What is Lokta?
Lokta paper is a sustainable, 100% natural alternative to machine made papers commonly available in the art market today. The paper itself is made from inner bark found in high elevation shrubs and bushes. Called an evergreen shrub or the lokta bush by locals, they are an extremely sustainable resource as when cut back they can double in size. The bushes require trimming every 3-4 years, and this trim and re-trim of the leaves causes the bushes to grow back faster. Essentially the more lokta harvested the more to be harvested next time. Lokta is produced all across Nepal in as many as 22 districts, however modern lokta production is typically produced in Kathmandu and Janakpur.
Compared to a-typical paper, the lokta is insect and humidity resistant giving it excellent preservational qualities. These long lasting effects are what makes the paper so unique and suited to a range of specific jobs. Over the centuries official government documents and sacred religious texts have been made with lokta, its resistance to the elements allow it to survive up to 3000 years. The world's oldest surviving documents are known to have been printed on lokta 2000 years ago.
To make the lokta paper, the collected flowers are boiled and cooked for around 8 hours until the mixture has become a smooth paste/pulp. The paste is then placed onto a frame and spread out by hand to ensure complete even coverage. The frame is then lifted and tilted to get an accurate finish. The resulting frame is then left in the sun to dry. When exposed to the sun the paper begins to form, as each sheet is left to dry individually they all vary in colour, texture and finish. During this part of the process dye can be added before the drying process has been completed. The making of the paper requires just the skin of the bushes and not the whole shrub, as the shrub is not used for paper, the villagers can use them for fuel. In this manner the process becomes sustainable, leaving no waste during the manufacturing.
During the late 20th century the popularity of Lokta paper in the western world grew and an increase in demand meant that international exporting of the paper became possible. The handmade paper industry in Nepal is growing at a rate of 15% per year and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Despite being used originally for sacred religious texts and government documents it is used today for a wide variety of reasons. Such as prayer books, restaurant menus, wrapping paper, packaging and even chocolate packaging.
For artists this paper is useful as it fills a good number of roles. The thicker stock paper can be used for interesting charcoal and pastel works whereas the lighter weight papers is well suited for printmaking and collage/mixed media work. The two standard variants of the paper are Lokta Natural and Lokta Natural Rough. The main difference here being that the rough has far more of a surface texture than the standard. The standard paper is available in three thicknesses, Lo1, Lo3 and Lo5. With 1 being the thinnest and 5 being the thickest. The rough is available in one standard weight and is extremely thick and resilient. The paper has a textured surface that is fantastic as a print or for very textured works. Coloured Lokta is typically smoother in texture and thinner, being similar to the Lo1, in thickness. It is dyed in a variety of colours and has a deep, rich tone to its surface. Excellent for gift wrap or for collage work. The paper has a slight texture and each sheet can vary in colour slightly due to the sun drying process. Lastly there is the Lokta Tissue Paper, an extremely thin variant of the lokta paper being only 15gsm. The paper has natural fiber inclusions and has a subtle texture.
The use of lokta has grown and grown over the previous decades and will do so in the future as its sustainability draws many progressive artists to its unique surface. For all of our lokta products see our listings here.