How is watercolour paper made?
We were treated to a trip to St Cuthberts Mill in Wells, Somerset to understand more about the making of English watercolour paper. Situated just outside the beautiful town of Wells in Somerset St Cuthberts is one of the last mills in the UK still making English Watercolour paper, although it is currently owned by FILA there has been significant investment in the site securing the future of commercial paper manufacture in Somerset.
During our visit we were allowed to take photographs, some of these are below. This show the process which is (like most industrial processes) heavily monitored from start to finish ensuring you get consistent quality paper everytime.
Using naturally rising waters from the River Axe, the water is filtered to remove any impurities and tested to ensure it is acid free (naturally so, due to the limestone hills in that part of the country).
English Watercolour paper made from prime ingredients
Raw materials wether cellulose or cotton fibres (depending on the product being manufactured) are mixed with water and formed into a slurry. The slurry is then ‘cast’ into a web of paper which is pressed between woollen felts. The felts dictate paper surface (rough or not). A further process of heated rollers presses a not surface into a Hot pressed surface.
Quality is at the heart of the process
Quality control is at the heart of this process, and the machine is constantly monitored to ensure the web thickness, depth of indentation, or smoothness and moisture content meet stringent specifications.
English Watercolour paper made ready for you to use
The paper is then rolled onto huge master reels that then go through the finishing stages. Then every roll is manually inspected before being sent to finishing. St Cuthberts Mill produce a variety of paper finishes, either bound pads, blocks or spiral bound as well as cut flat sheets.
It was truly a privilege to see this amazing process in action, I hope you enjoy a brief insight into the making of English Watercolour Paper.