim's Paper

The part of the factory we were unable to see was the drying and the printing techniques, which include screen printing and block printing. These steps are done on the roof of the factory! Unfortunately this portion of the process wasn’t in operation when we visited.

Stacks of beautiful handmade paper

Stacks and stacks of handmade papers!

A busy factory worker at Salim's Paper

Then we proceeded to the assembly part of the factory. We were impressed by this man organizing the papers for gluing.

A busy factory worker at Salim's Paper

Here you can see some of the process of making the strong paper boxes that are covered with the decorative paper sheets.

Factory workers at Salim's Paper creating paper boxes Factory workers at Salim's Paper covering paper boxes with decorative sheets of handmade paper

Then we were off to the gift shop with a wide array of gorgeous paper products!

Products in the Salim's Paper gift shop Products in the Salim's Paper gift shop Products in the Salim's Paper gift shop

The paper products that are handmade from cotton rag paper have a wonderful feel to them. It really does feel like cotton fabric, with a wonderful hand and strength. This factory serves to create alternatives to wood pulp papers, so it is eco-friendly. I hope this brief glimpse of the hard work taking place every day gives you a heightened appreciation for handmade paper.

Sheets of handmade paper

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