Eco Art Afrika: Hand made paper design

Afrika eco art hand made paper

Paper-making is a relatively new craft in Southern Africa. It developed as a cottage industry to help impoverished villagers, mainly women with young families to get by and feed their loved ones. The raw materials were readily available in the form of wild plants and shrubs that grow free and plentifully around their villages and communities. Programs were set up to provide simple, basic equipment for grinding the fiber into pulp and then to form the resulting pulp into sheets. Drying of the sheets was (and often still is) carried out by hanging them out to dry, often alongside the family washing.

Afrika eco art: hand made paper The artisans-to-be are taught to use as their raw materials fiber collected from indigenous plants such as river reed, elephant grass, sisal, wild fig, and sun hemp, that grow wild and plentifully near and around their homes. They are encouraged to use traditional African tools like the “duri” and the “guyo” as ecologically sound techniques. Additional paper styles are created using cotton waste as the fiber resource, which is collected from textile mills and bring bright and pastel shades to the growing line of paper styles.

The newly trained paper-makers are paid for every sheet they produce, and their production originally was sold to supply local artists for the making of paper-craft products. More people are now being trained in the art of bookbinding and box-making as new paper styles develop, and new communities join the program. Groups are also forming as Cooperatives as the craft spreads and grows. Thus has started in Zimbabwe a new culture of paper-making where formerly this ancient craft was unknown.

Janice Ashby, an award winning designer working in both Southern Africa and New York, discovered the paper while on a trip to the Victoria Falls, and soon she started to design products for the US market, spreading the word through trade shows servicing art suppliers, gift and stationery stores and more recently, the scrap-booking industry. The New York based Eco Africa USA was formed. “As an artist involved with designing paper-craft products, I found the African papers stunningly beautiful and quite different from anything previously on the market. Their rich, fibrous, powerfully tactile characteristics make them irresistible to work with. I also found that working with disadvantaged communities in this newly invented cottage industry was extraordinarily rewarding. The artisans enthusiasm for paper-making and paper-crafting is infectious, and the benefits that result are visible and dramatic”.

Other craft-related small industries are growing up alongside, such as seed and pod collecting to provide the colorful decorative accessories which adorn the journals, albums and boxes and which are also packaged as embellishments for scrap-booking. Twine is spun from sisal plants, wire ornaments are crafted by teams of talented young wire artists, paper pulp beads are rolled and drilled – activities which all contribute to the upliftment of the growing number of communities and families who are becoming part of the program.

Recently, Eco Africa has embraced the wonderful world of Scrapbooking. With more than eighty exciting natural paper styles and the extended range of imaginative decorative embellishment items, as well as albums and small journals, it is a natural progression for Eco Africa to serve Scrapbookers especially for this market.

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Africa eco art hand made paper


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