The Versatility of Handmade Papers

Every time I walk into a store that sells paper goods like handmade cards and art papers, I long to own a paper store. The idea of being surrounded by the colors, patterns, and textures of printed and handmade paper all day simply moves me.

mixed media painting with handmade papers Rachelle Panagarry
Paint picks up the natural texture of handmade papers,
like mulberry. Art by Rachelle Panagarry.

Then I remember that running a store involves more paper work than paper reveling, and I come to my senses.

Handmade paper is beautiful on its own or used as the base for a paper quilt, card embellishments, and lettering. But its texture can also add dimension and depth to art techniques like stamping, printing, collage, painting, and mixed-media stitch projects. My three favorite art papers all come from Asia:

Mulberry paper is made from the inner fiber of the mulberry and produces a very pure, translucent paper. It's lightweight yet strong, and it's edges feather easily when wet and torn. Mulberry paper comes in smooth and textured styles and a wide variety of colors. Its properties make it perfect for collage and mixed-media painting.

Handmade Lokta paper is made from the fibrous inner bark of high elevation evergreen shrubs in Nepal. Because of Lokta paper's durability and natural resistance to tearing, humidity, insects, and mildew, it has traditionally been used for recording official government records and sacred religious texts. Lokta paper makes wonderful book pages and takes stamping and hand printing beautifully.

Japanese washi is fine paper made from fibers of several plants including the Gampi tree, bamboo, hemp, and rice. Washi paper is lightweight and often translucent, but very strong. Inclusions such as fibers, bark, and flower petals give it character that can help add texture and interest to your paper art, mixed-media, and lettering projects.

Many of these papers are so beautiful I hate to cut them. But when I use them in my artwork, it's always worth it for the texture and interest they provide.

In Art Lessons: The Magic of Mulberry, Rachelle Panagarry shows how to use the natural texture and feathering properties of mulberry paper with paint to enhance your paper collage projects.

If you've never used handmade papers before or haven't combined them with wet media, download The Magic of Mulberry and give it a try.

P.S. What's your favorite kind of handmade paper? Do you make your own? Tell me about it in the space below.

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Blog, Paper Art and Zen Doodle

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