Sunday, December 19, 2021

Making Fish Parchment at St. Lawrence University

Shared by Velma Bolyard

On October 5th, 2021, a beautiful mild autumn day, St Lawrence University’s Sustainable Papermaking class taught by Melissa Schulenberg and Velma Bolyard met with an eager group of 12 students. They met at the Sustainability Farm, home base for that program, to experiment with parchment making. 

Melissa who is an avid fisher was given the skins of fish that did not survive from a catch and release competition, the skins were waste after the flesh  was removed for eating by the organizers. Velma froze the skins until she could thaw and  process 20 skins.  When discussing the history of papermaking and writing materials including  parchment and describing what parchment is, and the thought of those fish skins sparked, and they decided to teach making fish parchment. Velma had made three haddock parchment skins prior to this, and with that “expertise”, a big table, spoons for scraping and lots of soapy  water, students scraped scales, flensed skins, and pinned them to dry on plastic covered foam  core. 

The group was quite engaged in the process despite the yuck factor, and each went  away with one or two skins for future use. Our class was rewarded with fish skin badges from Peter Verheyen's Fish Skin Bind-O-Rama 2020.

The frozen skins.

Scraping scales and remaining meat off.

Scraping scales and remaining meat off.

Scraping off the scales.

Pinning the skins out to dry under tension.

Pinning the skins out to dry under tension.

The skins drying and soon to be parchment that can be used to cover books...

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