Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Paper Tour France - 2016 - Moulin du Verger

I've just returned from a fabulous tour of France which covered over 3,000 kms of bus travel and included visits to old paper mills, UNESCO sites and artisans studios. It was a trip of a lifetime as it just happened to coincide with us being in Europe and the last such ttrip was held in 2008.

It was a very specialized tour and there was so much wonderful and excitingly new information for me to take in, in a short space of time, that it's taken me a while to sift through everything and decide  what I need to take on board.  I took thousands of photos, as I usually do, and those too need sorting out but I'm getting there and I can now begin to enjoy once again those wonderful paper tour experiences.

Hand made paper products
I won't even try to explain all of what we did but instead, over the next few posts, I'd love to share some of the highlights of the trip so you can come on my second-time-around journey. 

There were 16 very different and gifted paper artists on the trip from all over the world including Australia, the US, Norway, Holland, Israel and the UK.  Our wonderful tour guide Chantal was from Paris and as a paper maker herself, we were in very good hands. Her wonderful local knowledge of France and  inside knowledge of the best paper makers to visit enabled us to see some wonderful old paper mills, UNESCO sites as well as some very specialized artisans in their home studios.

One of the Paper mills we visited was set just outside Angouleme in  the town of Puymoyen.  The Moulin du Verger mill was established in 1539 and was one of the first in area.  During the pre industrial era paper mills relied on an abundance of water to keep the mill wheels turning and to generate the power and therefore it was positioned on a small tributary of the Charente River that runs near the town.

Le Moulin du Verger
Stream, overgrown with plants, flowing rapidly into the mill .

The mill was completely rebuilt in 1635 by the Dutch stationer Deric Jansen and at that time the raw materials for making paper were rags, mainly cotton, which they sourced from the local area. Over the centuries different pieces of equipment were installed to upgrade the mill and to keep up with the high demand for  paper that was being used for scripts and books at that time.  

Felt laying out to dry before being reused in the paper making process


During the second half of the 19th Century when paper making became mechanized there was a huge drop in the need for handmade paper so the mill turned instead to cardboard production.

It wasn't long before some paper purists and artisans wished  to retain the older more hands on methods of paper production and therefore some of the mills were given a new lease of life and returned to the more traditional paper making. It didn't pay the bills but it did retain traditions and a new market for restoration papers and book binding crafts emerged.
Jaques Brejoux
Jacques Brejoux, the Principal Paper-maker at  Moulin du Verger has worked for the Mill for over 50 years and he's such a wonderful character, extremely passionate about making paper and everything in life really. 

He's seen so many changes over the years but for the first 30 years he explored the craft of paper making before deciding to use pulp the way it was used in the past. Under the guidance of Jacques, the paper production has relatively recently gone back to using methods of production that were in place during the 17th & 18th Centuries, prior to the industrial revolution

Jacques was keen to share his knowledge with us all and to show us around his workshop where he experiments with paper making to acquire  the perfect results.
Looking at the processing of the paper
For the last 12 years he's been working with a book binding and restoration workshop to fine tune his art of paper making and taking it from a purely aesthetic level to a strong, flexible and sturdy paper similar to that which was used for limp vellum bindings from the Italian Renaissance period on-wards.

Screen and felt for separation of the sheets of paper

Screening the fibres
We watched fascinated as he went through some of the processes required to make hand made paper.  The fibers he uses usually come from linen and hemp scraps that have  been fermented for several months.

Placing a watermark tool into the screen

Placing a watermark into the sheets of paper is very important and therefore during the screening process there is a lesser accumulation of fibres in the watermark area which translates into a watermark in the paper when held up to the light and dried.

The drying room
I haven't gone through all the processes of making paper in this post but instead I hope that I've given you an overview of what's happening  in an old paper mill.  This mill is returning to the way paper was made during the pre industrialization period in France.

You may wonder why I might be interested in handmade paper processes in France when I use Korean hand made paper for my craft.  It's simple really. Learning about my craft is so much of a journey  for me and I'm now able to compare Eastern and Western paper making methods and the pros and cons of both.  This explains to me why  Korean  paper is so good for Hanji craft.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful write up on Moulin du Verger. Thank you,thank you.


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