Selling the Imperfection of Handmade Art Paper

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2020

This short film profiles a small company in Somerset, England called Two Rivers Paper. Using water power, the company makes paper by hand for artists and designers, and they have a healthy appreciation for the unpredictability of their product.

Anything that's made by a craftsman is imperfect. So, a hand-forged nail will be imperfect — every one will be slightly different. Handmade paper — every sheet is slightly different. So if you want perfection, if you want uniformity, then it has to be done by a machine. I often tell people that we sell imperfection, that's what we do.

Two Rivers Paper operates one of the few remaining hand-mills in Europe.

The mill is over 400 years old and still retains much of the ancient wooden milling machinery. It's been restored over the last 15 years to a working water-powered traditional paper mill, using a 100 year old metal wheel from Wales and an 1841 Hollander Rag-Breaker.

The wheel itself is a 10ft overshot wheel weighing two and a half tons and standing eleven foot high. In combination with the rag breaker, Two Rivers will be the only place in the UK where water power is used to make paper from old rags. Showing a continuing commitment to manufacturing using environmentally appropriate methods, a full array of solar panels were fitted to the mill roof in 2011. Electrical heating is used to gently dry our paper in the mill loft.

This short video segment from the BBC provides a closer look at how their paper is made. You can get yourself some Two Rivers paper from their online shop.

See also 700-Year-Old French Mill Still Cranking Out Handmade Paper and this short film on how marbled paper is made.