Updated: Jul 3, 2021
I source all of my paper from waste paper which includes, junk mail, bills, magazines, wrapping paper and packaging.
There are two main colours that the paper will produce, brown and off white. For dark colours, I use the brown base and for all others the off white.
First the paper is shredded, I use my home shredder although this can be done by hand. Then I soak it in water and blend it into a pulp. The same water can be used multiple times as the pulp is strained before colouring.
I prefer to use pigment to colour the pulp as it leaves very little waste and I find it easier to control the colour. For deeper colours, I will leave it for a couple of days. At this stage I have also started to add wheat paste powder which helps add structure to some of the more intricate designs, in particular the unicorns.
Once the pulp is coloured I use moulds to shape it, these are made from either silicon or metal. Occasionally the pieces are hand shaped or rolled. I use scraps of material from old bedsheets to press the pieces absorbing as much water as possible, this also helps strengthen the pieces and avoids an uneven surface being created during the drying process.
The shaped pieces are then left to dry, depending on the time of year this can take hours or days. A hot sunny day in full sun will take a couple of hours (in the UK) with regular turning and during winter a couple of days in a warm place or they can be placed in the oven after cooking to give them a head start.
After the pieces are fully dry the shaping is finished, this can involve cutting them to create the pieces that involve cork. They are then sanded to create a smooth finish, usually this is done by hand, however on occasion I use a Dremel with a sanding attachment. I collect any paper dust or waste created to use in other projects or to add to a new batch of pulp.
Where cork and paper is combined I use a strong non-toxic white glue. The pieces are then finished with either a matt finish or with a thin coating of beeswax. All glues and finishes are non-toxic and water based.
I am constantly looking for an eco-friendlier finish to my pieces, the best option I have found so far is to use locally sourced beeswax, however I find this can colour the pieces. My goal is to find a suitable glue not made from fossil fuels, however, while this is important to me so is providing a product that is well sealed and will last, so the search continues.