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Making paper in Colombia

How is paper made? Discover it in Barichara!

by Sabine
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Languages / Talen

Barichara: one of the most beautiful villages in Colombia. The abundance of history, the cute white and green houses and red roofs. If anything, the surroundings are even more beautiful. There is much to do in and around Barichara. Including a visit to the paper workspace for a paper workshop. In fact, Barichara is known for the paper that is handmade here from natural products. Of course I wanted to know more about that, so I took my parents to the paper-making factory in Barichara. Find out how paper is made in Barichara and how you too can do a paper-making workshop.

The paper-making workshop in Barichara

Since 2001, this beautiful paper-making facility has existed, part of Fundación San Lorenzo de Barichara. In this small paper mill, paper is made from natural fibers. Everything is done by hand, which is very nice to see when visiting. And even more fun to do yourself! Here more information about the paper workshop in Barichara.

Going to Barichara? Then this is a fun activity to do.


Paper: what is it actually made of?

Paper can be made from leaves of various plant species. In the paper-making factory in Barichara, they mainly use the fiqueand pineapple plant. Whoever knows the English name of the plant fique may say so. I thought ficus, but looking at pictures I start to doubt.

The fique is a natural fiber from the large long leaves of the plant, which originated in the Andes of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.

The paper workshop has a large garden at the back where all kinds of plants and trees grow for paper production. They are experimenting with leaves from all these plants. So with marijuana, for example, it turns out you can do even more! I also saw cotton hanging from the tree for the first time: so nice to see!


The process: this is how paper is made from natural fibers

From leaf to fiber. First, the leaves are pressed into fibers, which are then placed in water with lime. This turns the fibers white/beige.


The fibers are then cooked and softened. They do this in large iron pans, like the one you see in the photo. The smaller wooden forms hold lime, among other things.


The cooked fibers are washed and crushed. This is done by hand, first in a tub of water, then they beat the fibers to a pulp with a wooden mallet.


Shaping the sheet of paper. The fibers are put into a large container of water, then a wooden mold with a grid is used to form the fibers into a sheet. These wet fiber sheets are placed between sheets of cotton. We may also do this ourselves!


Pressing the wet sheets of paper. After placing many wet fiber sheets between cotton pieces of fabric, they must be pressed to get the water out. The large sheets of paper go into the large press, the small ones (which we made) into the small press.


The final step: the sheets of paper are dried. And this is done simply in the studio, giving a beautiful effect of white sheets of paper hanging on the line to dry. When dry, the paper is ready.


And that’s how paper is made! The makershop ladies are also working on very large sheets. It looks like this:


How do you get colored paper?

The beige paper of fique and pineapple can also be colored. For this, they use natural dyes made from vegetables. For example, yellow color is obtained from white onion, blue is made from purple cabbage and light green comes from almonds.


What is the paper made in Barichara used for?

The paper made in Barichara has many functions. Not only is it functional for books, cards, notepads, sheets of paper and bags, it is also used to make lamps and curtains. You can also find this paper in many creative products, such as origami, picture frames, earrings, folded flowers, paper animals (such as giraffes and tigers), stars and necklaces.

In the adjacent store you can buy almost anything made of paper. The lamp with blue leaves, for example, in the center of the photo below, is now in our house! I also bought paper blue earrings and two beautiful paper picture frames now adorn the cabinet at my parents’ house.


Visit the paper workshop in Barichara

The paper-making shop in Barichara can be found at Carrera 5 # 2-88 (on the corner). Find the location on the map here. From Monday to Friday, the makershop is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. On Saturdays, you can visit between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Work also continues on Sundays and the makershop is open between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

For a tour, you do not need to make an appointment in advance and costs a few euros. Would you also like to stay in Barichara? This hotel is highly recommended if you want to stay ín the village. For an unforgettable experience in Barichara, choose special Finca San Vicente.

EXTRA: Watch the video below and see live how paper is made in Barichara! Very interesting if you understand Spanish, if not: watch the beautiful and revealing images.


Are you in Baricharaor San Gil and love learning new things in an active way? Then don’t miss a visit to this paper-making factory, and discover yet another little bit more about special Colombia!


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