Mary Hark, professor at the Design Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and founder of HARK! Handmade Paper Studio, has noticed the writing on the wall and has implemented a program in Ghana – a paper-making venture. With the help of the bicycle-powered Oracle Beater, designed by Lee McDonald, fine art papers are produced from an invasive plant species, making the process ecologically sound, and allowing production to be unaffected by regular power outages.
At this year’s A Better World by Design conference, Prof Mary Hark presented her latest paper-making venture. The professor’s program promises to bring amazing change to the Asante region.
Mary Hark and a team of students, artists and faculty from the Kumasi Center for Book and Paper Arts, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and the Ghanaian artists’ collective, SaNsA, began collecting and documenting various natural fibers from the region.
They noticed a huge amount of the invasive Paper Mulberry plant which had been introduced to Ghana in 1969 and decided to experiment.
The kozo fiber, commonly used in Japanese paper-making, is derived from the same plant and gives the paper excellent strength. The experiments proved highly successful and Hark and her team began producing handmade paper.
Given the booming textile industry, they also decided to incorporate recycled textile scraps into the process. Native plants such as avocado, plantain, cashew and papyrus were also processed and added to papers, allowing for a wider range of options.