Jillian and Maxum Bruschera, sibling DIY paper-makers
Paper makes up books, shoots out of printers and is sent through the mail as letters, bills, sales fliers, and voting guides. Most folks don’t think much about how it’s made, but there are some who like to get their hands wet and perhaps a bit mucky to make their own paper. Enter Jillian Bruschera and Maxum Bruschera, the sibling force behind The Mobile Mill. Originating from Jillian’s thesis project, it has traveled across the United States and into Bosnia. She’s has taught students aged 2 to 90 while using the mill, while Maxum is the behind-the-scenes guy who quit his job to fly to Chicago and produce the video for the Indiegogo campaign, as well as working to fabricate the traveling mill.
Why handmade paper?
Jillian: The notion of making handmade paper in the context of The Mobile Mill isn’t even about the paper. I mean, it is, but it’s about teaching people or passing along the knowledge of how to use these tools of a craft that’s been around since 106 A.D. Paper is so familiar but people have very little idea of what it’s made of or how it’s made. And that’s like most things around us. We’re having machines, and computers specifically, do so much of the labor for us.
Maxum: You see people take the mold and deckle and dip it into the pulp and press a sheet of paper and immediately their imagination is sparked and they start asking all sorts of questions and their energy starts getting kicked up and everything so there’s like a transformation you see happen when somebody can engage in a process.
What do you use for pulp?
Jillian: You can use anything that’s cellulose-based, so the way that I break it down is we’ve got fabrics, we’ve got plants and we’ve got paper scraps. We use mostly paper scraps.
Maxum: Existing paper products.
Jillian: Yes. Post-consumer paper waste. Pretty much anything we get our hands on.
Maxum: Junk mail. Cardboard boxes you get.
Jillian: Daily remnants of human consumption. I’m happy making paper from straight-up egg cartons or whatever I have laying around. What I really love about paper making … is this experimental mad science of it all.
Where do you find your materials?
Jillian: When I was in Chicago, I’d go in the alley behind the apartment I lived in and at school and there’s my material.
So are you scavengers?
Jillian: I am a little scavenger.
Maxum: I like to work with a lot of metal scraps and I’ll find them hiking up in the mountains, old nails and things like that. It’s kind of like I’m a magnet for that kind of stuff or something.
Jillian: I hit a point this year when I was traveling a lot on the road with this project, I actually spent money to mail myself trash.
You mailed trash?
Jillian: Go to the U.S. Post Office, get a flat rate box, and then just fill it with all this weird road junk and things I thought Max could use for welding projects. Things that would work for paper-making, things for book-making, whatever. I just spent $30 to send trash across the country to myself and what is it doing? It’s still sitting in my garage in a box.
Can you put the nails and metal found objects into a sheet of paper?
Jillian: Yeah. It would be a process—you’d call it an inclusion or an embedding process. I love working with nails and screws. There’s a cool rust that can kind of happen.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever embedded?
Maxum: There was a project I assisted Jill with. She was beating down pulp and making bricks, and we built this big brick wall out of paper, essentially. She had been embedding all of these old electronic remotes and cassettes and things like that. It’s wild because once the brick dries, you know, these things are actually, they become part of the brick. They’re active. They’re alive. There are things coming in and out and it takes it to a whole new level of interest.
A paper brick wall?
Maxum: It was just a big façade, and it was beautiful because every brick was different, made out of either cardboard or a mix of 20 different recycled papers. If you get up close and really take a look, you might be lucky to catch a piece of text or a chunk of something that wasn’t beat down all the way.
Can people go home and do this on their own?
Jillian: Yes, we like to offer some DIY instructions. We are also working now on the next chapter of The Mobile Mill, exploring the idea of developing tools. We are producing right now a limited first-run edition of 30 kits. We call them the paper-maker’s packs, which actually is the first prototype I built to travel abroad with the Mobile Mill idea.