The prompt word for Five Minute Friday is RELEASE. Set free. Undo.
The other day my husband and I wandered along a winding cobblestone road towards the harbor. A rushing stream meandered between crumbling and empty ruins. Yellow dandelions and delicate ferns peeked from cracks in walls. A rusted lop-sided sign beside an ancient wooden door read ‘Museo di Carta’. Carta means paper in Italian. I love paper. Especially hand-made paper. To write, draw and paint on. I believe hand-made paper inspires creativity. Amalfi was famous for paper making centuries ago. Now they make minuscule amounts for tourists like me.
We joined a tour of the museo. The guide led us down slippery steps into a deep murky grotto. I heard rushing water. The cool air a welcome relieve from the heat. Instruments of torture made from rough-hewn massive wild chestnut beams lined the interior walls. It was paper making machines. Nearly two thousand years old. Baskets with tiny squares of linen were standing about.
I wondered why.
The guide explained that linen makes the best quality paper. Not wood pulp. I never knew that. Linen paper endures for thousands of years. Paper money is not really paper, its linen.
All the important documents in the Vatican is still printed on linen paper. That is also why ancient books still look so pristine. Linen paper cannot degrade. Ever.
They soaked small squares of linen in water. Then wooden spikes hammered and mashed it for 24 hours. Releasing the fibers in fluffy clouds. This mess was then mixed with water channeled from mountain streams. A round blue tiled bath stood in a corner. Filled with a gooey milky white mixture looking like flour and water. The guide stirred the mixture with a wooden paddle. Then we got to dip a wooden mesh covered mould into this sticky mess. Shaking the mould to even distribute the mixture I upended it on a felt matt. Voila, linen paper. It dried enough within minutes so that I could pick up the sheet. A big wooden press then squeeze out the last drops of water. The wind and sun does the rest. Sheets of paper fluttered like laundry in the courtyard. I saw it in a faded sepia photograph.
That’s how they made linen paper. It’s only released linen fibers, mixed with water, stirred, shaken and pressed. Done! Beautiful paper to paint, write and draw on.