Mulberry paper Thailand tour review
Recently my Girlfriend and I, on a visit to Chiang Mai, decided to take a tour of the Bonaka Mulberry Paper factory. Only twenty minutes out of town, we called them up and they told us they would collect us from the hotel the next day at 0930 am.
Mulberry paper is a form of handmade paper and is made from the mulberry tree which it has long fibres which help to give the paper its unique distinctive finish popular in the arts world.
These fibres also give mulberry paper a fine wispy edge when it is torn and this makes a very attractive finish, to which my girlfriend was so looking forward to seeing.
We were collected from the Hotel in a minibus and taken to the factory whereupon we were given Tea and then taken out not far to the fields where the Mulberry trees are grown and where the bark is taken from them to make the paper.
We watched as the bark is cleaned from the outside and boiled in a large pan. Then it is beaten off in large stupas to make a homogeneous mash similar to brad dough in the way it looks and feels.
This “dough” is then placed in a tub with water and filtered on a large sheet of flazelin. A blank is pressed, and then is covered with a next sheet of flazelin and some sifted mulberry brew, and so on. The paper is removed from the plates then dried in a vertical position for a day.
The weather in Chiang Mai is hot in the late mornings and afternoons so this stuff does not take long to dry, the resulting dried paper is rather strong. Colours are added to the mix and they can get within a half pantone range in one sheet.
We were also told that the bark grows back quickly in these tropical areas, so the whole process of Mulberry paper manufacturing is an ecologically friendly one and as such has supported communities for many generations.
A quick lunch was provided at the local Thai Restaurant it’s not five stars but the food was really good, the restaurant had a rustic feel which added to the whole experience.
We were also told that the factory is also branching out to silk and mulberry juice drinks in the next two years, mulberry fruit which is protein rich and all come from the same tree, making the process cost efficient and more ecologically sound.
The factory has silk experience and there will also soon be a range of cosmetic skin care creams with natural collagen and silk extracts. So when we come back we will both look two years younger lol
We then headed back to the factory where we were taken on a tour of what the designers get up to, downstairs their people were packing a huge order to ship to Europe and around 250 square meters of floor space were covered in a multitude of Saa paper handicrafts.
Two designers were hard at work with a lot of measurements, cutting of various sized boxes that were covered in Mulberry paper which we learned then lasts a long time and makes a great gift from a ring box to a Wedding hat box. They make many items to specification, their colours are very much a part of what makes them unique in the art world.
Upstairs in their shop was a wonderland of handicrafts to which my girlfriend was set free on, two hours later she was ready for more. Amongst the items which caught her attention were the scrapbooks and scrapbooking items that she could stick to the book.Apparently the art of Mulberry paper goes back hundreds of years and the Japanese were very interested in this craft.
The factory has seen a shift over the last decade to making gift presentation items for companies who wish to reward staff with wine in a lovely case, me being the Luddite I am would enjoy the wine whilst my girlfriend would marvel at the sheer texture and the beauty of the Mulberry paper presentation cases.
Saa paper, as it is known, is still very much in demand in its raw paper form and the factory takes orders from around the world from florists who want to wrap flowers in a unique and special way with handmade mulberry paper, and from creative specialists who use the paper for many hobbies where the durability and desirability of the textures of the paper lend to a classical finish.
Notebooks and Albums are still in demand and Photo frames in Mulberry had their own special place in the shop. My girlfriend bought a scrapbook and various cut shapes for the book and a mobile for her sisters new baby to hang in the cot, after all the whole process is acid free, gentle, and environmentally friendly and safe for infants which made the sale easier, $15 in the factory shop well spent, the tour was only 50 USD for the two of us, including lunch and drinks.
Definitely a great experience, I learned a lot about how communities in Thailand are dependent on these old skills, how our world would a lot less colourful with these handicrafts and how creative people can make the world seem a lot less dull and grey.
We were delivered back to our hotel at around 4:30PM where we spent the rest of the evening chilling and relaxing in our hotel whilst my girlfriend relived her youth with her new scrapbook.