From Here to There: Nicholas Cladis on his Papermaking Journey in Japan

My name is Nicholas Cladis. I’m an artist who has lived and worked in Fukui Prefecture, Japan for five years. I make work in Echizen, a region of Japanese papermaking featuring dozens of mills. “Echizen washi” is not a single papermaking company – rather, it is a supportive collective of different mills making a variety of different paper. This variety, and the closeness of the community, are what make it a special place, even among other papermaking areas in Japan.

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Okamoto-Otaki Shrine in winter

Echizen is also the only papermaking region with a papermaking goddess, and a shrine devoted to her (over 1,300 years old). Every May there is a festival, in which we carry the portable shrine around town, from noon until evening, and then ascend the mountain behind the shrine under paper lantern-light. Fukui is known for its beautiful, clean water, which is why paper and sake production have both thrived here.

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Carrying the portable shrine

I have a small studio here where I make paper. I frequently teach workshops and give English-language tours to visiting artists.

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Making paper (nagashizuki style) in Udatsu Craft Center, a local museum that
also doubles as workshop of research, conservation, and traditional paper
manufacture

I’m also currently on the organizing committee for Imadate Art Field, a non-
profit which organizes exhibitions, artist residencies, and educational programs related to paper art (including prints). Perhaps the most well-known event hosted by Imadate Art Field is the Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Paper Art, which last year featured Texas printmakers Juergen Strunck and Jon Lee, and dozens of other artists from around Japan and the world.

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“The Story and the Silence” reading room, 2018, Kozo, hemp, mitsumata, cotton, sumi, found wood, paperclay, stone (Nicholas Cladis; 1 st Prize, 2018 Exhibition of Contemporary Paper Art)

Additionally, I’m an instructor and research fellow at Fukui Prefectural University. Last year I taught a course on paper art to Japanese students.

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Fukui Prefectural University students making large pulp paintings

It’s an exciting time to be part of the Echizen community. There are new connections with global arts communities, and most craftspeople have a sincere interest in learning about art, conservation, and consumers. Echizen may be a center of tradition, but it is also an extremely adaptable community. [This] week, I’ll be at the Southern Graphics Council International (SGCI) conference in Texas to give a washi demonstration. I will be demonstrating two forms of Japanese papermaking: nagashizuki and nagashikomi. I’m also going to be showing some alternative techniques within these forms that have potential printmaking applications. I hope visitors: 1) can develop a starting familiarity with Japanese paper and its underlying culture, and 2) are inspired to use Japanese paper in their work.

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I received my MFA from the University of Dallas in 2013, and studied printmaking at Trinity University in San Antonio several years ago. It will be nice to return to Texas to share some of what I have learned. I hope to see you there.

Big thanks to Hiromi Paper for their support!

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