Saturday, 12 January 2008

What's a Girl to Do?

Shopping is a woman's prerogative. Shopping and shoes. And hats too. And these days, interestingly enough also cars, the fuel cell or electric cars, especially the new and utterly delicious Tesla Roadster.....Have I left anything out? My point, perhaps. But I can get so easily distracted nowadays.

Okay, back to shopping. In these western cities, an amazing and indubitably exhilarating ritual exists. The day after Christmas, most of the stock in stores goes on sale. The wonderous and exciting event called the Boxing Day Sale. And they are real sales, not like the ones we have in Singapore, where items usually go for 50% -75% off the retail price. A concept that warms the cockles of my value-for-money Asian heart.

Anyway, I took time off and wandered the fabric stores to hunt for fabric, beads and tassels for the new 2008 range. $800 plus later, I have the pleasure to showing off the treasures plucked from the hands of other boxing day warriors.

There's the gorgeous tassel beads in a dozen dazzling colours.

Also found some brilliantly tactile flocked fabrics. The thinner ones are gonna be great for summer scarves and the nice thick ones for the flap covers of the new bags that'll be probably starting next week.

Then there's the sturdy, earthy upholstery grade fabrics, which are destined for lumbar pillows and the inside of bags that I can't wait to make.

And of course interspersed with all the goodies are the beautifully smooth and shimmery taffetas. The mainstay of Rumah Kampung's range of scarves. In soothing blue, cool titanium and juicy black plum.

Fab as these fabrics are, I'm sure that I'll not be able to restrain myself as I see other designs in the shops throughout the year. So I guess this cannot be said to be the all encompassing variety for this enterprising year of the Earth Rat. Which is the first sign of the Chinese zodiac and is said to be an industrious bringer of prosperity, luck and new beginnings.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Making Your Own Paper

The Materials

* Deckle (or any square frame with a wire/plastic mesh stretched across it)
*Mould ( another square frame of the same size of the sieve)
* A pair of stiff boards slightly larger than the sieve
* Smooth drying cloths slightly larger than the sieve
* A sponge
* A blender
* A tub or basin large enough to fit the sieve
* 50g or so of waste paper

The Method
1. Shred the waste paper and soak for at least 4 hours. Soak overnight if you plan to make paper the next morning.

2. Place a handful of shredded paper into the blender and fill with water to make up 1 litre.

3. Blend for about 15 seconds or until the pulp looks like wet cotton wool. Pour the pulp into the tub. Repeat until all the paper is used up. Add 2 more litres of water into the tub.

4. Place the mould over the deckle with the netting in between them. Dip the furthest end of the frame into the pulp mix. Level into a horizontal position. Make sure the frames are deep enough for the mould to be just covered with pulp.

5. Lift the frames from the mix keeping it level. The remove the mould and let the excess water drain.

6. Place a drying cloth over the pulp. Flip the deckle onto one of the stiff boards with the cloth beneath the pulp.

7. Use the sponge to draw out the excess water from the pulp. Gently knock the deckle netting to dislodge the pulp as you slowly lift up the sieve.

8. Repeat steps 4-7. Pile each finished sheet, separated by a drying cloth,on top of each other until you've used up all the pulp.

9. Place the second board on top of the finished pile. Place any heavy object on the top board to squeeze the excess water out. You could try standing on the pile if you want to feel more involved in the process :)

Paper Pointers

Some ideas to help make your new found skill more colourful, varied and fun

* Before you throw away the bottle with that last bit of perfume, add some water into the bottle and then pour the solution into your pulp. This nicely scents your paper.

* Stale potpourri, shredded and pulped with the paper will not only add scent but colour and texture to your papers.

* Should you want to be able to use markers or fountain pens on your paper remember that you first have to size the dried paper. This is easily done by lightly painting or spraying each sheet with gelatin or starch and then letting the sheet dry. Ballpoint pens, however, are fine on unsized paper.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Goin Green bananas

As part of my new year resolution to consolidate my blogs, for the first post of 2008, I present here a little story of how a crazy kid went green bananas... enjoy!

Funny how life moves in cycles. About 15 years ago I started a little eco company in Singapore called Green Bananas that made a paper making kit for people to recycle their own paper at home. Green because I wanted people to know it's environmental bent but more likely because I was totally green to the cutthroat world of business and Bananas because everyone thought I was crazy to give up a good and stable job for what? An unlikely little paper making kit that may not even have a market.

We did sell about 1,000 kits during the 2 or so years the little Green Bananas was out there doing paper making demos; giving magazine, TV & paper interviews encouraging people to start recycling paper in their own homes (in those days, Singapore had no recycling system for anything.

Things have changed now though) and even holding a handmade paper art exhibition called, you guess it, Paper * People * Planet.
Back then I had quit my well-paying
job as a writer for a Interior design magazine and put all my meagre savings into designing, manufacturing and marketing a simple paper making kit that made A4 paper.

It had everything you needed to make paper (apart from the blender) and packaged, quite charmingly in a jute bag.

How I managed to wrangle my friends & family to help out in it's publicity and sales I have no idea. I just stand in grateful awe that they did. We had quite a ride with it. I am willing to bet that at least 50 friends and family still remember how to make their own paper today. And if they've forgotten and would like to teach their children, the next post will help them along their way.

And this is was the purposely unintimadating instruction leaflet that came with the kit.

And now, here I sit years later, writing a blog on the beautiful diversity of handmade & recycled paper. On how people can use this humble medium of paper to help make this planet a bit better, by art & by recycling, for those who live in it now. And also for the children who will come after.

Greening the earth seemed so possible then.

And so it still is. It must be.

Because if not now, then WHEN?

And if not me, then WHO?