Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Indian vs Korean Hand made Papers .......


During my recent visit to India I took the opportunity to visit Kagzi handmade paper factory in the district of Sanganer, 16 kms south of  Jaipur in the state of Rahjastan.  It's famous for it's handmade paper industry, textile printing and for Jain temples. Around 10 handmade paper industries are present in Sanganer so I was interested to see the difference between how they made paper in India and the way the Korean 'Hanji' is made.

The process of manually manufacturing handmade paper, in either country, has changed very little over the centuries, despite all the advances in technologies but it's useful to note, that paper making started in Korea somewhere between 200 - 500 AD whereas it was only introduced into India in 1728. Therefore, Korea has by far a much longer history of paper making.

There are generally around five steps in making paper:

1. Separating the  fiber from the rest of raw materials. (e. g. cellulose from wood, cotton, etc.)
2. Beating down the fiber into pulp
3. Adjusting the color, mechanical, chemical, biological, and other properties of the paper by adding special chemical premixes
4. Screening the resulting solution
5. Pressing and drying the paper

I've always noticed that  the Indian handmade papers are courser and much more fibrous than 'Hanji'  therefore I rarely use it as it makes it difficult to employ my methods to mould the paper into a three dimensional art form. Nevertheless I was interested to find out more.


The first thing that I noticed is that this factory used scraps of cotton fabric as the base of their paper instead of the inner bark of the mulberry tree that's used in Korea.The business had actually stopped for lunch when we arrived but we were shown around the factory floor and it seems that the process of softening the base product into a mulch is done in much the same time consuming and messy way, as it is in Korea.

Secondly,  the method of screening  out the water from the fibres through the mesh is done more coursely, producing a lot more fibre on the screens which was then placed in only one direction, whereas 'Hanji' is made using a cross threaded pattern.


Thirdly, in India the papers were then hung in sheets from the ceiling to dry naturally and then smoothed out by putting each sheet through some rollers before being stacked in their colours ready for sale. In Korea Hanji is usually dried on a hot steel drum for a few seconds which automatically produces a a smooth finish to the paper.



During the pulp making process, colors and other waste materials like straw, grass, hemp, silk waste, flower petals are added to lend texture, color and pattern to the handmade paper. The paper is often internally sized with rosin soap and surface-sized with gelatine, and therefore can be slightly acidic (ph 6-6.5). The sizing is necessary for the absorbent cotton to resist the penetration of water-based inks and paints. Indian handmade paper is generally considered to have greater tensile, bursting, tearing and double-fold strength compared to conventional paper.

The Indian papers are crudely made from cotton rag waste but it's tree-free and 100% recycled.

The finished products were quite different from what I'm use to working with but this factory is a large operation with exports going all over the world. Their papers are used for covering commercially made boxes, wrapping papers and handmade recycled paper products. 

It was an interesting exercise and it's given me a better insight into the highly refined paper products that I use in my work and why I use them.

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