Papyrus-making workshop The Story of Books

The history of books begins long before the arrival of books that open up from a spine, as we know them today. As far back as the 3rd century BC, ‘books’ were made in Ancient Egypt in the form of a scroll of several sheets of papyrus pasted together.

In this workshop, you will learn about the role of papyrus in the development of books, about the process of making papyrus – and you will have a go at making your own vegetable papyrus. Brilley-based papermaker, Maureen Richardson, will lead the workshop.


Saturday 22nd December 2018, 10.30am-1pm, at The Story of Books, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5DF. £10 per person. To book your place, contact Emma Balch: 07879 373431 /


About Maureen Richardson 

Maureen Richardson has been making paper for more than 40 years, and she has produced several instruction manuals including: Plant Papers, Handmade Paper and Grow Your Own Paper (same text, but US publisher). These are available to buy at The Story of Books in Hay-on-Wye.

In the the early 1970s Maureen attended a two-week bookbinding course put on by Camberwell College of Art. As part of this, she was taught to make white paper from cotton linters. “On the last day the teacher brought some paper to show us which she had made from Iris leaves. I had never seen anything like it before and as a keen gardener and inventive recycler the idea of making paper from plants, combined with materials other people throw away, was instantly appealing.”

First attempts

Maureen’s first papers were made from straw and rushes, which she had left over from her other crafts of rush baskets and corn dollies. Unable to afford £150 for a traditional paper making mould and deckle, she made my own frame from a left over square silk screen frame and covered it with net curtaining. She started by cutting up and cooking the straw and other ingredients in an alkali. She then rinsed and liquidised this mixture to create the paper pulp. As she had no press she scooped the pulp onto the net covered frame and left it to air dry.

Maureen did not use the traditional method of drying the paper and so obtained different results. Traditionally you invert the pulp covered frame onto a wet felt and when you have amassed a stack of papers and felts, you put them in a press. Once pressed you take off each paper sheet and dry it by passing over a rope (made of cow hair).


The results of her experimental approach were most encouraging. She used a palette knife to release the dried paper sheet from the net. It was incredibly thin and translucent because it had not had to endure being transferred from felt to felt. Maureen thought she had invented a new way of paper making but later found out that this is how paper is made in Thailand where the sheets are propped up to dry on the hillsides!

If she wanted a bulkier paper she added recycled acid free paper to the pulp.

Experimenting with other fibres and plants

Maureen then started to try other plants and grow and collect as many different plants as possible (over 100). A few samples are shown here:


Teaching adult groups and selling

Her simple method (using blenders or liquidisers to pulp the mixtures) kept her busy, and she taught classes at local colleges and conferences.

She made a contact with Gabrielle Falkiner and agreed to supply her shop with a monthly amount. Now the sheets were oblong, Gabrielle explained, they were more saleable than her early square sheets. With students in mind, Maureen produced a booklet on making paper with domestic equipment, entitled Plant Papers (1978).


Vegetable Papyrus made by Maureen RichardsonDuring a visit to Egypt she saw Papyrus being made and on her return to the UK she used the same technique with fruit and vegetables. She blanched, sliced, pressed and dried.

The full beauty of what Maureen calls ‘Vegetable Papyrus’ is seen to best advantage in front of a light source where /when the translucent membranes reveal the intricately veined internal structure of common fruit and vegetables.

This may seem a departure from the craft of paper making but it is based on my love of uniting unusual elements, recycling and giving back value to humble materials by taking them out of their usual context. At The Story of Books we will be completing the cycle and making scroll books by sticking sheets of Vegetable Papyrus together and overlaying text onto the papyrus.

International Association of Paper Makers and Paper Artists (IAPMA)

Maureen have been a member of the International Association of Paper Makers and Paper Artists (IAPMA) for many years and enjoyed the conferences put on all over the world.

Following one of these visits, she produced a hand bound book on Japanese paper, describing my tour and with samples from each of the papermakers, which is also available to buy from The Story of Books.

Maureen supplied Falkiner Fine Papers with a monthly consignment of her plant papers until she gave up making paper in 2012. Limited stock of Maureen’s papers and books are available to buy from The Story of Books in Hay-on-Wye.