Collision of Moments: A Photographer’s Encounter with Japanese Washi

Written by Robert Morrison

Gaze of Orpheus, 2019, Artist’s Proof 
Fine art digital print on Handmade Gampi Paper 
Movement collaborator: Emma Kury

My love affair with Japanese papers is nearly lifelong going back to when I first saw Frank Lloyd Wright’s collection of Japanese art many decades ago. It also stems from the concept of wabi-sabi (侘寂), or accepting, if not delighting in imperfection, something which was essential to me when I was a painter and sculptor.  It’s ironic that years ago, when I first visited Hiromi Paper Inc. in search of Japanese papers to try with inkjet printing, I used printers loaded with custom grayscale inks, and used exotic workflows and drivers in quest of the perfect digital fiber-based “silver” prints, no wabi-sabi allowed.  It took years for commercial printers and papers to evolve, but now we have the ability to make beautiful archival fiber-based BW and color photographic prints.  But in spite of all of these “perfect” prints that I produce on a daily basis, I still crave wabi-sabi.  

Robert Morrison Bricked, 2018, Artist’s Proof 
Fine art digital print on Handmade Izumo Mingei Gampi Paper.  Movement collaborator: Corah

Recently I’ve been working on printing work from three different series of art (Moving Meditation, Take the No. 9, and Collision of Moments) that both formally and conceptually called out for Japanese papers that partner with the images to make them more than just photographic prints.  I’ve tested more than 30 different Hiromi papers at this point including both machine and handmade papers made from a variety of fibers both inkjet coated and uncoated. The papers range from tissue thin to more substantial washi.  Currently I’m printing in both color and grayscale using Colorbyte Software’s Imageprint Black RIP with a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 17-inch printer.  

In this article we focus on prints from my Collision of Moments series which are color. The images are light-painted time exposures that I began to experiment with about two decades ago.  They involve collaborating with movement artists (yogis, modern dancers, belly dancers, or artist’s models) who move through space for up to 10 seconds.  During their movement I hold the shutter open and watch, triggering several flash heads placed around the room to punctuate moments, glimpses of mindfulness, in a stream of movement.  The process is very rich and I’m forever grateful to my collaborators for their experimental spirit.

Mindful Flight, 2019, Artist’s Proof  
Fine art digital print on MM-20W Gampi Paper.  
Movement collaborator: Marley Hornewer

An essential aspect of this project, and also of my love for photography, photographic printing, tea, and all things Japanese is a now more than 20 year friendship with Antonis Ricos.  I trust Antonis’s eyes (and brain) more than any other human to evaluate a print both technically and artistically.  He’s been more than generous to pour over my print samples, evaluating the papers, profiles, and most of all the wabi-sabi to give you a glimpse into what you can expect from inkjet printing on Japanese washi.  He has also beautifully photographed the samples to demonstrate all of these features and provided detailed observations on what he sees. See his comments as well as demonstrative photographs here.

There is still much to do in the project including selecting the final paper for each series and fine-tuning profiles and images, but the journey so far has been most rewarding, and I look forward to showing these once we are again free to roam the planet.

The Circle, 2004, Artist’s Proof  
Fine art digital print on Inkjet Coated kozo and pulp machine-made paper (IJ-48W) Movement collaborator: Shahina 
Detail Photo: Antonis Ricos

To see more of my work please visit or follow me on Instagram (@studiotheia) or Flickr (@studiotheia) to see what I’m looking at recently.

The New Hands of Cave Paper: Zoë Goehring

After more than 20 years of leading the beloved Cave Paper mill, Amanda Degener — who founded Cave Paper alongside Bridget O’Malley in a cobble-stone lined basement in Minneapolis, Minnesota — has retired from Cave Paper. Cave Papers are made of Egyptian or Belgian Flax, often heavily sized, and extremely durable. They are used often for bookbinding, box-making, decor, design, and artwork. At the helm now, is new generation owner Zoë Goehring who shares her story and excitement below!

Zoe in the new Cave Paper mill forming new sheets of Cave Paper

Hiromi Paper: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background with art/papermaking?

Zoë: I was born in Tucson but lived in the northeast from the age of two. I feel lucky that I was encouraged from an early age and throughout my young adult life to look, to ask questions, and to create, and I spent a lot of time playing in the woods when I was growing up. I think those things were pivotal in shaping who I am and my creative practice — most of the time I am just trying to tap back into those questions and ways of playing. I’ve never had just one thing I’ve wanted to do. When I was in college at Carnegie Mellon University I studied art and creative writing as a part of their Bachelor of Humanities and Art program. I started making my own paper during my time there in a kiddie pool in my studio and in my bathtub at home, just with a blender and window screens from the salvage shop. It was a process I really enjoyed but did not dive very deeply into the world of papermaking at the time. While I had some incredible teachers, by the time I graduated I felt pretty disenchanted with both academia and the art scene as I understood it then. I left Pittsburgh (although I loved living there, it’s a great city) and moved to Maine for an apprenticeship on an organic farm and really connected with the work. After a couple of years, I helped manage a small organic vegetable operation Dig Deep Farm, founded by my friend Dalziel Lewis. There came a natural point in the growth of the farm and our own lives for us to part ways, and I returned to the southwest to be closer to family. I made a decision then to center my creative work in my life in a way I had not been able to while farming.

Zoë couching freshly formed sheets on wool felt

Hiromi Paper: When did you start gathering steam or know that you would be taking over Cave Paper? How did it unfurl?

Zoë: I had been renting a small studio in Tucson that I set up primarily as a sewing space, and was trying to get a small sewing business in motion. I’d spent most of the last decade waiting tables in the farming off-season and working as a baker, trying to find that balance between making enough money and having the time and energy to focus on my own work, and it wasn’t working very well. Running my own small business seemed like a way to create that balance for myself. I was talking to my dad one day about sewing with paper, and he called me a few days later to tell me I needed to meet Amanda Degener. He met her at a co-operative conference (he is a co-operative consultant, and Amanda was there representing her local food co-op) and she was wearing a vest made out of her Persimmon paper. He texted me a photo of her! It was very funny, and a very typical thing for my dad to do — he is very enthusiastic and always connecting people. Amanda and I began talking and she told me she was open to selling her business. There had been some movement to turn it into a co-operative business so that she could retire, but that hadn’t panned out as hoped. It was a lot to think about right away but the timing was right! I took a trip to Minneapolis to meet Amanda and tour her studios, and I felt connected to her and her work right away. One thing she said that really resonated with me was that she started Cave Paper as a way to support herself and to always have her hands in the work, even if she wasn’t able to make her own art every day. After that visit with Amanda, we worked on the details of the transition for about a year before the move took place. I’m very grateful for the assistance I have received in start-up costs and Amanda’s openness to a payment plan, both of which made the shift actually possible.

A view of uncolored Cave Papers on drying racks and Cloudy Sky hanging out

Hiromi Paper: When did moving commence and how long did it take?

Zoe: The move itself only took about a week, but both the preparation and setting up in our new location took much longer. We’ve been operating out of the new space for almost three months and it is very much a work in progress! After we moved the equipment, there were some renovations needed to the space including building a heavily insulated room around the beater and making sure we had the right electrical set-up to run it. Amanda came to Tucson for about a month to help me finish setting up the equipment and continue our training which was crucial. And of course making sure we were all staying safe and healthy during the pandemic added another level of complexity to the move.

Brushing unripened persimmon juice (kakishibu) onto Cave Paper sheets

Hiromi Paper: Do you have a favorite Cave Paper to make?

Zoë: I love layering indigo and walnut together!

Hiromi Paper: Do you have new Cave Paper styles that you hope to realize soon?

Zoë: This first year I am planning on keeping the current Cave Paper catalog as it is, but I will be adding my own designs down the road. I look forward to experimenting more with sisal and other southwestern fibers and colors.

Hiromi Paper: How do you see Cave Paper evolving due to the new climate/geographical location? Do you find that some of the Cave Paper varieties benefit from the change of environment?

Damp sheets coated with walnut dye enjoying the Arizona air

Zoë: The biggest difference is our relationship with water. In Minneapolis, water was Cave’s least expensive resource — here in Tucson that is definitely not the case. I save most of the water from production to reuse, and I’m looking forward to finding the right system to make that process easier. And our indigo vat is very happy in this climate!

A crowd favorite: Indigo Layered Day with White drying outside in Cave Paper’s new backyard

Hiromi Paper: This might be coupled with the previous question, but what do you hope for the future of Cave Paper?

Zoë: This has been a challenging year for all of us. I think there are many projects awaiting Cave in the future, but for now I am most looking forward to opening the studio up to the community for classes and workshops, internships, and events. I feel very fortunate to be operating Cave Paper and hope it can continue to be a resource for others as well.

To view our selection of Cave Papers click HERE.

Kobayashi Hake on Japanese Brush making

Hello, World of Washi readers!

My name is Kohei Tanaka, brush maker of Kobayashi Hake.

Kobayashi Hake was established in 1907 by my great grandfather in Ueno Ikenohata located in Tokyo. The studio primarily made brushes for bookbinding but transitioned into brush-making for conservation use. Now Kobayashi Hake is run by my father (third generation) and myself. Today I would like to share with you the brief history and production of hake (brush).

(From left: 4th generation (me), 5th generation (?), 3rd generation at the studio)
  1. History  of  Hake

  Originally, hake is a variation of fude (in English, both are generally translated into “brush” but, when the two need to be distinguished, they may be referred to as “hake brush” and “fude brush,” respectively) that began to be used from the Heian period by craftsmen who mounted sutras and paintings in the form of hand scrolls, a process which required joining of paper and lining.

  Among documents and other bibliographic materials there are many paintings (Senmenkyo, a national treasure in the collection of Shitenno-ji temple, a national treasure, to name one) in which people are depicted washing or drawing water at the side of a well or the water side or washing a box, which appears to be coated with urushi (Japanese lacquer). In one of these paintings, two hake can be seen.

  In the Muromachi period, especially at the time of Yoshimasa(1449~1473), mounted hanging scrolls became indispensable items in the alcoves of shoin-style rooms. In paintings depicting artisans of various trades, craftsmen are seen using hake to mount paintings or calligraphy. It seems that around this time the craftsmen made their own hake, while in the Edo period people who specialized in making hake first appeared in areas around what is now Kyoto and then in Edo, today’s Tokyo.

  According to documents, Kyoto-style hake was soft while Edo-style hake was firm. In order to make hake, hair with tips were selected and bundled. The root of the hairs was wound with several layers of washi that had been glued together to a certain thickness. This was then pressed between boards and finally bound with thread, in the past made from human hair and in later days from silk thread used for shamisen (a three-stringed Japanese musical instrument).

Binding the hake brush

2. Materials for making hake brush


   – Animal hair : horse, goat, raccoon, weasel, pig, cow, deer, etc.

   – Plant fibers : coarser bulrush, hemp palm.

Several more types are used in addition to the above, but all high quality hair (mane, chest, tail) is chosen.

Horsehair is firm and will absorb paste well. Goat hair is soft and will absorb paste well.


   – Cypress, spruce(pine),etc.

   – Water-resistant, easy to process.


   – Silk thread for shamisen.

  – Strong, tends to tighten when moisture is absorbed, easy to process.

 Cherry bark

  – Water-resistant, will not weather easily

Making the finishing touches

3. Process for making hake

1. Boiling

Hair that has been sorted in step 1 is tied tightly and boiled in a big pot to undo any unmanageable characteristics and to get rid of oiliness.

2. Sorting

Hair is selected according to quality and grade of the material as well as to the purpose for which the brush is to be used.

This is one of the most important steps in the process since it will determine the overall quality.

3. Sorting

A comb is used to sort the hair tips. Then hair is separated into bundles of long hair, short hair, etc. and further sorted by cutting the roots to make bundles of same hair length.

4. Assembling, mixing

Several types of hair are assembled and then combed together according to use.

This is a time-consuming work since hair must be assembled uniformly.

5. Straightening with heat

A heated iron is used for straightening hair. Oiliness of the hair will ooze out when heat is applied.

6. Rubbing with ash

Ash made by burning rice husk is used to rub the hair well to remove the oiliness that has oozed out in the previous step.

Hair will become less slippery through this process, making the process to follow easier.

7. Suretori

Hair is arranged in the same direction and hair with split ends or no tips are removed by using a small knife.

This is a very important step. The tips of hair will be aligned straight when paste is applied.

8. Sandwiching

Hair that has been thus adjusted is sandwiched between two cypress boards in uniform thickness. Then the left and right ends of the sandwiched bundle of hair are secured with  barks of a cherry tree.   

9. Binding

The brush is placed on a tightening tool and bound with silk shamisen thread.

10. Finishing

A small knife, sandpaper and the like are used to adjust the shape of the handle.
Hair tips are adjusted.

Current Situation of Hake Brush Making

In recent years, it has become more and more difficult to obtain the animal hairs used to make the hake brushes. It is especially hard to acquire high quality deer hair used in Mizubake (water brush) and horse tail hairs.

More so than before, it has become important to inspect the hairs and distinguish their quality.

On the other hand, there has been increased demand from sushi restaurants that use small hake brushes for sauce application. The brush handle is made of bamboo and the bristles are Japanese weasel hairs. Fortunately, these brushes are becoming increasingly popular within sushi restaurants around the world.

 We at Kobayashi Hake will continue to make hake brushes of the highest quality for our customers in various fields around the world.

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.

Echizen Washi Update

Written by Yoshinao Sugihara / Translated by Yuki Katayama

In Japanese, kami can mean either god or paper. Every spring, the annual Kami Festival (honoring the paper goddess Kawakami Gozen) takes place here in Echizen’s Okamoto Otaki Shrine. Usually the paper goddess and the two local gods that live on top of the mountain will travel down to the Okamoto Otaki Shrine to stay for three days (May 3rd-5th) during the festival. Every year, this festival brings together the entire Echizen Washi village, and many visitors from all over the world. However, due to the effects of the global pandemic, this year’s festivities were limited to the minimum number of participants donning face masks. 

(The impressive wooden architecture of the Okamoto Otaki Shrine. Photo Credit: Echizen Washi Facebook)
(The deities are transported in the wooden mikoshi. Photo Credit: Echizen Washi Facebook)

Although the state of emergency order has been lifted in Fukui Prefecture, most people voluntarily continue the stay-at-home protocols, and not going out unless it is necessary. The usually bustling Echizen Washi village has fallen silent in the past month, with zero outside visitors. The paper museum and shop reopened this week, with hopes to gradually attract visitors by having workshops and exhibitions. 

Echizen Washi Village Main Square / Photo Credit: Yoshinao Sugihara

Many of the papermakers in the village have been hard hit by the current situation, experiencing a drastic decrease in orders, along with multiple promotional events/projects being canceled in the coming months. Yet, no matter the situation the paper making artisans still head to their studios everyday, diligently making their papers with a positive attitude and smiles on their faces.

Echizen Papermaker Hiroya Yamashita / Photo Credit: Yoshinao Sugihara

From Gifu to Yamagata: Catching up with Satoshi Hasegawa

Drying boards outside of the Hasegawa Washi Kobo–Hasegawa’s papermill.


Written by Satoshi Hasegawa with translation by Yuki Katayama

Satoshi Hasegawa is known for making some of the world’s most coveted Japanese conservation papers, the Shoinshi and Usu-Gami series (formerly named Hon Mino and Usu Mino papers), made of 100% Nasu Kozo cooked with soda ash and dried on 150 year old wooden drying boards made from the horse chestnut tree. Here, Hasegawa-san reflects on his shifted practice of papermaking.

Careful not to tear the damp sheets of freshly formed and pressed sheets of paper, Hasegawa expertly starts to peel the top sheet of the stack.

Due to a record-breaking warm winter, many parts of Japan have been
experiencing a decrease in the amount of snow compared to past years. Having
lived in Yamagata until I graduated high school at 18, I feel that the past three
winters have had considerably less snow compared to forty years ago. The
climate in Yamagata and Gifu Prefecture (where I previously lived) is very
different. Yamagata is along the coast of the Sea of Japan whereas Gifu is near
the Pacific Ocean. Gifu Prefecture is blessed with sunny days in the winter,
suitable for papermaking and papermakers who utilize the natural sun when
board-drying their papers.

Before being transferred to the final drying board, the damp sheets are inspected for quality.

In that sense, papermaking in Yamagata seems a bit
irrational because of the climate difference and lack of resources nearby but I
try to adapt my papermaking methods to the new environment, and not the
other way around. Yamagata is known for the drastic change in weather
conditions, with extremely cold winters and scorching summers. Gifu has
plentiful access to natural water and not many regulations for water drainage
whereas water preservation and drainage is quite strict in a rice-producing
region like Yamagata.

Once the still damp sheets are stuck to the board, Hasegawa must carefully smoothen each sheet. Making sure that any air bubbles that might have been trapped underneath while transferring the paper to the board are released, is important for avoiding any warping during the final drying process.

There are still many obstacles to reach a comfortable, sustainable level of papermaking in Yamagata but I find value in the journey to achieve my ideal papermaking studio. Tsuruoka, the city I live in, is a part of the UNESCO Creative Cities network and has been recognized as a Creative City of Gastronomy.

Each board can dry two sheets. Here Hasegawa happily walks outside with two papers mounted to this board. Soon they will find a place in the sun.

The city has great interest in all agricultural or farm products made locally in Tsuruoka and I’ve slowly started to become conscious of the possible connections between food culture and washi. Being in a city that is so strongly tied to food culture on a global scale, I’m considering the new potential for washi and Japanese papermaking in conjunction with gastronomy. Of course my main focus will always be making washi, but being that food is such an approachable and familiar theme for everyone, it will be interesting what future collaborations we can come up with.

Some drying boards are reclined against stands in the yard while others find comfort laid against the house in which the papers are made. it is in this position, facing the sun, that Hasegawa’s papers will finish drying before making their way to Hiromi Paper, Inc.

HPI’s 2019 Washi Tour by Yukako Ando

Above, the Yoshino river, with its pebbled edges, flows elegantly through Nara, where our Uda Gami and Nara Natural Dyed paper series are made. (pic: Yukako Ando)
Every two years, Hiromi Paper staff lead a tour through Japan visiting papermakers, toolmakers, and conservationists to gain further understanding of the world of Washi. The tour is heavily focused on conservation, thus we visit mostly the artisans who are producing papers used for conservation and restoration. As usual, the tour began in Kyoto, then traveled on a chartered bus through Japan visiting prefectures like Kochi, Shimane, Fukui, Gifu, and Nara. Participants stay in nearby accommodations and eat what is locally available. During the tour the artisans show how they are making the papers that many of our customers have come to know so well. Here, HPI staff Yuka presents what she saw and what she heard during this year’s tour.

Washi was not made in the summer because the tororoaoi (neri) would lose its viscosity…

In a lightly air-conditioned traditional Japanese house, with the back and forth motion of rocking the suketa (papermaking mould), traditional handmade Japanese paper is made.

IMG_8417_Kozo Furuta studio
The preserved studio of the late Kozo Furuta, one of Japan’s legendary papermakers. Located in Mino, one of Furuta’s former students, Kiyoko Urabe now makes paper in her own studio adjacent to this historical landmark. Furuta was also a teacher to Hiromi, propietress of Hiromi Paper, and Satoshi Hasegawa, maker of the Usu Gami series among many other splendid papers.

The light that shines through the studio windows are ever so warm and subtle, glistening on the water surface. The well water is cold to the touch. Inside the vat are the soft kozo fibers, floating in a solution of tororoaoi and water. The papermaking studios are quiet and calming, and draws us in.

Contrary to the stillness of the studio, the scorching sun continues to heat up the outdoors, with an uncontrollable amount of sweat rushing out. This year’s Hiromi Paper Washi Tour took place in the lingering summer heat, for seven days in the beginning of September. We visited six regions, twelve studios, and four paper museums.

IMG_7513_Toolmaker Mr.Yamamoto
For more than 70 years, Mr. Yamamoto is known for his dextrous hands that make and repair traditional Suketa (papermaking moulds). Here he shows the company of the tour how he precisely weaves together with silk, the fine strips of bamboo that form the screen. Like papermakers, toolmakers are on the decline. Waitlists for the renown toolmaker’s services can last many months. 

The hot summertime is an ideal time for papermakers to accept visitors, due to the lack of papermaking work (papermaking is primarily done in the cold months), but the participants and Hiromi Paper staff felt as if we were all on a summer camp, battling the heat and humidity, unique to Japanese summers.

Upon visiting six different regions and twelve studios, I realized that there were various styles in papermaking. The preparation work, materials used, how the suketa (papermaking screen/mould) is moved, how the papers are dried, are all a bit different depending on the region. Due to this slight variation, it’s not possible to simply group “washi” into one category.

Each papermaker or region’s unique papermaking style has been passed down for generations and will be passed onto future generations as well.

IMG_7825_Aki-chan shows barks to us
Aki-chan, working at the large-size papermaker Iwano Paper Mill for most of her life.

IMG_8050_Ichibei Iwano_National Living Tresure_Kizuki Hosho
Ichibei Iwano (NO relation to the Iwano Paper mill which produces large size papers), Echizen Washi’s National Living Treasure, making only one type of paper (Kizuki Hosho) for generations and generations. Kizuki Hosho is a beloved woodblock printing paper that is highly sought-after.


IMG_7245_Tencho papermaker_Osamu Hamada
The first papermaker we visited was young but highly skilled papermaker Osamu Hamada of Hamadawashi founded by his grandfather the late National Living Treasure, Sajio Hamada. Here Osamu san demonstrates how Tengucho (extremely light weight paper) is made. Tengucho requires very rapid techniques when forming sheets in the suketa leading to a beautiful display of splashing water and pulp.

IMG_7863_Iwano Paper Mill_Large-sie paper making
At Iwano papermill, two young papermakers demonstrate the sort of “dance” that is required to create their large handmade sheets. Due to the size that they are famous for, Iwano papers requires two papermakers working in tandem, intuiting each others movements, to produce consistent, beautiful papers.

IMG_8112_Masami Igarashi_Large-size papermaker
Masami Igarashi, maker of Igarashi Kozo, some of the largest handmade papers in the world, leads the party through her family’s papermill. Igarashi Kozo can be made up to sizes 2.5mx7m.

IN BETWEEN THE OLD AND YOUNG GENERATION ARE: Hiroyoshi Chinzei of Hidaka Washi, Kiyoko Urabe making Usu Mino paper, Masayuki Fukunishi of Uda-gami, Uekubo san of Hon Misu gami, and Norimasa Abe making Izumo Mingei paper.

Hiroyoshi Chinzei from Hidakawashi shows the tour participants the cooking of stripped bark. It is the cooking process which depletes the lignin from the fibers, bringing them to archival standards. Hidakawashi is responsible for the world’s thinnest paper with some weights as low as 1.6gsm!

IMG_8364_Kiyoko Urabe_Usu-Mino papermaker
Kiyoko Urabe was once the student of Kozo Furuta, making Usu Mino papers.

IMG_8569_Masayuki Fukunishi_Uda-gami
Masayuki Fukinishi of Uda Gami. Kozo fibers for Uda Gami are treated with clay, which prevent the paper from stretching or shrinking when exposed to heat or moisture. 

IMG_8708_Hisako Uekubo_Hon-misu papermaker_drying method called “subuse”
Here, Uekubo san of Hon Misu gami is seen making Hon Misu. Kozo fibers for Hon Misu are treated with gofun–incinerated sea shell dust–which helps keep the paper from stretching or shrinking when exposed to heat or moisture. Unusually, because of the gofun treatment, the papers are transferred directly from the su (screen) to the drying board, skipping the pressing process that wrings out excess water. This is because if pressure is applied to a stack of Hon Misu gami sheets, they will not compress to let out water, making this step unnecessary. This omission of the pressing step is called subuse.

IMG_7608_Izumo Mingei_Norimasa Abe studio_making indigo dyed paper
Izumo Mingeishi, founded by the late and first papermaker to be designated a National Living Treasure, Eishiro Abe, produces some of the most exquisite shimmering Mitsumata papers. Here his grandson, Norimasa Abe, demonstrates the creation of Izumo Mingei Mitsumata Indigo, one of the most sought after colors from the Izumo Mingei Mitsumata collection. In front of him is a stack of freshly made sheets, each separated by merely a piece of thread.

I don’t want to reveal what the subtle differences in papermaking styles are just yet, but perhaps you’d like to consider finding out for yourself on the next Washi Tour…?

Supported by the presence of beautiful mountains and natural water, there is great significance and depth in the traditions of papermaking, passed down from generations past. To meet the people that make the papers and to learn about the backstory is helpful in becoming one step closer to washi. I am grateful to all of the papermakers and craftsmen that I met throughout the tour, and wish them all the best in their future endeavors.

IMG_8873_Bokusendo with Mr. Sekichi
The final stop was Conservation Studio Bokusendo. Mr. Sekichi shows preparation for a new restoration project.

IMG_8848_Mr Sekichi shows Furunori_Bokusendo
Underneath the floorboards at Studio Bokusendo, are pots of aged Jin Shofu (wheat paste). Periodically, staff will uncover the pots and scrape off any mold that has accumulated on the surface. The aging process diminishes the stickiness of paste making it perfect for more delicate procedures. Bokusendo does not sell aged Jin Shofu, but you can make it at home. You better start now, though, because some of the aged Jin Shofu dates back to more than TEN YEARS!

Washi Tour Route: Tosa Washi Museum / Hamada Washi (handmade Tengucho) / Hidaka
Washi (machine-made Tengucho) / Mr. Yamaomto (Japanese papermaking tool maker) /
SHIMANE: Abe Eishiro Memorial Hall / Shinichiro and Norimasa Abe (Izumo Mingei
papermaker) / Otaki Shrine (Paper shrine) / Iwano Paper Mill (large-sie handmade papermaker)/ Yamaki Seishi (Gampi papermaker) / Ichibei Iwano (National Living Treasure) / Igarashi Paper Mill (large-size handmade papermaker) / Kiyoko Urabe (Usu Mino papermaker) / Mino Washi Museum / Masayuki Fukunishi (Yoshino Uda-gami papermaker) / Ryoji Uekubo (Hon Misu papermaker) / Mr. Sekichi of Bokusendo (Conservation studio)

For more information about our Biannual Washi Tour, email

ALL IMAGES ARE COPYRIGHT HIROMI PAPER, INC. For use of images you can inquire at All photos taken by Yukako Ando.

In Memory of Artist Akira Kurosaki

Kurosaki portrait
Akira Kurosaki, picture from his book, Shaping Paper

[featured image above is a detail of Kurosaki’s work Atlantic Splashes from 1993]

Akira Kurosaki was born on January 10, 1937 in Manchuria, China, but his family returned to Japan shortly after the Second World War. While a teen, Kurosaki sensei’s father arranged for him to learn painting. It would be his father later who forbade him from pursuing painting as a course of study as he believed art to be financially unstable. With his father’s ruling, Kurosaki sensei studied Design at Kyoto Institute of Technology from which he graduated in 1962. Despite the conflict with his father’s interests, Kurosaki sensei emerged from academia yet an artist.


It wasn’t long before Kurosaki sensei became an associate professor at his alma mater, Kyoto Institute of Technology, where he remained until 1968. During his initial stint as professor Kurosaki sensei began creating the first of his abstract and surreal works. These works used the guise of western modes of painting that were in fashion at the time, to create artworks that would explore the psychology of traditions and ideologies of postwar humanity. Navigating printmaking, painting, collage, and eventually papermaking, Kurosaki sensei embarked on a trajectory that would help him carve a career as an innovative artist.

akira kurosaki sagittarius 1973
Sagittarius 1973 color woodblock

In 1987, Kurosaki sensei became professor and head of Printmaking at Kyoto Seika University where he established the department of papermaking. His pioneering work in papermaking art was the catalyst that helped bring papermaking into the realm of fine art, producing works throughout his career and especially the 90s that were simultaneously print and paper. Employing innovative and traditional techniques Kurosaki sensei would often require new or modified tools or designs of his own fashioning to create works.


One of his inventions might be familiar to you– in this excerpt, translated by Yuki, Kurosaki sensei writes in his book Shaping Paper, about the purpose behind the development of the Disk Baren:

     As one of the most important tools used in mokuhanga printmaking, high quality barens have a long life span, but on the other hand can be difficult replacing the expendable bamboo sheath core of the baren.
     Wanting a baren that was easier to maintain but still retained the
technical quality of the traditional baren, the disk baren was invented.
     By making a baren out of plastic materials, the quality control is more consistent, parts are easier to replace/repair and the price is more economical.
     The traditional baren core is made from white bamboo sheaths that are twisted then laid down into a circular shape. These sheaths create the bumps which are important in a baren to evenly press the paper into the block . The disk baren accurately recreates these bumps with its plastic core. If the surface begins to wear down, there are replacement disks available.
     Though the plastic core may look simple to the eye, the final product was achieved through many trials and errors to best resemble the texture and composition of the traditional bamboo cores. Although the bumps are laid in a concentric circular pattern, they are not radial but form subtle waves that help to apply even pressure when in use.

Bottom of the Disk Baren showing the wavy pattern of the balls

Kurosaki sensei was never one to be held back by lack of capability, nor was he compelled by the impulse to profit. Rather, the sensei’s concerns about the traditional baren stemmed from its impractical inherent qualities–they were inaccessible to most, expensive, and oftentimes burdensome to fix or replace parts. Knowing this, Kurosaki sensei reimagined how the process produced by the baren could be recreated using more accessible means without sacrificing, as he said, “the technical” qualities that make barens so important to mokuhanga. After much testing and consideration for the ability of his new tool, the Disk Baren came to be. Kurosaki sensei showed much respect not only to his own ways of making work but also the way in which those types of work had been made for centuries before him.


For years, Kurosaki sensei traveled the world making art, lecturing, and exhibiting, carving for himself a singular career. Finally, though, he settled back down in his hometown of Kyoto, where he passed in May. Our thoughts and best wishes are with Kurosaki sensei’s loved ones.

Kurosaki 1
Green Wind Vane 1991 paper and dye

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.

martine 2
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?

Martine Toki River
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.


martine stripping bark
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.

martine experiments
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.


Martine laying sheets
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.

Martine tanino 2
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.

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

Written by Martine Patoux

Edited by Edwin Arzeta

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

“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.

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.


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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