March 8, 2023

I love browsing in flea markets. It's like looking for hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. You never know what you might find. As I stroll past the tables of dusty books, china and old photographs, I feel like an explorer on an expedition, ready to discover new worlds and then tell new stories. It's this combination of adventure and creative inspiration that draws me to flea markets again and again. A world full of possibilities - and I love to dive in and see what I will discover.

It was there that I had my first encounter with mineral paper. My eyes were on the lookout for anything that would spark my artistic imagination. My eyes fell on a few white, rather nondescript sheets. But something was different. I picked up the paper, it felt very smooth and yet somehow rough, and it seemed very sturdy. I had never seen anything like it before and was immediately curious.

The salesman explained that it was mineral paper, also called stone paper, an environmentally friendly material made from stone dust. I was fascinated by the idea of making paper from stone. And a material that was both environmentally friendly and aesthetic was exactly what I was looking for.

I had to use it in one of my artworks! So I bought it. I couldn't wait to start experimenting with it in my studio. It has now become one of my favourite materials to use in my art.

What is mineral paper?

Stone paper sounds unusual at first. And it is a fascinating material. As the name suggests, it is mainly made of stone. More specifically, it consists of limestone dust or calcium carbonate and a polyethylene binder. This combination results in a strong material.

Is mineral paper environmentally friendly?

While the production of wood or pulp paper requires the felling of forests and thus has an impact on biodiversity and CO₂ absorption, the production of stone paper does not require the felling of a single tree. The raw material is limestone, which is usually biogenic - an accumulation of organic remains that over time is transformed into rock through various geological processes. It is ground into a very fine powder in many passes. This produces calcium carbonate, the most widely available raw material in the world. Its availability is virtually unlimited. In addition, only quarry stone and residual materials are used in the production of paper, i.e. waste products that are produced anyway when limestone is quarried.

Mineral paper compared to recycled or cellulose paper.

Therefore, no additional energy is required for either cultivation or decomposition. In general, the energy required to produce stone paper is low compared to wood or cellulose paper. It takes about 5600 kilowatt hours of energy to produce one tonne of conventional paper. Even for recycled paper this is still around 5200 kWh - for mineral paper it is less than 1000 kWh.

The water balance is even better, as virtually no water is needed to produce stone paper. No bleach, acids, bases or chemicals are used. As an added bonus, there is no waste in the production of mineral paper.

Cradle-to-Cradle®

Mineral paper is biodegradable - even completely if the polyethylene is sugar beet based (which is important to me). If mineral paper is exposed to the sun for a long time, it will start to decompose naturally. After a few months, it turns back into stone dust. It can also be completely recycled. This is also the case if the PE is petroleum-based. In fact, it is already recycled because it is made from old PET bottles, for example. It therefore complies with the Cradle to Cradle® principle (using only materials that are already available and can be reused later) and is certified accordingly.

The beginning of a new love: My experience with mineral paper

For me as an artist, paper is a fascinating material that offers a multitude of possibilities. The choice of paper not only influences the feel and look of an artwork, but can also significantly change its effect on the viewer. I find paper to be almost alive, a being that interacts with me and influences my art.

By playing with textures and weights I can achieve certain effects. Smooth and glossy paper, for example, reflects the light and gives the painting liveliness and dynamism. Rougher and matte papers, on the other hand, add a tactile quality that draws the viewer's eye and tempts them to touch. Frames and matting can also be chosen and altered to change the effect of a work of art. A small drawing, for example, can become an impressive showpiece.

So it was no surprise that I had to try stone paper. It was a bit of a bumpy ride at first, though, because stone paper reacts very differently to conventional paper. It is not absorbent, for example. The ink does not soak into the paper, but sits on top of it. This affects not only the drying time, but also the flow of the ink.

Stone paper has a very special feel, the surface is velvety and very smooth. However, it is matt and inks - especially watercolours - tend to dry with a tint. On the other hand, dry media such as charcoal, pastels and chalk are very abrasive, due to the nature of the stone itself. Even with a high grammage, stone paper is very flexible.

Winter magic on mineral paper: A tribute to winter light

Wintermood: Kunstserie auf Steinpapier.

Ever since I discovered mineral paper for my artwork, I have been using it again and again in my projects. Its incomparable texture adds a special touch to my work. I have just completed the Wintermood series on Stone Paper, a tribute to the beauty of winter light and an invitation to explore the mystical atmosphere of the season.

"Wintermood consists of six paintings that capture the delicate, shimmering light that pervades the winter sky, creating a fairytale atmosphere. The colour palette ranges from cool blues to natural earth tones and sparkling whites, exuding emotional depth and sensuality.

Stone paper was the ideal medium for this series. Its unusual texture emphasizes and enhances the mood I wanted to express in my artwork.

Sustainability as a design principle: stone paper as an expression of a new attitude in art

As an artist, I am fascinated by the potential of mineral paper in art, and not just from an artistic point of view. It is a material that is both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly. The fact that it is made from stone, and therefore does not require trees to produce, makes it a sustainable choice for my art practice.

I feel it is my duty to incorporate sustainable materials into my work and to promote awareness of environmentally friendly practices in the arts. Stone paper offers me the opportunity to express my artistic vision while minimizing my environmental footprint.

Although mineral paper is not yet widely used in the arts, I believe it has a promising future. It is an innovative and responsible choice for artists who care about the environment as much as they care about the beauty of their artwork.

What do you think about the use of stone paper in art? Have you ever worked with it, or would you like to try it? Write to me in the comments. We can only grow and learn by inspiring and supporting each other.

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About the Author Lea Finke

Lea Finke is an artist with all her soul. In her blog, she talks about inspiration, passion, and encounters with art.

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