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.

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