December 1, 2005
A Santa Fe craftsman meanders through the forest to make paper the old-fashioned way.
“You can do anything to Barkskin that you can do to wood,” says Edmond Rabkin, founder of Caba Company. His family-run business has been selling the handmade wood material to designers since he developed it 33 years ago. To make Barkskin, Rabkin shreds bark from young mulberry and fig trees that grow wild in nearby forests. He gathers the bark when it’s soft, during the long rainy season, harvesting only from dead trees and fast-growing yearlings that regenerate quickly. Then he soaks the shredded wood in water until it forms a pulp and pounds it by hand into a flat sheet. As the paper dries in the sun, natural sap in the wood helps the material fuse together.
Over the years Barkskin has been used as natural wallpaper in a number of ways: as large floor-to-ceiling panels, arranged in uniform tilelike squares, and torn and overlapped for a collaged effect. Because the front and back of each sheet are slightly different—one is shinier and smoother than the other—it’s possible to achieve a varied pattern from one large piece. “It can have a very natural effect or a geometric one,” Rabkin says, adding that there are many possibilities. But he admits that much of the time he just makes the Barkskin and ships it off, unaware of how it will be used.
This delicate paper is made from fig and mulberry bark that was peeled, soaked in water, hand-pounded, and sun-dried.
Barkskin is typically used in residential, hospitality, and retail spaces as a wall-covering, a screen, or as furniture veneer. It can be left as is or treated with wood stains, sealants, or dyes. It is also appropriate for stationery and bookbinding.
This natural wood product is flexible and semi-translucent. Because it is handmade, each sheet has one smooth and one textured side, as well as a rough-hewn edge. It is acid-free and glueless but not water-resistant unless treated. No two sheets are exactly alike.
1310 Don Gaspar
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
T. (877) 227-5754