Lessebo Hand Paper Mill

In an active industrial environment, we get to learn about hand paper making and local as well as national industrial history through a collection of watermark molds. We meet Christina Gutiérrez Malmbom, CEO of Bildningsverket who through Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan runs Lessebo handpappersbruk (Lessebo Hand Paper Mill) – Sweden’s only commercial hand paper mill.

Can you tell us about Lessebo Hand Paper Mill?
During the 17th century, the same time as the founding of the naval town of Karlskrona, an ironworks opened in Lessebo. A naval town needs cannons, cannon balls and weapons, but also cartridge paper, which helps to control gunpowder explosions. Making cartridge paper turned out to be more profitable than cast iron goods and that is where the story begins for what is now Lessebo Hand Paper Mill.

The last time we were here you highlighted the collection of watermark molds. Would you tell us a bit more about them?
When making paper you use molds. These consist of a wooden frame with a cover and a taut mesh onto which a watermark in filigree is embroidered. The watermark makes a recess in the paper which can be seen when you hold it up against the light. The reasons for including a watermark may vary. A watermark can reveal who the paper maker is, or which mill the paper is from. They are also used to make forgeries more difficult, for example in bank notes or passports. Having your own paper with your family crest or company logo has long been a status symbol. In our collection we have around 200 molds and behind them are some very exciting stories representing our industrial history.

I have twice applied for funding, and twice been rejected, to document our collection and find out more about the histories behind the molds. It’s very exciting, but also important. Today there are hardly any people left who know the craft, that makes it important knowledge that we must document and care for.

What can you tell us about the craft and the people who worked with making watermarks?
The actual watermarks are made using a filigree technique which entails bending and embroidering metal thread. That craft can be found in many cultures, I have seen it in brooches for local clothing from countries like Spain, Portugal, Turkey and Italy. Since at least the 19th century we have had people here at the mill who specialised in that type of work, but as far as I understand they belonged to their own guild and were probably attached to several different mills or works. Our paper makers can mend and repair the molds, but they can’t make one from scratch. It would be fun to bring that back and learn to make them ourselves.


(Re-)learning the Archive

is a three-year long development project run by Designarkivet in Pukeberg with support from the Swedish Arts Council and Region Kalmar län (Kalmar County Council).

Christina Zetterlund
Project Manager

Maija Zetterlund
Project Coordinator

In collaboration with

Virserums konsthall
Linnaeus University
Kalmar Konstmuseum

Designer in residence:
Evelina Mohei
Design and webb:
Mika Kastner Johnson

With support from 

Region kalmar läns logotyp
Kulturrådets logotyp