Another popular draw was producing handmade paper from a sticky, watery mix of cotton, soda ash and Japanese knot weed, an invasive plant that grows in abundance here. The teacher, Albert Pantone, is a recreation therapist who works at the John Kane Regional Center in Glen Hazel and lives in Larimer.
“I didn’t know that this was how you made paper,” said Grace Banke, 15, of New Kensington.
Neither did Mr. Pantone until 2000, when he was pursuing a bachelor’s degree at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. For a design class project, he created a bottle, logo and packaging for a fictional Japanese rice wine known as sake. It did not make sense, he decided, for the bottle label to be printed on a computer.
With his Boy Scout training plus knowledge of environmental education and medicinal plants in the Amazon, he learned how to create a handmade paper label. He finds Japanese knot weed in vacant lots in Larimer while his brother, a landscaper, supplies him with ornamental grass that has been cut.
He calls his sideline, “Knot Just Weeds.” For several hours, Mr. Pantone patiently showed children of all ages how to apply ornamental grass to their wet paper and trim it before it dried.