Local artist Cheng Yen Pheng, 40, derives great pleasure from making by hand the very paper she uses for her artwork.
By her own admittance, the process is time-consuming and often repetitive but is worth the effort as it gives her the opportunity to be self-sufficient.
Currently living in Batu Arang, Selangor, she shares with FMT the process of making paper from the bark of the mulberry trees she grows in her garden.
Cheng Yen Pheng inspects the sheets of handmade paper she processed herself at her Batu Arang residence.
Bleached Japanese Mulberry Kozo fibres are much finer than those found in Malaysia.
Cheng shows off the sheets of paper she’s handmade over the years. The different hues are the end-product of colouring and the natural process of ageing.
Cheng cuts off a mulberry tree branch, the first step in the paper-making process.
The bark is painstakingly peeled off to be sun-dried, resulting in dried fibres as seen here. Guide to making paper from the bark of mulberry trees
A fire is started for the boiling process. This is conducted outdoors due to the amount of smoke it produces.
The harvested fibres are boiled inside a clay pot as soda flakes in the water can damage aluminium and stainless-steel pots.
The boiling process helps soften the tough, dried fibres considerably.
The softened fibres are beaten to a pulp.
The pulp is spread out evenly over a silkscreen frame placed in a container of water.
The silkscreen frame containing the spread-out pulp is air-dried under the sun.
In her free time, Cheng stitches together leftover pieces of the mulberry paper she has handmade.
Cheng has used her own handmade paper to create wayang kulit props for a project called ‘When the land tortoise meets the sea turtle’.
Cheng, seen here with some of the artwork she created for the ‘When the land tortoise meets the sea turtle’ project.