Intro: Up-Cycle Junk Mail Into Artisan Paper
I love sending handmade cards and making custom gift tags, and I hate the ever growing pile of junk mail that I try to shove under the coffee table with my foot on a daily basis. Seriously. Omaha Steaks sends me a mailing every other day, and I feel horribly un-green just receiving them. The solution: Up-Cycle that junk into beautiful handmade sheets of paper good for all kinds of crafting needs!
This is a project that my mom did with me when I was a kid, and I decided to resurrect my paper making stuff for the paper craft challenge here. Hope you enjoy this simple Ible and get motivated to give your paper shredder or recycling bin contents new life.
Step 1: You Will Need...
Junk Mail --Any paper with a matte finish will work. Brochures, envelopes, shopping bags, wrapping paper, etc. As long as it is NOT glossy, you're good to go.
Screen with wood frame --these can be bought ready made from art supply stores, or you could build your own using wooden stretcher bars or a picture frame and some fine mesh window screen. If building your own, just be sure the screen is taught across the wood frame, not sagging in the middle.
Liquid Measuring Cup
Metal Butter Knife
Food Coloring and/or Essential oil for scenting (both optional)
Plastic Washtub or Cat Litter Pan
Hair dryer (optional)
Step 2: Tear It Up
Gather up your junk mail paper. You can use a variety of paper weights and colors, as long as they are all regular matte finish paper. NO foils or glossies.
Tear sheets of paper into strips, then tear the strips into squares measuring approximately 1-2 inches.
I kept mine on the smaller end for easy blending later.
The minimum to rip up is 4-5 sheets of standard size paper. I did a little more to be on the safe side and have plenty of pulp.
Step 3: Blend
Put 4-5 fistfuls of your paper bits into a blender.
SAFETY NOTE: I recommend keeping your blender unplugged until you are actually ready to hit the button and use it. This avoids any nightmare scenarios where you have to reach into the blender for some reason and it turns on by accident.
Add 4 cups water.
I hit "Blend" for 15 seconds to get things going, then "Liquify" for another 30 or so. You should end up with a finely blended, slightly lumpy paste, probably grayish in color
Step 4: Optional Coloring/Scenting
To give some pizazz to your homemade paper, you can add food coloring to your pulp to tint it. I used 4 drops of green to give it a minty color that would be noticeable, but still light enough for me to write on. If you want bold colored paper, I have had the best results by adding colored construction to my initial pulp, rather than squeezing in a whole bottle of food coloring.
At this time, you can also add a few drops of essential oils to scent your paper. Imagine opening a notecard from a friend and having it smell of lavender, mint, or ginger! It was something fun I thought I'd try here, so I added 8 drops of Peppermint oil.
Blend again for 30 seconds.
Step 5: Mix
Pour your pretty (and possibly delicious smelling) pulp into your plastic tub.
Add water until you have 4-5 inches of depth to work in.
Mix with your hand to ensure pulp is floating throughout. It may feel so fine and light that you'll question whether there's enough pulp in there. Trust me, there is.
Step 6: Screen
Insert your screen into the water vertically, on edge.
Tilt and push your screen into the water, as if you are trying to get under it. This helps decrease trapped air under your fine screen and allows your pulp to flow evenly over the top.
Swish your screen gently back and forth under the surface of the water. You want to make sure pulp is flowing around so it can be captured.
Using both hands (one of mine was on the camera) life the screen out of the water, laying flat. There should be a fine sheet of your pulp on the screen.
If you didn't get an even coating on your first try, that's ok! Just re-dip your screen, gently shake it clean, and re-lift until you are happy with the result.
Repeat with multiple screens, or save pulp mix for later.
Step 7: Drying
Transfer your screen to a place where it can dry undisturbed and relatively level. A bathtub or sink would be ideal so excess water can just drip away.
Allow to air dry several hours.
You can help it along with a hair dryer, if you wish. If using a hair dryer, make even horizontal and vertical sweeps over the screen, no less than 6 inches away from it.
Step 8: Freeing the Final Product!
When your paper is entirely dry, use a butter knife to get under one edge. Dry paper should pop up from the screen pretty readily. If you are having trouble getting an edge, hit the screen with a hair dryer to eliminate any remaining moisture.
Skim around all 4 edges with the butter knife to free the page.
With your knife underneath the paper, push gently toward the middle of the screen to free the middle. Again, mine popped off easily because it was evenly and totally dry.
Ta-Da! Your junk mail has been transformed into something new, useable, and wonderful! In the end, my peppermint scent was subtle and very inviting mixed with the fresh "woodsy-ness" of the paper pulp itself. If you really want a strong scent, I'd say you need to at least double the amount of essential oil.
Step 9: Experiment!
This basic Green-Craft process can be customized a variety of ways. Experiment with different colors of paper, scents, or adding textural elements such has leaves and dried herbs, glitter, or paper circles from your hole puncher to use like confetti. Your final product can be made into stationary, gift tags, sculptural paper art and so much more. The project possibilities are endless...and anything is better than a pile of junk mail under your coffee table!