The Mulberry tree does not only produce an abundance of excellent fruit, it is also the basis for the production of one of the finest fibres – silk – and the finest paper: Mulberry paper. Mulberry tree leaves are used to feed silk worms, while its bark is used for the production of handmade paper.
The tree is native to northern Thailand. Its bark is peeled off after the rainy season and regenerates in just a short period of time. The bark’s unique properties were discovered hundreds of years ago by the Karen people who still live in the northernmost part of Thailand. Although the trees grow abundantly in the wild, nowadays, trees are also planted for the production of fine paper.
The Mulberry bark is boiled and reduced to pulp in large kettles. This pulp is then dissolved in water, after which it is carefully spread out on screens. Sometimes petals or dried leaves are added for decorative purposes. The screens are put out in the sun to dry. Once the sheets have dried, they are lifted from the screens, flattened and checked for any inconsistencies. The paper is now ready to be coloured or printed or applied in a product.
Mulberry paper is still made in northern Thailand as cottage industry. Everything is done by hand and paper production is therefore an important source of income for many.