As a professional writer, I’ve always had a bit of a love affair with paper. There’s something strangely appealing about the stuff, whether it’s pure, blank white or every colour of the rainbow. It can be lined, it can be dotted, it can even be perfectly blank on every side. It doesn’t matter, I’ll still love it.
When I was a young girl, my mother taught me how to make paper. She would bring out an old blender, throw in a bunch of paper pulp, and start adding things like onion skins or flower petals or even dryer lint. We would blend it into a watery mush, scoop some of it up on a square of screen stapled to an old picture frame, then sponge all the water out until it started to resemble something more like paper and less like guck.
I was always amazed at how pretty a piece of paper you could make from the most mundane-seeming ingredients.
As a teenager, I found myself in the exact opposite position. Instead of learning how to make paper, I was teaching other people how to do it as part of my job at the National Museum of Science and Technology (now called the Canada Science and Technology Museum). Most people thought it was kind of neat and would pause for a minute to try their hand at it, but you just knew they didn’t really get it. Why would anyone go through the time and trouble of making chunky, bulky, weirdly coloured paper out of onions or wildflowers or grass?
Every so often, though, someone would come along who would have a particular gleam in their eye and you just knew that this wasn’t likely to be the last time they had their hands wrist deep in paper pulp.
Maybe it was the way they crushed a handful of pulp in their hand to squeeze some of the water out and see what it might look like when finished. Or maybe it was the way they sniffed at the various ingredients and fingered the finished samples.
Maybe it was just a case of kindred spirits recognizing each other.
It’s been a long time since I’ve made paper by hand. My mother still does, as does my sister. Artists, both of them, so they have a daily excuse to dabble in all things creative — it’s all in a day’s work, after all.
For the past few months though, I have been knee deep in paper. The Man We Call Dad bought me a paper cutting machine, the Cricut Explore Air, and I have been having SO MUCH FUN with it! Yes, I know I’m shouting, but really, it’s been such a great thing to play with.
I’ve made all sorts of things with it. Cards, of course. Animal masks for all our nieces and nephews. A gorgeous bouquet of 3D paper flowers. Layered paper art for our walls. Tiny, delicate birds that are currently decorating the doors on the main floor. Mobiles for hanging in bedrooms and from windows. And paper banners, which I think turned out to be my absolute favourite project to date.