Friday, April 20, 2012

Handmade Nepalese Lotka Paper - An Obsession

Hi Paper Lovers!

It Sara from S2 Stationery and Design. It's been a month or so since my last guest post on the K.Batty blog, and things have been busy, but even so my paper obsession has not stopped. In fact, I have found even more paper to be obsessed with and I am going to blame it on a little store called Anthropologie.

See, two years ago, I wandered into their store on Fifth Avenue looking for Christmas presents and instead stumbled on a collection of hand made paper from Nepal and a few from Thailand, but the ones from Nepal stopped me in my tracks. They were stunning! I don't have pictures of them below, instead I have pictures of last years (2011) collection. They were vividly purple, pink and white, another one that looked almost like lace.  I wasn't thinking, when I bought one or two of each and then thought, I'll just come back after Christmas. Nobody is going to buy this paper. I was wrong.

I was wrong again this past year when I did the same thing. These papers have a tendency to be fully stocked and then as the holiday gets closer, gets discounted and then flies off the shelves. I totally get why. A package of 3 sheets of this handmade paper costs $12 initially and then just before Christmas, I think $8 or $9 and then is probably $6 after.

As a paper lover, I spend much more on single sheets sometimes, but you know what? I just can't stand that I'm buying $12 paper from Anthropologie. Don't get me wrong, it is totally worth the $12, but I've always joked that it's better to save the money you'd spend there, buy a ticket to India and then buy all the clothes you want for cheaper. I maintain that still, but when it comes to the paper, I fight with myself because I know, just know, that it won't be there for long. And that was much the case this past year, when I saw even more vibrant and stunning colors and styles than the year before. I couldn't justify the price tag, but by the time I went back, much of their inventory was gone. Leaving me SOL. Sigh.

The greens and blues alone in the two bottom pictures are the ones that caught my breath, but the top photo of the rings is another one that left me stunned. As soon as I saw them, I knew I HAD to work with them. I had to add them to my repertoire somehow!

Of course, I'm not going to give away my secrets here, YET, but I am in the process of working on a line of cards for men a wedding set. Although, the first could also be part of the Olympics headed our way this year. I never know what will pop out of my mind when I hold these sheets!







Thanks to Anthropologie, I have become obsessed with Nepalese paper and I go hunting for it around the City where it costs more than $12 for three sheets.  I have been fortunate to find paper similar to the ones above, but nothing quite like the ones from the year before. Which is why I get so annoyed that I didn't just buy as many packages of the paper when I first saw them. My life would be a lot easier in regards to designing more than 3 sets of what I think are going to be some of the most stunning pieces I've ever created.

But alas, let me get back to business, or the history of this paper, for those of you also interested.  The paper is actually still crafted by hand through the time-honored tradition of Nepalese papermaking using the bark of the lokta bush (Daphne cannabina), found in the hilly regions of Nepal.  The paper is a sustainable source as the bark regenerates after harvest.  The paper sheets, after being made, are transported to Kathmandu, where they are dyed, painted, or screen-printed.  The paper is extremely durable (some sheets even have a waxy feel to the touch) and is resistant to insects.  Originally the paper was used for drafting official documents, but it has made it's way into the Western world as gift wrap and writing paper.

It is commonly known amongst my friends, family, and network that I want to travel to Japan and Asia to learn paper making techniques so that I can make my own paper in-house and design using it for individuals as interested in the art of paper making and sustainable/environmental products. Until seeing this paper, I had never thought of Nepal as an option, but now I see it more clearly. In order to keep buying the paper, I need to see it in process and understand it's origins and the people, mostly women, that make it still and sell it to stores like Anthropologie to Western consumers.

There is a lot to read about online regarding Lotka Paper. You can find sheets of designed paper for sale at many paper stores across the country.  Also stay tuned. I'll be sure to post photos of the pieces I create with the paper shown above and when I do take my big adventure, I'll be sure to keep you and Kerry posted on all that I'm learning. Exciting, right? Yeah!

Oh, and please feel free to leave comments below about lotka paper, or even just traveling in Nepal if you have experience or suggestions.

Until next time, keep enjoying and exploring paper!
Sara

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