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

  Hair

   – 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.


Boards

   – Cypress, spruce(pine),etc.

   – Water-resistant, easy to process.


Thread

   – 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.

Hiromi Paper, Inc. 30th Anniversary: Chigiri-e

Our 30th Anniversary Reception and Workshop Extravaganza is fast approaching! The second of our FOUR workshop stations that we’ll reveal today is Chigiri-e. The Japanese art form of Chigiri-e is now well over 1,000 years old dating back to the Heian Period. Chigiri-e neared death in the 1800s but the creation of Tengujo/Tengucho provided a new way of approaching the method. In Japanese chigiru roughly translates to “tear” and e translates to “image”, “picture”, or “painting” thus Chigiri-e can be roughly translated as “torn picture”. More accurately though, Chigiri-e is, an image made of thin pieces of Japanese paper torn and shredded and then affixed to a stiffer surface, such as board or thick paper stock, and adhered with PVA, Funori, Fueki-kun nori, or Jin Shofu.

chigiri-eThin layers of Washi (Japanese paper) allow the artist to build depth, perspective, and value in the image. Skilled Chigiri-e artists can achieve a sophistication reminiscent of watercolor paintings, however, it can be an art form suitable for all ages–from children to older communities. All of the different kinds of Washi (Japanese papers) possess many characteristics that lend themselves well to different techniques.

IMG_1722Tengujo/Tengucho, Color Kozo, and Color Gampi, for instance, can be used to layer on color and value due to it’s highly translucent nature. It can be used to quickly and subtly cover large swaths of space with color or texture.

amate
Amate Swirl

 

The fibers of Kinwashi, Unryu, and Amate Swirl can be easily dissected from their surfaces to create gestures that resemble branches, stems, flower stamen, hair, etc.

While there are traditional shikishi boards used to house the Chigiri-e, any sort of paper will suffice as the base, depending on the needs and desires of the artist. Papers like our Black, White, and Natural Shikishi, Bhutan Stationery, Amate Solid, and Yucatan make excellent bases, though the latter 3 diverge a bit from tradition.

scrap.png

 

 

Now available in store only is the Cavepaper Scrap Pack ($9.00) which comes filled with ends and bits of Cavepaper’s experiments and left overs, often one-of-a-kind pieces. These are helpful in adding unusual textures and patterns to your Chigiri-e.

Hiroko Karuno: Moro Jifu Exhibition

諸紙布案内状2016_1

May 27th – May 30th 2016

10AM – 4:30PM @ Naoya Shiga Former Residence

Address: 1237-2 Takabatakecho, Nara, Nara Prefecture 630-8301

Tel: +81 742-26-6490 Website: http://www.naragakuen.jp/sgnoy/ Continue reading “Hiroko Karuno: Moro Jifu Exhibition”

Deffner & Johann Spotlight

This month we are excited to introduce Deffner & Johann, German distributor of Hiromi Paper’s conservation papers, materials, and more. Deffner & Johann’s dedication to product innovation has made them a great partner in promoting special papers and materials across Europe. 

DeffnerMaren2015
Photo: taken by Hiromi Katayama at the IADA Berlin congress of Ralph-Uwe Johann & Maren Dummler

 

In 2015, Deffner & Johann presented a video on “Parchment Restoration” with paper restorer Maren Dümmler, using washi from Hiromi Paper.

View the video on youtube here.

“Deffner & Johann is a leading supplier of materials, tools and equipment for conservation & restoration, care of historical monuments and for those practising traditional craft techniques. We also supply design solutions for fitting out workshops and studios. In over 135 years of its history, the company has made a name for itself far beyond the borders of German speaking countries as a specialist wholesaler of products for use in all aspects of the conservation of cultural goods.

Our customers include well known museums at home and abroad, public and private archives, restoration & conservation studios, trades and crafts workshops and discerning artists as well as universities and research institutions specialising in conservation training.  We refine our range continually in close consultation with our customers. This co-operation drives us forward and forms a substantial part of our company’s philosophy.”

https://www.deffner-johann.de

Kozo bark party in Kochi

Stripping of Kozo Bark…

The time of the year has come again where the people of Ino-machi gather for the annual stripping of kozo bark.
The past blog post can be found here.

Many thanks to Mr. Hiroyoshi Chinzei, who provided us with wonderful photos!

DSC_3735

DSC_3679-MOTION
Kozo appears!

Continue reading “Kozo bark party in Kochi”

Joey’s Washi Tour 2012 Recap Part 1

Hello everyone! I had the most amazing trip with Yuki a couple of weeks back, as you may have noticed from the wonderful updates packed with images and notable information she has been posting. It was definitely overwhelming to jump into the hustle and bustle of the Tokyo city life from day 1, but coming from Los Angeles, it was easier to adjust to. Racing against a threat of jet-lag, we roamed the city street life from morning to dusk!

 

Continue reading “Joey’s Washi Tour 2012 Recap Part 1”

Colorful Tokyo

Greetings from Tokyo!
Fellow HPI staff Joanna and I (Yuki) are now in Tokyo, before our 1-week Washi tour begins next week!

Today, we explored Ginza,  strolling the streets and browsing through multiple stores to see what is trending now in Japan.
What we came across was an item that we both adore….WASHI TAPE. Continue reading “Colorful Tokyo”

Washi Tour 2010 Part 4 Yamamoto – Suketa (papermaking tool) maker

Day 3 and the first visit of the morning is to see 81 year old Yamamoto Tadayoshi, long time suketa maker. A suketa is the frame washi is made in; su being bamboo screen and keta being the wooden frame. In the studio at his house, he makes the su, keta, and hinges by hand. The art of splitting and joining bamboo splints for the screen (su) required years of apprenticeship.

When we came in, he was in the process of repairing a keta (frame) that was not made professionally.Yamamoto-san himself is one of a very few number of professional suketa makers in Japan. The first thought that came to our minds was “is he apprenticing the next generation??”. Sadly, he did not seem to have any at the moment.

Continue reading “Washi Tour 2010 Part 4 Yamamoto – Suketa (papermaking tool) maker”

New Items

New Items now available online and in store here.

Rayon 50 & Rayon 39 are new additions to our decorative sheets, made of 100% Rayon in Japan.

Manilla Hemp Blue will be available regularly in Natural, similar in characteristics as the Asagami and Lens Tissue.

Salago Philippine Gampi is made of a majority of Philippine Gampi with a dash of Mitsumata & pulp. A promising new Gampi addition, similar to the discontinued Gampi #28 but thinner.

Gampi 2-Layered is a white surface gampi type of paper with a great price.

Other new items include the Screw Punch with 9 bits (replacements available), ECG Grey, Worldcloth SN Shantung 541-52.5, and Colored Kozo rolls with 2 widths (19.5″ & 38″)

Neri in the Summer

By Sugihara Yoshinao
Translations by Yona & Yuki

This summer, Japan has been hit by a record-breaking heat wave. Here, in my office in Fukui, we joke about how high the temperature will be, but we have actually been suffering from 97 degree weather for days on end. Weather becomes this hot also causes a very troubling issue with papermaking. That problem is in the “neri”, which is essential in making washi. Neri is very sensitive to high temperatures.This time, I would like to talk somewhat seriously about Neri. Washi is made from the bast fibers of Kozo, Mitsumata, and Gampi. Together with these ingredients, or rather more important in the assistance of washi making, is the neri. Since “neri” sounds like the word “nori” which means glue, it is mistaken that neri would have the same fastening glue effect. However, neri’s greatest benefit is the way that it acts as the dispersing agent in preventing the fibers from sinking in water.

Making paper without putting in neri, the liquid will flow straight down at the same as it is being scooped up. The washi technique of nagashisuki (rocking the suketa back and forth after scooping the water) is not possible no matter the number of times it is rocked. The reason western paper cannot be made as thin as washi surely has to be because neri is not used. Neri is effective when used with soft water in Japan, but is useless when used with European hard water. Originally, the papermaking technique was passed to Japan from China, and hemp was at first the main ingredient for paper.  This was still long before the discovery of the technique of using neri as a dispersing agent. Once discovered, the unique Japanese papermaking technique was established and from the Heian Period (794-1185) neri was used in papermaking.

As a dispersing agent, not only is the neri obtained from Tororo Aoi (plant from the hibiscus family) used, but also the neri taken from the bark of the Noriutsugi (panicled hydrangea). Even until now, Living National Treasure Mr. Ichibee Iwano (Kizuki hosho maker) uses a blend of both the Tororo Aoi and Noriutsugi. Higher viscosity (more stickiness) is necessary in making washi, so of course the desired effect of the dispersing agent is stickiness. However, once the papermaking process is over, this stickiness becomes an issue and it is ideal for the stickiness to disappear quickly as the paper is being dried. That is what this natural neri magnificently achieves. During papermaking it is sticky, but once the pressure of papermaking is over and the paper is being dried the next day, the viscosity magnificently disappears.

It is only high temperature that compromises the viscosity. Just by using the bare hands, the body temperature gradually decreases the stickiness. Then, there is this year’s heat wave. Echizen Washi papermakers are now forced to create fresh new neri everyday. Continually making paper of the same quality regardless of the various changes in weather temperature, climate, humidity level, and moisture is actually quite a difficult job to do.