When I used to babysit in my early teens, one family sometimes paid me in paper! I was over the moon for I liked to draw and do crafts. The husband in that family was a paper company executive. I grew up in Floral Park, Long Island, NY.
And of course, as a future librarian, I loved going to the local public library's book sale. I would save my allowance or babysitting money and come away with a large paper bag full of books.
So paper in many forms has been a constant in my life.
(papers printed and stamped for use in collage)
For this post, I decided to do some reading and research about paper. I wanted to see what I didn't know, and of course, there was plenty. For a timeline, I visited the History of Paper website. Papyrus was used in ancient Egypt, but technically is not paper. People also wrote on bone, shells, bamboo, wood and silk. Most of the credit for the invention of paper goes to the Chinese. Cai Lun is considered the father of modern paper, having created the first stable recipe for paper circa 105 AD. He was a court eunuch and worked with mulberry bark, improving methods of paper production, pressing and drying. Unfortunately, he committed suicide due to court politics, sad for such an amazing inventor.
(an assortment of scraps from my paper stash)
Before paper was made from wood pulp, it was made from cotton and linen rags, and some believe such rags were to blame for plagues.
I am not going to go into an extensive history of paper production as it already feels like I am trying to write a term paper, ha!
There are so many stages to making the paper made from wood pulp we use today: logging, stripping, chipping, boiling the pulp, drying, pressing, treating, etc. Stop and think about all the uses of paper in various formats: money, checks, security papers for items such as passports, paper towels, wax paper, personal hygiene papers, packaging, newspapers, books, magazines, wallpaper, filters, litmus and sandpapers, and last but not least in my world -- art papers (including what many artists consider the finest -- cotton papers).
I have a large baker's shelving unit that has simplified my storage of the papers I use in collage and printmaking. Sometimes I repurpose old books for use in my art. It is fun to use Gesso as a somewhat transparent layer on book pages to use for printmaking and in collage.
But reading about the environmental impact of papermaking, I began to realize my addiction to paper has a down side. Air pollution from paper mills contributes to acid rain and greenhouse gas problems. Deforestation, hazardous wastes and water pollution are also ugly aspects to the production of paper. There have been some improvements in packaging, such as the use of paper foam which is similar to plastic but biodegradeable.
And of course, we can recycle paper, thank goodness. I use old phone books and magazines as scrap paper when I am using glue sticks, etc. My research for this post leaves me wondering what more I might do to lessen the impact of my paper consumption. During this time of the corona virus, we all saw how people went nuts buying toilet paper and paper towels, etc. We are all dependent on paper, and can not take it for granted as much as we used to.
I've never read a book that wasn't made of paper. However, I am considering buying a Kindle, having almost run out of books to read while Harris County Public Library was closed (still is...). I look forward to the curbside pickup service which may be provided next month. I have reserved plenty of books. I like to read the latest and greatest, but could never afford to buy all the books I read. Let's hope public libraries everywhere can get back in business soon.