From Forest to Farm
Like any other artisanal or artistic practice that has stood the test of time, papermaking has expanded and transformed in a multitude of different ways due to changes in the economy, available materials, and social influences (Kinsella). In 2018 papermaking occurs in prestigious studios of thoroughly trained hand-papermakers, in the experimental and innovative blender-beaten studios, and of course it occurs in large-scale mills. The industrialization of paper production is a crucial part of the history of papermaking and should be understood and remain in conversation among contemporary papermakers.
The Fourdrinier machine, Tomlinson’s Cyclopaedia of Useful Arts, 1852
In 1799 France, Louis-Nicolas Robert received a patent for the first machine that could create a continuous roll of paper, the Fourdrinier, which amplified this streamlined industry’s hunger to produce even more paper, faster and cheaper than ever imaginable. During the mid-nineteenth century wood pulp became popularized due to the perceived abundance of trees and the rising trend of deforestation in the second Industrial Revolution. Nowadays we do not see this surplus of trees, we have a growing demand for paper, and we have a need for clearer and more durable paper, which takes bleaching agents, which leaves very few other pulps being used at this high production rate.
While I am not expecting we as a society of artists revolt against the products of the Industrial Revolution, I do hope for artists to be aware of their sourced materials. Aiming for knowledge of where our art materials come from and learning or creating ways in which we can utilize better materials in our practice that do not support wasteful industrial practices that are harmful to the environment is crucial to the arts. While not every artist has the ability to handcraft every material they use, artists can educate themselves about organizations taking bounds and leaps towards sustainability. Industrialized paper production unfortunately illustrates major issues in true sustainability, brushed over in the video posted above. This Georgia- Pacific video states that "dependable paper products don't just grow on trees", but companies like this are continuing to use tree-based paper manufacturing that cuts perfectly healthy trees away, ending their growing cycle, enforcing the idea that they were grown just to be destroyed for paper. Paper is highly integrated into our society and our world of academia. In higher education specifically, I'm sure nearly every art school has students take some sort of foundational drawing classes where hundreds of sketches, blind contour drawings, observational illustrations, and doodles are made within one semester from one classroom of students. What if these students who are already going to art supply stores and hand selecting sheets of paper based on appearance, size, or durability were just as easily able to hand select gorgeous and affordable paper which extended the lifecycle of plant matter and rejected harmful processes. In college I was fortunate enough to have Steve Kostell for a few of my foundations courses who introduced his foundations classes to this kind of paper made by students for students. Steve is a 2003 ASU alumnus who received his MFA in Intermedia and while at ASU, he dove down the rabbit hole into the world of papermaking.
miscanthus prairie grass and beet dye experiment, P.C. Chloe Torri
Steve Kostell and Eric Benson, who in 2006 received an MFA in Design University of Texas at Austin, were Associate Professors in Graphic Design at the University of Illinois. They saw a lot of potential in the possibility of redirecting larger-scale paper and package manufacturing back to the roots of the artisanal craft, in order to ultimately work towards a more sustainable, circular economy.
“A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.”(WRAP)
WRAP and the Circular Economy, http://www.wrap.org.uk/about-us/about/wrap-and-circular-economy
In 2012 Fresh Press, an Agri-Fiber Paper Lab, was officially created. Affiliated with the University of Illinois in Urbana- Chamapign and located within Research Park in Champaign, IL.
mutt prairie grass advertisement (left) P.C. Chloe Torri, dried rye before chipping (right) FreshPressPaper on Instagram
Pulling from Steve’s in-depth passion for the art of papermaking and Eric’s career history revolving around sustainability in the design industry, they began their journey exploring pulp alternatives by taking the production away from forests and towards farms. Working in collaboration with the University of Illinois’ Student Sustainable Farm, as well as local farmers in Champaign County, Fresh Press utilizes the plant residue left over from harvest as their main medium. This unused waste produced from harvest would typically be burned off, so not only does Fresh Press avoid using tree pulp or other imported material with a hearty carbon footprint, they extend the life of the easily accessible plant fibers. The fibers used at Fresh Press certainly varies on what we can get from the farms but the main list includes but is not limited to: corn stalks, sunflower stalks, soybean stalks, pepper vines, tomato vines, and various prairie grasses.
harvested tomato vines (left) Student_Sustainable_Farm on Instagram, chipped bell pepper vines, tomato vines, and miscanthus prairie grass(right)
Fresh Press “explores the potential of papermaking to be zero waste, environmentally sustainable, and a catalyst for a thriving local economy” (Eric Benson) not only through traditional Western methods of papermaking but by adopting methods from other fields and lending the knowledge gained from our agri-fiber processes to other areas of research. One ongoing research project adopts the ideas of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) where community members purchase regularly distributed shares of produce directly from a farm in order to help with cash flow to local farms, build relationships between producers and consumers, and allow produce to be received at their absolute freshest.
Fresh Press adopted this CSA structure via seasonal paper shares, which ranged from simple variety paper packs to pairs of notepads, limited edition prints of local artwork to bookmarks and greeting cards.
Fall 2016 CSA products, FreshPressPaper on Instagram
Nora Mokate in her studio (left)P.C. Chloe Torri, Summer 2017 greeting card (right) P.C. Chloe Torri
Fresh Press frequently expands its umbrella of resources and has ongoing collaborations with multiple University of Illinois researchers including to architects exploring alternative building materials for homes and mechanical engineers and artists exploring 3D printer and sculpting mediums.
3D printer ready for fiber filament (left), frozen rain barrel (right) FreshPressPaper on Instagram
Papermaking has a history of being the root to problem solving and Fresh Press is honoring this history and creating interdisciplinary projects among artists, researchers, students, and community members in order to work towards a more circular lifecycle of paper.
1. Natalie running the pulp beater, collaboration with Peace Paper, nfsmith22 on Instagram
2. Market of the Quad, nfsmith22 on Instagram
3. Fresh Press Studios, P.C. Chloe Torri
4. Process Infographic, P.C. Chloe Torri
5. Transportation Emissions Infographic, FreshPress.Studio website - Impact
6. Rinsing Miscanthus after cooking, FreshPressPaper on Instagram
7. Chloe Torri design for notepads, on display via Pulp as Portal: Socially Engaged Hand Papermaking (Center for Book Arts, New York, NY and Salina Art Center, Salina, KS)
8. Rain barrel in action, P.C. Chloe Torri
9. Rainwater Infographic, FreshPress.Studio website - Impact
10. Couched recycled cotton and coffee grounds, P.C. Chloe Torri
11. Excellence in Innovation Award 2017, FreshPressPaper on Instagram
12. Recycled cotton and beet dyed cardstock experiment, FreshPress.Studio website - Our Studio
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