acquisition of structural tree bark
The bark of the tree is made up of very strong fibers that make high-quality paper that is often tougher than paper made from ordinary wood pulp. The craftsman told me that the bark is wild and that the owner of the umbrella workshop planted a tree in his yard to make it easier to introduce it to visitors. The bark needed for paper making is not picked by the owner, but acquired from other places. The best time to buy bark is in March and April, when the villagers go to the mountains to pick bark to subsidize their families. During this period, the workshop buys the bark needed for the whole year and places it in the attic.
steaming the bark
“Steaming” is the process of making the bark into a material. The bark is soaked in a 1:1 ratio of solid wood ash for 12 hours and then placed in an iron pot and boiled for 8 hours. The bark needs to be sorted according to the variations in hue and roughness. The finest and regular-toned parts are selected for paper, while the coarser and darker parts are used for rope or thicker cardboard. When the temperature in the pots is lowered, the women in the workshop put the material into pots. The structural bark fibers are loosened by the action of the solid wood ash and the heat, at which point they can be separated, at which point the fibers are pounded into pulp.
Pulping is a long process compared to other “paper making” jobs. Every morning in the dry season, women place the cooked and cleaned bark on a wooden pier and beat it rhythmically with two mallets for about 20 minutes until the “material” becomes pulp. for about 20 minutes until the “material” turns into pulp. When the pulp is soft enough, it is rolled into a ball and placed in a water tank. It is stirred back and forth for three minutes by turning a wooden stick with both hands. In the yard, there is a rectangular concrete paper trough about two meters long, one and a half meters wide, and one meter high, which is always filled with water. After the material is pounded into pulp, the pulp is put into a paper curtain to set the shape. The paper curtain consists of a wooden curtain bed with wire mesh. One paper cutter holds the curtain bed in his hand and carefully places it in the trough, while the other pours the pulp into the curtain bed, and then both of them spread the pulp together. If the pulp is not spread evenly, resulting in inconsistent paper thickness, it becomes waste paper and needs to be reworked, so this step needs to be done carefully,Once the paper pulp is flattened, leaves and petals such as mugwort and trillium can be added to the pulp to decorate the paper. In principle, there are no specific leaves and petals, but since roses have been used before and their color will turn black after a few days, while mugwort and trillium will not, these two are widely used. After adding the decorations, the paper cutter lifts the curtain bed horizontally from the paper trough, which is now covered with a decorated paper film. The paper curtain is taken out of the trough and exposed to the sun. The drying time varies depending on the weather, from two hours in bright sunshine to longer on cloudy days, depending on whether the paper is dry or not. When the paper is dry, it can be removed from the curtain and set aside.