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Jim Patterson "Papermaking by Two Rivers"
25 November 2011

Visit him at www.tworiverspaper.co.uk or call 01984 641028

I'm sure Jim has visited us before, but he had no memory of us and I had no memory of him. Strange, because this evening proved to be very memorable.

He has been working his water and solar-powered paper mill near Watchett in Somerset for years (see his website). It is a working mill more than a museum but visitors are welcome (you are advised to phone first).

If it is a museum experience you want, Jim is also heavily involved in developing the The Paper Trail's Frogmore Paper Mill & Visitor Centre at the Apsley centre outside Hemel Hempstead (near the junctions of the M25, M1 and A41.

This evening was in two three parts:
1 - A demonstration of making paper by hand
2 - A short DVD illustrating the process.
3 - Some discussion of different types of paper.
Jim had brought basic paper-making 'kit' with him, too:

a plastic tub;
a bag of soggy pink paper pulp;
a mould (or screen), which carried lettering etc. for a watermark;
a deckle (a frame which fits the mould like a picture frame fits a canvas) and
some pieces of felt or woolen blanket.

He also had some sample paintings and a few pads and loose sheets for sale. Although you couldn't have asked for a softer sell, people were certainly busy buying them in the interval and afterwards.

Paper is made from plant fibre, normally from waste cotton or linen cloth, beaten with water until it is a uniform textured pulp. If you use animal fibre you get a felt, which has nothing like the texture of paper because it lacks cellulose.
The magic of cellulose is that when it is beaten the fibres stick to each other and continue to do so as long as 2% or 3% water remains (completely desiccated paper falls to bits). This paper can be pressed until it has a smooth surface, suitable for writing or painting.

This discovery is lost in the mists of time. The Chinese were using it over 2000 years ago and by a couple of hundred years AD a mandarin realised that it was enough of a challenge to silk to give himself a monopoly of paper-making.
The slurry in the tub is about 99% water: less water makes thicker paper. Size (a subject of its own) stops the paper from being too absorbent.

A frame ("deckle") is put round the screen ("mould") and the pair held together, horizontal, agitated in the slurry and then lifted out, still horizontal, allowing water to drain through the mesh. When it has stopped dripping the screen can be turned over ("couched") onto a woolen (or felt) blanket which gives the characteristic texture. A pile of such couched sheets is then squeezed until only about 50% water is left. It can then be dried.
Frogmore was the first (1803) UK mill for machine-made paper. The continuous process had the disadvantage of aligning the fibres - resulting in a paper that cockles if it gets wet.

A cylinder mould mimics hand-manufacture by lifting the sheet slowly out of the slurry as the mould turns. This makes the fibres more random but it has to run slowly, the slower the better, increasing cost but being necessary for watercolour paper. Quality costs!

Jim gave us more fascinating details about the history of sizing and surface treatments than I could possibly include in a write-up like this.
These details were all woven into his description of how the watercolour papermaker has to consider texture, colour, and absorbancy:

Heavy paper is inherently more textured
Pure cellulose stays white
Linen bleaches with age, cotton yellows
Permanent pigments (developed by the motor industry) can be added. Dyes are less permanent (cheaper).
You can add titanium dioxide (white) but the eye is very forgiving, interpreting a coloured background as a warm or cold white (see left).
Jim told us so much that I've not really been able to do him justice.
I must visit the mill at Watchett or Apsley when I am next in either of those areas.
He was suffering from a nasty cold and faced a long drive home,
but he hid it very well and kept us all very interested. Thank you, Jim,


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