Echizen Shikibu Color Gampi Makers: Naho Murata & Akemi Hara

Translated by Yuki.

PART 1: Naho Murata

Naho Murata is one of the two women who make our Echizen Color Gampi. We have been carrying this paper for over 14 years since Hiromi introduced it back in 2001. We were able to ask the ladies a few questions and here is part 1 with Naho Murata’s interview.

Naho in her studio back in 2012.
How did you get into papermaking? What brought you to Echizen paper village (from Kyoto)?
I was familiar with papermaking since I was little, but the first time I’d ever used washi was when I was in college, and organized a washi fashion show. The fashion show was a huge success, but there was still a lingering question that I had about washi. I had used Kyoseishi* for the event, and noticed those papers weren’t as strong and durable, compared to synthetic materials usually used for clothing. That is when I started to think, “I wonder if there is other washi that is even stronger?”
After the fashion show set fire to my curiosity, my college professor took me to Echizen to visit some papermakers in the village, and Umeda Washi was one of them. When the time came to job search, I approached my professor and expressed my interest in going into the field of papermaking, and that is when I was formally introduced to Umeda Washi. My initial motive was simple; I wanted to work with what I love most, washi. That was already 18 years ago, and I’ve been making paper ever since. This year I’m working on obtaining my Traditional Craftsman qualification.
How was Umeda Washi when you first started working?
At most, there were about ten papermakers here and a few younger generations including myself. Although the demand for washi has since decreased, because of the younger employees at the mill, there has always been a positive atmosphere for new ideas and innovation, which led to the production of the Echizen Shikibu Color Gampi**.
Any thoughts on gampi?
The appeal of gampi is the never-changing traditions and feel, which has continued for over a thousand years.
Have you ever thought of changing any of the papermaking methods? 

I have attempted to try different things, but I feel that the passed down traditions are the best so far.

Aside from gampi, you also make kozo papers. Are there any differences?
Personally, I feel that I can be a little more ‘rough’ when making kozo papers, as in shaking the papermaking mould more vigorously. On the other hand, gampi paper making is more precise and delicate. The making process of kozo is more fun, but I prefer the finished look of the gampi better.
Any thoughts on how you want your gampi papers to be used?
Right now I feel that it is more important for younger generations to know more about washi and its traditions. Children nowadays automatically assume that paper is white, but they do not know that the papers become white after bleaching, or that washi is originally a natural color. I’d also like to further the knowledge and usage of washi in everyday lives.
In order to do so, I felt that it is important to obtain the Traditional Craftsman qualification. By being certified, I am able to promote Echizen Washi even more and keep the traditions alive for future generations.
Naho Murata with HPI staff Yuki in 2012
*The base kozo handmade paper is coated with starchy mucilage called Konnyaku then crumpled to soften. Konyaku makes paper strong, flexible and water-resistant. Sometimes this paper is used for clothing and is popular for book/box covers.
**Handmade 100% gampi papers made in Echizen of Fukui prefecture. These strong, sheet sheets are dyed in a subtle range of colors (21 colors).
PART 2: Akemi Hara
We had previously interviewed Naho Murata, one of the two women who make our Echizen Color Gampi . Now we present to you Akemi Hara, who assists Naho.
Akemi Hara
Akemi Hara
How did you get into papermaking?
I had tried different fields of work after high school, but it wasn’t until my son started school that I stumbled upon a job listing for Umeda Washi. At first I started in a part-time position, but after seven years here I am now a full time employee, supporting the critical steps in papermaking such as chiritori (picking the fibers) and helping Naho with her paper making .
After trying out many fields of work, is there a reason why you decided to stay so long with Umeda Washi?
I love the people that I work with. I often break out in rashes when I work with cold water (which is what is used for papermaking), but even that doesn’t keep me from coming into work everyday.
What are your duties to support Naho’s papermaking?
I make sure all of the tools and supplies that she needs is prepared and ready when she needs them. In order to do that, I have to pay close attention and be aware of the different stages in papermaking. I think my personality is best suited for the supporting role; I am happy helping out around the mill even though I do not actually make the papers.
Favorite foods?
Niku (meat). And cake. Naho is the opposite, she’s not a fan of sweets.

Artist Feature: Lorraine Bubar

No Turning Back - Papercut - 27" x 47" . Image taken from artist website
No Turning Back – Papercut – 27″ x 47″ . Image taken from artist website

KpJ79noUx_ApVNqjXUlxE8gjSNMmhas2aLDO5oCdaUTDR2616NEOOXHN7ge-vDAwRdDs1wiyN_1f-eiLxSy2_rcXFr_ORMB6LHy6X6D5p-tecI9uhcOV7Op3hmKo0epsbubc=s0-d-e1-ftLorraine is a Los Angeles based artist whose work you can see exhibited at TAG gallery in Bergamot Station. Some of you may be familiar with Lorraine from when she taught a paper-cutting workshop at Hiromi Paper, Inc. This month, we had the opportunity to visit her studio and learn more about her work with paper.

Before pursuing paper cutting, Lorraine graduated from UCLA and studied animation at Yale University. She worked in animation for about 25 years and also worked with watercolors. Her watercolors reflect the fluidity of animation and she often represents the motion of metamorphosis in her narrative paintings. From watercolor painting, Lorraine started paper cutting as a form of connecting folk art with her experiences with traveling. Lorraine is a world traveler and many of her influences are found among various cultures such as Japan, India, and Nepal.

IMG_5009She starts working off as a theme and the range of the subject matter evolves out of the process that comes out of being absorbed into the work. The outline of her paper cut is first drawn with a sharpie and white out on white paper. She works in symmetries, and at times when unfolded can make surprising shapes that add on to the imagery of her piece. After the outline is made and cut out onto her actual border top layer of paper, she then begins the process of adding layers of colors. For Lorraine, this process includes laying out sheets and trying out different colors accordingly to her image. The intricate combination layering of various colored sheets make her papercuts feel like a painting or a woodblock print.

Lorraine uses paper for its fragility and strength. She works on the edge of her x-acto blade and when asked of any advices, she stresses to take risks. If something is nagging her, such as color replacement or changing the composition, she recommends experimenting and to spontaneously play with colors. Make sure to check out her new exhibition (information below)!


Thank you, Lorraine!

Exhibition: NOT HOME
Recent Papercuts by Lorraine Bubar
Date: September 1 – September 26, 2015
Location: TAG Gallery
Bergamot Station Arts Center
2525 Michigan Ave. D3
Santa Monica, CA 90404

From Japan: Hiroya Yamashita from Yamaji Paper mill in Fukui

In our quest for the most color fast kozo paper, Hiromi Paper has collaborated with Echizen papermaker, Hiroya Yamashita, to create the Hiroya color series. Here are some questions we had for Hiroya about the new color series:
Paper profile: Weight, Size, Material, Sizing, and Cooked with?
50% Kozo, 35% Pulp, 15% Manila Hemp
67 gsm
With sizing
Cooked with caustic soda

How did you get into papermaking?
I started papermaking about 13 years ago, when I was 23 years old. The mill is my family business, so it was a smooth transition into the world of papermaking.

Can you tell us the process of developing this paper?
The base of Hiroya Paper is a handmade paper that we had originally been making at the mill, with a mixture of local-grown kozo, pulp and Manila hemp. I felt that it was important to use as much local ingredients as possible, since I knew this paper was going to be used internationally.

What do you find yourself doing when not making paper?
I love cycling, playing golf, and of course eating myself full of sushi!

Please leave a few words for our readers if you have any:
I’m always open for new suggestions or opinions on what kind of papers overseas customers want! Please let us papermakers know, and we will try our best to fulfill those requests!

Screen shot 2015-07-22 at 4.03.42 PM

How were the colors of Hiroya Paper developed?
In order to achieve better, long-lasting colors, I outsourced to a different company for their assistance to dye the papers after the papers were formed.
What is the significance of the coloring?
The pigments used are what were traditionally used to dye kimono textiles, and are much less likely to fade over time.

How are the colors applied to the papers?
The colors are screen-printed onto the papers, all by hand.

Elinor Cotait: Photographs on Asuka paper

Brazil-based artist Elinor Cotait has been using the Asuka inkjet coated paper for her beautiful imagery. I had the pleasure of meeting her a few months ago when she visited our store, all the way from Brazil. We began to talk about her works on Asuka paper, and I loved how her subtle photographic images looked on the Asuka paper!

Árvores 2, 2014

A few words from Elinor:
“In 2012, visiting friends in LA, I spent some time at Bergamot Station Art Center and then discovered Hiromi Paper, where I found myself in an entire new word of possibilities. At the time, I was working in a series of photographs characterized by soft forms and pastel colors. My idea was to share through it a very abstract, subtle view of the landscape. However, I tried all kind of papers to print and never achieves what I had in mind.

That is when I found coated washi paper at Hiromi Paper. Not only one kind or size, but several! I brought some options home [to Brazil] and in the very first trial I finally saw something that was real only in my mind becoming real on paper too.

Nowadays, I am a member of Hiromi Paper, and four series of my photos are based on their washi paper. Currently I am working on a photo book that hopefully will be printed on washi paper too.”

Árvores 1, 2014

Read More »

Rembrandt’s Etchings and Echizen Paper

Sugihara-san and Fukui paper makers attended the opening of the much anticipated exhibition: Rembrandt’s Etchings and Japanese Echizen paper at the Rembrandt House Museum!

The exhibition will be open to the public until September 20th, 2015.


The Rembrandt House which once was his home is now a historical monument and museum, commemorating Rembrandt’s life and work located in Amsterdam. He lived and worked in this house from 1639 to 1658. Although the interior has been reconstructed since then, the overall architecture remains the same as it was in his time.

IMG_3889Read More »

Woodcut-printed lantern workshops in Sleepy Hollow, NY

Bridge Lights Woodcut Workshop led by Jeff White (totemic17)

Dates: Saturdays 6/20, 7/18, 8/1 and 8/22
Time: 1 – 4PM
Location: Warner Library, Sleepy Hollow NY
(121 North Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591)


Create a woodcut to honor a person or heritage you care about that will be made part of a lantern for public display.

Artist Jeff White will provide instructions during the workshops! Paper used for the lanterns is Bhutan paper from Hiromi Paper.

Did we mention that the workshop is F R E E ?Read More »

Artist Feature: John Wigmore

John Wigmore

We had the pleasure of visiting the studio of lighting designer and artist, John Wigmore. He combines the elements of sculpture, painting, and installation with Japanese papers for his lighting installations for both show rooms and personal clients. This time, we were able to ask a couple of questions and learn more about John and his work.


Q: Can you tell us a little about your artist background and company?
A: I graduated from UCSC with a BA in Art Studio and mainly concentrated on painting and sculpture. I got interested in natural materials and found that I enjoyed working with paper in my sculptures. I was looking at a lot of James Turrell and Robert Irwin at the time in the early 90’s and began making my light sculptures in NYC from Okawara paper combined with a heavyweight watercolor paper.
Print on Harukaze, kozo layers.

Read More »