Daphne grows in the Himalayan forests of north central Nepal between 4,000-8,000 ft. Lokta cutters sustainably collect the bark of the daphne according to the “Lokta Management Plan” that implements a 6 to 8 year rotation cycle to preserve the fragile forest ecology. Harvesters sell the bark to families to use for making paper during the off-season of farming
Paper makers take the raw bark and chop it into fine pieces which are cleaned and boiled. Wooden mallets are then used to further break down the bark into a pulp. The pulp is mixed with wood ash and water to make a paste.
The lokta paste is poured onto a screened wooden frames and left to dry in the Himalayan sun.
The best quality sun-dried sheets are transported on foot by porters or mules to the BCP field office in Baglung. From remote areas this journey can often take several days.
From Baglung, the raw sheets of paper travel another 118 miles by road to BCP which is located in the town of Bhaktapur. At BCP the paper is processed into finished products. BCP was established by UNICEF Nepal as a community development project in 1980. Ganesh Himal began partnering with BCP in 1985 and in 2004 UNICEF Nepal handed over the project to the producers, giving equal shareholdings to all workers, 56% of whom are female. BCP now employs 125 families in Bhaktapur, and 40% of their net proceeds are used for community development activities including water supply sanitation, resource conservation, education & day care both in the urban and rural areas. A pioneer in promoting Nepali paper to the outside world BCP is committed to working with low income rural and urban families to provide long term job opportunities that pay a fair and equitable wage. They work to strengthen the important traditional craft of papermaking and create completely environmentally sustainable products. Their work provides a constant income for the rural and urban based workers and they are committed to community development, worker ownership and women’s empowerment.
1. Pressing (Calendaring)
The first step in making a finished paper product is calendaring. The sheets of paper are passed between large metal rollers that smooth and iron each sheet, creating a consistent thickness. The calendars can be set to different widths depending on the intended use of the paper. BCP uses the old, traditional hand wheel calendar that runs off human power rather than electricity.
When wet the paper is similar to fabric in texture and can be handled as such. Each sheet is immersed in a basin of azo free dye and left to soak. Each batch of dye is used to its fullest with the first sheets dyed being the darkest color and each subsequent sheet being a lighter shade until all of the dye is consumed. Tie dyed lokta is made just like fabric tie dye. The paper is wetted and tied with a string or elastic to make a circular pattern, then it is soaked in a dye bath.
Each sheet is laid on a thin metal plate to dry in the sun of the BCP courtyard. When the paper is dry the breeze blows it to one end of the courtyard where it is picked up, sorted and stored for later use. All steps have to be coordinated with the seasons and weather and paper must be stored since even the monsoon rains can slow the production process due to inability to dry the paper.
Dyed and dried sheets are calendared a final time to smooth out any wrinkles.
BCP uses two forms of printing– letterpress and silkscreen. Letterpress is a traditional form of printing that works well with the handmade paper and it is labor intensive, helping to employ many workers. Ganesh Himal products use both forms of printing which allows us to involve as many producers as possible. We use each drawing created in multiple products to get the greatest benefit. For instance one design will be used for a card set, a journal cover and a bag design, allowing them to generate 3 or 4 different products from one drawing.
6. Cutting While envelopes and cards are cut using machines, beautiful details such as the shooting star pictured here are cut by hand and then glued to each individual card. The pages for journals are cut by machine for conformity but then each journal is glued and assembled by hand involving many workers.
7. Scrap paper
Each piece of paper is a valued commodity at BCP and nothing goes to waste! Scraps are collected and placed into a mixer that creates a paste of recycled fibers that are used for the pages of journals such as Ganesh Himal’s Recycled book journal PR-B-NB10. They even collect paper scraps to mix with textile fibers to create cover for that journal. If scraps of paper are big enough they will be used to make beads which are made into necklaces and bracelets. Nothing goes to waste.
8. Packaging When finished, each item from journal to necklace is then individually packaged with an information slip and prepped for the long journey to North America and then from us into your hands! The connection from lokta harvester to consumer is complete and what a difference it makes!
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