Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Getting creative, and handmade paper, on my travels

I often end up with too much to carry, as I stuff my bag with "just a few bits" of craft stuff that I find along the way.

As a long term traveller that just doesn't really work, so I try to be disciplined by finding each and every opportunity to get creative. For example, when I was volunteering on a turtle conservation project in Tioman Island in July last year, I made 'turtle' ash trays out of empty drinks cans!

Recycled ash tray made from 'Sprite' can



What I like most about getting creative on my travels, other than the obvious, is that these opportunities sometimes give me an insight into local life as well. 

When I was in Chiang Mai, in November, I enjoyed getting creative with a few banana leaves, for Loi Krathong, which is celebrated at the same time as Yi Peng

Krathong efforts

See more, including a detailed tutorial, over on my craft site: Making Krathong, banana leaves boat.

Despite finding opportunities to be crafty, I still can't resist the many craft supplies around the world that I find when I travel. One of my favourites is mulberry style papers which used in the making of all sorts of products, including souvenirs, all over Asia. It's quite popular in the craft world back home in the UK too.

Here's a card I made with mulberry paper flowers, in Thailand, for my Mum's birthday.


Handmade mulberry style paper often features in my card making. So I was very keen to see the source of some of these lovely papers whilst on my travels.

Nepal

In 2009 I visited Nepal and was overwhelmed by the number of shops, particularly in the capital - Kathmandu, that sold handcrafted paper items and the paper itself, in large sheets.

Nepalese Lokta Paper is made from the fiber of the "Nepal Paper Plant," also called the Daphne Shrub or Lokta Bush. They often use beautiful bright colours in their paper - making it very distinctive.

A puppy admires the beautiful coloured powders

I was only in Nepal on a short trip so carried the appropriate container with me in order to take home the paper safely, and I still have quite a bit of it left in my craft stash now.

However, what Nepal lacked was the opportunity to see the paper being made. In both Laos and Thailand, I saw the production process from raw material through to finished products.

Thailand and Laos

Being neighbours, Thailand and Laos use the same raw materials to produce their mulberry style paper.

The trees persistently grow and regenerate after harvest so it's an eco-friendly resource - surprising for Asia maybe.

The bark is soaked and boiled with wood ash, then it is pounded into pulp. This long fibered pulp solution is placed on a submerged screen then lifted out to dry. The resulting paper is strong, beautiful, and can be made to the required thickness and size. 

Stunning hand painted paper umbrella

This is all done by hand - pretty impressive!

Check out my post here for some recommendations of places to visit in Luang Prabang, Laos and Chiange Mai, Thailand where you can see handmade paper being produced.

Sri Lanka

I've found a similar production process exists in the recycling of elephant dung. 

Whilst in Sri Lanka in 2011, I visited an elephant orphanage which I can highly recommend for animal lovers. Here I saw the full production process for elephant dung paper; starting right from the point the dung is collected off the ground outside.



If you would like to read more about this visit do have a look at my post: A lot of elephants and temples.

Do you like to get creative when you travel? I'd love to hear about what you get up to...