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Post-Modern Paper


The Drinkable Book is a manual that provides safe water tips, printed in non-toxic, food grade ink on paper coated with silver nanoparticles, which kills water-borne diseases like cholera, E. coli and typhoid. Each book is 25 pages, and each page filters water for about 6 months – giving people who receive it tools to have clean water for about 12.5 years. (Jamie Mahoney)

Session III, Panel 4. “Printing the Drinkable Book: Advances in Paper in the Twenty-First Century,” presented by Jamie Mahoney” ¶ Divers Digital Desiderata: Explorations in Digital Printing,” presented by John Labovitz ¶ “Hand Papermaking & the Printed Word: Dynamic Tools for Healing,” presented by Amy Richard. 

Jamie Mahoney

Jamie Mahoney, an Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, is part of a design team partnering with scientists and engineers at Carnegie Mellon, The University of Virginia, and the NGO “Water is Life” to produce The Drinkable Book. It’s the first ever manual that teaches safe water tips and serves as a tool to kill deadly waterborne diseases—providing the reader with an opportunity to create clean, drinkable water with each page. The paper in the book, developed by Dr. Theresa Dankovich, is treated with an antibacterial agent—silver nanoparticles. A typical amount of water that can be purified per filter is around 100 liters.

Water is Life plans to begin distribution of the books in early 2015 in India, Haiti, Kenya and Ghana, as well as make available for global partner distribution. This could potentially bring clean water access with hygiene and sanitation education to tens of thousands globally. At this time the books will be distributed to those in desperate need around our world. So many globally need reliable access to clean water daily.

The team is working to develop the books in a variety of languages and a variety of teaching methods, sharing the message through training, storytelling, and discussions in communities worldwide where there is a desperate need for clean water. The Drinkable Book can provide a user with clean water for up to 12.5 years and will be a critical element in a sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene program. 

john labovitz

John Labovitz, a self-taught artist, is a most interesting and entertaining fellow. With a background in typography, design, and photographic processes, his presentation dealt with his love of the inkjet printer—an invention he told us that can be traced back to Lord Kelvin. Playing with ink and hacking into the Epsom 3800 to switch out inks is one of Labovitz’s favorite pastimes. He prefers gray shades rather than color and makes his own inks, stating that anyone can make ink using carbon, glycerin, water, and a surfactant. Labovitz experiments with his own photographs using various inks to produce remarkable results. 

amy richard

Inspired by the Peace Paper Project, Amy Richard began partnering with art therapists to bring healing through hand papermaking, She works with art communities through workshops and demonstrations in Florida and Iowa. It has been proven that hand papermaking involves the whole physical body. By repetition, multi-sensory methods, and self-soothing, it is shown to quiet the brain and lend the feeling of well-being. The sense of spirituality in papermaking involves the community and crosses religious boundaries. Patients with post-traumatic brain syndrome have found this physical and mindful exercise to be an embodied experience resulting in joy and anticipation.

Individuals who are suffering from not only emotional trauma but from grief, illness and depression have found the effects of papermaking to actually overpower the negative feelings. An example Richard describes is the “fabric of our lives” where articles of clothing from a deceased loved one can be made into paper and by doing so, one can find solace from their grief. Richards personally experienced this when she lost her father. Several years later, her mother gave her pieces of her father’s clothing and Richard let her grief go as she made beautiful hand paper from pieces of his clothes.


Silkscreened handwritten letter, at left, used to “activate” handmade paper made from clothing, at right. (Amy Richard)