In the mountainous region of Niigata, Japan lies the papermaking studio of Kadoide Washi headed by Yasuo Kobayashi and his wife Kikuko. I had the pleasure of visiting Kobayashi-san and his family at his studio in September 2022. The town of Kashiwazaki is located two hours northwest of Tokyo by train and the papermaking studio is a 20 minute drive from the nearby train station. Although it was still September when I visited and the surrounding mountains and forests were a lustrous green, I was told that in prime winter, the landscapes I was seeing would turn entirely white to be covered in heavy snow. Winter and snow are words that came up in conversation numerous times during my visit, as the winters in those regions are harsh and unavoidable.
Kobayashi san was born and raised in Niigata and has spent his whole life in this region. He knows firsthand both the immense beauty and the precarious fierceness of nature and what it means to coexist with mother nature and often work around the conditions. For reference, certain areas of Niigata Prefecture receive up to 8m (26 feet) of snow a year!
Kobayashi san refuses to call himself a papermaker, but a ‘farmer’ that occasionally makes papers on the side. Aside from paper, he maintains his own kozo and rice fields. He also grows his own vegetables and cares for a flock of hens that lay eggs daily. He is of course being extremely humble, as Kobayashi-san founded the Kadoide Washi Association in 1976 and since then has been working tirelessly to promote Kadoide papers as well as educate people on traditional Japanese papermaking methods. He has also been deeply involved in projects to stimulate the development of washi, promoting exchanges between urban and rural areas, repairing thatched houses and recreating them as lodging that visitors can stay at. Kadoide Washi is most known for partnering with the sake company Asahi Shuzo to make handmade papers for their Kubota brand in 1985 and have been producing papers for the sake labels ever since.
Hiromi Paper is thrilled to introduce four new papers from Kadoide Washi. All of the papers have been snow bleached, where the kozo bark is laid out in the snow to bleach naturally. Kadoide paper is also unique in the bamboo screens that are used. A Kobayashi original, his “udasu” screens are made with bamboo strips of differing widths woven alternately to create more depth in the laid lines. Kadoide Washi is available in three weights (19gsm, 32gsm and 89gsm).
Back in October 2019, Hiromi made a trip to the papermaking village of San Pablito in Puebla, Mexico to visit the Amate Paper makers. The village is situated on a mountainside, a five hour drive away from Mexico City. There, Efrain Daza and his family produce Amate paper using methods passed down from precolonial times.
Amate paper is an ancient bark paper first produced by the Aztec and Mayan civilizations. Amate was used in these societies for codices and ceremonial cut-outs. Amate paper was threatened with extinction in the mid-1800’s. Efrain’s family, belonging to the Otomi people, have been producing paper for three generations.
Amate paper is made with bark from the Jonote tree, which is first soaked or boiled, and then worked by hand. The intensity of the original dark brown fibers comes from the natural color of the harvested bark. Subtle changes lead to subtle changes in color between each batch. Bleaching and dying are employed to produce papers in a range of colors suitable for painting and drawing, in addition to decorative uses.
While lighter solid color papers provide a stable surface for painters and artisans to build color and image upon, a range of papers use negative space to create subtle patterns that contrast uniform repetition with the natural contours of the raw materials.
Amate papers can be made in various designs, sizes, and colors—contact Hiromi paper to inquire about special orders
This month, we hear from artist Hans Baumann who was commissioned by The ONWARD Project to research the archives of the Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley Expedition, eventually binding the found knowledge into a single edition handmade art book.
This project – titled “An Examination of the Legacy and Archives of the Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley Expedition” – is the culmination of an approximately 18-month period in 2019 and 2020 studying the archives of the Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley Expedition (RBMVE). It was commissioned by The ONWARD Project, a nonprofit that (in their own words) “inspires new understandings of history and place in the American Southwest.”
In addition to the material held by The ONWARD Project, I had the opportunity to visit the RBMVE archives at UCLA, as well as archaeological sites in Tsegi Canyon – specifically Bat Woman House and Twin Caves.
The project is structured around my interactions with these data and places in the present day, and I use the format of a handmade art book to attempt to contextualize the legacy of the Expedition from my (contemporary) perspective as an artist with a deep interest in the land.
In an attempt to make this document of interest to the specialist, I include transcribed interviews with various academics, archaeologists and media specialists and use our exchanges to guide my historical inquiry.
All materials for this project – paper, inks, binding, clay – are archival quality. This was my initial criteria for any material selection, as it is critical that this book be durable and have a viable trajectory (as an object) into the future. It is intended to communicate with generations beyond our own. Beyond this, I wanted the book to evoke the subject matter that it addresses.
Not only did I want it to feel “of” the archive, I wanted it to combine the colors and textures of Tsegi Canyon, as well as the grand transit of time that the book’s text addresses. The book’s enclosure is a ceramic slipcase and I went through an extended process of experimenting with various additives and finishes such that the ceramic feels somewhere between red Navajo sandstone and the many fractured and eroded potsherds found throughout the Canyon.
The book is bound in a post and screw style with nickel hardware and uses an undyed, half linen, half cotton book cloth, and the endsheets use an Amate paper made by Otomi craftsmen in Central Mexico.
This paper was chosen because its ivory and walnut tones call to mind the stacks of undyed sheep’s wool that can be seen drying on racks outside homes in Tsegi Canyon. This is a very specific and personal memory, but also a visual reference point that many others will have if they have been to the Canyon during shearing season.
The interior pages of the book use two types of paper. An acetate film is used when overlays are needed. Otherwise, I use a pure white Asuka paper from Japan.
I spent several weeks finding this paper, as I wanted to use something that would hold an image well but also be a pleasure to touch and to turn. Every archival quality Western paper that I encountered failed to meet all of these criteria, and I eventually chose this midweight washi paper for its distinct paper grain, its unobtrusive but pleasant texture and its ability to accept printed images with no bleeding or image degradation.
I would like to give special thanks to the Littlesalt and Austin families for allowing me to visit Tsegi Canyon. I would also like to thank Elizabeth Kahn, Madi Fair, Allison Fischer Olson, Ron Maldonado and Marydee and Chris Donnan for their time and assistance with the research component of this project, and to Prof. Snead, Eric Hanson and Andy Christenson for time and consideration throughout the interview process. Thanks to Joel Freeman for his assistance throughout the project. Additional thanks to Wendy Teeter and Sedonna Goeman-Shulsky for their generosity, patience and expertise as I explored the RBMVE archives at UCLA.
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 email@example.com.
ALL IMAGES ARE COPYRIGHT HIROMI PAPER, INC. For use of images you can inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!)