Papermaking in the garden


Back in the summer (remember that far back, when the sun shone and everything?), I went on a day papermaking course at Morley College in London. I was drawn to it by the fact we were going to be using natural plant materials, but what I hadn’t expected was that I would fall in love with the little college garden off Waterloo, and especially the plants grown for colour.

It was a taster session rather than a real course, but led by a real expert, Lucy Baxendale. There’s a course starting in June though, you can sign up here – I’m tempted. It was such a joy to go round looking for seeds, plants and textures to use, to feel the gooey mixture (like Blue Peter, prepared earlier for us) give as it turned from plants into paper. Yes, that real pleasure in getting your hands dirty and actually making something.


Here are the scraps I took away with me:


And I had just the poem I knew I wanted to write on the one I made using honesty. Here it is:


My father takes Rupert Brooke’s poems to France, 1945

This knot of honesty I picked today
must have fallen out of my pocket
so you’ll have to believe me when I say

each leaf was thinner than a page
in the book of poems my father
took to war. I like to think

it was the weight behind each word
that kept pushing him to a future
he can’t have dared write himself:

to love and be so loved. Though once
reading nonsense rhymes at bedtime,
he leant so far into that night’s book

I started crying, sensing how
he wanted to topple into it,
just as he must have done once

smelling Brooke’s sweet honeyed tea
above the stench of mud and blood,
this other world he could slip into.

6 thoughts on “Papermaking in the garden

  1. wow Sarah, this paper is so pretty! I’d love to learn how to do it, maybe I’ll try it myself too (although it would have to be in Spain, haha). Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hello Sarah..I remember making paper. Maidstone, in fact was once known as the ‘Paper City’ as it rose in growth to be one of the biggest hand-made paper manufacturers until it lost Hayle Mill (Barcham Green) production on 1987 . Love the stuff. My work has moved on since study in Japan and the UK in the mid to late eighties but am still fascinated by it. In Japan there is a spiritual reverence for paper. With it being used to make offerings and as good luck paper. The word ‘KAMI’ is used to describe god and paper much like in English we use weather/whether in more than one way. Different characters (kanji) are used to tell the difference. The spirit of writers pen could be said to give thought to the paper.

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