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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
THE YOUNG GENERATION ALSO HARD AT WORK
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
ALL IMAGES ARE COPYRIGHT HIROMI PAPER, INC. For use of images you can inquire at email@example.com. All photos taken by Yukako Ando.
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.
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.
Thin 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.
Tengujo/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.
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.
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.
Art student Jon Shimizu shared with us his experience printing on the inkjet Asuka papers for his book project, and how much he loved working with them. Below is Jon’s artist statement. Thank you, Jon!
(We always appreciate any feedback about the papers, so please let us know!)
Originally from the UK, photographer and artist Sal Taylor Kydd has lived all over the world, before settling in Los Angeles. Formerly an editor, Sal has been developing her photography for the last six years, both as an editorial and a fine art photographer. Sal will be showing her work from her series “Just When I Thought I Had You” at Gallery 169 in Santa Monica. Check out her amazing prints done on our Mohachi paper.
“Origins” artist statement:
Growing up in a small town in England, I had a childhood that was in many ways typical of its time. In the 1970s children led relatively unfettered lives and were free to explore the world with a large degree of independence. In my work photographing my children and family, I find myself revisiting my childhood through their experience, playing by rivers and ponds in the summer, idling the days away, discovering a real connection with nature. Every year we spend our summers on a small island off the coast of Maine. It has become a touchstone for us as a family, a place for us to connect with nature and with each other. For my children these are times of growth and exploration that are strongly tied to a sense of place, of roots and authenticity.
This series is entitled “Origins” because through these images I am attempting to understand what defines that sense of connection and understanding of where we come from, what ties us to a place and tethers us to what has come before?
The processes I have used in this series is Salted Paper printing, in which I use a combination of antiquarian and contemporary technologies. I use a digital camera to capture my images, but then I create a physical negative from the digital file, which is then printed in a contact frame, using the same techniques pioneered by British photographer Henry Fox Talbot in the 1800s.
With these processes, the element of time is not inconsequential, it takes time to make a print, a process that gives opportunity for discovery and serendipity. You coat your paper, you expose it to the sun, you wait. It is a contemplative and mindful undertaking. In each of the steps, from sizing the paper, to exposing the negative and developing the print, there is a tangible connection with nature and the natural elements brought into the print, which again mirrors the content of my work. The artistry of “making” a photograph becomes itself an act of becoming and invention.
Keiji Oki is the third generation Mohachi papermaker. Mohachi is an extra heavy weight yet soft paper. It is sized internally, making the papers suitable for printmaking, painting and ink-jet printing.
Can you tell us a little about the history of Mohachi paper?
From the Edo period, the Oki mill originally made only Hosho papers. It was only from early Showa period that first generation Mohachi Oki became interested in making a Japanese watercolor paper for western painting. The beginning of WWII prompted the development of a thick Japanese paper, since the supply at the time was all western papers that could not be imported during the war. This type of paper was invented with guidance from Mr. Hakutei Ishii (painter and print artist, one of the fathers of the sosaku hanga (creative print) movement) It was named “MO” paper, from the first two letters of Mr. Mohachi Oki.
Post-war, once the production of MO Mohachi paper normalized, the production of larger sized papers and printmaking papers began. These papers were not for mokuhanga, but for methods such as lithography, etching and silkscreen.
Any new papers that you’d like to try making?
I’d like to try making papers using the same materials as the Mohachi paper, but cater to new needs of artists or printmakers. That is how the largest size 31″ x 47″ Mohachi paper was developed, because there was a higher demand for larger paper for artists to use.
What is your view on the future of washi?
I’d like to focus on promoting the large variety of papers that Echizen has and showing the world what Echizen Washi has to offer. Also, I am still in the process of thinking of ways to keep Mohachi papers relevant and increase demand.
Any hobbies outside of papermaking?
I like to climb mountains and run marathons in my free time. My current goal is to climb as many mountains as I can in the “100 Famous Japanese Mountains” list.
See artist feature to read about how artist Sal Taylor Kidd uses the Mohachi in her printing.
During the CBAA conference held in Nashville, I had the pleasure of visiting Lisa Jennings at her studio and ask her a few questions regarding her work:
Can you briefly explain your art concept and media?
I refer to myself an artist, painter and sculptor. My art concept has evolved over 18 years as a professional artist and long before that I used papers, found objects, watercolors, acrylics and acrylic mediums. I have known since I was a child that I am artist. My work technique as it is right now evolved from working with watercolors, acrylics on and with pre-pigmented hand made papers that I created paintings with on canvas when I first started as professional artist.
How did you start working with washi and how does it compare to other paper? As I evolved further into my career I wanted more control of my surface texture, color palettes with my my painting, that is when I started purchasing Washi/Mulberry Papers from Hiromi about 8 years ago. I started with using mulberry thin and thick papers and pigmented them with liquid acrylics and acrylic dyes. This evolution set my standard and quality of work way above how I was using the other papers before in my paintings. I also use the pigmented mulberry papers on the wood sculptures that I create. The paper used on my sculptures really connects my paintings and sculpture as definable as a Lisa Jennings trademark and people identify my work because of my unique technique process in both my painting and sculpting processes. I get totally lost and am so passionate with the all the experimentation that I have done using Hiromi quality papers. I started ordering this past year some of the thicker Nepal Lhakpa Thick and thin Natural, Khadi and also DHM Triple Thick Paper. I love to work with these papers with the the liquid acrylic and acrylic dyes plus sewing and batik resist.
What are some characteristics that you like about the washi that you use? I love the versatility of the thick and thin mulberry papers. I love the strength of the thick/thin mulberry papers and how it holds up when I pigment it also using batik resist and sewn areas, then applying it with matte medium to the canvas or wood. The papers don’t easily tare or wear off with brushing on the matte medium. I trust the quality of the papers that I use as a professional artist that I am using something that is archival with my techniques for both my paintings and sculptures! I love the organic look and feel. My work is referenced to as primitive modern so the organic texture that lends itself with the Lhakpa thick and thin papers is so luscious to integrate into my works. I love being able to sew and batik resist on the thick and Lhakpa papers.
Do you have any advice for people starting to work with japanese papers? Firstly, I would suggest that people interested in papers research about papers and what their uses are for, how they are made, how archival and versatile they might be for different outcomes. Research is the key for me in anything that I do to integrate something more into my art practice. I would suggest that people who want to experiment more about using Japanese papers should use smaller sheets at first, perhaps use different types until they find the specific ones that work well with their techniques, mediums or purpose of what their desired outcome is from using the papers. Lastly play! Let your creative inner child come out! There are no mistakes when it comes to creating!