It all begins with cutting up a banana stem. It is then cooked in an alkaline solution to break down the fibre. The solution is then strained and the stem is washed in water. It is churned in a blender to prepare the pulp which is transferred on lino sheets or silk cloth frames for drying. The sheets or frames are kept under a plank for providing additional pressure.
By creating paper from banana stem pulp, the Department of Fine Arts in Andhra University (AU) tries out new ways of artistic expression at a recent workshop. Students specialising in printmaking were given hands-on training on making paper from banana stem, after the lengthy process of boiling the fibres in a vat, followed by flattening of the pulp to create paper art.
The workshop also highlights the process of creating relief paper casting and embossing techniques.
“The idea is to provide a new medium for the students to explore and express themselves. We have also introduced them to the process of making natural dyes and blending these with handmade paper to produce subtle tints,” says D Simhachalam, Head of Department of Fine Arts, AU.
The students bring out their creativity in various ways on handmade paper. Padmavati Alekhya, a final year Bachelor of Fine Arts student, compares making paper to weaving cloth. She has done a series on handmade paper — from impressions of animals, patterning from Nature and bringing out faces of people from tribal communities, intrinsically bound like warp and weft. “I love the texture and feel of handmade paper. Most of my work is on paper that has a brown tinge, which is essentially not dyed, to reflect rawness,” she adds.
“Handmade paper from banana pulp doesn’t tear easily and is strong enough to be manipulated into various shapes,” says artist Kattakuri Ravi, one of the guest faculties of the Fine Arts Department.