TRAVERSE CITY – Katie Grzesiak could dump all the garlic mustard weeds her volunteers pull into the landfill to biodegrade. Instead, she dries some of it to make a beautiful craft paper with a spring green tint.

“We’re definitely encouraging people to take it out, so it’s a great way to deal with it,” said Grzesiak, invasive species network coordinator for the Grand Traverse Conservation District.

“You can’t compost it because the seeds live on composting unless you have an industrial composter. It must therefore be put in the landfill. “

Garlic mustard is one of the few plants that retains its green color when used in papermaking. This fast-spreading weed is one of the many invasive species that artists are increasingly discovering in their work.

“You can use a lot of it if you want a darker green and you want to see the leaf pieces in the paper, or you can use a little if you want clearer results and a more uniform texture,” Lynn said. Rodenroth, Executive Director. of Paperworks Studio, a nonprofit organization that connects disabled and disadvantaged people with artists, engineers and designers to create handmade recycled paper products for sale.

“The important thing is to experiment.

The studio began working with garlic mustard after receiving a batch of dried plants from the Invasive Species Network. Now she uses the material to make a full line of products, from straight-edged paper and note cards to bookmarks and journals.

“It’s a little tricky,” Rodenroth said. “It’s a bit smelly and we’ve found that the leaves themselves make the best paper. The stems are a bit stocky, so more difficult to work. They don’t add a lot to the paper and they don’t add a lot of color to the paper. The leaves are really ideal.

The studio uses other plants and raw materials like coffee, recycled denim and wool. But Rodenroth said staff have talked about expanding its range using other invasive species.

“We are always on the lookout for new and creative raw materials,” she said.

Fine art photographer Jane Kramer takes her art one step further by printing the shadows of endangered plants on paper handcrafted from the invasive plants that threaten them – not just garlic mustard. She also made pulp from phragmites australis, common buckthorn, narrow-leaved cattail, black swallow, ladies’ arugula, spotted knapweed, canary grass and purple loosestrife, each with their own. properties.

“Because I’m transferring images to paper, I like that they’re clearer or they won’t show up,” said Kramer, an artist from East Lansing who has exhibited as far north as Empire and Boyne. Falls. “My favorite use is garlic mustard because it’s easy to process and lighter. But it is only available in the spring.

“The reed canarygrass is another one that I like because he has a light tan. Purple loosestrife that I wish I could have used, but this one came out a deep purplish red.

Kramer, who listed his works in the 2016 ArtPrize, said some papers made with invasive species would not take his images. Others differ in quality, strength and texture. She often uses Phragmites australis, a plant she can find year round. While this makes the light brown paper perfect for her images, it is one of the most difficult to work with, she said.

“It is the most labor-intensive factory. It’s a tough plant so it takes a lot of soaking before I boil it and then I have to chop and mix it a few times because it’s so hard to break down, ”she said.

When pulling garlic mustard and other invasive species to make paper, the most important thing is to carefully cut, wrap and discard the roots and flowering head so that the seeds do not spread, Grzesiak said. Better yet, shoot the plant before it has a chance to flower.

The Invasive Species Network and Grand Traverse Conservation District will be offering an Invasive Species Papermaking Program from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on May 13 at the Boardman River Nature Center on Cass Road. Participants will hear a presentation on alternative uses of invasive plant species and then write their own paper to take home.

The course is free but registration is recommended; contact Emily Cook at [email protected] or 231-941-0960, ext. 20.

“One of the great things about paper is that you can try it for the first time and get really good results,” Rodenroth said. “It’s also one of those arts that you can study for a lifetime.”

A ready-to-do-it-yourself method

While artist Jane Kramer uses pure plant materials and a more complex process, making invasive species paper can be as simple as ripping office paper or newspaper out of your recycling bin, soaking it. in water overnight, beat mixture in kitchen mixer until pulpy, adding dried leaves and stems, and beat again until well combined.

“It should be kind of a spring green color,” said Katie Grzesiak, who uses a blend of 30% garlic mustard and 70% recycled paper.

Pour the pulp into a shallow tub, add more water if necessary, then collect and filter some of the pulp between a “mold” and a “deckle” – two frames of the same size, one with a sieve stuck on on the opening (the mold), the other with an empty opening (the apron). When the platform is placed on top of the mold, it forms the edges of a piece of paper.

Turn the paper over on several layers of paper towels, blot it, then let it dry on the paper towels or flatten it between two books or against a window or other piece of glass.

Once the paper is formed but still wet, you can embellish it by pressing rose petals, flowers or leaves into it. You can even add native seeds, like bergamot or lemon balm, milkweed or columbine, to make “plantable paper” that you can plant outdoors.

“The only caveat is that some seeds are invasive, so you have to use native seeds,” Grzesiak said.