Fresh Press wants to change the paper supply chain from forest to farm.
Fresh Press is an interdisciplinary research and making lab at the University of Illinois that explores the potential of regional sustainable agricultural fiber waste as art, paper, and objects. Our mission is to develop entrepreneurial and artistic markets for paper products originating from locally produced sustainable agricultural fiber waste (corn stalks, rye, hemp, and prairie grasses). We are divided into three organizational components: research, residencies, and outreach. Our research involves developing new models, methods, and applications for the integration of agri-fiber waste paper as a viable commercial alternative to wood pulp. Currently, our main research endeavors are the engineering of a conservation-grade sustainable case paper for use in mending books in the Illinois library collection, and the creation of agri-fiber building materials (bricks and insulation) for architecture. Fresh Press also seeks to shape and educate through papermaking workshops and lectures, steward the land we use in our craft, and investigate indigenous plant and agricultural fibers for the arts to help solve global environmental and social issues. Our recent artist residencies supported painters and sculptors who created visual experimentations, compositions, books, and sculptural collages that represent our ecosystems. As a place on this planet, we aim to leave a minimal footprint. We collect rainwater for papermaking, have installed solar panels on our partner farm, and do not use fossil fuels in our cooking processes for paper. We hope Fresh Press will become the model for small-scale sustainable papermaking, which can eventually be applied to a larger industrial practice.