Do You Know How To Make Saa Paper?

Saa paper is a traditional handmade paper style from Thailand and is used to make our range of mobiles. The paper is made from the bark of a very fast growing mulberry bush that is very common in Northern Thailand. One of the reasons for the plant's prevalence is that its leaves are a major food source for silk worms, another large Thai handicraft industry.

The smaller branches of mulberry bushes (known as 'Saa' in Thai) are cut after the rainy season each year and the bark can then be steamed off. The branches will have regrown by the following year making the process of coppicing an environmentally friendly one.

The Thai silk trade is well known throughout the world. The Thai are known for some of the finest hand-woven silk cloth in the world. Since silkworm create the silk thread, and silkworm eat mulberry leaves, it follows that there must be many mulberry trees in Thailand, and there are. The trees in Northern Thailand are called 'Saa' by the locals.

These Saa or mulberry trees have a very special characteristic: They shed their bark once a year just after the rainy season. The bark can be pulled off of the tree very easily and the process doesn't hurt the tree at all. It is from this bark that Saa paper is made. Saa is thus the quintessential renewable resource.

The Saa bark is boiled in large vats filled with water and ash until the fibres in the bark separate and becomes a thin pulp. This can take a few days, so the making of saa paper is only for the infinitely patient artist. The artist then dips a special wooden frame with a fine screen on one side into the pulp mixture. He gently swirls the pulp around in the frame, allowing the water to drain off, leaving a thin layer of matted fibres on the screen. This process is repeated until the layer of paper has reached the desired thickness. The frame is then set in the sun to dry out, and finally, the completed sheet of paper is peeled out of the frame.

The process is varied in a number of ways to create many special effects. Natural dyes are added to the pulp to make beautiful, vibrant colored sheets of paper. Sometimes petals and leaves of local flowers are pressed into the paper, as in this example. One of the most striking effects is created when pieces of gold thread are embedded in the paper.