While in Somerset recently, I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the Two Rivers Paper Company, and seeing how they make paper. The paper mill has been in operation since 1976, and since then has been perfecting their recipe to make watercolour paper, of the kind that Turner or Cotman might have used in the 19th century.
Two Rivers Co use flax, cotton and crystal clear Exmoor water – the purest materials to make this fine quality paper. I bought a pack to try out, and it really does bring out the colours of a painting. It feels rustic and beautifully crafted, with a random surface that brings a unique look to the brush strokes.
Here follows below a sequence of images showing expert papermaker, Neil, making a new batch from start to finish.
Cotton rag is placed in a barrel with water where it breaks down into pulp, then fed through to a bath where it’s mixed with more water. After giving the pulpy water a stir (with what looks like a canoe paddle) a frame is lowered in, then pulled through the mix horizontally. It’s quite a workout on the biceps!
Neil holds the frame above the water to let the excess drip off, then uses a suction to pull as much water out of the frame as possible, before flipping upside down on a thick felt, bigger than the frame.
The paper layer then has another felt laid on top, ready for the next paper pulp layer. The process is repeated until there are numerous sheets on top of one another, before being pressed under a weight to push out all the water from the paper and make it flat.
It’s then taken up to the loft, dried for a short time in a drying box, before being hung on the rafters to dry to perfection.
Hand made papers are often watermarked with their signature. Here you can see the frame with the wire signature, which appears back to front on the frame, and the resulting watermark.
It was one of the highlights of my trip to Somerset, thanks so much Neil for having me along! I highly recommend trying out the paper, you can buy it directly from the mill here, and find out more about the company.