Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky Homestead | June 13, 2012

A Request to See my Handmade Papers

 ‘Still Places’ collage of textured handmade plant papers on canvas.

Carrie from Hooked on Decorating asked me to post some of my handmade papers and hand-painted tissue papers. I’m please to do just this even though she has no idea just how hard it is to get these little buggers to photograph well, much less photograph at all!!

MY HANDMADE PAPER PROCESS: I make my handmade papers from the plants I grow and process on our 5-acre rural Michigan property. I use everyday native plants like hosta, day lily, ornamental grasses, iris, and every kind of herb I can grow here in our sandy, dry-land soil. I also use select plants I collect from the nearby marsh and fields like cattails, ferns and other wild materials.

Handmade paper placemats in a set of four.

It’s a time consuming process to get them from plant to paper but well worth the time and energy as there is no other way to get the beautiful look that these papers bring to our artwork.

Sacred Plant Papers made from sacred Native American plants as a commision for a Native American artist friend.

All summer long I pick ferns and other leaves and press them to air dry in an old road atlas. In the fall I pick and air dry the raw plant material on blankets in the autumn sunshine and store them in paper boxes in my studio attic. Then during the very late fall they get cut up, soaked, cooked and then beaten in a special Hollander beater. The prepared fibers are then put into large plastic bags, labeled and popped into the freezer. The winter slowdown months are usually when I make my sheets of papers.

One of a series of scrolls created in collaboraton with Oregon calligrapher, Moe Snyder.

I make up a batch of paper pulp in a large plastic laundry tub and dip my mold into the ‘slurry” and make each sheet, one at a time. That sheet is turned over onto a special drying screen, air dried and after 24 hours or so each sheet is lifted and stacked in preparation for packaging for selling or to be used in my canvas artwork.

Each sheet of paper typically uses anywhere from four to eight different plant materials. So a batch of handmade paper can easily represents nearly 100 hours of labor to get from raw plant to finished papers!

Giving a papermaking lesson. This gives you a sense of the white vat full of pulp and the molds and deckles that make the sheets of paper.


I hand-paint each sheet of tissue paper individually and when I am painting these I do them by the hundreds of sheets at a time. My studio looks a bit like I imagine a Chinese laundry would from days of yore with sheets of paper in various stages of drying layered over every surface and stacks of finished papers in piles waiting to be folded.

Tissue papers folded and stacked.

Tissues below folded and in a basket waiting to go to their new home.

Carrie, I hope you like this post. I wrote it just for you!

Please let me know if you have more questions.

Happy creating all!

Small House / Big Sky Donna



  1. These papers are INCREDIBLE!!!! What an incredible gift to create such beautiful things.

    • Kimberly, Why thank you for such a kind and generous comment. I’ve been called many things in my lie, but have never been called gifted before. Ha Ha. No seriously, it’s a blast making handmade paper and I am proud of my own unique style of papers. I sold a lot of them in the six years I had the White Oak Studo & Gallery open.

      Thanks so much for visiting The Small House Under a Big Sky, and I hope you come back again soon.

      Small House / Big Sky Donna

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