Artist finds his niche - turning poo into paper

19:18, May 09 2010
NO BULL: Artist Andrew Reilly has started his own paper-making company in Bulls. For his first trick, he's making paper from bull manure.

So you think Andrew Reilly is talking crap?

Not only does he talk about it, but the Rangitikei artist plans to have people writing on it soon.

While Jesus may have turned water into wine, Mr Reilly has gone for a more practical transformation – he's figured out a way to turn bull dung into paper.

During studies towards his Bachelor of Fine Arts at Whanganui UCOL, Mr Reilly discovered an affinity for paper-making.

In his research, he found different cultures were making paper from many fibrous materials – including kangaroo poo, wombat faeces and elephant manure.

Back in his hometown of Bulls, there was one logical step.


A couple of bull farmers were more than happy for Mr Reilly to clear their paddocks, and he went to work with the pooper scooper.

Figuring out how to turn raw poo into paper took a bit longer – 15 months in fact, for the smooth transformation to be honed.

First Mr Reilly has to rehydrate the bull patties, covering them with litres of water in plastic buckets and leaving them to soak.

"There's fibre from grass in there, the bull doesn't actually process the fibre," Mr Reilly explained.

"It needs a good couple of weeks to soften up the fibre and start breaking down."

After a fortnight – during which the mixture is stirred occasionally – he sieves the waste from the fibre.

The mixture is then cooked in a caustic solution, washed, blended, bleached, sieved out onto a wire frame, and set out to dry.

Mr Reilly's father walks past. "Is he bamboozling you with the science?" he asks cheekily.

Most of the paper Mr Reilly manufactures for his business Tenax papers is made from the more conventional material harakeke, or New Zealand flax.

He hopes the bull paper will be a hit with tourists or backpackers, who may be looking for a quirky gift. It's also proven popular with those looking for an original, handmade effect.

"I have had people who have bought it not because it's bullshit, because they think it's beautiful."

And if not, at least friends are amused with being able to legitimately call him a "bullshit artist," he said.

Manawatu Standard