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Building 3, Suite 602, 63 Flushing Avenue, Unit 112
Brooklyn, NY 11205

(212) 226-0573

Dieu Donné is a leading non-profit cultural institution dedicated to serving established and emerging artists through the collaborative creation of contemporary art using the process of hand papermaking.

About Papermaking

Papermaking in the Dieu Donné Studio

Papermaking at Home


Beater: Also known as Hollander beater, a seventeenth-century Dutch invention that is still in use today to macerate fibers into pulp by cutting or crushing fibers between the rotating bars of the beater roll and the stationary bars of the bed plate. The term “Reina beater” refers to a beater fabricated by David Reina of Brooklyn, NY. The term “Valley beater” refers to a test-beater used by the machine-made paper industry. 

Beating: The physical or mechanical process by which fibers are cut, shredded, macerated, and separated, in water, until they form a usable pulp. Common beating mechanisms include Hollander beaters, whiz mixers, blenders, and mallets.

Casting: Making relief forms or sculpture in-the-round with paper pulp or newly-formed sheets of paper.

Cellulose: Chemically, a high-molecular-weight polymer (or chain) of glucose; the chief component of plant tissue. The attraction between cellulose molecules is the principal source of fiber-to-fiber bonding. Cotton and linen fibers contain the most generous amounts of cellulose and are ideal for papermaking.

Charge: Add pulp to a vat to replenish vat stock: “charge” a vat.

Cotton Linters: The coarser, shorter fibers left on the cotton seed after the long staple fiber has been ginned away for use in the textile industry. They are cut from the seed, cooked, and formed into pulp sheets. Cotton linters are low-shrinkage fibers and recommended for hand casting. Because of the short fibers, they are not a good basis for book papers, which need longer fibers for durability against handling and folding.

Couching: Transferring a freshly made sheet of paper from the mould surface onto a dampened felt. Rhymes with “smooching”; from the French word “coucher,” meaning to lie down or put to bed.

Deckle: The removable frame which fits onto the mould to contain pulp and determine the size and shape of the sheet.

Deckle Edge: The natural, feathery edge of a handmade sheet of paper, created by the deckle.

Drying: Paper can be dried in various ways, including air drying, restraint drying by applying pressure on top of the paper, or by brushing or pressing paper onto a surface made of metal, glass, wood, or other material.

Felt: The material (traditionally a woolen blanket) onto which a newly formed sheet of paper is couched. The paper stays on the felt until it has been pressed, then is removed and placed in a drying system.

Fiber: Cellulose-based material derived from plant matter which forms the basis of a sheet of paper. 

Hog: the act of stirring up the slurry in the vat immediately prior to forming a sheet. 

Hydrogen Bonding: The electrostatic attraction between hydrogen atoms in water helps to bring fibers together as the sheet is formed. As the final molecules of water leave the sheet, hydrogen bonds form between the fibers.

"kiss off": When a sheet of paper which is still on the mould is unsatisfactory, the mould surface is touched onto the water surface of the vat, causing the pulp to fall back into the vat.

Methyl Cellulose: A powdered substance that is mixed with water and is pH neutral and archival and has many uses. It is usually used as an adhesive and can be added to the wet pulp to promote fiber-to-fiber bonding and strengthen paper castings; it can be brushed onto dry paper as a surface size, or added to colored pulp to improve the pulp’s flowing consistency for pulp painting.

Mould: A rectangular wooden frame covered with screen or laid wire upon which paper is formed and drained. 

Pellon: Polyester sheet material sold in fabric stores as interfacing and available in varying thicknesses. Can be used as a substitute for papermaking felts.

Post: A stack of newly formed sheets of paper between felts.

Pigment: Coloring matter in the form of insoluble, finely ground particles, which mechanically deposits to the outside of the fibers they are coloring. Generally, a retention agent is needed to adhere the pigment to the fiber.

Pressing: Compaction of freshly formed sheets to remove excess water and compress the fibers sufficiently so that the sheet can be lifted from the felt without falling apart.

Pulp: The aqueous mixture of macerated fibrous material from which paper is made.

Rag: Woven fabric used for papermaking. The term “rag” or “all-rag” properly describes a sheet made entirely from woven fabric. Today however, the term is sometimes used as a misnomer to describe paper made from cotton linters. 

Shake: The action of the papermaker when s/he dips a layer of pulp onto the mould and moves the mould in a front-to-back and side-to-side motion to allow the watery film of pulp to settle in an even deposit.

Vat: A tub or vessel that holds pulp for sheet-forming. 

Whiz Mixer: A device with a mixing attachment that hydrates pulp sheets or already processed pulps. It is not mechanically designed to beat rags into pulp.