Mulberry paper is also called and known as Saa paper.It is made of the bark of the mulberry tree which is a common tree growing is south-east Asia, Thailand and Pakistan. The tree grows very quickly and it is almost a weed. Its flowers produce a high content of pollen and are hard to escape if you are in the area at the time of their flowering and suffer from pollen allergy.
The mulberry tree is the main source of food for the silkworm, which produce high quality silk. The silkworms feed on the leaves of the tree. The paper is made from the bark of the tree and its leaves when the plant is matured and lost its appeal to the worms. Because it grows so quickly, the plant grows through a full circle in a very short time.
Bark and leaves are soaked in water and made softer. It then gets boiled in salted water to break down the cellulose cells in the plant. After a few hours boiling the mix is rinsed leaving the fibres with which the paper will be made.
The soaking and boiling of the fibres leaves them in a mixture of thickness that is then sorted in types: rough, delicate… and colours to produce different products. The delicate parts will come to form paper and the rough bits will be used to produce ropes or cardboards.
After the raw bark is soaked, cleaned, and treated for uniform color there still remain natural variations. The low-impact, handmade processing means that even after a few days of handling the material can still be grouped by hue and roughness. The most delicate and regular-hued segments are chosen for paper, while rougher and darker segments are destined for rope or thicker boards.
Once the fibres have been separated by thickness and colours, they start the journey to become the final product there are destined to. In the case of the lighter and more delicate fibres as paper.
It is important that same texture and colour fibres get mixed together for the consistency of the end product. The next step is for the fibres to be immersed in cold water and made into a pulp, which is often achieved by using a thresher.
When the fibres have been crushed and separated the colouring take place. This is done with traditional dyes added to the pulp when in cold water making it easier for the true colour to come through in the final product.
Once the pulp is dyed it is collected on light mesh screens immersed in the water and collecting the pulp as it reaches the surface of the water. This process allows for an even layer of paper to be deposited/collected on the screen before it is lifted and place to dry. Before being taken from the water and put to dry, this is also the time where petals and leaves can be added to the pulp to make the final product more interesting.
The pulp put to dry on the screens is essentially cellulose in a mushy state. As the pulp on the screen lies in the sun drying, the water evaporates and the cellulose become the ‘glue’ that holds together the tiny bits of pulp. So when the drying is finished the sheet of paper can be easily lifted from the screen it was drying on.
The screens are made with bamboos tied together in a rectangular shape and with a mesh fixed on across it to provide the resting place for the pulp when lifted. When the pulp is dry the sheets are collected and the screens used again and again. The screens are made in standard sizes easy to handle by one person.
The end product – the sheets of paper – are then used to make cards, as wrapping, or to make boxes.
We have various samples of mulberry paper for sales in our Crafts of the World Online Shop.
Take a look – if nothing else to have an idea of the end product, production of which has been described in this blog.