Experimental Papermaking

 Natalie Helsel BFA Writing

While there are many available resources on papermaking, there is less available instruction about working with dye plants and other garden yields. 

Throughout Summer '23 into Fall '24, I led the Dye Garden in producing various papers made out of many different kinds of natural material and paper pulp harvested not only from our dye plants, but also from the materials found in the courtyard and surrounding campus.

In my paper making project at the Dye Garden, I focused on broad experimentation, adjusting my process based on my desired result. Throughout Summer and Fall, I explored varying the ratio of paper pulp vs. natural material used, ways in which I can make natural material into a pulp, and the amounts of pulp in a vat to achieve a desired thickness.

In the end, I was able to achieve pieces of flexible paper that can be bound, drawn on, and printed on. Visitors to the Dye Garden can take a closer look at our sample book, along with our other natural dye projects. 

During the Fall 2023 Pratt Earth Action Week, I collaborated with Writing Department Professor Laura Elrick on Language Plants; participants from the Pratt community learned about the papermaking process, then gathered to write poems that imagined better futures and planted them with seeds in the Pratt Textile Dye Garden’s newly launched Writer’s Plot. 

“As a group, we generated affirmations, dreams, and hopeful manifestations, using prompts from professor Laura Elrick,” said Natalie Helsel, BFA Writing ‘25, who helped organize the event in the Textile Dye Garden. “We wrote them onto the paper and planted them into the soil. Hopefully, new flowers will grow from the seed paper.”

“I hope that while interacting with the paper-making process, 

everyone who attended the event was inspired by the opportunity 

to repurpose items that we might have just thrown away,” she said. 

Learn more about the Fall 2023 PEAW programs here