Paper made from Elephant Dung

Did you know paper can be made from elephant dung?

 Indeed it can. 

I learned all about it earlier this month at the Pinnawala Elephant Dung Paper Products center in Sri Lanka.

 Elephants apparently have very inefficient digestive systems. 

 They eat tons of plant material (literally), but much of it goes straight through them. That is, after being chewed and pulverized in their stomachs (essentially beaten like one beats paper in a paper beater or blender). So paper-makers gather elephant dung, boil out the "impurities,"rinse the fibers, 

 beat the fibers (as I mentioned, the elephant got this process started in its stomach) using traditional paper-making beater machines, 

dye the fibers, 

 and strain them through moulds just like I do with my handmade paper.

 The paper-makers let the paper dry on the mould and then, depending on the desired texture, either leave the paper as is (rough) or ring it through a paper press.

 Then craftswomen and men make the paper into all sorts of handmade goodies: journals, stationary, picture frames, etc.

Who knew that *waste* could be so useful, interesting and lead to such crafty goodness?

So there's a *fresh* perspective on recycling for you.

(Note: did I really just write that and leave it for the world to see?)

Back to cleaner subjects next post.

Paper Marbling

A couple years ago, at an SCBWI picture book retreat with

Denise Fleming

, I learned a simplified version of paper marbling using shaving cream and food coloring.

This past week (after finally getting my paper-making area set up in my new studio) I put that knowledge to use!

I didn't use food coloring this time. Instead I used the paper-making dyes I use when I dye the paper I make. I did this so I could play with color a bit more.

I needed some "river" paper, which is why I took this on.

These are some photos of the blue versions.

I also made some muddy brown marbled paper too.

I'm so grateful to Denise for teaching me how to do this!

And I can't wait to see how it looks in the collages I'm working on.


The main ingredient in all of my paper art: my own handmade paper.

A couple of weeks ago, my sister happened to be visiting when I made a fresh batch of paper. So I conned her into taking some fresh pictures of me making my fresh paper. I'd already made the pulp when she arrived:

I have an

abbreviated run-through on how I make my paper over at my normal website

(including the pulp-making process).

But I'm pretty psyched to share my new photos so why not go through the sheet forming process right here, right now. Here's how I do it:

I pour my pulp into a floating, framed screen (also called a "mold and deckle").

I agitate the fibers and spread them around inside the frame:

Then I pull the screen out of the water and let the water drain through the fibers back into the tub.

I carefully remove the frame from the screen (or the deckle from the mold).

I press a drying felt (also called a couch sheet -- pronounced "cooch sheet") into the wet paper.

I flip the screen-paper-felt stack onto a pile of other newly made sheets of paper (this stack is often called a "post" of paper)

I sponge out as much water as I can through the screen before...

I pull back the loose screen to see my new paper!

The new paper is attached to the drying felt. After pressing the entire stack of new sheets between boards with a clamp and letting any excess water drain for a while, I hang the new sheets to dry outside on my special drying porch (still attached to their drying felts). When they are dry I peal the new sheets off their felts and voila! New paper is made.