Strohacker Design School

Brief Histories – Papermaking

Welcome to the first installment and brand new series we are introducing here at the Strohacker Design School, called ‘Brief Histories’ (exciting name, isn’t it?). We wanted to introduce this series so we can express our love of the design world and pass down some knowledge of how the majority of the arts started, and where it’s led up to in our day and age.

To begin with, we wanted to go over the topic of Papermaking, and where it originated from. Was it 100 years ago? 200? Did aliens pass down some ancient knowledge to us humans? No! It actually originated in Ancient China! So come along with us on this short journey, and learn some facts about the origin of paper, that you are most likely will forget in a few days!

Who invented the process of Papermaking?

The first papermaking technique was invented in 105 CE, China, during the Eastern Han Dynasty by a man called Cai Lun. Lun was an inventor and a eunuch court official. During his service, Lun invented a lot of items that are still used to this day such as gunpowder and compasses. But to us designers, the most notable creation from Lun was his Papermaking techniques. In Ancient Chinese culture, they originally used to write on small wooden blocks and long pieces of bamboo, but it was considered a lengthy process due to having to carve/ink onto the wooden materials.

Lun had an idea of using organic materials such as bamboo, hemp waste, old rags, and tree bark; this process involved boiling the materials in water and beating them using a metal or wooden mallet. An unknown ingredient was also added to the mix to cause the fibers of organic material to bond together. The excess water was then drained, and the paper was hung up to dry. This would later cause a spike in paper production, allowing more scriptures to be written and more techniques of print to be later developed as the years go by.

If it wasn’t for Cai Lun and his genius use of organic materials to create a surface to write and print on, where would we be? How would we have learned without books? How would we learn to write without a smooth and soft surface to ink? Would we still have to gather around the town center for our daily news updates? Probably. So I have this to say; Thank you Cai Lun, for blessing us with the flimsy white surface that allowed us to be creative by putting pen onto paper.

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