Lama Li paper is handmade in the mountains of Nepal from the inner bark of the lokta bush. Lokta is one of the strongest paper fibers, and since new growth regenerates quickly it provides a renewable resource for the artisans who depend on the fragile ecosystem of Nepal for their livelihoods. Proceeds from the sale of Lama Li paper returns to the cooperatives that make the paper, directly supporting workers in rural and urban areas of Nepal.
A tradition in Himalayan countries, papermaking has always been an important activity in rural Nepal. Spread throughout the high hill region, papermaking represents a great source of revenue for the hill tribes. Nepalese papers are hand crafted from the bark of a local bush called “lokta”. Its Western name is Daphne Cannabina or Daphne Papyracea, and it flourishes at an altitude of 6,000 – 9,000 feet. The bush is mostly found amongst conifers or deciduous trees. In ideal climate conditions, the plant can reach a height of 15 feet. The stalk’s diameter varies between 2½ and 4 inches, and its green leaves have a length of 2 to 4 inches with a width of 1/3 to 1 inch. A white flower blossoms from the plant that produces a very subtle fragrance. The bark’s fibrous nature makes it an ideal raw material for papermaking. The cultivation of the lokta plant provides an environmentally sound, self-sustaining natural resource for the hill people. If cut 8 inches from its base, the lokta bush grows back, and can be harvested again 4 years later. The lokta fiber is very long and textured, making the paper extremely durable. The plant also has the advantage of containing a natural insect repellent.
The dried bark is first cooked in an ash solution in order to soften the fibers. After being washed in pure Himalayan water, the bark is cut into small pieces. The bark is then cooked and rinsed a second time. When this process is finished, the fibers are crushed on a large flat rock. Mixed with clear water, the fibers become a fine paste. It is then ready to be made into a sheet of paper. The mixture is poured onto the surface of a screen that is half immersed in water. The mould is then gently shaken in order to even out the pulp. The mould is removed from the water and laid in the sun to dry slowly and naturally. When the water has completely evaporated, the sheet of paper is complete.