My recent work that has evolved through getting a SAW Creative Pathways Bursary to create an Artist Book for the ‘Amazing Space II: Spirit of Place’ Project at Dove Studios has led me not only to explore the world of Artist Books, but to also consider more deeply the nature of the material the majority are made from – Paper. So, I was over the moon to be one of the recipients of a ‘Golden Ticket’ – a limited number of tickets issued for a tour of the historic paper mill, St Cuthberts Mill, near Wells, Somerset – open to the public for the first time. They are the makers of well known papers Bockingford and Saunders Waterford.
I have previously made attempts at making paper using natural materials or recycling materials, but obviously on a small scale. It was fascinating to see the process unfold on an industrial scale. To see how the pulp comes into the Mill, how Calcium Carbonate is added to adjust the pH and ensure its acid-free archival quality, to see the rollers used – individual to each type of paper, the beautifully stitched watermarks, the bank of rollers to make and super dry the paper, the addition of size, the resulting massive roll of paper, the rigorous testing for quality, and how the quality control maintained, particularly of the top-end papers, is done by human eyes, sheet by sheet, then packed by hand. It certainly made me appreciate more the qualities of the papers and why they will cost more than, say, an average cartridge paper. It was also a great opportunity for asking lots of questions about the process, Kathy, our guide, seemed very knowledgeable about both the history of the Mill, but also paper-making and its process. I feel as though I came away with a new respect for paper and information that may well feed into my next attempts at paper-making. We shall see!!