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.
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.
***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!
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”.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Luckily there have been special orders for conservation papers and hand-written sutras that have kept us busy for the past few months.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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).
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).
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.
– Cypress, spruce(pine),etc.
– Water-resistant, easy to process.
– Silk thread for shamisen.
– Strong, tends to tighten when moisture is absorbed, easy to process.
– Water-resistant, will not weather easily
3. Process for making hake
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The brush is placed on a tightening tool and bound with silk shamisen thread.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The root of the tororoaoiplant 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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Above, the Yoshino river, with its pebbled edges, flows elegantly through Nara, where our Uda Gami and Nara Natural Dyed paper series are made. (pic: Yukako Ando)
Every two years, Hiromi Paper staff lead a tour through Japan visiting papermakers, toolmakers, and conservationists to gain further understanding of the world of Washi. The tour is heavily focused on conservation, thus we visit mostly the artisans who are producing papers used for conservation and restoration. As usual, the tour began in Kyoto, then traveled on a chartered bus through Japan visiting prefectures like Kochi, Shimane, Fukui, Gifu, and Nara. Participants stay in nearby accommodations and eat what is locally available. During the tour the artisans show how they are making the papers that many of our customers have come to know so well. Here, HPI staff Yuka presents what she saw and what she heard during this year’s tour.
Washi was not made in the summer because the tororoaoi (neri) would lose its viscosity…
In a lightly air-conditioned traditional Japanese house, with the back and forth motion of rocking the suketa (papermaking mould), traditional handmade Japanese paper is made.
The light that shines through the studio windows are ever so warm and subtle, glistening on the water surface. The well water is cold to the touch. Inside the vat are the soft kozo fibers, floating in a solution of tororoaoi and water. The papermaking studios are quiet and calming, and draws us in.
Contrary to the stillness of the studio, the scorching sun continues to heat up the outdoors, with an uncontrollable amount of sweat rushing out. This year’s Hiromi Paper Washi Tour took place in the lingering summer heat, for seven days in the beginning of September. We visited six regions, twelve studios, and four paper museums.
The hot summertime is an ideal time for papermakers to accept visitors, due to the lack of papermaking work (papermaking is primarily done in the cold months), but the participants and Hiromi Paper staff felt as if we were all on a summer camp, battling the heat and humidity, unique to Japanese summers.
Upon visiting six different regions and twelve studios, I realized that there were various styles in papermaking. The preparation work, materials used, how the suketa (papermaking screen/mould) is moved, how the papers are dried, are all a bit different depending on the region. Due to this slight variation, it’s not possible to simply group “washi” into one category.
Each papermaker or region’s unique papermaking style has been passed down for generations and will be passed onto future generations as well.
THE YOUNG GENERATION ALSO HARD AT WORK
IN BETWEEN THE OLD AND YOUNG GENERATION ARE: Hiroyoshi Chinzei of Hidaka Washi, Kiyoko Urabe making Usu Mino paper, Masayuki Fukunishi of Uda-gami, Uekubo san of Hon Misu gami, and Norimasa Abe making Izumo Mingei paper.
I don’t want to reveal what the subtle differences in papermaking styles are just yet, but perhaps you’d like to consider finding out for yourself on the next Washi Tour…?
Supported by the presence of beautiful mountains and natural water, there is great significance and depth in the traditions of papermaking, passed down from generations past. To meet the people that make the papers and to learn about the backstory is helpful in becoming one step closer to washi. I am grateful to all of the papermakers and craftsmen that I met throughout the tour, and wish them all the best in their future endeavors.
Washi Tour Route: Tosa Washi Museum / Hamada Washi (handmade Tengucho) / Hidaka
Washi (machine-made Tengucho) / Mr. Yamaomto (Japanese papermaking tool maker) /
SHIMANE: Abe Eishiro Memorial Hall / Shinichiro and Norimasa Abe (Izumo Mingei
papermaker) / Otaki Shrine (Paper shrine) / Iwano Paper Mill (large-sie handmade papermaker)/ Yamaki Seishi (Gampi papermaker) / Ichibei Iwano (National Living Treasure) / Igarashi Paper Mill (large-size handmade papermaker) / Kiyoko Urabe (Usu Mino papermaker) / Mino Washi Museum / Masayuki Fukunishi (Yoshino Uda-gami papermaker) / Ryoji Uekubo (Hon Misu papermaker) / Mr. Sekichi of Bokusendo (Conservation studio)
For more information about our Biannual Washi Tour, email email@example.com.
ALL IMAGES ARE COPYRIGHT HIROMI PAPER, INC. For use of images you can inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org. All photos taken by Yukako Ando.