Saa Mulberry Paper – Paper That Lasts a Lifetime

Image from https://encyclocraftsapr.com

Saa paper is never identical even it was made by the same person. Mulberry paper in Thailand is one of the purest forms of handmade products made by local for locals in every step of its production – Parita Nobthai of @thecrafthumpy

Have you ever imagined that paper can last for 200 years? Behind the beautiful design of Saa paper, one of the well-known local products made in Thailand, is its attribute of longevity which can last longer than our lifetime. This also has the added benefit of protecting the natural colours of plants and flowers, which are embedded during its manufacturing, for at least 1 year. Its strength and special length of fibre make it more beneficial to various types of Thai handicrafts; handbags, boxes, umbrellas, thongs and even bridal gowns.

 

Frames placed in the backyard is a common picture seen at Saa paper village, Thailand. Photo from today.line.me
Mulberry paper, known in Thai as “Saa”, is the best fibre used for making paper because of its strength, and longevity. There is evidence of this shown in the Buddhist scripts made from Saa in Lanna temple in Payao province Thailand, which has an age of more than 200 years.The light brown bark of the Saa-tree or mulberry tree (Broussonetia Papyrifera Vent) which is locally found in the northern part of Thailand and Lao is used to make Saa paper. The local wisdom of paper making originated from these areas were used for a variety of applications including Buddhist scripts, temple decorations at festivals, floating lanterns, lamp, umbrellas, fans and flag making.

 

“Ban Ton Pao” floating lattern festival in 2015, latterns and decorative lamps made from Saa Paper . Photo from mgronline.com

The village of Saa paper, Bann Ton Poa, Chaing Mai
Bann Ton Pao was originally an agricultural community but they also made mulberry paper when they had free time during their harvest season. The local wisdom of making mulberry paper has conveyed from their ancestor “Tai Khern” who migrated to the northern part of Thailand from China’s southwestern Yunnan province. Even if the villagers have similar techniques, each household has developed their own signature process, which differentiates Saa paper from others and that has become the uniqueness of mulberry paper.

Basically, the Saa making process consists of two mains parts. The first part is the preparation of mulberry fibre and the second part is shaping and decorating the paper. Both steps require technique, experience and creativity to produce good-quality mulberry paper for customers. Some households usually take care of the first part and then send it onto others in the village to complete the second part. Saa paper is never identical even it was made by the same person. Mulberry paper in Thailand is one of the purest forms of handmade products made by local for locals in every step of its production.

 

Mulberry Tree

 

Mulberry Bark. Images from youtube.com

 

Saa fibre can be bleached or dyed in many colours depending on the design and customers order. Image from youtube.com

First step: preparation of mulberry fibre – make it last long

  • Peel bark of mulberry tree which is called “Por Saa” and leave the bark outside until it completely dries
  • Soak “Por Sa” from the previous step in water overnight until it turn very soft
  • Boiling “Por Saa” with potassium peroxide for about 5 hours, then rinse with water
  • Grinding “Por Saa” to get the fibre (Mulberry or Saa fibre is naturally coloured off-white and other colours are added to the Saa fibre at this step)
Wooden frames are the traditional equipment used to shape Saa paper, the size of each paper varies in the size of the frame.
Each frame is attached with very fine plastic mesh as a base. Images from travel.trueid.net

Second step: shaping and decoration paper – make it beautiful

  • Prepare decorating basin which is a shallow rectangular-shaped basin containing water
  • Prepare a rectangular frame attached with very fine plastic mesh used as a base for   Saa fibre (the size of the frame is size of the paper)
  • Mix Saa fibre prepared earlier with homemade sticky-rice glue and water
  • Spread fibre in the basin until the consistency of Saa fibre are similar
  • Create unique patterns by adding some leaves, flowers and other materials on the frame
  • Slowly take the frame out of decorating basin and let it dry in the sun
  • Peel mulberry paper out and the frame can be reused for making more paper
The mulberry we get from the previous process will have a naturally rough surface. However, if a smooth surface is preferred, adjust the metal-curved bucket to softly rub against the surface of the paper (see the difference in the pictures below).

 

Step by step of shaping and decorating your one-of-a-kind Saa paper that cannot be replicated. Photo from crossboxs.com

 

Decorating basin for making Saa paper. Photo from today.line.me

Technology, mulberry paper and other fibres you couldn’t imagine
Jinnaluck, the founder of Jinnaluck Co,Ltd took Saa making paper to the next level by combining technology, creativity and local wisdom. She applied the same technique of making mulberry paper with other local plant fibres such as ginger, galangal, Torch ginger, sugarcane, water hyacinth, banana, bird of paradise and lemongrass. Each plant has its advantage such as Vertiver grass which is good for making a smooth surface and easy to find in Thailand, Hemp is best for making hats or clothes as it provides UV protection and Saa ‘s long fibre is good for combining other fibre or materials. She also applied waterproofing, fire protection and anti mould to mulberry-paper products to extend the utility of the paper which leads to an extensive ranges of products; thongs, coaster, handbags and wallpaper.

Saa paper making is a discovery handed down from generation to generation. The longevity, strength and uniqueness of Saa paper are created from local people who put their own techniques to make each paper individual and beautiful in its own way. The development of techniques and experimentation with new designs requires a person who is deeply involved in paper making and that is what make mulberry or Saa paper outstanding. This entices people to participate in making their own Mulberry paper in Thailand to enjoy a truly memorable lifetime experience.
Parita Nobthai runs The Craft Humpy
“a homely place where you can get beautiful handcrafted gifts directly from the maker”
Image presents Saa Mulberry Paper Paper That Lasts A Lifetime
Check out her amazing work here!
WEB https://thecrafthumpy.com
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