Islamic World papermaking -- what IS it and what makes it unique?

Islamic World papermaking — what IS it and what makes it unique?

Hand papermaking processes from around the world can differ greatly — in the plant fibers that are used; the way the paper is formed; the kinds of equipment; and of course the texture and color of the resulting papers.

Many papermakers and paper-philes are familiar with the differences between Eastern papermaking (traditions stemming from China, Japan, Korea) and Western papermaking (traditions stemming from Europe). Eastern papermaking uses a flexible mould surface made from bamboo clamped between a hinged deckle, and a sticky substance known as formation aid which is incorporated into the pulp, allowing papermakers to build up strong, thin sheets of paper in layers. Western papermaking has a fixed and rigid mould surface made of woven wire paired with a deckle on top, allowing the papermaker to pull sheets of a range of thicknesses in one pass.

How is Islamic World papermaking different?

Radha Pandey with chapri in place

Radha Pandey with chapri.

chapriFirst let’s take a look at the equipment. Similar to Eastern papermaking, Islamic World papermaking uses a flexible mould surface, or chapri, which is woven from sturdy grass, but held in place with two deckle sticks. The primary fibers used are often hemp and flax, and sheetforming uses a method of double-dipping the mould into the vat but without any formation aid added to the pulp.

What makes these papers truly distinct is the quality of the finished sheets of paper, their smooth almost glossy surface and their rich gem-like colors. Islamic World papers are dyed, sometimes in the vat in addition to being brushed on, with such dyes as saffron, henna, indigo, logwood, and tea. The dry sheets of paper are also highly burnished at the finishing stage, traditionally using a large agate stone, creating an incredibly smooth and glossy surface which is excellent for calligraphy and painting.

The best way to understand how these papers are truly unique is to experience it in person!

Register for this special workshop today:
Islamic World Hand Papermaking Workshop with Radha Pandey
Sunday May 22, 10am – 4pm

image courtesy of the Morgan Conservatory

image courtesy of the Morgan Conservatory