Rock Beats Scissors? FiberStone Tree-Free Paper Begs to Differ.

Cradle to Cradle by William Mcdonough & Michael Braungart may be the world’s most environmentally friendly book. Not only will it give you an entirely new perspective on how we manufacture things, but you can read it while snorkeling. The pages are made of non-toxic plastic resins and inorganic fillers combined to form a durable, waterproof paper that is infinitely recyclable. These characteristics also exist in a new substrate being produced by Natural Source Printing called FiberStone.

From their website: “FiberStone is made from 80% Calcium Carbonate (CaCOз) with a small quantity (20%) of non-toxic resin (HDPE- High Density Polypropylene). The Calcium Carbonate comes from limestone collected as waste material from existing quarries for the building and construction industry.”

The bottom line is that no trees are cut down, no water is consumed, no bleaching chemicals are used, and no air pollution is created. Along with being waterproof and recyclable, it is also tear resistant. They offer a wide range of products such as marketing and packaging materials as well. Does this sound like a dream come true for some of you struggling to find ways to reduce the environmental impact of your creations and microbrands?

I asked a representative from the company a few questions with the indie craft community in mind…

Do you need any special equipment or inks to print on this paper?
It can be printed offset/lithographically, gravure, screen printed, inkjet, or on a solid ink printer such as a Xerox Phaser.

Will you be offering your products online to individuals?
There is so much interest from corporations and smaller companies that we cannot offer it to individuals with small runs at this time.

Any different colors or textures available besides white?
It is only available in white. We can emboss textures into it. It has a brightness of 92.

Any possibility you will partner up with an art/photo printing site to be included as an option?
Sounds interesting. I’d love to explore this further.

Do you offer bookbinding or have plans to make that available?
On larger runs, yes.

This is not the first time I have ran across an amazing eco-friendly material that would be widely embraced by our community, yet is practically unattainable. Many companies like this focus on consultation and sales to other established businesses rather than to the general public or cottage industries.

I wonder though, could groups of crafters mobilize and create co-ops to purchase specialized materials? Might these companies be responsive to ideas about how they can cater to artists and crafters while tapping into a lucrative and under-served supply niche?

I think this product would be of obvious interest to those who scrapbook or create art (that goes for a lot of us). Also, thousands of indie entrepreneurs rely on promotional and labeling materials to market themselves, and compete with the pizazz of commercial packaging.

Most national craft supply chains seem out of touch… only appealing to the indie crowd minimally, as if they are waiting out a trend. Hopefully they will come around, but it likely won’t be a significant effort anytime soon. Bypassing these stores to acquire green options in existence is becoming increasingly necessary. Upcycling demonstrates our inventiveness, but does not present a long-term solution.

The modern craft resurgence has been a catalyst for thousands of microbrands. In this realm, personal responsibility meets product fabrication, and independent art gives mass media a run for it’s money. It makes sense for our community to be proponents of environmental innovation in our materials and substrates. As of yet, we do little more than ride the coattails of established retail trends when it comes to technology, though much of our merchandise thrives on resourcefulness and personal attention that big business cannot replicate. Ironically, some of them continue to capitalize on aesthetic styles we have initiated.

Perhaps our individualism has put us at a disadvantage when it comes to commercial supplies. The spectrum of our collective practices is vast and varied. Some artisans conceptualize a finished piece with clarity before acquiring their materials. Others enjoy the challenge of refurbishing existing objects, and excel at collecting more of the same treasures. I have met thrift store enthusiasts that dismiss the need for modern commercial supplies altogether, and designers whose vitality rests on the consistency and availability of mass manufacturing. It’s been futile trying to define our genre, much less self-organize in the traditional sense. Yet, we continue propping up a huge community that nurtures creativity. It wouldn’t hurt to examine what possibilities we are missing out on because we don’t collectively pursue them.

My recent survey reflected that, overwhelmingly, we want our creations to encompass a cycle of sustainability. We all know that green practices in homes and business are helpful for the environment, but they don’t inspire people. Art propels world views, and for most of history, permanence has been a major factor in it’s value. Increasingly, this is at the expense of the planet. Michelangelo erected a few bronze sculptures, but he never had a practically limitless supply of plastic canvases and acrylic yarn to cross stitch with.

Getting back to this fabulous paper product… how thought provoking would it be to offer giclee prints of your latest doodles on waterproof paper with the clear statement of its intended lifecycle?

This work of art has thus far created minimal environmental impact. At the wish of the artist, please submit it to the designated recycling program when interest in it has ceased.

I admit, this is completely upside-down approach! Having worked at an art supply store, and as an artist, I can’t stress how important the term “archival” has become. It’s understandable that one would want to create their original art with potential to last indefinitely. The problem is that the moment it leaves your possession, you are no longer in control of it’s longevity. The idea that your creation might be revered as a family heirloom to be passed down for generations, find a permanent home in a museum, or become priceless long after you’re gone is a smidge unrealistic. We need access to materials that are durable and light-fast, yet have not wreaked havoc on living things, and better yet, will continue to be harmless if discarded of properly. Such is the case with FiberStone paper.

Now, where is my organic cotton duck canvas primed with natural gesso and mounted on stretcher bars made from recycled plastic bottles?

Maybe our cultural legacy lies in finding creative ways to eliminate the environmental footprint of creativity itself. I don’t think that means we should tip-toe around technology. After all, the vibrancy of the current handmade movement is largely due to the internet.

Written by Autumn Wiggins

This 2008 interview pretty much sums it up:

1. How would you describe yourself?
An oddly situated performer of thought experiments

2. Do you have any anecdotes about your work (how you got started, frustrating moments, or funny stories)?
At this year's Maker Faire in San Mateo, I gave a presentation on how the trend of green crafting can ultimately address the problem of consumption and waste. Dale Dougherty,the publisher of Make and Craft, later had a gift delivered to me, a staple bound book of poetry: Music Like Dirt by Frank Bidart. This is the last thing one would expect to take home from an event so focused on renegade technology. To my surprise, it was an existential reflection on the human need to make things that I now find myself going back to whenever I need some inspiration to look beyond the materials and processes of crafting.

3. What kinds of things do you do for fun?
In my spare time I enjoy amateur astronomy, outdoor adventures, collecting domain names, and hanging out at coffee shops.

4. What interesting projects are you working on right now?
I'm working to organize community involvement in upcycling, and have a few top-secret website projects up my sleeves!

5. Where do you live? Kids, pets, spouse, occupation?
O'Fallon, IL, a suburb (and I mean a totally typical suburb) of St. Louis, MO. Rather than moving to the more culture friendly urban environment, I am staying put and annoying the heck out of Wal-Mart by throwing a massive indie craft show(Strange Folk) in their backyard. I have a husband, Doug, and two sons: a 7 year old mad scientist named Jack, and 6 year old Max, who we think is an aspiring tattoo artist since he's so fond of drawing all over himself with markers. To pay the bills, I do freelance writing, mural painting, and website design, sell my handmade crafts, teach art classes for kids, and work part -time at a local coffee shop.

6. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?
The concept known as "Cradle-to-Cradle" is a blueprint for sustainability that states everything we manufacture should be either biodegrable, infinitely recyclable, or intended to be upcycled. This is the basis for many of my ideas of how the crafting community can be more widely involved in solving the environmental crisis.

7. What is your favorite food/color/tool?
granola/green/sewing machine!


Leave a Reply
  1. First of all, HDPE is not high-density polypropylene, it’s high-density polyethylene. This is also known as plastic. So the product is 20% made from a petrochemical. That’s not what I call a renewable product, unlike paper, made from trees, which are renewable from solar energy and photosynthesis. And recycling a mixture of rock and plastic could be problematic! Don’t put it in your recycling bin along with the other paper products!!

  2. That’s not what I call a renewable product, unlike paper, made from trees, which are renewable from solar energy and photosynthesis. And recycling a mixture of rock and plastic could be problematic! Don’t put it in your recycling bin along with the other paper products!!

  3. This really isn’t an eco friendly product I’m sorry to report. Polypropylene is a petroleum based product and because it’s filled with CaCO3 it is not recyclable. Calcium carbonate is milled and processed for the plastics industry.

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