A paper making lesson in Bhaktapur

Selecting amongst Newari handiworks in Bhaktapur is a difficult task. The village in the Kathmandu Valley is known as the cultural capital of Nepal, and its streets and squares are teeming with vendors selling and creating the most intricately designed woodwork and pottery. Bronze singing bowls hum from storefronts and pashminas and cotton change purses blow in the breeze like flags. When it comes to the craftmanship, I admire it all.

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But in true Hilary form, the paper was what I fell in love with the most. Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows my affinity for paper, colours, and paper crafts. Nepal is famous for making its own special kind of paper called “lokta.” That’s the name for the grassy shrub that grows in the low altitudes of the Himalayas, and its bark is used in the paper pulp. Research is currently being done to try and connect the similarities between the lokta plant and the material used for papyrus paper in Ancient Egypt. The Kathmandu Valley, and particularly Bhaktapur, is known for producing lokta, and there are factories in the town that produce the paper from plant to product, right on site.

One of the factories to do this is part of The Peacock Shop, found in close proximity to Bhaktapur’s famous wooden peacock window.

Heading to The Peacock Shop at the end of my first day in town, I met Suyog, the 23-year-old son whose family owns the factory and paper shop. He was kind enough to give me a tour and, since a paper factory is kind of the ultimate visual experience, I thought I’d invite you along for the ride. This is my first experiment with multimedia while travelling, using a bunch of tools I’m not used to, so excuse some of the quality issues!

I went back to The Peacock Shop the next day and bought a whole bunch of one-of-a-kind items – cards with a local flair (the red flag-like feature is meant to represent the local sari, and the yellow kites symbolize good health in Nepal), and incredible stationary sets.

Some of the beautiful greeting cards from The Peacock Shop
Some of the beautiful greeting cards from The Peacock Shop

I also got an introduction to Buddhism and Hinduism book that Suyog wrote and printed when he was 17. I have been expanding my knowledge of the iconography throughout this entire trip, and hope this book will further enhance my learning and appreciation of spirituality in Nepal!

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