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.
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.
I have a small studio here where I make paper. I frequently teach workshops and give English-language tours to visiting artists.
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.
Additionally, I’m an instructor and research fellow at Fukui Prefectural University. Last year I taught a course on paper art to Japanese students.
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.
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.
Founded in 1973, Twigs Fabrics and Wallpaper specializes in handmade textiles and wallpapers inspired by 18th and 19th century decor. Founder, owner and creative mastermind Arthur Athas embarked on this path in Boston where he was still attending art school. Twigs’ first major project was in 1977, commissioned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art to reproduce “The Monuments of Paris” wallpaper (originally made in early 1800s). The museum requested a panoramic wallpaper to use in their exhibition room, taking a team of artists two years to produce the drawings and over a thousand silkscreens to finish the printing. After many years of working on numerous large scale projects (even at the White House!), Arthur and his partner Rick decided to scale down to a two-person team in their production studio in Culver City.
About ten years ago, Arthur began using rolls of Japanese papers for his wallpapers, because of their durability and their texture that adds to Twigs’ handmade feel. By using a paper that is a blend of kozo and cotton/hemp, the paper is strong enough to withstand multiple layers of silkscreen, hand-painting and dyes. Noticeably, there are no machines in the Twigs studio, because no part of their process requires them. The papers or fabrics are laid out on their long tables, where all of the printing, painting and dyeing magic happens. Even the dyes are made by hand in the outdoor patio area, carefully concocted by Rick’s visual senses and 27 years of experience.
Though struggling to adjust to the ever changing tastes and interests in the decor/design realm, Arthur has never let his artistic vision be blurred. He still keeps an aged poster of the Villa Foscari – La Malcontenta (villa near Venice, Italy) on his studio wall, as a constant reminder of what had initially sparked him to start this now niche business. Behind Twigs’ continued success in such a unique market is Arthur’s unwavering vision and passion for art and all things beautiful.
We were recently invited by our new-found neighbors, CyberCopy USA, to challenge their very large flat-bed printer with some of our most robust papers from Japan and around the world. We jumped at the idea of bringing a selection of some of our most traditional papers, which are far from designed for digital printing of any sort, but have always drawn interest for such processes because of their physical appearances. Until now, we have not had luck finding digital printing services who would offer to print on papers with deckle edges, that are extremely thin, or extremely thick.
CyberCopy is comprised of four locations throughout Southern California: Santa Barbara, Ventura, Westlake Village, and headquartered at its Culver City location servicing most of Los Angeles. Each location provides slightly different services, some of which include: fine art reproduction (giclée printing), UV set ink digital printing, CNC routing, laser cutting and etching, museum grade high resolution scanning, and much more! For over twenty years, CyberCopy has accumulated a repertoire of services making them a go-to location for your many art needs.
Our challenge, proposed by CyberCopy, was to test the capability of their Mimaki JFX200-2513 wide-format flatbed printer. We provided the following papers: Bhutan Tsharsho (very thick, no sizing, bumpy texture), HP-15 Okawara Machine Made (relatively thin with sizing), HP-58 Sekishu Natural (no sizing, semi light weight), Yatsuo (unsized colored paper), HM-58 Okawara Student, HP-14 Asagami (very thin 13 gsm, very transluscent), and Igarashi Kozo (very thick). The printer has a table top with thousands of small suction holes that hold the substrate in place while printing. Instead of the papers being fed through the printer, there is a sort of “bridge” that moves forward and backward and then its printer head moves side to side. UV-set ink is released from above and instantaneously sets, requiring virtually no drying time or presenting issues of smudging.
Bhutan Natural Dyed Tsharsho Kenpa (beige) This handmade paper is made of fibers from the Edgeworthia plant. Traditionally, this paper could only be printed on via manual methods such as screen or relief printing. Surprisingly, the Mimaki printed without regard for the uneven surface of the paper.
HP-15, HP-58, HM-58, Igarashi Kozo, and Yatsuo also all printed well. Usually printers are reluctant to print on handmade papers for fear that the softness of the paper and the deckle edges will clog the printer requiring extra maintenance or damage parts.
It was, however, HP-14 Asagami which astounded us the most. Clocking in at 13 gsm, Asagami is a very thin, translucent paper which usually would require special handling and care otherwise it could easily tear, crumple up and clog the printer, or pucker while drying. The Mimaki made it possible to print without any of those conditions. The print dried instantly and perfectly flat while producing very sharp images.
CyberCopy has both a CNC router and Universal Laser Cutter, the latter of which can work with substrates up to 2’x4′ that range from wood, to certain papers and paper like substrates, to acrylic, and can even etch into pastries!
Most recently added to CyberCopy’s Culver City location, is their extremely high definition Rencay camera scanner. Oftentimes customers want to be able to digitally reproduce their works on paper, but the result is that the paper itself becomes nothing more than a blob of color. This Camera scanner is capable of quilting together the details of large expansive artworks while retaining the most visible subtle characters of the paper or canvas on which the artwork is made. Additionally, this scanner can travel to your studio! For a video about how the scanner works click this link
Thirty years is but a droplet in the 1,400 year-old slurry of Japanese papermaking history, but when it dawned on Hiromi thirty years ago that there was a need for highly refined, chemical free, archival, strong, handmade papers among conservation specialists in the United States, she used her papermaking training to turn the droplet into a needle point that has helped sew together the history of Japanese papermaking and Art Conservation in the West. By doing so, handmade Japanese paper infiltrated artists’ practices abound. Japanese paper, or washi as we will refer to it hereto forth, was never missing from art or its conservation; before washi was utilized for painting and printmaking by the likes of Chagal, Picasso, and Rembrandt, it was used for specific tasks required by members of Japan’s ruling class, like writing legal documents,
manufacturing currency, decor, and architecture, of which many examples still remain. Oftentimes the same or similar paper would be used to patch holes in damaged articles, and in the case of shoji and lanterns, more ornate paper would be used. It is written in The Chronicles of Japan, Nihon Shoki (ca. 720 AD), that the Korean Buddhist priest Doncho introduced Chinese paper and ink making to the people of Japan around the year 610. The Prince Regent at the time found the materials for Chinese
paper too delicate and thus encouraged the shift to Kozo which was already in use by textile makers. The Kozo plant is cultivated throughout Japan and the lower east side of the Asian continent; its fibers, some of the longest plant fibers in papermaking, are also some of the strongest natural fibers suitable for repair work and preservation. Fast forward fourteen-hundred years and Kozo is now the most widely used fiber to make washi and Japan reigns supreme in the world of papermaking for its scrutiny unto itself, consistently producing papers of uniform precision and quality. Over time, washi became readily available and developed alongside calligraphy, Nihonga (Japanese painting), moku-hanga (woodblock printing)–essentially, symbiotically with the culture of Japan.
Washi comes in two main forms: machine made and hand made. Fibers and materials for most machine made papers are started using similar methods of the Nagashizuki papermaking style, which requires prepared fibers to be suspended in a water bath to be sort of scooped onto a suketa (paper mould and screen). The maker of one of the most
sought after handmade papers for conservation in the world is Satoshi Hasegawa of Hasegawa Washi Kobo (studio). Famous for their highly coveted Usu Gami series (formerly Usu Mino until relocating from Mino to Yamagata prefecture), Hasegawa uses only the highest quality Japanese Nasu Kozo and the purest processes to prepare the fibers making them perfect for conservation and restoration. Hasegawa Washi’s drying boards–a gift from the late Kozo Furuta-san, the Mino papermaker that taught Hasegawa and Hiromi how to make paper–are made of horse chestnut and are over 150 years old. Usu Gami paper has very long and strong kozo fibers that sometimes course from one end of a sheet to the opposite– an important feature for conservation work.
One example of machine made paper comes from Hidakawashi from Kochi prefecture. Hidakawashi produces some of the thinnest papers in the world with some varieties clocking in at less than 2gsm. While mostly used in conservation, Hidaka’s tengucho/tengujo have been used by artists for a multitude of uses, most impressively: painting, gyotaku, and digital printing. Machinemade paper is characterized (usually) by its cut edges, or its roll format and handmade are characterized by their deckle edges. While machinemade papers are often chided as being inferior to handmade, this is not necessarily true. Machinemade processes allow for a more rapid and more uniform process thus bringing the cost of the paper down however, the quality of the materials used to make the paper are integral to the quality of the paper, thus some handmade papers are made with fibers/pulp that are not on par with some machine made papers. When choosing paper, though, it is important to not conflate quality with appropriateness. Hidakawashi’s Tenguchos for example are high-quality material paper designed with the conservator in mind, however painters and printers have been able to coerce the fibers to react positively to their processes but for most people this will not work, meaning whether a paper is appropriate for a task may lay in the user, and not the paper.
The deception of most washi is that it is delicate, but like the silk line of a spider, it is immensely strong relative to its appearance and the size of its fibers. It’s longevity, color, beauty, and strength has has kept washi around for more than 1,400 years and this is why Hiromi knew 30 years ago, that contemporary users of paper, would find a new medium and a new tool in washi.
Hasegawa san and Chinzei san will be visiting for our 30th Anniversary Reception and Workshop Extravaganza where they will lead, alongside several papermaker contemporaries from Japan, four casual drop-in paper-related workshops on July 28th. Additionally, both Hasegawa san and Chinzei san are two of the papermakers invited to Japan Foundation Los Angeles on July 26th, for a special panel on papermaking and its future. For more info about the 30th Anniversary Reception and Workshop, CLICK HERE. For more information about the panel on papermaking CLICK HERE.
Sandy Rodriguez, granted me the opportunity to visit her studio, or rather “test kitchen”, in MarVista, CA. Rodriguez is a long-time Hiromi Paper, Inc. customer who is always enthusiastic about paper and cognizant of the cultural affects of materials on an oeuvre or body of work. Sandy processes a range of organic colorants and earth pigments into inks & watercolors that are then worked onto the Amate paper via pens and brushes. To acquire the necessary ingredients to for the recipes, Rodriguez conducts expeditions into the wildernesses of the the Western United States with Blue Wind School of Botanical Studies and then cross references specimens with contemporary art history of Americas. Some materials that Rodriguez hand processes are native mushrooms, lichens, bark, seeds and insects that have been used for color for generations in the Americas.
Each plant, insect matter, or mineral contains its own properties, uses and histories. For instance, one of the few ingredients that the artist does not forage herself is the insect cochineal which makes its home on the nopales (prickly pear cactus) of Mexico and California, naturally produces a red carminic acid which makes them undesirable to prey. This same acid when properly processed produces a rich red pigment which can be used to for dyes and paints. In fact, as Sandy recounted, the same pigment became a very valuable commodity and was used to dye the redcoats that the British forces donned during the American Revolutionary War. Today, most artists are familiar with the color carmine red derived from the carminic acid of the cochineal.
The surface that Rodriguez gravitates towards is Mexican Amate bark paper, with roots reaching to precolonial times. Although it is unknown when or where in Mesoamerica paper making began, the oldest known piece of Amate paper dates back to 75 CE (that’s about 1,943 years ago!). Once practiced throughout Mexico, the process of making Amate paper was nearly lost post colonial contact as it became banned from practice due to its association with the indigenous ceremonial practices decried by colonizers. Now only several paper making villages remain in the Puebla area of Mexico. Of course this is only a glossed over history of the Amate, but one can see that easily its history is rich and fertile with exploration as it relates to the themes that course throughout Rodriguez’s work.
In her work Rodriguez explores ideas of cultivation in terms of culture and materiality, as well as historiography. In De Las Señales y Pronosticós & I.C.E. Raids de Califas, 2018 (Pictured left), Rodriguez’s pigments dance on the surface and in the fibers of a LARGE Amate paper–at times dancing with the darker fig fibers. In other parts of the painting, the Amate becomes both land and sky, a place to describe where its own history stems from and where history is currently moving towards. It reflects the past and the present simultaneously the way an iridescent metal gleams with different colors at the same time. The eye looks at the storyboarded images on the top and the right side of the painting but the texture and fibers of the paper come through to carry us away into the skull helicopter (Calavera Copter) that then flies over the the land and the sea and the sky and history that once belonged to those who are being told to go back to where they come from, despite already being there.
Don’t forget to catch up with Sandy at the following Summer Talks and Workshops!
In 1994 under the earth of Minneapolis, in the basement that houses Cave Paper, Amanda Degener and Brigette O’Malley set off on a journey to develop some of the book making world’s most cherished papers. Now, nearly 25 years later, Amanda shares some stories and anecdotes about Cave Paper and leads us into the new phase of the company–transforming it into a worker-owned coop. Here is my interview with Amanda. For information about how you can help Cave Paper transition into a coop click here.
HIROMI PAPER:What is the strangest or most unique usage of Cave papers that you have encountered?
AMANDA DEGENER:Perhaps the most unique usage of Cave paper was making one sheet of 15 meter by 15 meter (that’s 50 foot square) paper for an origami artist in Switzerland. Sipho Mobono wanted to make a life-size elephant and he needed a sheet with foldability and strength which Cave knew Belgian flax would deliver. In order to achieve a truly strong paper it is necessary to press the freshly made wet paper, simply air drying the 50’ paper would not work. It seemed impossible to press such a huge piece of paper so we embedded over 2000 sheets of 18” x 24” paper into the unpressed poured pulp. In a warehouse we laid out plastic window screening material and poured pulp to create the first layer. Freshly made, but not dry, 18” x 24” paper covered that bottom pulp layer, then another layer of pulp was poured over the top of the pressed paper.When it was dry this three-layered sheet became one. The final project used 300 pounds of fiber and was completed over the Christmas Holiday by Cave staff and many many volunteers. It takes a village.
For geek papermakers here is another little tidbit. The freshly made pressed (but not dried) papers were going to need to overlap onto that first poured layer. Because the final paper was going to be folded we were concerned about the double thickness when overlapping the pressed sheets. So each of the 2000 papers that were embedded were actually double dipped and double couched; we couched 17″ x 23″ sheets in the center of 18″ x 24″ sheets. Thus allowing us to carefully overlap the sheets into the bottom poured pulp so their overlap created one sheet thickness and still provided the strength needed for folding.
HP:Do you find that the seasons or the weather have a bearing on the production of Cavepapers? For instance, can rainy days and humid air lend themselves better to dying Indigo Layered and Night?
AD:Certainly weather, seasons, sunlight all effect the final paper. The indigo vat is very effected by temperature and weather, there is far too much to write about that here alone could spend a whole book on the chemistry of indigo and dyes. For 23 years Cave Paper was in an unheated space. Minnesota has a cold climate for about five months of the year. The cold keeps microbes from growing in the fiber, fresher fiber makes fresher looking paper. More importantly is that the weather affects the attitude of the papermakers and shows directly in the paper. By March we are tired of winter and sometimes this grumpy-ness shows in the paper. In April the papermakers, and thus the paper, bounces with the joy of Spring.
HP: How much of developing papers, creating custom orders, or just tweaking recipes to meet user needs, requires play and how much is science?
AD:As a female growing up in the 70’s I was told girls did not study science or become scientists but through hand papermaking it wormed its way into my life. My educated guesses are rooted in science but really all of life is play. I play with water and fiber, play in the garden, play Tai Chi. I don’t see much of a difference between art and science except scientists have a more socially accepted career and also make more money. There are certain recipes or tricks that have worked for other artists that we follow, but in the end, each paper will be different than the last, and adjustments must be made. A science lab is like a art studio; there is an atmosphere of planned experimentation.
HP: Cavepapers is now transitioning into a worker owned Coop and will move into a new location. I’ve attached the link to the Indiegogo campaign and information about it above and here. But for those new to Cavepapers or are just hearing of this change, can you talk a little bit about the impetus for the change as well as some of the long term goals for Cavepapers?
AD:The story of why Cave Paper has to change is very straightforward and clear. My business partner Bridget O’Malley became disabled and I am trying to retire. Long term goals are just hand it over to the young people and see what they do with it. We have had many interns who are interested in a space and place to work beyond just completing an internship with us. Evolving into a Coop allows for new ideas and people to be involved.
HP: How will the availability of Cavepapers be affected by the change?
AD:We currently work very hard to keep the current inventory on the shelves. When more people get involved as worker owners they have their own ideas and add these onto to what Cave already does. The guaranteed income from our current client base will keep the coop financially solvent. There will be some start up costs but not as many as beginning a new business. This transition into a Coop will allow our current inventory to flourish as well as make room for more growth.
HP: Cavepapers has an internship program, how can someone apply to the program?
AD:There is a description on our website about the internships. We have never had a formal application. Anyone who wants to come and learn has been welcome. We have had over 120 interns, ranging from printmakers to college students, from digital artists to art conservators. After completing an internship, there was no automatic path to studying papermaking more in depth at Cave. We hope the membership system in the future Coop will provide this.
HP: Is there a dream paper that you’ve been wanting to make but for one reason or another you just haven’t been able to make?
AD:Many years ago I spent a day making a variety of crackle sheets using many colors. I look at these papers from time to time and wish I could play more with this. Amazingly Joe Steko from Charnel House Papers picked the “Name That Paper” perk for our Indiegogo Campaign and is commissioning a purple crackle. I really look forward to working on that in the near future.
I am often inspired (to the point of wanting to make) by other people’s handmade papers both from the USA and abroad. Especially the high quality Japanese papers, the patterned papers from Nepal, and many papers from China I am just recently discovering. I am impressed with the consistency of Twinrocker’s whites and off whites, University of Iowa’s case paper, The Circle’s origami paper, Mary Hark’s momigami, Rick Hungerford’s almost airbrush techniques, Helen Heibert’s skin-like paper, and Andrea Peterson’s plant based papers. There certainly won’t be enough time to explore making half the paper I dream about in what is left of my lifetime.
Pictured above: Ichibei Iwano, Japanese National Living Treasure and maker of the Iwano series of papers from Echizen
A gift passed down from the Gods, Echizen in Fukui prefecture is known for its 1,500 year old history of washi (Japanese Paper)making. Approximately 80 factories engaged in papermaking are concentrated in one small valley. The home of Echizen-washi is located in the Goka area of Echizen City from a cluster of five small villages–Oizu, Ōtaki, Iwamoto, Shinzaike, and Sadatomo. These villages are blessed with abundant spring water and surrounded by mountains. The washi of this region is distinguished by its rich variety, and includes traditional thick paper for ceremonial use, official documents, and banknotes. Washi is also made in various sizes for business cards and postcards and for drawing and painting. Echizen-washi was designated as an intangible traditional craft in 1976.
Twenty artisans from the region will present their handmade paper installations, both functional and decorative, including an exquisite full-sized washi tea house. This unique exhibition will explore various utilization of washi through traditional/contemporary printmaking, lanterns, and large format washi.