A history of paper goods
During the medieval era, Britain relied heavily on parchment and vellum, both derived from animal skins, for record-keeping and artistic ventures. The introduction of paper, believed to have its origins in ancient China, transformed the landscape of written communication in the country. By the late 15th century, with the advent of the Gutenberg printing press, the demand for paper products surged. Britain, seeing the potential of this versatile medium, began to establish paper mills, pioneering the mass production of paper goods.
The 18th century marked a period of innovation in the realm of paper creations. Wallpaper, a luxury item imported from the East, began to be produced locally, catering to the aesthetic sensibilities of the British elite. Stationery, too, found its golden era, with elegantly crafted writing sheets, envelopes, and cards gracing the desks of scholars and gentlemen alike.
The Victorian era heralded a new age for paper goods in the UK. The industrial revolution brought forth machines capable of producing paper at unprecedented rates. Newspapers, previously a luxury, became accessible to the masses. Additionally, greeting cards, especially those for Christmas, emerged as popular items, embodying the spirit of festivity and kinship.
In the 20th century, the world of paper goods expanded even further. With the rise of the consumer age, packaging became paramount. From cereal boxes to chocolate wrappers, paper and card packaging took centre stage in shop windows across the UK. Not to forget, the enchanting world of paper toys, puzzles, and board games, which became staples in British households.
However, the end of the century saw the dawn of the digital age, casting a shadow on the once-dominant paper industry. With the onset of electronic communication, the need for traditional paper goods, like letters and newspapers, began to wane. Environmental concerns further added to the narrative, with many advocating for a reduction in paper usage to save forests and decrease carbon footprints.
Yet, the 21st century brought with it a renaissance for paper creations. A surge in the craft movement and a growing appreciation for handmade goods breathed new life into the world of paper. Artisans and hobbyists alike turned to paper for its tactile and versatile nature, producing everything from bespoke stationery to intricate paper cut art.
Today, the legacy of paper goods in the UK remains strong. While the digital age continues its march forward, the allure of paper, with its texture, history, and adaptability, persists. From the pages of ancient manuscripts to the delicate folds of a handcrafted paper crane, Britains relationship with paper goods is a testament to the nations enduring love for this timeless material.
Tools of the paper goods trade
Quill Pen: Before the widespread use of manufactured pens, the quill pen reigned supreme. Derived from bird feathers, primarily goose or swan, this tool was sharpened and dipped in ink to draft elegant manuscripts and documents across Britain.
Parchment Knife: An essential tool for paper artisans, the parchment knife was employed to smooth, scrape, and correct any imperfections on vellum or parchment surfaces.
Paper Mould: Central to the handmade paper-making process, the paper mould consisted of a frame covered with a fine mesh. Pulp poured onto the mould would be shaken to spread it evenly and then left to dry, forming sheets of paper.
Deckle: Often used in conjunction with the paper mould, the deckle is a frame without a mesh. Placed atop the mould, it helps shape the edges of the paper, giving it a distinctive, handcrafted finish.
Bone Folder: Despite its name, contemporary bone folders might not always be made of bone. This tool is invaluable for folding, creasing, and smoothing paper, ensuring crisp lines and neat finishes.
Printing Press: Revolutionising the paper goods industry, the printing press allowed for mass production of books, pamphlets, and newspapers. Using movable type and ink, it imprinted words and images onto paper with precision.
Letterpress: A subtype of the printing press, the letterpress creates an impression on the paper. Using raised plates or type, it imparts a tactile, embossed feel to the printed material, favoured for its artisanal quality.
Guillotine: This cutting tool, with its large blade, facilitated the trimming of large sheets of paper. Essential for bookbinding and large-scale paper production, it ensured straight and uniform cuts.
Linen Tester: A compact magnifying glass, the linen tester was traditionally used to inspect the weave of linen but found its place in the paper goods world. Artisans used it to scrutinise the quality and texture of paper closely.
Binding Needle: A staple in the world of bookbinding, the binding needle, threaded with strong linen or cotton thread, sewed together pages, binding them into a cohesive whole.
Throughout history, these tools have played pivotal roles in the evolution of paper goods in the UK. Their legacy remains etched in the pages of countless manuscripts, books, and handcrafted treasures that tell the tale of Britains enduring paper romance.
Materials used in paper goods
Wood Pulp: Serving as the backbone of traditional paper production, wood pulp from various tree species gets broken down into fibres, which form the primary substance of many handmade papers in the UK.
Cotton Rags: Valued for their long fibres and durability, cotton rags provide the raw material for high-quality, textured papers. Historically, they were the preferred choice for making banknotes and fine art papers.
Linen: Sourced from the flax plant, linen fibres are transformed into strong, crisp papers, often sought after for their smooth finish, suitable for detailed drawings and printmaking.
Hemp: A hardy plant with long fibres, hemp is processed to produce resilient paper varieties. Historically, it was frequently used for making ropes and sails but found favour in paper goods for its sturdiness.
Mulberry Bark: Native to Asia but adopted by artisans worldwide, including in the UK, mulberry bark is the primary ingredient in traditional Japanese washi paper, prized for its strength and translucence.
Grass and Straw: Sustainable alternatives to wood, grasses like pampas and straws from wheat or rice have been employed in paper-making, producing sheets with distinctive textures and hues.
Seaweed: A more unconventional material, seaweed has been used to infuse paper with unique textures and natural patterns, offering an organic, coastal feel to the finished product.
Flowers and Petals: When embedded in paper pulp, dried flowers and petals impart delicate hues and designs to the finished paper, popular for crafting greeting cards or decorative stationery.
Starch: Extracted from plants like potatoes or maize, starch acts as a binder in paper-making. It imparts additional strength and prevents ink from bleeding, ensuring a polished finish to the paper product.
Mica and Natural Pigments: For those papers with a shimmer or tint, mica and ground pigments from plants, clay, or minerals provide the natural colouring, adding vibrancy and depth to handmade paper goods.
The realm of handmade paper goods in the UK boasts a rich tapestry of materials, each lending its own charm and character. The use of these natural substances reflects not just the nations artisanal heritage but also its deep-rooted respect for the environment and sustainable craftsmanship.
Techniques of paper goods
To make paper you will need old paper products to recycle, a wooden frame, screen (mould), sponge, food blender, plastic bowl, tacks or staples, fabric and starch.
Choose the used paper that you are going to recycle. This could include old newspapers or magazines, stationery and cardboard.
Tear up the paper into small pieces, half fill a blender with the paper and the rest with warm water. Gradually increase the speed of the blender until, after around a minute, the pulp is smoothly blended.
Make a mould by stretching a screen tightly over a wood frame and holding it in place with staples or tacks.
Fill half of a bowl with water, add a few loads of pulp from the blender and stir the resulting mixture.
Add to the paper pulp a couple of teaspoons of liquid starch and stir it in.
Submerge the mould in the pulp and move it around until the pulp appears to be spread evenly over it.
Lift the mould slowly upwards so that it is above water level and allow most of the water to drain from the new sheet of paper. To alter the thickness of the paper add more water or pulp, stirring the mixture.
After the mould has stopped dripping, rest one edge on a piece of fabric and slowly lay flat against it the side of the mould covered with paper
Using a sponge pressed down remove as much of the excess water as you can.
Secure the fabric and carefully raise the mould. This should leave the wet paper sheet on the fabric. Remove bubbles by gently pressing the paper.
After repeating this process a number of times, stack the pieces of paper with their fabric bases and cover the top piece of paper with another piece of fabric.
Tips and tricks of paper goods
Selling handmade paper goods at a craft fair requires a mix of presentation finesse and interpersonal skills. Here are some tailored tips for those looking to make an impact at UK-based craft fairs:
Understanding Your Audience: Its vital to know who typically attends the craft fair. Tailor your products to fit the tastes and needs of the local clientele, be it the themes, colours, or sizes.
Striking Display: Invest in an attractive stand or table layout. Using varying heights, like small shelving units or decorative crates, can add depth and draw attention to your paper goods.
Clear Pricing: Ensure that every item has a clearly marked price. Using tastefully designed price tags, which resonate with the theme of your products, can add an extra layer of professionalism.
Interactive Area: Consider having a small area where attendees can touch and feel some sample products. Experiencing the texture and quality firsthand often persuades potential buyers.
Product Stories: Equip yourself with anecdotes about the inspiration behind certain pieces. Sharing the narrative of a product can turn a casual observer into a keen buyer.
Live Demonstrations: If feasible, conduct live crafting sessions. Demonstrating the creation process can draw crowds and foster appreciation for the craftsmanship involved.
Diverse Product Range: While consistency is key, offering a variety of items – from greeting cards to notebooks – can cater to a wider audience and increase sales opportunities.
Special Deals: Promote bundles or discounts for purchasing multiple items. This not only incentivises purchases but also introduces buyers to a broader range of your offerings.
Quality Over Quantity: It might be tempting to showcase all your creations, but a curated selection of your best pieces ensures that the stall doesn’t appear cluttered and helps in maintaining product exclusivity.
Engaging Signage: Have a sign that clearly states your brand or name, along with a brief tagline or description. This will help potential customers quickly understand what you offer.
Personal Touch: Handwritten thank you notes or a simple ribbon around purchased goods can leave a lasting impression, making it likely for buyers to return or recommend.
Payment Options: While many visitors might carry cash, having a portable card payment system can significantly increase sales, as it offers flexibility in payment methods.
Collect Feedback: Keep a small notebook or feedback form handy. Engaging with customers about what they liked or what they’d wish to see in the future can provide invaluable insights for subsequent fairs.
Navigating a craft fair in the UK with handmade paper goods can be a rewarding experience when equipped with the right strategies. Its about balancing the art of presentation with the nuances of effective salesmanship.
Ideas and inspiration for paper goods
Here are some intriguing ideas for paper goods one might consider crafting and presenting to discerning buyers:
Handmade Journals: Create bespoke journals with decorative covers, using quality paper for the interior. Bind them with unique materials like twine or ribbon, ensuring each has its own distinctive appeal. For instance, a coastal-themed journal adorned with shell motifs and seaweed-embedded pages might captivate a seaside-loving audience.
Artisanal Greeting Cards: Craft greeting cards for various occasions, incorporating techniques like embossing, watercolour washes, or papercut designs. A series of birthday cards with 3D pop-up designs of iconic British landmarks could be particularly enticing.
Luxury Gift Wrapping Sheets: Design and produce limited-edition wrapping papers. Themes could include traditional British motifs, floral patterns, or abstract art. Consider crafting a vintage collection, displaying classic English roses and garden birds in muted hues.
Hand-pressed Bookmarks: Employ a combination of traditional and modern designs to craft bookmarks. For instance, bookmarks showcasing pressed British wildflowers with the names beautifully calligraphed beneath them could be a hit.
Paper Lanterns and Luminaries: Design lanterns and luminaries using durable, translucent paper. These can be adorned with silhouettes of British wildlife or fairy tale characters, casting captivating shadows when lit.
Decorative Map Prints: Curate and sell prints of decorative maps, highlighting various UK regions or historical periods. A vintage-style map of the Cotswolds, embellished with illustrations of local attractions, could appeal to both locals and tourists.
Papercut Wall Art: Intricately cut designs framed between two panes of glass can make for mesmerising decor pieces. Designs might include woodland scenes, urban skylines, or interpretations of classic British literature.
Origami Ornaments: Craft intricate origami decorations using quality paper. Themes could span from festive decorations, like Christmas trees and stars, to everyday decor items such as butterflies or birds native to the UK.
Recipe Cards: Design a set of beautifully illustrated recipe cards, highlighting traditional British dishes. Each card might detail a beloved recipe, like shepherds pie or scones, accompanied by hand-drawn illustrations of ingredients.
Personalised Name Plaques: Create customisable plaques for doors or desks, crafted with layered paper for a 3D effect. A childs name set against a backdrop of a whimsical English meadow, complete with rabbits and daisies, could be particularly enchanting.
Diving into the world of paper goods for craft fairs requires a blend of innovation, quality craftsmanship, and an understanding of the markets preferences. The ideas above offer a starting point, but the true magic lies in the individual touch each maker brings to their creations.