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Thing-a-Day – January 18 – preparing kozo (mulberry bark)

February 4, 2015

Day 18 of the Thing-a-Day Challenge

Materials: kozo bark, water, bucket, soda ash

I am getting ready for an art retreat and I know I want to bring kozo. Kozo is mulberry bark that can be used to make paper. The finest kozo is Japanese and is fairly expensive.  I went cheap last time I bought it and got Thai kozo, which I love, but apparently has a more brittle quality than the Japanese version. The bark varies from season to season and in different growing conditions (as well as different countries). You can get both kinds of kozo and many other fibers and supplies for making paper at Carriage House Paper (in Brooklyn, NY).

In any case, I started with the bundled dry bark.KozoDry


I soaked it for a few hours in a bucket of water.


Then I rinsed it and put it in a pot of water on the stove with some soda ash to break down the fibers a bit.  I cooked it for a few hours and then rinsed it again to ash away the caustic (and brown) soda ash water .

cooked kozoNow it is soft and ready to play with.  While still in strips, you can spread it carefully into a thin bark cloth, either by hand or tapping it with a stone or mallet.  It stiffens as it dries, and it adheres to itself, so you can make long strips or “glue” layers on top of each other.

You can also beat it with a mallet to break up the fibers enough to make a fine paper pulp. I am not sure what I will do with it on the retreat, but I am thrilled to have it ready to go!

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