I just spent a lovely day at the Morgan Conservatory helping with their kozo harvest & fiber processing. Since taking a workshop there this summer with Melissa Jay Craig and working with kozo for the first time, I have been interested in better understanding how the materials we used get from being a tree to malleable for paper or sculptural work.
I arrived at the Morgan this morning at 10:00AM. They had already cut the branches from the garden, but the first step for this morning was cutting them to lengths that would fit in the LARGE pot for steaming.
The cut branches are then loaded into the large pot over the wood fire in the brick oven they have built in the garden. A lid is placed on the pot and weighed down while the branches steam for several hours.
After the steaming is complete, the bark of the kozo is stripped from the wood. The wood is kept to be used either for fodder for the fire or some other use. There was much discussion of the beautiful yellow color of the left over wood. The bark is the part that is used in paper making, but requires additional preparation beyond this point.
Once the bark is stripped, the outer bark must be peeled or scraped off of the inner bark. The inner bark is the best fiber for papermaking but the outer bark is also used to make a lower-quality paper.
Last year, after the harvest and initial fiber preparation, it took 2 months to finish cleaning off the outer bark.
Once this process is complete, the inner bark can be dried and saved for future use. Before being used to make paper, it must be cooked with soda ash to further prepare the fibers. This is a picture of kozo that has been prepared in this way but used in its lace form rather than pulped to make paper (this piece by Melissa Jay Craig).