Hogging the Vat. Papermaking

Hogging the Vat, papermaking with friends at Wilmington Montessori School. Photo: Heather McClurg Siple

From the first time I hogged the vat (agitating the pulp) in graduate school and pulled my first sheet of hand made paper, I was hooked!

hand made paper mixed media sculpture by NanciHersh

Hanging by a Thread, Sculpture, handmade paper, wire, encaustic, collage ©NanciHersh

The endless possibilities for gorgeous sheets of paper made with natural fibers, recycled papers, and imbedded collage material both two and three dimensionally continues to be a part of my studio practice. Sharing this passion with others has been part of my tool box as a teaching artist.

Over the years, while I had seemed to devise ways to streamline the paper making process and avoid huge puddles of water on the floor, I was still spending lots of time in prep, and clean up- draining and straining lots of pulp and tubs of water.

Hand made paper set up for everyone!

Simple paper making set up for Seed Paper Making

Recently, I was introduced to Seed Paper by fellow teaching artist Gabrielle Kanter at a Young Audience of NJ/Eastern PA family event. Gabrielle’s simple set up used far less water, is appropriate for all ages and abilities, and most materials can be found in your local dollar store!


  1. Small plastic tub or deep lid
  2. Plastic ceiling grid cut to size with jigsaw (to fit inside of tub or deep lid)
  3. window screen (cut 2 to size to fit over plastic grid)
  4. Scott’s Shop Towels (blue, come in rolls, found in dollar stores or dollar general) This is for “couching”- after you pour your sheet through the frame onto the screen and drain, you flip it onto a shop towel, on a small stack of newspapers.
  5. pint size wide mouth bottle with lid- this is for your pulp:
  6. inexpensive toilet paper
  7. recycled scraps of paper, tissue, etc.
  8. Seeds

Fill up a small quart jar with a wide mouth with water, add shredded toilet paper, torn scrap papers, and a variety of seeds and spices, shake and pour over a screen under an inexpensive picture frame (or embroidery hoop) wrapped in duct tape.
Remove frame, lay a second loose screen over the wet sheet, blot dry with a sponge. Wring sponge out, repeat. Remove top screen and use bottom screen to “couch” onto a blue shop towel. Once it is couched and blotted to get excess water you can carry your sheet on the shop towel over to a drying rack

Photo of hand papermaking set up

Simpler set up with shallow lid, lighting grid (found at Lowe’s, then cut to size), on right more traditional vat of water and pulp. Participant blotting his sheet.

The following week I was scheduled to teach a PD Workshop with teachers in Delaware where I had the opportunity to offer participants Seed Paper making as well as the more traditional method of pulling sheets with a mold and deckle in vats of cotton pulp. It was a hit!

Examples of beautiful Seed Paper

Examples of beautiful Seed Paper created at a PD Workshop for Red Clay District art teachers, DE. Sponsored by DIAE which can be planted when dried!

Adapting hand made paper into curriculum has unlimited possibilities in language arts, science, geography, history- and of course art!



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