What if handmade paper was at the farmer’s market, along with your favorite tomatoes and freshly baked loaf? Or, maybe there’s a snazzy notebook made from prairie grass paper in your CSA box.
You’re not daydreaming—community supported paper is a reality, thanks to Fiber by Fresh Press.
WHAT IS FRESH PRESS?
Fresh Press is a hand papermaking studio at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Founded by Eric Benson and Steve Kostell in 2012, this microbrewery of paper researches agri-waste fibers for possible use at the commercial scale (read this overview here).
Driving on the highway through the center of Illinois, through blurry stretches of cornfields, the idea of using farm fiber starts to make sense. Fresh Press experiments with farm fibers such as cornstalks and eggplant vines, instead of forests, opening up the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help American farmers.
FIBER BY FRESH PRESS
Fiber by Fresh Press is the newest project stemming from their mission.
You might already be familiar with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), an alternative economic system for local food distribution (individuals subscribe for a share of the farm harvest, and then receive yummy fresh food at regular intervals).
Take the same idea, but replace the food with handmade paper made from nearby soy stalks, tomato vines, prairie grasses, and recycled paper scrap.
Currently, Fiber by Fresh Press offers drawing papers, notebooks, and sketchbooks, packaged for students and professors on campus (they hope to expand the project to the public soon). The papermakers are students at the University of Illinois who also grow and harvest the plants at the Student Sustainable Farm.
Serendipitously, I had a chance to stop by the studio to meet co-founder Eric Benson and also Natalie Smith, the Fresh Press studio manager. They were kind enough to give me a tour, take a peek through the flat files, and poke around the farm.
Imagine having this alternative for buying paper—a delivery of art papers and journals from your local hand papermaker. Excited yet?
by May Babcock