But where did these papercrafting essentials actually originate, and how did they come to be so prominent in so many different cultures? Not only is paper eminent in the crafting industry, but it’s also widely used across a whole host of other industries, most significantly in literature and publishing, the production of currency, and communication across the globe.
Papermaking has a lively history, spanning back as far as Egypt in 3000BC. At that time, Cyperus Papyrus – a wild marsh grass – grew in its masses, providing enough resource to harvest strips from their stems, which were then soaked in the Nile to soften. After substantial softening, the strips were layered to create a mat, then pummelled to a thinner consistency. This fine sheet would then be left to dry out in the Egyptian heat, thus creating paper-like substances to write on. Due to this newfound material’s success, the Greeks and Romans also bought into this impressive substance – and the paper revolution began!
Papyrus sheets had similar functions to today’s paper, however they were essentially laminated so didn’t perform in quite the same way. If we want to delve into the origins of ‘modern’ paper, we’ll have to travel over to China in 105AD – where T’sai Lun played around with a range of plant-based materials, refining the maceration method so that plant fibres’ filaments were each isolated. Upon mixing in a vat with water, a screen was pushed in and lifted upwards to capture the fibres, thus drying to a thin, intertwined layer that we now call paper.
This form of papermaking started to spread to other Asian countries in the 3rd century, but it wasn’t until 751AD that it slowly migrated west – finally reaching Europe in the 12th century. Before paper had arrived on this continent, Europeans would use parchment to create artworks and write literature, made from animal skin. This, however, proved to be incredibly expensive – so during the 15th century, paper was gradually incorporated into everyday life. It’s thought that the beginning of the modern paper industry actually arose around 1455, when Johannes Gutenberg invented a wooden printing press and printed copies of his 42-line Gutenberg bible.
As mass production came about in the late 18th century, the demand for paper grew – so the production process had to become more efficient. Refined and perfected over the centuries, papermaking is now a thriving industry mostly using pulp from softwood or recycled papers. Today, paper and card are made to a better quality to sustain artist mediums, adhesives and inks. On top of this, there’s also far more diversity in the types available, the weights manufactured, and the different sizes accessible to buy. If you’ve got a pack of good quality paper or card under your belt, you can truly go anywhere with your crafting!