Get Paper Industry
Get Paper Industry (GPI) is an award winning handmade paper cooperative that has been making paper and paper products in Nepal for almost 30 years. The cooperative started with 14 employees but quickly grew when it forged a supply agreement with The Body Shop International in 1989. GPI now employees over 70 people, plus an extra 700 seasonal workers, many of them women. The partnership with The Body Shop continues to this day, and GPI has other trade partnerships with groups like Ten Thousand Villages.
Nepal is among the world's poorest countries. Almost half of the country's working age population is unemployed or under-employed. Because of this, nearly 2 million people have left Nepal to seek work in other countries, leaving their families and communities behind. With Nepal's population of 27 million, GPI's employment opportunities might seem like a drop in the bucket. What stands out to me, though, is that GPI has provided job opportunities for such a long time through so much political and economic uncertainty, and the cooperative has provided employment for uneducated women, a demographic that typically has few employment opportunities in Nepal.
When GPI started in 1985, they made paper primarily from the lotka plant (like this one):
The partnership with The Body Shop introduced GPI to various recycling methods. So for the last 25 years, the cooperative has made paper from waste paper, cotton discards from the garment industry, and agricultural waste like banana fibres, straw (jute), and water hyacinth. The GPI artisans create paper pulp by mixing the recycled fibres with water. The pulp is then pressed between wooden plates to squeeze out the water and flatten the paper, and the resulting sheets are dried in the sunshine. GPI has a waste water treatment facility to filter all the water used in their manufacturing. The entire process honours handcrafted quality and environmental responsibility.
photos, Ten Thousand Villages
If making gorgeous paper products and providing sustainable employment wasn't enough, GPI also promotes community development through its sister organization General Welfare Prathisthran (GWP). Four per cent of GPI's revenue goes to GWP, which coordinates initiatives in four major areas:
It's pretty easy for me to get deliriously excited about a piece of paper. But I can get downright passionate and weepy about a piece of paper that has dried in the sunshine after being carefully mixed and pressed by a Nepalese woman working for Get Paper Industry. There's a great deal of good, compassion and strength behind that delicately textured sheet of paper.
So two days ago, on March 11, I was walking around in the glorious sunshine with my coat off. Then I woke up on March 12 (yesterday) to see this.
I love snow, but not really on March 12 anymore. March is when my itch to garden begins, after all.
Well anyway, I had planned to do groceries yesterday, but with the treacherous weather (i.e. snow blowing sideways), I decided to burrow inside for the day. Our food supply was low, especially in the snack department, and that just wouldn't do, especially because Dan had to work last night. The man needs snacks to get through a 12-hour night shift. And hey. I always need snacks.
Normally, I like to bake to supplement our snack supply, but with my grocery shopping plans spoiled yesterday, I didn't even have the basics for baking. No flour. No milk. Limited butter.
But then I remembered a staple treat from my childhood. Chocolate haystacks: hearty little treats full of chocolate, coconut and oats, and not a stitch of flour. And you don't even have to turn on the oven to make them. It's one of the recipes I wrote out before I left home for university, and I still have it. So yesterday, I dug out my beat-up recipe card and got to work.
I had everything I needed to make half a recipe, except for milk. So I improvised by using some Bailey's Irish Cream instead. Tee hee.
The short version recipe is at the end of this post, but I'll walk you through the super easy steps first. Measure out the first five ingredients - butter, cocoa, milk (or lush-like substitute), sugar and vanilla - and put them into a saucepan. Bring the mix up to a boil, stirring regularly. My old recipe says you should let the mixture boil for five minutes, but it depends on your stove I think. Really, you just need to make sure the sugar is well dissolved (I did three minutes).
When you have a nice, chocolatey soup, add your oats and coconut. Despite what the recipe suggests, I think the ratio of oats to coconut is really up to you.
Et voila! After a while, the haystacks will get solid, and you can take them off the parchment and put them into an airtight container to store. They won't stick together.
A note about my boozy experiment . . .
Adding Bailey's to the haystack mix changed the flavour significantly. The irish cream flavour overpowers the chocolate quite a bit, so it's basically like having a different flavoured haystack. I still prefer straight-up chocolate, but if you're a big irish cream fan, you'd probably go mad for this variation on the standard recipe. You should adjust the sugar though. My suggestion would be to use 1 1/2 cups of sugar instead of 2 (less if you don't like things too sweet).
From a kitchen short on resources, these mini piles of chocolate goodness provided some cozy comfort on a blustery and frigid day. Now that I've rediscovered them, I'll probably make them more often.
Here's the less long-winded version of the recipe . . .
In a sunny and busy classroom in Chedoke Elementary School, a fabulous group of sixth graders has been collecting junk for me. Their wonderful teacher, Jennifer Miscas, contacted me earlier this year to let me know her class had been filling a Jane Jar, and she wondered if I'd be interested in creating an art piece from the contents. Um, yes!
This collaborative project represents everything I love about upcycling and art: a bridge for strangers to meet, a chance to capture moments in time, an opportunity to take a pause - however brief - to think about what and how much we throw away. And it's the start of something completely new. Lots of the junk in this jar will emerge in the art that I'll create for Jennifer and her sixth grade class. The rest of it will eventually find a purpose in something else I make, be it more artwork or a piece of jewelry. The possibilities are curious, colourful, exciting and abundant!
I am very attached to this orange sweatshirt. There's no reason for it: it's old, the drawstring for the hood has long disappeared, and orange looks terrible on me. But it's cozy and lumpy and soft and warm, and I love it.
So when I got a stain on it a few months ago, I was dismayed.
I've had it in my mind more and more that I'd like to upcycle my clothes that are worn, stained or ill-fitting. This seems to me a responsible way to manage my wardrobe: it would save me money and allow me to save beloved pieces. It would also prevent my clothes from becoming part of the pile of second hand store discards that get shipped overseas by the pound. (Millions of pounds of bulk second hand clothes get shipped from western nations to developing nations. There are mixed opinions about how these shipments impact local economies.)
The only problem with my upcycling ambitions is that my sewing skills are, well, scarce. I have lots of ideas, but I'm not sure I have the skills to execute them. Serendipitously for me, some inspired young women in my church decided to start Sewing New Hope: a community sewing circle.
Since January, we've hauled out our sewing machines every Thursday night and done some sewing between sips of coffee and intervals of conversation. Among this lovely group are some ladies with mad sewing skills, and they willingly help the rest of us who don't always know what we're doing. Each week has a project or sewing skill to focus on if we want, but we can also work on our own projects. This is my opportunity to bring some of my upcycling ideas to life, and I figured I'd start with my beloved orange sweatshirt.
Here's what I did.
Okay, so you can't really see the stain very well in this photo, but trust me, there's a stain. In the next photo, you'll see what the weird circles are.
I cut circles out of some cotton t-shirt scraps in brown, light blue, medium blue and burnt orange. With safety pins, I pinned the circles onto the back of my sweatshirt because I wanted to create reverse patches (that's what I'm calling them, anyway). Following the advice of one of my smart sewing circle friends, I hand-basted the circles onto the shirt so that I wouldn't have to deal with pins while working with the sewing machine. For those of you who are sewing newbs like me, basting is loosely stitching something in place. It is also, of course, what you do when you cook a turkey.
And another tip for those with limited sewing experience: sewing circles with a sewing machine is not as simple as it might seem. Maybe modern machines can be programmed to sew curves - I have no idea - but my old-school Singer sews straight lines. This means I had to use a very light touch with the foot pedal and lift the sewing machine's presser foot every few stitches so that I could turn the fabric. I used brown thread to stitch all the circles.
Here's what my sweatshirt looked like after I sewed the circles onto the back and turned it right side out.
Next, I cut the sweatshirt fabric from the front of the shirt to reveal the patches beneath. With one hand inside the shirt holding the patch, I pulled the front fabric up with my other hand to separate the two pieces of fabric. Then, I nipped the front fabric, being careful not to cut the patch, and then cut out a circle along the stitching.
So there you have it: my beloved cozy sweatshirt reinvented. Not only is the unsightly stain gone, but my shirt has a unique and colourful new style that I'll be glad to wear.
Sorry if I've blinded you with all the orange.
Now. What shall I upcycle next?
After a month of sorting, pitching, pondering, cleaning and arranging, I have finally completed my mission to give my art studio an overhaul that will make my work experience more organized and inspiring. It was a more intensive process than I had anticipated because, the deeper I delved into the clutter, the more meticulous my sorting and arranging became to help this reorganization be effective for the long haul.
So, let me take you on a little tour. Yay! This is what you see when you walk in the door. On the right is my macho work area for stuff that involves pounding, drilling, torching and smashing. On the left is where I more gently work on art and cards.
First stop on the tour: my art desk. I had two goals when I rearranged my desk: create lots of work space, and keep close at hand the things I use a lot. I have organized my most-used art tools into a series of pottery and wood containers along the back edge of my desk. The art supplies I use the most sit on a lazy susan (I'm bad at putting things away, so this caters to my bad habit). All my pens and markers are organized in those little plastic drawers and the organizer that sits on top of them (which I made with toilet paper rolls). In the bottom right corner of the photo you can see where I toss my trash and recyclables.
I'm really happy with this workspace now. I've got lots of room to stretch out my work, and I've got most of what I need right in front of me. And I love sitting by the window.
To the right of my desk, I have stored frequently-used art supplies within easy reach on low shelves along the wall beside me. My tubes of acrylic paint hang on the wall from binder clips: now they're easy to access, and they look funky too. (Thank you, Pinterest universe, for the idea.) I got a bargain on a bunch of plastic trays at a local reuse centre, and I used them all to keep my full sheets of paper organized. A tower of paper makes me happy inside.
The back wall of my studio is home to upcycled materials. The centre column of this shelf holds the upcycled materials I use the most, including postage stamps, bottle caps, beach glass and vegetable bags (sorted in bins on the floor). A couple more bins of upcycled stuff sit on the low shelf on the left. I wanted to keep my upcycled materials together in one place so that, when I sort through loads of garbage, it's easy to organize and put away. In another corner of the studio, I have a bin unit that holds other upcycled materials I don't use as much that patiently wait for their debut in a new project.
The left column of the shelf stores all my substrate and t-shirt scraps, and the right column holds my printmaking and sewing supplies.
My grunt work station didn't change very much through my art studio overhaul. The biggest thing I did here was sort through all my beads and modify how I store them. I grouped them together by material (i.e. glass, wood, semi precious) and colour, and moved some of them into the side drawers of the desk to alleviate some clutter.
So there you have it, folks! I feel relieved and excited to have this reorganization project finished. My workspace is now inviting and organized, and still bright and quirky the way I like it. I have no doubt that the arrangements and decor will continue to change over time, but this is a good foundation: a great way to start the year.
So, January's nearly over, and my daunting art studio organization project is nearly done. Next week, I'll do the dramatic "reveal" of my new space, and in the mean time, I thought I'd share some of the tricks I've used to get there. I've gleaned many of the ideas from books and Pinterest, and some I even came up with all by myself.
Cutting Through the Clutter
This idea from Kathi Lipp's book The Get Yourself Organized Project helped me feel less overwhelmed as I approached the chaos in my art studio. Lipp suggests that, when you begin to clean up and organize a room, you have ready three boxes and two bags. In Box 1 you place anything lying around that needs to be put away within the room. In Box 2, you place the things that belong in other rooms of the house. Box 3 is for the things you want to give away. The two bags are for garbage and recycling.
In the photo, you can see my three boxes. Using this little system cleared the clutter so that I could focus on organizing my space. After all, what's the point of putting things away if you don't know where you're going to put them? The three boxes also kept me on task. Instead of getting side-tracked by putting things away in other parts of the house, I just put them in my "other rooms" box to deal with later.
Scrap Paper Organization
I have a lot of scrap paper, and keeping it organized has always raised my blood pressure. I never know where to put it, and more so, I don't know how to find the pieces I want to use when I need them.
I came up with this idea, and I'll see how it works: I sorted all the scrap paper by colour, assigned each colour a binder, and organized the paper in each binder with page protectors. The page protectors help me organize the scraps into similar sizes and shapes - as you can see below - so that I can find exactly what I need when I'm working on cards and art.
I adhered coloured stickers to each binder's spine so that I can easily pull the binder I need off the shelf when I want to use some paper or put it away. As you might have guessed, the white binder stores white and off-white papers. The binders are within easy reach of my art desk to accommodate my laziness.
Mmmm . . . Wine Boxes
Herding the Hoard of Ribbon Scraps
Like scrap paper, I have a lot of ribbon scraps. They have sat overflowing in a plastic container in a tangled mess that looks like a bowl of spaghetti. To start sorting this out, I untangled and unknotted the ribbon spaghetti, and sorted it into different types, like fabric, wired, gift-wrapping ribbon, string, etc. I had an empty small storage unit with fabric boxes and figured this would be great for keeping the ribbon organized.
I wrapped long pieces of ribbon around toilet paper rolls, fastening them with tape. I had some sections of narrow cardboard tube (no idea where I got them), and they were perfect for wrapping short pieces of gift-wrapping ribbon. Short pieces of fabric ribbon got wrapped around clothespins, an idea snagged from Pinterest.
It took a while to do all this, but now that it's done, I think it will be pretty simple to prevent ribbon spaghetti in the future.
Organization for Lazy People
I will be the first to admit that I am bad at putting things away. If something can't be put away quickly, I put it off. There. I said it.
So rather than fight it, I am arranging things in my studio to accommodate my laziness. One way of doing this is to employ what I will call the piggy bank tactic. When I'm sorting out my upcycled materials, I find it tedious to pull containers off shelves and open lids to put things away. I realize how ridiculous that sounds. Nevertheless, I thought I would make life easier for myself by cutting slots into the lids of containers so that I can just drop items into their proper places, like putting coins in a piggy bank.
Over the next few months as I work away in my studio, these organization ideas will be put to the test. I have high hopes that they'll help me stay organized and make my work easier.
I've been sort of dragging my feet into the new year because, throughout the closing months of 2013, I resolved to dedicate the month of January to getting myself organized. I'm not one for new year's resolutions (because I know I won't keep them), but January is the natural time to take stock of how last year went in my home and with my business, and determine what needs to get done in the months ahead. November and December were a flurry of activity, and I looked forward to January when I could take some time to assess. Now that January is here . . . I feel pretty sluggish about making plans and getting organized.
Besides business planning and attending to some household projects, I am trying to reorganize my art studio this January. Not that I didn't try, oh, maybe eight times already in 2013. Each time I went through a crazy busy few weeks, I got frustrated with the clutter and chaos that accumulated (see evidence above). This month, I'm determined to devote the time and energy to designing a creative space that will really work, that needs only minor adjustments in the year ahead. As I embark, it feels a little insurmountable.
The things I use the most must be within easy reach (in close proximity to where I work, at a shelf height I can reach).
I need some empty spaces where unfinished projects or odds and ends can reside until I have time to put them away. Several organization blogs and books I've read say that you shouldn't have empty spaces where clutter can accumulate. Clearly, those authors are not as flawed as I am: my reality is not so orderly, so I'm going to accommodate my more casual working style. So there.
I have a lot of things to store in my studio: upcycled materials, tools, art supplies, books, shipping and packaging supplies, and jewelry making supplies, to name a few. I want to group them together according to their purpose so that it's easier for me to find things.
I spend a lot of time in my studio, obviously, so it needs to be a space in which I want to spend time. It must be bright and comfortable, and most importantly, it must inspire my creative senses. For me, that means using quirky upcycled storage pieces, hanging other people's artwork on the walls, taking some time to add decorative flourishes to mundane storage items, and having an idea board where I can tack up random images/objects that tickle my fancy.
Starting at the End
It's hard to know where to start when I survey the mess of bits and pieces that call my studio home. So, I have tried to picture what I want the end result to be. My hours of Pinterest perusing have shown several possibilities that usually fall under two extremes.
I'd like my studio to be something in between these two extremes. I can sort of see it, so I've started setting to work. I'll keep you posted . . . .
This morning, November 27, I woke up to a world covered in a lovely blanket of snow. It's been a long time since we had snow in November in Hamilton, and unlike most people, I'm thrilled to see the snow arrive early. I love how clean and gentle it makes the neighbourhood look. This is the view from my studio window: plenty of inspiration here.
August and September were very busy with various festivals and shows where I had the opportunity to show and sell my work. I love doing shows, but it leaves little time for much else, so I promised myself that, after the last show in early October, I would take a couple weeks to focus on things outside the studio. One of these things was harvesting and processing the apples from our backyard apple tree.
Our First Apple Harvest!
Since Dan and I moved into our house nearly seven years ago, we have been trying to rejuvenate the apple tree and the cherry tree in our backyard. Efforts with the cherry tree have so far been . . . fruitless (bad pun), as the ants and aphids have had the upper hand. The apple tree has fared much better. After some years of pruning in early spring to promote tree growth, and this year, pruning in late spring to promote fruit growth, our tree produced a sizeable crop of apples! We are so excited! We haven't quite figured out what kind of apples they are: so far our best guesses are Spy or Royal Gala. What we do know is that they're delicious.
Many of the apples are good enough for eating fresh from the tree. Others, not so much: they're on the ground, partially rotted, or still on the tree after being sampled on by squirrels, worms and birds. As my mother taught me, nothing so good should go to waste, so I decided to make applesauce with the more unglamourous members of our apple crop. Applesauce is a versatile commodity: Dan can take it to work as a snack, I can use it in baking and cooking, and we can eat it with meals.
I thought I'd explain the process I used to make applesauce so that you can do the same with fall apples you find at the farmers market or in your own backyard.
Here's what I used and what you'll need to make applesauce:
After picking my apples, I dumped them in a sink full of water. (This picture shows about a quarter of what I actually started with.) Then I removed the nasty bits, stems and pits, and cut the apples into quarters. You don't have to be too careful about coring the apples because you'll pass everything through a strainer in the end. Many people leave the pits in, but I didn't because I'm picky like that.
You can fill your pot with apples all the way to the top because they will cook down. I added about an inch of water to the pan, and threw in half a cinnamon stick, a squeeze of lemon juice and a slice of lemon peel. The cinnamon adds a little spice and sweetness, and the lemon juice preserves the colour of the apples and adds a little tang.
Next, I put a lid on the apples, brought them to a boil, and then turned down the heat to let them simmer for about 45 minutes (the time will vary depending on your stove and what variety of apples you use). And let me tell you, the house smelled amazing: talk about aromatherapy.
As the apples cook, you'll want to stir them once in a while so all the apples get a chance to soften up. Here are my apples midway through cooking, after a good stir.
Tada! Beautiful sweet, tangy, pink homemade applesauce.
I let the applesauce cool thoroughly and then spooned it into jars. After cooking two pans full of apples, I ended up with 20 cups of applesauce. Not bad. The jars I used to store the sauce have a capacity of one cup: this will make things easier when I need the applesauce for baking, plus one cup is a decent serving size for one or two people. All my applesauce is now in the freezer, ready for its various wonderful uses.
Depending on the apple variety - or combination of varieties - you use to make applesauce, you might want to add sugar before serving it. My backyard apples - whatever they are - are sweet enough to stand on their own.
I grew up making applesauce with my family. My parents would get all of us kids around the table to help with all the steps. I never imagined I'd be doing the same thing so many years later. There's something very beautiful about seeing the entire process, from bud to blossom to fruit and all that fruit can provide.
On August 31, I had the delight and honour of being part of the Greenbelt Harvest Picnic. Now in its third year, the Harvest Picnic is organized by Daniel Lanois, a prolific producer, songwriter and musician who was raised in Hamilton, Ontario. The event celebrates the farmers, growers, artists and artisans of the greenbelt in and around Hamilton, with over 12 hours of live music provided by up-and-coming and well-known acts.
This is such a fantastic event: it's like no other music festival I've ever been to. My husband, Dan, and I have attended the Harvest Picnic with family and friends for the past two years, and have always enjoyed its intimate and celebratory atmosphere. This year, I displayed some of my artwork and jewelry, and being at the Picnic in this capacity gave me a deeper appreciation for the festival's spirit. People walk around carrying stalks of garlic and bunches of kale purchased from the farmers. Parents and kids learn together about seeds and plants, and the various creative processes represented by the many artists and artisans. I met wonderful people of all different ages and walks of life, living in various parts of the region (and further afield), all feeling pretty warm and fuzzy about the place I'm so glad to call home.
Jane Hogeterp Koopman
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