A Leaf in the Sun

Pictures, Laundry, and Archival Prints?

 

We have created a system that empowers you to order artwork directly from our site to the printer and have it printed on a special paper called rag paper.  Curious, I did a little research into this popular type of paper.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mt._Holyoke,_Massachusetts_-_Paper._American_Writing_Paper_Co._Rag_sorting_%28Irish%29._-_NARA_-_518336.tif
Rag sorting at the Mt._Holyoke, Massachusetts Paper. American Writing Paper Co. Public Domain

Rag paper has been around for centuries. The normal everyday white papers found in schools and notebooks are made from wood pulp.   However, in the history of paper this is a relatively new way of manufacturing it.  For centuries the world used a paper called rag paper.  Rag paper is not made from wood pulp but, as the name suggests, rags.  Specifically, cotton rags. Though some other fabrics are sometimes used, it seems universal that cotton is the go to fabric for both the ancient and modern worlds.

Cut_rags_after_removing_from_washing_drums,_paper_mills,_Holyoke,_Mass,_by_Keystone_View_Company
Cut rags after removing from washing drums, paper mills at turn of the 20th century Public Domain.

Paper, made of cotton and/or linen is called paper rag.  It is not unusual for cotton fabric to be recycled for this specific purpose.  It’s weird to think that tomorrows fine art could be made using your current pair of undergarments ( there’s a thought ! )   or even your blue jeans.   Any of those materials could be recycled into rag paper.

Rag paper is stronger than pulp paper.  This makes it last longer and be more tear resistant than typical wood pulp paper.  The reason is that the fiber of the cotton rags are longer and more dense than the fibers found in wood pulp.  This gives the rag paper it’s strength and durability.

Why would somebody put artwork on a piece of rag?  Simple, in the manufacturing process, the rag paper becomes Ph. neutral or acid neutral.  That means that no acid or base chemicals are left in the materials.  The pigments and inks placed on the paper absorb into the fabric and stay without any chemical degradation caused by acids and bleaches found in non-archival papers.  This is why most of today’s national paper currencies continue to be made with cotton rag.  You can wash a dollar bill and it doesn’t disintegrate after any money laundering in the washing machine .

800px-Mt._Holyoke,_Massachusetts_-_Paper._American_Writing_Paper_Co._Rag_sorting_(French)._-_NARA_-_518337
American Writing paper Company (Public Domain)

It is this very reason antique documents, like the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, and even the Magna Carta are still around today.  Paper rag is naturally archival when made.  It will last for centuries.

 

Here is a video from an Indian paper manufacturing company that makes handmade rag paper.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8WiU8jyfiw

 

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