While some may think that paper has become all but superfluous in this age of electronic communication, Sandy Bernat would beg to differ. She’s found that she has no shortage of customers for Seastone Papers — the beautiful handmade paper products that she sells at the weekly Farmer’s Market at the Ag Hall.
Along with stationary and cards, Bernat offers journals, blank books, and decorative sculptural paper bags that can be used for gift bags, vessels for dried flower arrangements, or luminarias. The lovely small bags, decorated with a splash of pressed wildflowers, have proven so popular, Bernat inevitably sells out every week.
Not only do Seastone products have a rustic appeal, her paper and paper products are about as organic as you can get. Bernat creates all of her papers using a variety of plant materials — many of them grown on the Island — such as corn husks, gladiola, iris and daffodil leaves, and various wild grasses, including phragmites — a wildly invasive species. More recently she has started working with seaweed.
Other materials that Bernat draws from include discarded denim, cotton tee shirts, and linen tablecloths. She also purchases raw cotton and a couple of imported plant products like Abaca banana fiber and Kozo which comes from the bark of mulberry trees.
To say that Bernat is enthusiastic about paper would be an understatement. She has conducted extensive research on all areas of the paper-making process, traveling to remote areas of Burma (Myanmar), China, and Tibet to study techniques, as well as history and plant origins.
She shares what she has learned throughout the three decades that she has been making and selling paper with students at her West Tisbury studio. Those interested can take classes in papermaking, book binding, painting with wet pulp, paper marbling, and a host of other options.
At the conclusion of the basic papermaking class, students will bring home an assortment of beautiful sheets and note cards decorated with embedded wildflowers. What better way to add a really personal touch to a note to a friend or invitations to a special event.
“When you’re pulling paper it’s a very Zen thing,” Bernat says. As she writes on her website, “There is poetry in the papermaking process and a spiritual attraction to paper itself. To form a sheet of paper by hand stirs and preserves ancient connections with our past.”
Seastone Papers’ studio is located at 53 Christiantown Road, West Tisbury and is open year round by appointment by calling 508-693-5786.