Friday, October 31, 2014

Behind the Scenes of Lokta Paper

We know you like lokta paper and lokta products. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. But how much do you know about the process behind its making? Do you know what it takes to have that unblemished notebook or notelet set at your door step? Read on to know more.

Imagine highland mountains in Nepal, some 6500 to 7000 meters that take at least a day or two by foot to reach from the nearest bus stop. Think of the uneven lanes, the lush green vegetation around, the jungles, and the clean, cool air. You can see the clear blue sky by day and a dark sky blanketed by millions of twinkling stars by night. This is where you will find Daphne Cannabina, also widely known as the lokta bush.

The First Stage
Men and women work together from early morning for the first step in the making of lokta paper. The inner bark of the bush is harvested and beaten until reduced to fine fibers. The fact that these trees have the ability to regenerate back to maturity within 2-4 years of pruning is an assurance of stable forest ecology. The fibrous bark is then mixed with water and ash to create a pulpy concoction. The pulp is also beaten to keep ensure there is no heavy lumps anywhere. The silky but thick mixture is poured into a wooden screen and left out in the open field under the sun to dry. Upon being dried, the previous pulp transforms into the much acclaimed lokta paper, ready for the road ahead.

These papers are genuinely unique in the fact that the dyeing process used here is different than that used in any other paper making process. Unlike many papers, the already-constructed lokta papers are dipped in or applied natural, vegetable dyes, which lends as a proof that these papers are water proof.  To give it the various patterns and prints, techniques such as silk screen and batik prints are used to on these papers. For batik prints, wooden blocks dipped in hot wax are pressed on non-dyed paper. It is then dyed. This wax-resistant dyeing technique ensures that the wax prints are left uncolored. The end result is an attractive lokta sheet boasting stunning prints.

The papers are then transported to the nearest bus depot on donkey’s back and then to the city. In the city, another group works on turning these papers into all the products imaginable. Everything in the making is handmade and naturally produced, except for the few final touches such as iron pressing the papers for the smooth look, which requires electricity.

End Products
From tree barks to stunning products, lokta paper undergoes, cutting, trimming, stitching, pasting and everything imaginable under DIY before reaching the stores for sale. Hundreds of people sit together in groups, chatting and gossiping while focusing on creating a flawless product. Be it the notebook, sketchpad, notelet set box, envelopes, cards or more extravagant items such as lokta paper decors, photo frames and the likes, everything is hand constructed and goes under careful scrutiny.
To keep the range of lokta products fresh and new, there is another group of creative people, who brainstorm and bring new product ideas to the table. With additions of new products that are the brainchild of our creative team (which includes everyone), our customers have more options to choose from. I simply adored the Pocket Lokta Notebook with Bamboo Enclosure, which was innovative and practical, and was made of lokta.

The Profit
While it is obvious that Monk Paper, as a company, profits from the sales of these products, there are other unseen success stories involved too. Not only are the customers benefiting from the use of lokta products, given that they are durable, germ-resistant, acid-free and beautiful, but the lives of the hands that are responsible for making these products from scratch are also profiting. For many people, especially women lokta paper is a major income source. So, basically we are not just spending 30 bucks on a notebook, you are helping someone’s daughter or son go to school.

Again, when you opt to choose lokta papers and products, you are opting to save the environment. Like mentioned earlier, the lokta trees are not completely rooted off the ground to make papers. The lokta bushes are only pruned, so that in a couple of years the trees are back to full maturity and ready to provide more paper to you. And, who doesn’t know that papers are bio-degradable and recyclable? Let’s just say that by using lokta paper, you are being as green as anyone can be. There is nothing to lose when it comes to lokta paper. There is only gain.

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