An Examination of the Legacy and Archives of the Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley Expedition, a book by Hans Baumann

This month, we hear from artist Hans Baumann who was commissioned by The ONWARD Project to research the archives of the Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley Expedition, eventually binding the found knowledge into a single edition handmade art book.

This project – titled “An Examination of the Legacy and Archives of the Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley Expedition” – is the culmination of an approximately 18-month period in 2019 and 2020 studying the archives of the Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley Expedition (RBMVE). It was commissioned by The ONWARD Project, a nonprofit that (in their own words) “inspires new understandings of history and place in the American Southwest.”

In addition to the material held by The ONWARD Project, I had the opportunity to visit the RBMVE archives at UCLA, as well as archaeological sites in Tsegi Canyon – specifically Bat Woman House and Twin Caves.

The project is structured around my interactions with these data and places in the present day, and I use the format of a handmade art book to attempt to contextualize the legacy of the Expedition from my (contemporary) perspective as an artist with a deep interest in the land.

In an attempt to make this document of interest to the specialist, I include transcribed interviews with various academics, archaeologists and media specialists and use our exchanges to guide my historical inquiry.

All materials for this project – paper, inks, binding, clay – are archival quality. This was my initial criteria for any material selection, as it is critical that this book be durable and have a viable trajectory (as an object) into the future. It is intended to communicate with generations beyond our own. Beyond this, I wanted the book to evoke the subject matter that it addresses.

Not only did I want it to feel “of” the archive, I wanted it to combine the colors and textures of Tsegi Canyon, as well as the grand transit of time that the book’s text addresses. The book’s enclosure is a ceramic slipcase and I went through an extended process of experimenting with various additives and finishes such that the ceramic feels somewhere between red Navajo sandstone and the many fractured and eroded potsherds found throughout the Canyon.

The book is bound in a post and screw style with nickel hardware and uses an undyed, half linen, half cotton book cloth, and the endsheets use an Amate paper made by Otomi craftsmen in Central Mexico.

detail of Amate paper (pinto)
sheep’s wool drying in the Tsegi Canyon

This paper was chosen because its ivory and walnut tones call to mind the stacks of undyed sheep’s wool that can be seen drying on racks outside homes in Tsegi Canyon. This is a very specific and personal memory, but also a visual reference point that many others will have if they have been to the Canyon during shearing season.

The interior pages of the book use two types of paper. An acetate film is used when overlays are needed. Otherwise, I use a pure white Asuka paper from Japan.

I spent several weeks finding this paper, as I wanted to use something that would hold an image well but also be a pleasure to touch and to turn. Every archival quality Western paper that I encountered failed to meet all of these criteria, and I eventually chose this midweight washi paper for its distinct paper grain, its unobtrusive but pleasant texture and its ability to accept printed images with no bleeding or image degradation.

Hans’s book in its slab box slip case

I would like to give special thanks to the Littlesalt and Austin families for allowing me to visit Tsegi Canyon. I would also like to thank Elizabeth Kahn, Madi Fair, Allison Fischer Olson, Ron Maldonado and Marydee and Chris Donnan for their time and assistance with the research component of this project, and to Prof. Snead, Eric Hanson and Andy Christenson for time and consideration throughout the interview process. Thanks to Joel Freeman for his assistance throughout the project. Additional thanks to Wendy Teeter and Sedonna Goeman-Shulsky for their generosity, patience and expertise as I explored the RBMVE archives at UCLA.

Paper Kits for University of Wyoming Laramie Art Classes

Last year, after the pandemic caused many schools to close and convert all of their classes to virtual ones, Professor Mark Ritchie at the University of Wyoming Laramie Art Department called me up with an idea.

Usually, art students would purchase their class materials at the university store, but with the schools having been shut down the students were all off campus or some even out-of-state, getting ready to begin their printmaking/book arts classes online. With no access to a physical university store to shop at, Mark thought it would be a good idea to curate paper kits specifically for printmaking or book arts, that these students could have sent to their homes.

These paper kits had about ten different types of Japanese papers, with differing sizes, colors and weights so that those not yet familiar with Japanese papers would be able to print on various papers and get a feel of what works for their methods.

It is wonderful to see the wide variety of printmaking methods that the students displayed on the Japanese papers.

By Zoe Parks
Rooftop Lounge, Monotype on SH-16 Kitakata Natural by Anna Naig
Ghanan Tea Time, Monoprint on HP-61 Okawara by Anna Naig

Thank you to Mark Ritchie and his students for giving us the opportunity to create these paper kits, it was a joy to curate and select papers that would work best for printmaking, which hopefully leads to the students learning more about the possibilities of using Japanese papers in their work.

If you are interested in having a bundle of paper kits made for a school/institution, please let us know! We are able to work around various budgets and paper specifications.

Print on Niyodo Kozo 25g by Alex Box

Hidakawashi: Kozo Kawa Hagi Experience Event

***Disclaimer: All images are from events prior to the pandemic. All pictures taken by Hiroyoshi Chinzei.

Below, Hiroyoshi Chinzei – President of Hidakawashi in Kochi, Japan – discusses their annual Kozo harvesting event, which this year has been scaled down because of COVID-19.


The harvest time for Japanese mulberry(Kozo) has come!

Inside of this barrel, Kozo branches are laboriously steamed. Steaming softens the outer bark making it easier to strip.

Every year between December to January, the local group of Japanese mulberry farmers and Japanese hand-made paper association have an event called “Kozo Kawa Hagi (mulberry peeling) Experience Event”.

Professional teaching how to strip Kozo bark.
Children and non-professional paper makers gather to learn how to strip Kozo bark!
Children working together to separate the outer bark.
Each person gets a bundle of Kozo to strip.

Usually, local elementary school students, and people who do not know how to make Japanese paper’s raw material are widely invited to experience their first trial.  At the event, Special Japanese soup and steamed sweet potato are treated as their compensation for labor. 

Steamed sweet potato!
Special Japanese Soup!

THIS YEAR

This year ,however, was totally different from normal event due to the pandemic situation. Very few people could participate and worked silently. It felt like a quiet prayer for good harvest and quick recovery of world’s peace from the pandemic situation.

Spaced out stripping Kozo.

Safely handling the massive bundles of Kozo.

Even though the event was very small this year, we’ve got a whole bunch of shiny fresh new mulberry (Kozo) fiber!  Those Kozo fibers are waiting to become this year’s beautiful Japanese paper and delivered to your hand pretty soon!

Hiroyoshi Chinzei

Hidakawashi Co., Ltd.

Letter from Japan: Sō Kubota of Sekishu Kubota

Above is a picture of the Sea of Japan from Sō Kubota’s point of view

Sō Kubota is the esteemed papermaker of several of Hiromi Paper, Inc.’s conservation papers including: HP-06 Sekishu Tsuru, HP-07 Sekishu Mare, HP-60 Sekishu Torinoko Gampi, and Sekishu Mitsumata Postcards! Below he shares an update on the happenings at Sekishu Kubota.

Kozo fields ready for harvesting at Sekishu Kubota

Hello! My name is Sō Kubota, Sekishu Banshi papermaker at Sekishu Kubota.

We are located in Shimane Prefecture along the coast of the Sea of Japan (East Sea). Like most papermakers in Japan, the effects of COVID-19 have definitely had an impact on the papermaking business here as well, as we have been experiencing a decrease in work loads. 

Inside the studio at Sekishu Kubota

Luckily there have been special orders for conservation papers and hand-written sutras that have kept us busy for the past few months.

HP-60 Sekishu Torinoko Gampi made by Sō Kubota picks up any hint of light

Now we are fast approaching the busiest season in papermaking; the harvesting of kozo and stripping of kozo bark. High quality kozo is a necessity for Japanese papermaking, so the whole family and staff members get together every year around this time to work on preparing the kozo. 

Sō Kubota and family pose for a picture!

Although we now live in the new normal with the pandemic regardless of where we are, I hope the coming year will be an improvement for Sekishu Kubota and my fellow papermakers. 

Collision of Moments: A Photographer’s Encounter with Japanese Washi

Written by Robert Morrison

Gaze of Orpheus, 2019, Artist’s Proof 
Fine art digital print on Handmade Gampi Paper 
Movement collaborator: Emma Kury

My love affair with Japanese papers is nearly lifelong going back to when I first saw Frank Lloyd Wright’s collection of Japanese art many decades ago. It also stems from the concept of wabi-sabi (侘寂), or accepting, if not delighting in imperfection, something which was essential to me when I was a painter and sculptor.  It’s ironic that years ago, when I first visited Hiromi Paper Inc. in search of Japanese papers to try with inkjet printing, I used printers loaded with custom grayscale inks, and used exotic workflows and drivers in quest of the perfect digital fiber-based “silver” prints, no wabi-sabi allowed.  It took years for commercial printers and papers to evolve, but now we have the ability to make beautiful archival fiber-based BW and color photographic prints.  But in spite of all of these “perfect” prints that I produce on a daily basis, I still crave wabi-sabi.  

Robert Morrison Bricked, 2018, Artist’s Proof 
Fine art digital print on Handmade Izumo Mingei Gampi Paper.  Movement collaborator: Corah

Recently I’ve been working on printing work from three different series of art (Moving Meditation, Take the No. 9, and Collision of Moments) that both formally and conceptually called out for Japanese papers that partner with the images to make them more than just photographic prints.  I’ve tested more than 30 different Hiromi papers at this point including both machine and handmade papers made from a variety of fibers both inkjet coated and uncoated. The papers range from tissue thin to more substantial washi.  Currently I’m printing in both color and grayscale using Colorbyte Software’s Imageprint Black RIP with a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 17-inch printer.  

In this article we focus on prints from my Collision of Moments series which are color. The images are light-painted time exposures that I began to experiment with about two decades ago.  They involve collaborating with movement artists (yogis, modern dancers, belly dancers, or artist’s models) who move through space for up to 10 seconds.  During their movement I hold the shutter open and watch, triggering several flash heads placed around the room to punctuate moments, glimpses of mindfulness, in a stream of movement.  The process is very rich and I’m forever grateful to my collaborators for their experimental spirit.

Mindful Flight, 2019, Artist’s Proof  
Fine art digital print on MM-20W Gampi Paper.  
Movement collaborator: Marley Hornewer

An essential aspect of this project, and also of my love for photography, photographic printing, tea, and all things Japanese is a now more than 20 year friendship with Antonis Ricos.  I trust Antonis’s eyes (and brain) more than any other human to evaluate a print both technically and artistically.  He’s been more than generous to pour over my print samples, evaluating the papers, profiles, and most of all the wabi-sabi to give you a glimpse into what you can expect from inkjet printing on Japanese washi.  He has also beautifully photographed the samples to demonstrate all of these features and provided detailed observations on what he sees. See his comments as well as demonstrative photographs here.

There is still much to do in the project including selecting the final paper for each series and fine-tuning profiles and images, but the journey so far has been most rewarding, and I look forward to showing these once we are again free to roam the planet.

The Circle, 2004, Artist’s Proof  
Fine art digital print on Inkjet Coated kozo and pulp machine-made paper (IJ-48W) Movement collaborator: Shahina 
Detail Photo: Antonis Ricos

To see more of my work please visit studiotheia.com or follow me on Instagram (@studiotheia) or Flickr (@studiotheia) to see what I’m looking at recently.

The New Hands of Cave Paper: Zoë Goehring

After more than 20 years of leading the beloved Cave Paper mill, Amanda Degener — who founded Cave Paper alongside Bridget O’Malley in a cobble-stone lined basement in Minneapolis, Minnesota — has retired from Cave Paper. Cave Papers are made of Egyptian or Belgian Flax, often heavily sized, and extremely durable. They are used often for bookbinding, box-making, decor, design, and artwork. At the helm now, is new generation owner Zoë Goehring who shares her story and excitement below!

Zoe in the new Cave Paper mill forming new sheets of Cave Paper

Hiromi Paper: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background with art/papermaking?

Zoë: I was born in Tucson but lived in the northeast from the age of two. I feel lucky that I was encouraged from an early age and throughout my young adult life to look, to ask questions, and to create, and I spent a lot of time playing in the woods when I was growing up. I think those things were pivotal in shaping who I am and my creative practice — most of the time I am just trying to tap back into those questions and ways of playing. I’ve never had just one thing I’ve wanted to do. When I was in college at Carnegie Mellon University I studied art and creative writing as a part of their Bachelor of Humanities and Art program. I started making my own paper during my time there in a kiddie pool in my studio and in my bathtub at home, just with a blender and window screens from the salvage shop. It was a process I really enjoyed but did not dive very deeply into the world of papermaking at the time. While I had some incredible teachers, by the time I graduated I felt pretty disenchanted with both academia and the art scene as I understood it then. I left Pittsburgh (although I loved living there, it’s a great city) and moved to Maine for an apprenticeship on an organic farm and really connected with the work. After a couple of years, I helped manage a small organic vegetable operation Dig Deep Farm, founded by my friend Dalziel Lewis. There came a natural point in the growth of the farm and our own lives for us to part ways, and I returned to the southwest to be closer to family. I made a decision then to center my creative work in my life in a way I had not been able to while farming.

Zoë couching freshly formed sheets on wool felt

Hiromi Paper: When did you start gathering steam or know that you would be taking over Cave Paper? How did it unfurl?

Zoë: I had been renting a small studio in Tucson that I set up primarily as a sewing space, and was trying to get a small sewing business in motion. I’d spent most of the last decade waiting tables in the farming off-season and working as a baker, trying to find that balance between making enough money and having the time and energy to focus on my own work, and it wasn’t working very well. Running my own small business seemed like a way to create that balance for myself. I was talking to my dad one day about sewing with paper, and he called me a few days later to tell me I needed to meet Amanda Degener. He met her at a co-operative conference (he is a co-operative consultant, and Amanda was there representing her local food co-op) and she was wearing a vest made out of her Persimmon paper. He texted me a photo of her! It was very funny, and a very typical thing for my dad to do — he is very enthusiastic and always connecting people. Amanda and I began talking and she told me she was open to selling her business. There had been some movement to turn it into a co-operative business so that she could retire, but that hadn’t panned out as hoped. It was a lot to think about right away but the timing was right! I took a trip to Minneapolis to meet Amanda and tour her studios, and I felt connected to her and her work right away. One thing she said that really resonated with me was that she started Cave Paper as a way to support herself and to always have her hands in the work, even if she wasn’t able to make her own art every day. After that visit with Amanda, we worked on the details of the transition for about a year before the move took place. I’m very grateful for the assistance I have received in start-up costs and Amanda’s openness to a payment plan, both of which made the shift actually possible.

A view of uncolored Cave Papers on drying racks and Cloudy Sky hanging out

Hiromi Paper: When did moving commence and how long did it take?

Zoe: The move itself only took about a week, but both the preparation and setting up in our new location took much longer. We’ve been operating out of the new space for almost three months and it is very much a work in progress! After we moved the equipment, there were some renovations needed to the space including building a heavily insulated room around the beater and making sure we had the right electrical set-up to run it. Amanda came to Tucson for about a month to help me finish setting up the equipment and continue our training which was crucial. And of course making sure we were all staying safe and healthy during the pandemic added another level of complexity to the move.

Brushing unripened persimmon juice (kakishibu) onto Cave Paper sheets

Hiromi Paper: Do you have a favorite Cave Paper to make?

Zoë: I love layering indigo and walnut together!

Hiromi Paper: Do you have new Cave Paper styles that you hope to realize soon?

Zoë: This first year I am planning on keeping the current Cave Paper catalog as it is, but I will be adding my own designs down the road. I look forward to experimenting more with sisal and other southwestern fibers and colors.

Hiromi Paper: How do you see Cave Paper evolving due to the new climate/geographical location? Do you find that some of the Cave Paper varieties benefit from the change of environment?

Damp sheets coated with walnut dye enjoying the Arizona air

Zoë: The biggest difference is our relationship with water. In Minneapolis, water was Cave’s least expensive resource — here in Tucson that is definitely not the case. I save most of the water from production to reuse, and I’m looking forward to finding the right system to make that process easier. And our indigo vat is very happy in this climate!

A crowd favorite: Indigo Layered Day with White drying outside in Cave Paper’s new backyard

Hiromi Paper: This might be coupled with the previous question, but what do you hope for the future of Cave Paper?

Zoë: This has been a challenging year for all of us. I think there are many projects awaiting Cave in the future, but for now I am most looking forward to opening the studio up to the community for classes and workshops, internships, and events. I feel very fortunate to be operating Cave Paper and hope it can continue to be a resource for others as well.

To view our selection of Cave Papers click HERE.

Kobayashi Hake on Japanese Brush making

Hello, World of Washi readers!

My name is Kohei Tanaka, brush maker of Kobayashi Hake.

Kobayashi Hake was established in 1907 by my great grandfather in Ueno Ikenohata located in Tokyo. The studio primarily made brushes for bookbinding but transitioned into brush-making for conservation use. Now Kobayashi Hake is run by my father (third generation) and myself. Today I would like to share with you the brief history and production of hake (brush).

(From left: 4th generation (me), 5th generation (?), 3rd generation at the studio)
  1. History  of  Hake

  Originally, hake is a variation of fude (in English, both are generally translated into “brush” but, when the two need to be distinguished, they may be referred to as “hake brush” and “fude brush,” respectively) that began to be used from the Heian period by craftsmen who mounted sutras and paintings in the form of hand scrolls, a process which required joining of paper and lining.

  Among documents and other bibliographic materials there are many paintings (Senmenkyo, a national treasure in the collection of Shitenno-ji temple, a national treasure, to name one) in which people are depicted washing or drawing water at the side of a well or the water side or washing a box, which appears to be coated with urushi (Japanese lacquer). In one of these paintings, two hake can be seen.

  In the Muromachi period, especially at the time of Yoshimasa(1449~1473), mounted hanging scrolls became indispensable items in the alcoves of shoin-style rooms. In paintings depicting artisans of various trades, craftsmen are seen using hake to mount paintings or calligraphy. It seems that around this time the craftsmen made their own hake, while in the Edo period people who specialized in making hake first appeared in areas around what is now Kyoto and then in Edo, today’s Tokyo.

  According to documents, Kyoto-style hake was soft while Edo-style hake was firm. In order to make hake, hair with tips were selected and bundled. The root of the hairs was wound with several layers of washi that had been glued together to a certain thickness. This was then pressed between boards and finally bound with thread, in the past made from human hair and in later days from silk thread used for shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese musical instrument).

Binding the hake brush

2. Materials for making hake brush

  Hair

   – Animal hair : horse, goat, raccoon, weasel, pig, cow, deer, etc.

   – Plant fibers : coarser bulrush, hemp palm.

Several more types are used in addition to the above, but all high quality hair (mane, chest, tail) is chosen.

Horsehair is firm and will absorb paste well. Goat hair is soft and will absorb paste well.


Boards

   – Cypress, spruce(pine),etc.

   – Water-resistant, easy to process.


Thread

   – Silk thread for shamisen.

  – Strong, tends to tighten when moisture is absorbed, easy to process.

 Cherry bark

  – Water-resistant, will not weather easily

Making the finishing touches

3. Process for making hake

1. Boiling

Hair that has been sorted in step 1 is tied tightly and boiled in a big pot to undo any unmanageable characteristics and to get rid of oiliness.

2. Sorting

Hair is selected according to quality and grade of the material as well as to the purpose for which the brush is to be used.

This is one of the most important steps in the process since it will determine the overall quality.

3. Sorting

A comb is used to sort the hair tips. Then hair is separated into bundles of long hair, short hair, etc. and further sorted by cutting the roots to make bundles of same hair length.

4. Assembling, mixing

Several types of hair are assembled and then combed together according to use.

This is a time-consuming work since hair must be assembled uniformly.

5. Straightening with heat

A heated iron is used for straightening hair. Oiliness of the hair will ooze out when heat is applied.

6. Rubbing with ash

Ash made by burning rice husk is used to rub the hair well to remove the oiliness that has oozed out in the previous step.

Hair will become less slippery through this process, making the process to follow easier.

7. Suretori

Hair is arranged in the same direction and hair with split ends or no tips are removed by using a small knife.

This is a very important step. The tips of hair will be aligned straight when paste is applied.

8. Sandwiching

Hair that has been thus adjusted is sandwiched between two cypress boards in uniform thickness. Then the left and right ends of the sandwiched bundle of hair are secured with  barks of a cherry tree.   

9. Binding

The brush is placed on a tightening tool and bound with silk shamisen thread.

10. Finishing

A small knife, sandpaper and the like are used to adjust the shape of the handle.
Hair tips are adjusted.


Current Situation of Hake Brush Making

In recent years, it has become more and more difficult to obtain the animal hairs used to make the hake brushes. It is especially hard to acquire high quality deer hair used in Mizubake (water brush) and horse tail hairs.

More so than before, it has become important to inspect the hairs and distinguish their quality.

On the other hand, there has been increased demand from sushi restaurants that use small hake brushes for sauce application. The brush handle is made of bamboo and the bristles are Japanese weasel hairs. Fortunately, these brushes are becoming increasingly popular within sushi restaurants around the world.

 We at Kobayashi Hake will continue to make hake brushes of the highest quality for our customers in various fields around the world.

Letter from Japan: TESUKI WASHI TANINO

Pictured above is Hiroko Tanino, proprietor of Tesuki Washi Tanino–an all-inclusive washi making mill, that grows its own materials (kozo and tororoaoi) for papermaking and one of few Japanese mills headed by a woman. Below Tanino-san tells us about how things are going at Tesuki Washi Tanino.

During the past few years, Tanino-san has taken over making a few HPI papers including:

This year, people all over the world have been hard hit by the effects of COVID-19. During this time, I’ve had much time to reflect on the work that I do.

Fresh kozo plants can grow higher than 6-7 ft in height!

Papermaking is a strenuous task, moreso for those who cultivate & process their own kozo plants, but with the help of many, my kozo field now has more than 1,000 healthy kozo plants.

In the winter, the kozo plants are cut down for the bark to be used for papermaking. Many locals gather to help out with the process of stripping the bark.

Kozo maintenance

In the spring, as the kozo plants start to grow, we must cut down the surrounding weeds and excess branches (mekaki) so the kozo plant can grow taller.

Tanino-san in her kozo field!

By August, most of the kozo plants have grown past my height!

I recently installed an electric fence around the kozo field to keep the wild deer and boar from destroying the fields.

Local students gathered to help plant tororoaoialso known as the sunset hibiscus.

Before the rainy season, a group of art students gather to help out with planting tororoaoi. First, the field is plowed thoroughly to soften the soil.

Tororoaoi flower- a relative of the common hibiscuses found in many gardens.

The root of the tororoaoi plant is used to form the viscous solution that is used in papermaking to disperse the fibers evenly in the vat. Traditionally, the root was used for medicinal purposes and some are even food grade.

The combination of kozo, tororoaoi, and other materials result in different types of papers.

Tororoaoi root being soaked for making neri– the viscous formation aid essential to handmade papermaking!

The Hosokawashi paper and handmade Mulberry papers are made in my studio (formerly a food services building), 60 km away from Tokyo. Please come visit!

Papers made by Tesuki Washi Tanino.

Side note: This year, we made a limited quantity of paper face masks using handmade Japanese papers. The 300 masks were distributed to locals in the area, but because the papers are so dense with fibers, it is not ideal to wear during the scorching Japanese summers!

Handmade masks made with handmade washi by Tesuki Washi Tanino were distributed to the locals surrounding the paper mill.

Echizen Washi Update

Written by Yoshinao Sugihara / Translated by Yuki Katayama

In Japanese, kami can mean either god or paper. Every spring, the annual Kami Festival (honoring the paper goddess Kawakami Gozen) takes place here in Echizen’s Okamoto Otaki Shrine. Usually the paper goddess and the two local gods that live on top of the mountain will travel down to the Okamoto Otaki Shrine to stay for three days (May 3rd-5th) during the festival. Every year, this festival brings together the entire Echizen Washi village, and many visitors from all over the world. However, due to the effects of the global pandemic, this year’s festivities were limited to the minimum number of participants donning face masks. 

(The impressive wooden architecture of the Okamoto Otaki Shrine. Photo Credit: Echizen Washi Facebook)
(The deities are transported in the wooden mikoshi. Photo Credit: Echizen Washi Facebook)

Although the state of emergency order has been lifted in Fukui Prefecture, most people voluntarily continue the stay-at-home protocols, and not going out unless it is necessary. The usually bustling Echizen Washi village has fallen silent in the past month, with zero outside visitors. The paper museum and shop reopened this week, with hopes to gradually attract visitors by having workshops and exhibitions. 

Echizen Washi Village Main Square / Photo Credit: Yoshinao Sugihara

Many of the papermakers in the village have been hard hit by the current situation, experiencing a drastic decrease in orders, along with multiple promotional events/projects being canceled in the coming months. Yet, no matter the situation the paper making artisans still head to their studios everyday, diligently making their papers with a positive attitude and smiles on their faces.

Echizen Papermaker Hiroya Yamashita / Photo Credit: Yoshinao Sugihara

From Gifu to Yamagata: Catching up with Satoshi Hasegawa

Drying boards outside of the Hasegawa Washi Kobo–Hasegawa’s papermill.

 

Written by Satoshi Hasegawa with translation by Yuki Katayama

Satoshi Hasegawa is known for making some of the world’s most coveted Japanese conservation papers, the Shoinshi and Usu-Gami series (formerly named Hon Mino and Usu Mino papers), made of 100% Nasu Kozo cooked with soda ash and dried on 150 year old wooden drying boards made from the horse chestnut tree. Here, Hasegawa-san reflects on his shifted practice of papermaking.

IMG_20200308_104613
Careful not to tear the damp sheets of freshly formed and pressed sheets of paper, Hasegawa expertly starts to peel the top sheet of the stack.

Due to a record-breaking warm winter, many parts of Japan have been
experiencing a decrease in the amount of snow compared to past years. Having
lived in Yamagata until I graduated high school at 18, I feel that the past three
winters have had considerably less snow compared to forty years ago. The
climate in Yamagata and Gifu Prefecture (where I previously lived) is very
different. Yamagata is along the coast of the Sea of Japan whereas Gifu is near
the Pacific Ocean. Gifu Prefecture is blessed with sunny days in the winter,
suitable for papermaking and papermakers who utilize the natural sun when
board-drying their papers.

IMG_20200308_104618
Before being transferred to the final drying board, the damp sheets are inspected for quality.

In that sense, papermaking in Yamagata seems a bit
irrational because of the climate difference and lack of resources nearby but I
try to adapt my papermaking methods to the new environment, and not the
other way around. Yamagata is known for the drastic change in weather
conditions, with extremely cold winters and scorching summers. Gifu has
plentiful access to natural water and not many regulations for water drainage
whereas water preservation and drainage is quite strict in a rice-producing
region like Yamagata.

IMG_20200308_104724
Once the still damp sheets are stuck to the board, Hasegawa must carefully smoothen each sheet. Making sure that any air bubbles that might have been trapped underneath while transferring the paper to the board are released, is important for avoiding any warping during the final drying process.

There are still many obstacles to reach a comfortable, sustainable level of papermaking in Yamagata but I find value in the journey to achieve my ideal papermaking studio. Tsuruoka, the city I live in, is a part of the UNESCO Creative Cities network and has been recognized as a Creative City of Gastronomy.

IMG_20200308_104803
Each board can dry two sheets. Here Hasegawa happily walks outside with two papers mounted to this board. Soon they will find a place in the sun.

The city has great interest in all agricultural or farm products made locally in Tsuruoka and I’ve slowly started to become conscious of the possible connections between food culture and washi. Being in a city that is so strongly tied to food culture on a global scale, I’m considering the new potential for washi and Japanese papermaking in conjunction with gastronomy. Of course my main focus will always be making washi, but being that food is such an approachable and familiar theme for everyone, it will be interesting what future collaborations we can come up with.

IMG_20200309_083825
Some drying boards are reclined against stands in the yard while others find comfort laid against the house in which the papers are made. it is in this position, facing the sun, that Hasegawa’s papers will finish drying before making their way to Hiromi Paper, Inc.