Two Rivers Paper – a handmade dream

thumbnail_IMG_0346.jpg

A few months ago on a gloriously hot spring day I went with a friend to Pitt Mill in Watchet, Somerset.

I had heard about Two Rivers Paper on the internet and covetously read enticing descriptions about its magical properties: its double sizing, its rough deckle edges and its content of cotton linters and linen.

But for a while I balked at the slightly more expensive price than I could manage.

Then I finally gave in as I thought – why not try the best.

TRYING THE EXTRAORDINARY

So having ordered some online and seen and tried it I felt compelled to visit its place of birth. As I started painting tentative washes on the paper all I can say is that I began to just slow down , my shoulders dropped and I honestly felt as if I were working with rather than on the paper. It had a character of its own and received washes and did lovely things with them!

 

THE ARTISANS (Jim Patterson – in third photo along below)

The Paper Mill

The paper is made by Neil Hopkins (below)

P1190165

and Jim Patterson who started working under his father in the paper-making industry at aged 16.

They are steeped in paper-making wisdom and have been working at this 400 year old mill deep in a quiet leafy coombe for 30 years. They also have an apprentice paper maker called Zoe and a lady who does the administration called Jane. Jim’s home is attached to the mill and is hugged by a stream on one side and a meadow and then banks of trees on the other – a little piece of heaven he shares with his wife Lynne.

Wisteria was in perfumed profusion all over the end of the loft  and my friend and I sat by the loft steps and inhaled its scent.

The set up is humble and manual to a large degree. They use exquisite handmade wooden and metal paper moulds which are in themselves antiques and examples of amazing craftsmanship. The wood is water resistant teak.

P1190167

At the water and pulp trough there is only room for one person to work at a time so you can be assured that your sheet will have been made on its own by one human – incredible really when you consider that they now ship worldwide.

P1190177

Neil showed us the whole process and what blew me away was the sheer depth of pulp that sat on the mould after the water had strained away – it was at least an inch.

That was then couched between felts, squeezed under huge pressure and eventually hung in the loft to dry ending up about 2mm thick.

P1190189

This just shows you the quality of the paper. It is so robust that oil painters can paint directly on it with no need for preparation. It also takes acrylics, pastels and any drawing media. Incredibly versatile this paper comes in different weights, surfaces and forms. You can half large or small sheets, pads and more as shown in the photo below.

The shop is up a rickety old stairs and has very low beams – totally wabi sabi and a den of paper treasures. The a further staircase takes you to the drying loft with its lovely open door looking out onto the grassy fields.

Everywhere nature is trying to grow in – tendrils ease themselves through old cracks in the whitewashed mortar, cobwebs are never disturbed and each nook is filled with a natural accumulation of leaves, dust and paper pulp. The source of heat on dark, chill winter days is a single ancient Aga positioned in the corner by a window graced with a cauldron. Windows are not wiped clear and the whole is a little burrow of mossy green and shadows…I would move in tomorrow…

 

P1190183

Most of the processes are manual and carried out using very old machinery including this letterpress which embosses the Two Rivers logo – simply “TR” onto each sketchbook.

The watermark is also made at the point of straining the woodpulp through the aforementioned antique moulds as there is a small metal T and R fixed into the bottom corner of each mould. If you look hard you can just make this out – sorry – my photo is a bit blurry.

P1190172

So if you feel like trying out this poetic paper I would highly recommend it – and perhaps one day even take a visit but be sure to just ring ahead and see if it is convenient for them to receive you.

To shop their items click here – https://www.tworiverspaper.com/shop/

6 thoughts on “Two Rivers Paper – a handmade dream

  1. It’s wonderful to know such artistry still exists in this rushed, ‘teckie’ world we inhabit. Thank you for sharing your experience at the mill. Must have been a heavenly day.

    1. Linda! I am writing to you here as I am not sure if you got my HUGE thank you note via email the day I received my brushes! Here is what I had to say – Linda! I nearly fell through the floor today! Thank you for such an amazing surprise gift! I could not believe what I saw. I have never bought myself a set of brushes like this. Thank you enormously – I shall love using these and how considerate of you to get cruelty free brushes as well.

      When did you decide to do such a kind thing?

      I am really blown away and want to tell you that about 3 days ago I was actually thinking that I would treat myself to a few new brushes that only I would use here in the studio and ones that I would not share with the many workshoppers I teach and lo and behold – the universe – via you – has delivered!

      So now I would like to ask you if you have a favourite flower or animal that I may paint you a small original as a thank you using these brushes?

      From me a in Wales – now about to make a celebratory cup of tea and a nice piece of madeira cake to celebrate!

      Best wishes – Alison

  2. Hello Alison, I absolutely looooved that you shared your trip to Two Rivers paper mill with us. Coming from hot, sweaty & burnt out Brisbane, Australia it’s a joy to see such beautifully green country scenes…I wish… I love that in this day and age that we can still get hand made paper like this – it’s almost unbelievable and yes, every sheet of paper is unique which, to me, makes it just that more special. I’d love to see your paintings using this paper…

    Cheers Magdalena French

    1. Hi Magdalena – I am so sorry I have not replied for so long! Thanks for your lovely comments and yes – this paper is soulfully special. I could email you what I painted using it if you have an email address?

      How do you cope with the Ozzie climate if you love green? My two nephews have now emigrated to Oz and love the climate. They are in Sydney. We are all different aren’t we? What do you paint? Alison

      1. Hello Alison, thank you for replying – it is not often that I comment in blog posts and I certainly have no expectation of receiving a reply – so no need for you to apologise at all. In response to your question ‘what do I paint?’ Mostly I love landscapes and urban/cityscapes – and surprise, surprise I only want to paint English or European scenes… simply because I’d love to immerse myself in the beautiful soft light and greenery of the northern hemisphere. Having said that, I am starting to appreciate our Australian scenery these days…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s