Japanese papermaking as UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage

On November 27th, UNESCO officially registered “Washi: handmade Japanese papermaking and techniques” into the ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’. The specific types of washi that were recognized were: Sekishu Banshi (Shimane prefecture), Hon Mino-shi (Gifu) and Hosokawa-shi (Saitama).

376399_266922766747850_539337155_n(Original Japanese article can be found here)

What is significant about these three types of washi?

1) Made with 100% kozo

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Japanese papers (washi) are primarily made using kozo, gampi or mitsumata fibers. Other materials such as wood pulp and hemp are used, to create different textures of washi. The three papers that were chosen for UNESCO only use kozo, which has longer fibers, which creates a beautiful and strong paper.

2) Using only domestic materials

Nowadays, many papermakers rely on foreign-grown kozo (Philippines, Thailand, China, etc) because of the availability and low cost. Though these foreign-grown kozo fibers are similar to those grown domestically, there are issues of them leaving flecks of oils within the finished paper; lowering the overall quality of the papers.

Sekishu uses kozo grown locally, Hon-Mino-shi uses the highest quality Nasu kozo and Hosokawa-shi uses local or Kochi kozo.

The continuing decrease of kozo farmers is another existing concern. They can be cultivated, but the return of income is so much lower compared to other industries. There have been efforts to cultivate Japanese kozo on foreign land using planting stock, but the quality of course will not be the same.

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3) Whitens over time

Usually, chemical additives are used in papermaking to bleach the fibers to create a whiter paper. However, the three selected regions do not add any chemicals during their process, which makes the paper become whiter and whiter over time.

Papers that have been chlorine bleached are a pure bright white color in the beginning, but after being exposed to sunlight over time, the ultra-violet rays turn the papers yellow.

4) Water

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The quality of water is also an important element in papermaking. The kozo fibers are usually immersed in water to wash away dirt and impurities, or “chiri”. This is why all papermaking regions have close access to natural water.

5) Nagashizuki method

The three selected regions all use the traditional Japanese papermaking method of nagashizuki. Contrary to the tamezuki method where the water is simply drained from the papermaking screen, nagashizuki is done by moving the mold, creating a weave of fibers.

6) Wet strength

It is said that handmade papers are much stronger to water compared to machinemade papers. Papers that have been carefully dried in the sun are especially resistant to falling apart in water.

It is fantastic news that washi and the techniques have been recognized internationally by UNESCO, and would hope that Japanese papermaking and related industries will attract more attention from this.

Artist Feature: Jalal Poehlman of Poehlman Press

Poehlman Press
Phone: 213.344.9692

I had the pleasure of visiting Poehlman Press, a fine-art printing studio in Downtown Los Angeles. Jalal Poehlman, artist and founder of Poehlman Press, works closely with each individual for every printing job. His clientele ranges from artists around the world, galleries, photographers, exclusive hotels, casinos, and more, many of which continuously come back for multiple projects. Some of his favorite projects include photographer Hannah Collins for the Ford Foundation and John Baldessari in 2002. Jalal showed me around his printing studio and a few of his wonderful prints. He also shared some insight on printing with paper and profiles. This led into a collaboration project we are working on with Jalal to print on washi for people to see at our retail location. Here is a little Q&A with Jalal Poehlman on printing:

How did you get into the profession of printing?

As an art student in the 90s, I became interested in ways to output digitally created artwork. After reading Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility”, I became fascinated by the potential of reaching a larger and more diverse audience through digital and mechanical reproduction. At that time, there was only one type of printer that came close to producing similar image quality of a traditionally exposed color photograph. That printer was the venerable IRIS inkjet printer, which had the unique advantage of the ability to make those prints on a large variety of art papers, including washi. Very few people had done the engineering necessary to convert these $126,000 complex and finicky pre-press proofing systems to produce fine art. One of those pioneers is a man named Jack Duganne who is the owner and master print maker at Duganne Ateliers in Santa Monica. After leaving graduate school and landing in Los Angeles I asked around about who was doing the best digital printmaking in Los Angeles and I was told a number of times that it was Jack Duganne. Because I could not otherwise afford to learn and use the technology I needed in order to produce my artwork I knocked on Jack’s door and asked him for a job. Jack is a great teacher and lovely human being and 15 years later and with much thanks to him here I am.

What are some differences with printing on washi compared to other paper?

Washi papers offer much more variety of texture, weight, tone and color as compared to other papers and especially to other fine art quality inkjet papers. Washi papers also tend to be much stronger than western cotton papers and like gampi for example, can remain strong as a very thin and translucent material.

Lastly, do you have any advice or tips with printing on washi for people?

Ideally when printing fine art and photography, custom profiling including sophisticated ink-limiting and linearisation should be performed for each ink/paper/resolution combination. When that is done, the maximum imaging potential of each paper is achieved. I use professional profiling hardware and software as well as a third party RIP to maximize print quality and accuracy.

Short of the professional approach, I have a few tips for printing washi on a high quality inkjet printer such as offered by HP, Canon, and Epson. Generally, the brighter white the paper is, the better color and contrast you will be able to achieve. Ironically, the dominant inkjet printer technology is Japanese and I have never seen a washi printing preset in any print drivers. Perhaps that is because of the huge variety of hand and machine made washi papers available. The paper settings in your print driver among other things controls the amount of ink that is allowed to go onto the paper. Coated washi papers can accept more ink than uncoated papers, they will give the best results. Experiment with fine art paper settings when using coated washi paper. When using uncoated papers, I’ve found that picking a plain paper setting often works best. When an image doesn’t come out as brilliantly as we want sometimes the first instinct is to lay down more ink. Quite often we are overloading the paper giving us muddy looking prints. Better results may be obtained from laying down less ink.
Thank You, Jalal!

Celebrate Hiromi Paper’s 25th Anniversary with Us!

Date: September 28th, 2013 (Saturday)
Time: 6.30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Location: Hiromi Paper, Bergamot Station.
2525 Michigan Ave, Suite G-9
Santa Monica, CA 90404

25 years ago Hiromi Paper opened to serve a connection between Japanese paper-makers and artists around the world. This year we will be celebrating our quarter century anniversary and we would love to have you join in on our festivities! An evening reception will take place right at Bergamot Station, where our retail store is located. We will also be joined by paper-makers from Kochi and Fukui, Japan. Stop by for some drinks, grub, and to mingle with fellow paper/art lovers and makers! There will also be a special 25% discount off all items in-store on the day of the reception party.

Please RSVP by calling or emailing.

Apron

Check out our new aprons, which we will be selling for $15.00! Contact us for more information.

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”

Drypoint Woodblock Printing & Kite Making Workshop

Date: Sunday, September 11, 2011
Time: 1 pm – 5 pm
Location: Bergamot Station/Hiromi Paper G-9
Class limit: 12 maximum
Price: $60.00

Class: Join our group of artists at Hiromi Paper, Inc. to learn how to
drypoint on wood and print your design on your choice of handmade
paper suitable for kitemaking. You will learn simple bamboo sparring
techniques to make your print into flyable art kite.

Skill Level: Adult or 14 years+ with adult assistance

Teachers:
Scott Skinner, Art Kitemaker
Christine Yuengling-Niles, Print Artist
Jose Sainz, Art Kitemaker

Materials Needed: Will be supplied, you will only have to purchase paper.
*Materials listed are subject to change.

Reserve your spot today by sending us your full payment in-store, by phone,
fax, or email.

No refunds if cancelled less than 2 weeks before the workshop date.

Learn more about art kites at http://www.drachen.org/

Recycling: Washi Tales – LACMA Performance

Recycling: Washi Tales by Kyoko Ibe
                LACMA PERFORMANCE

Thursday, September 22, 2011 | 8 pm |  Bing Theater LACMA

Recycling: Washi Tales brings to life through performance, the human stories contained in sheets of handmade Japanese paper (washi).

In Japan, authentic beauty is found in the old, and washi is made when existing paper is
disassembled, beaten into pulp, and stretched anew on bamboo frames. In this performance, a papermaker cradles old documents in her hands. As she creates new undulating sheets onstage from these records of history, four narratives emerge: life in a 19th-century village, a tragic betrayal for a young wife, the austere elegance of the tea ceremony, and a loss transformed into everlasting life.

An extraordinary ensemble of performers and musicians, including 15th generation Noh drummer, Shonosuke Okura, Biwa player Shisui Arai, vocalist Makiko Sakurai, performer Karen Kandel, and actor Sonoko Soeda, in a world created by distinguished paper artist, Kyoko Ibe.

This performance is held in conjunction with the installation, Washi Tales: The Paper Art of Ibe Kyoko, on view September 1 through November 28, 2011 at the Japanese Art Pavilion.

Tickets: $25 general admission; $20 LACMA members, seniors 65+ and students with ID.
Tickets: 323 857–6010 or purchase online (http://www.lacma.org/event/washi-tales) Ticket price includes admission to the installation.

Learn more: www.washitales.com or contact us at
washi (at) hiromipaper (dot) com