INKJET PRINTING ON MITSUMATA PAPERS FROM BHUTAN

By Edwin Arzeta

There is a a dramatic difference, both physically and visually between our BHU-04 and BHU-07W, Bhutan Mitsumata Thin and White Thick respectively. BHU-04 is quite thin and delicate looking — it is highly translucent and at certain angles under the light has a sheen. BHU-07W is very opaque though some light will pass through it — its texture is like that of the surface of a desert with valleys and unevenness coursing throughout, giving it a rustic appearance when compared to smoother western papers.

Traditionally, Bhutanese paper was made by pouring pulp into a mould and letting the water drain resulting in heavy thick and rugged papers like the Bhutan Shawa or Natural Tsharshos. However, in a cultural exchange between Japan and the Kingdom of Bhutan, the nagashizuki was introduced. Nagashizuki is the process whereby a mould is scooped into a vat of pulp fibers and lifted, and then swift swishing knocks water out of the mould and through it, but this course spreads the fibers more evenly across the bamboo screen housed in the mould leading to thinner flatter sheets. While BHU-04 and -07 are made through the nagashizuki style, they still possess some of the qualities of traditional Bhutanese paper, including irregularities and in the case of BHU-07, a complex surface.

Mitsumata, the fibers with which BHU-04 and BHU-07W are made, comes from the Mitsumata plant, known widely as Edgeworthia Chrysantha. Edgeworthia Chrysantha is a flowering shrub or bush that is known for the many bundles of yellow flowers that remain after its leaves fall, tipping the ends of its branch systems. Its Japanese name, Mitsumata, refers to the way that its splits into three branches at every joint. Edgeworthia is used ornamentally in landscaping around the world and is known to repel insects. The fibers of the Edgeworthia are long but still shorter than Kozo fibers and can be finely beaten resulting in lustrous sheets that range from visually textured and velvety to slick like fine Gampi. 

The flowers of the Mitsumata in full bloom
Mitsumata flowers in full bloom
The slick luxury of HM-68 Mitsumata
The slick luxurious HM-68 Mitsumata — an example from Japan of finely beaten Mitsumata fibers to create a crisp sheet.

Mitsumata is known to naturally hold an inkjet print well despite its lack of sizing or inkjet coatings, and I was curious about how the thickness and texture could affect the same image. I spend most of my day at Hiromi Paper conjecturing answers to the many projects presented by our customers, banking on precedents from feedback about our papers and products. Moreover, I have always had a fondness for both the Thin and the Thick Bhutanese Mitsumata papers so finally, I decided to try printing my own image on each sheet to examine the qualities that they possess when they are used to hold a printed image. 

Still life on two bhutan mitsumata papers

I must DISCLAIM now the fact that I am not an experienced printer and I print using my humble home studio machine, an Epson Ink Tank which is efficient for smaller tasks and maybe for printing photographic work — that is if I had the time and patience to properly adjust the printer settings. For this test, however I simply wanted to capture the effects of the ink on the surface of the two types of paper which I trimmed to 8.5″ x 11″ to be able to fit in my printer. Some day though, I might make a proper print. 

At any rate, I set up a still life and quickly took a cell phone picture that I then uploaded to Photoshop where I keyed out the background in order to get a floating still life. Then I clicked ‘print’ and allowed the paper feeder to work on its own. I didn’t fidget with any ICC profiles or printer settings and just let Photoshop manage the colors.

Observations:

BHU-O7 MITSUMATA THICK WHITE
I really pushed my machine to work with this paper. It is a bit thick and when it first entered the machine, it hit the printer heads and you can see scuff marks at the top and bottom where it was an issue. Despite that, the velvety surface of the paper absorbed the ink nicely while retaining the capacity to show detail where some of the text on the backside of the bottle in the still-life was legible. The ink did not bleed. Because of the texture of the paper, the image will compete with the paper itself which might be desirable to some artists or home printers.

BHU-04 MITSUMATA THIN
I was really impressed by the way that this paper printed. At first, because of its thinness I mounted it to a carrier sheet, but quickly found that my printer did not ingest paper in a way that worked for the carrier sheet process. So, I fed it through without a carrier sheet! It is up to every person working with their machine to determine if their printer can run a thin sheet without a carrier. The print was quite sharp and whole, meaning not-porous or having gaps in the ink. The image on this sheet was made smaller because of its thinness; I didn’t want to damage my printer with such a large amount of ink attempting to land on a larger swath of sheet surface. Mitsumata thin did NOT warp when the ink dried and it gave very sharp resolution. While the laid line is highly visible in this paper, it was a non issue because the image was so vibrant, it came off the page and did not compete with the paper.

IN CONCLUSION
Bhutan Mitsumata Thick will have a sharper image because it is less porous than Bhutan Mitsumata Thin. It seems that the ink will absorb into the fibers of both papers making the image look rich in color, but it will not bleed profusely — the fibers tend to contain the pigment. These images are not crisp the way they perhaps might be on Asuka papers which have an inkjet coating or Surface Gampi which has very densely compacted fibers, and both which will hold the ink on the surface, but Bhutan Mitsumata paper will provide a beautiful dreamy image that provides a meal for the eyes as the viewer moves closer towards and deeper into the image laid upon its surface. 

2 thoughts on “INKJET PRINTING ON MITSUMATA PAPERS FROM BHUTAN”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s