Book Artist Martine Patoux Interns at Tesuki Washi Tanino

I have been working on and with paper for a long time. I test different techniques with paper to actualize artists’ books often wondering about the life of paper. Washi, one of the most “living” papers, is so generous and amazing, lending itself to my purpose as a bookmaker.

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Examining the delicate strength of thin washi (pic: M. Patoux)

I wondered, how can I approach paper as a “living” thing so that I can imbue part of me into it. How can I be part of the life of the paper? How can I participate in animating the life of a paper?

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Toki River running adjacent to Tesuki Washi Tanino (pic: M. Patoux)

I set out to find a workshop in Japan that would welcome me for 3 months, where I could immerse myself in papermaking, from harvesting the fibers to forming and drying the sheets.


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Freshly steamed bark being stripped of the outer layers (pic: M. Patoux)

Mrs. Hiroko Tanino, Washi Master, Tokigawa (Saitama prefecture), opened her doors and welcomed me. We share a love of a paper and the surprises that arise in any situation. We see the beauty of the washi-maker transfer into the beauty of the washi they make. Mrs. and Mr Tanino are both passionate handcrafters working tirelessly to preserve handmade papermaking, as such, they are welcome to ideas and proposals presented to them!

Tanino san (left) helping with the kozo harvest (pic: Hiroko Tanino)

My project became to make a book from Washi that was also about Washi, where the texts would be haiku. Through my new experience, Mrs. and Mr. Tanino guided me with their know-how.

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Washi making experiments (pic: M. Patoux)

Although I am not able to make a perfect sheet of washi, I discovered the infinite potential offered by this noble paper. Washi can speak to us; washi will conform to our desires–it is open to the light and it can improvise. Sometimes it offers its fragility, sometimes its sturdiness. Other times it’s like clothes or skin, full of sensuality and flexibility. It can even be a sculptable substance ready to be reformed or reborn. With pigments, its possibilities further expand.


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Newly formed sheets being stacked (with nothing but a piece of string in between) ready to be pressed before final drying (pic: M. Patoux)

Each sheet is unique and it is very moving.

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Tanino san smoothing still-wet sheets of paper onto their final smoothing boards, ready for drying (pic: M. Patoux)

The three months spent learning from Tanino san passed quickly. The more I learned about Washi, the more questions I began to ask. Washi is eternal which gives me time to discover it. I’m barely meeting washi, and it leaves me dreaming for more.

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Morning time at Tesuki Washi Tanino (pic: M. Patoux)

Written by Martine Patoux

Edited by Edwin Arzeta

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