Lasting Beauty and Uniqueness of Hanji

by Bohyung Kim

Hanji refers to Korean traditional handmade paper. ‘Han’ means Korea and ‘Ji’, paper. This term was coined in the early 20th century after Yang(western) Ji(paper) was introduced in Korea to distinguish traditional handmade papers from machine made western papers. In the course of 1,300 years of papermaking history, Korean papermakers refined Hanji with an original vision and handmade paper was an indispensable material of daily life, until lifestyle became widely westernized in Korea. Hanji was used not only for calligraphy, painting, and books, but also for doors, walls, windows, furniture, umbrellas, lanterns, boxes, baskets, fans, shoes, and clothes. Koreans used paper even in flooring, as part of Ondol, heated floor.

Hanji is beautiful to look at and touch, but its true value lies in what is not readily recognizable on the surface. Main material for Hanji is simple: Dak (paper mulberry), Hwang Chok Kyu (natural formation aid), and clean water. There are no fillers or additives. Compared to paper mulberry found in warmer regions of Asia, Korean Dak is known for its long, flexible, and strong fiber. Hanji is naturally PH neutral and has incomparable longevity. Excellent example of Hanji’s longevity is Mugujeonggwang Daedaranigyeong (Pure Light Dharani Sutra, circa 751 C.E., National Treasure 126), which was discovered inside a pagoda of Bulguksa Temple in Gyeongju, Korea in 1966. Believed to be the oldest woodblock print in the world, this scroll, printed on Dak, was intact except for small areas of moth damage on the backside at the time of discovery.

Korea’s paper formation technique is distinct. Often referred to as Webal, this unique technique allows the fibers to accumulate in crisscross formation without a dominant grain direction. Each Yin Yang Ji is composed of two sub-layers, yin and yang, dried as one, which attributes to its name. Yin Yang Ji is strong, dimensionally stable and does not tear easily in either direction. It maintains even expansion and contraction rates in both directions and does not change final dimensions after drying, which could be particularly useful for certain conservation treatments and printmaking. Even the lightest Yin Yang Ji is much stronger than other papers with same thickness. Another characteristic that distinguishes Yin Yang Ji is the chain lines. Chain lines in Korean Bal (screen) do not run the entire length of the screen, but end in the middle and shift alignment for the other half. This prevents chain lines from overlapping and weakening that area of the paper. Fiber formation in multiple direction, yin and yang layers in one sheet, and alternating chain lines are all special attributes of Yin Yang Ji.

Webal formation

Webal formation

Some Hanji are treated with an extra finishing process called Dochim, during which the sheets are pounded repeatedly to make a compact and smooth surface. Dochim results in added strength and subtle sheen. It is an extra step for the highest quality Hanji which requires an amazing amount of care, physical effort, and most importantly, intuition.

Before (top) and after (bottom) Dochim process
Before (top) and after (bottom) Dochim process

Hanji Paper available at HPI

***Hiromi Paper was established over 20 years ago to keep the traditional Japanese handmade paper technique alive and accessible around the world. In continuing to do so, we have decided to also introduce traditional Korean handmade paper, so look for more Hanji additions in the future!

Spring’s Washi

by Satoshi Hasegawa
Hasegawa Washi Kobo

Ume no Hana
Ume no Hana

As March draws closer in Mino, the sunlight and warmth can be felt. Even as we are drying paper, a lighter feeling to the body of the paper is felt.  In the garden, lovely plum flowers (Ume no Hana) come in to bloom and there is the sense that spring is coming in the order of the course of one’s work.  However, there are some troubles that come with this time.  It is the time that the East Asian yellow dust from China and the Japanese cedar pollen comes.  To start with the yellow dust season, the dust from the distant Chinese continent gets taken on an air current and the small Gobi Desert sand flies in. It is like a dim haze as far as the eye can see, giving a feeling of smothering. Just when it appears the yellow dust has paused, the pollen from Japanese cedar comes next.  With mountains and forests surrounding the work area, seeing the dispersal of pollen feels as though you are shivering.

Japanese Cypress
Japanese Cypress Woods

As the springtime wind blows through the Japanese cedar woods, a band of amber is upsurges and it appears as if smoke has come from the whole mountain area. Since coming to Mino, I have been plagued by allergies to pollen, but will have to endure the time from February to May no matter what.

March to May marks the last stage of the season for making washi, but because the weather stabilizes, we can continue working relatively well. Making washi in the workroom mostly goes on uninterrupted, but endless sneezing and runny noses are to be had when drying the paper in the sunlight and sorting through the sun-dried paper. Sun drying paper is limited to outside the workroom, and during that time cedar and cypress pollen are certain to slip in. I often hear from various Japanese consumers who use the paper to repair their homes that they are always sneezing. Perhaps overseas users too have certainly felt this. If you sneeze when handling washi, do remember this article. It is spring’s washi.

Tools for Handmade Washi

by Tsuyoshi Ageta
Kochi Washi Coop

Handmade Japanese paper (washi) consists of the paper materials, tools, and papermaking techniques. This time, I will talk about the tools.  To make washi is a very demanding task, moreover making the tools used for Washi requires extraordinarily delicate skills. The principal tool in making washi is the su and the keta. Primarily made of bamboo, the su is used to thinly spread the pulp material on when making the paper.

Bamboo Splinta

The inner layer of the bamboo is chipped off and then the skin is split to form bamboo splints, which are used to form into sheets. The nodes of the bamboo cannot be used for the bamboo splints, so only the length between the nodes is used. Bamboo splints that differ in thickness cannot be used in the same su, only the splints that are equal thickness are used. The length of a bamboo splint is generally up to 16-18 inches long and they are carefully braided together one at a time. The thickness of the bamboo splints differs depending on the paper being made. Heavier paper requires thicker splints, and lighter paper requires thinner splints. Even when making only one su, 3000 splints are generally needed, so it can take from one week to 10 days to complete.

Suketa
Su + Keta = Suketa

Next is the keta, which is the wooden frame the su is inserted into. Making the keta requires even greater technique than making the su. The material for the keta comes from Hinoki Cypress that is no less than 400 years old. The keta has to be light because it will be filled with water and the soaked paper materials. It also has to be strong enough to withstand intense swinging actions during the paper making process as well as stay in tact despite all the water that seeps in. For these reasons, the Hinoki Cypress that is used has to be dehydrated for several years. This adds the degree in difficulty for the washi tool making technique and testing the materials is very important.

Braiding the bamboo splints into a Su
Braiding splints into a Su

Other than the su and keta, there are the metal fixtures for the keta, the silk threads for braiding the su, and the brush used to dry the washi. All of these require advanced techniques and careful picking of the ingredients necessary to make them. Right now, there are approximately 30 people in Japan who are occupied with making the tools for washi, with the core of it advancing to 80 years in age. For the future of washi, Kochi prefecture holds an annual “Nationwide Preservation of Handmade Japanese Paper Tool Making Techniques” to train succeeding generations.

Washi Tools Available at HPI


Coming Soon to HPI

MAGICAL SECRETS ABOUT CHINE COLLÉ:
PASTING, PRINTING, MOUNTING, AND LEAFING

by Brian Shure. DVD included.

$55

Magical Secrets

Brian Shure has expanded and revised his popular Chine Collé: a Printer’s Handbook (Crown Point Press, 2000) to create the fourth book in the Magical Secrets series. Magical Secrets about Chine Collé gives step-by-step instructions for printing and pasting to a support sheet, and adapts chine collé techniques for working with collage and mounting paper, fabric, and other materials with or without a press. Additional chapters discuss sizing paper or fabric, gold leafing, and scroll mounting. Illustrated with color step-by-step photographs, and the included DVD demonstrates the processes.

World of Washi

As announced on the hiromipaper frontpage:

The upcoming World of Washi Spring Newsletter will be our last printed edition. Newsletters after that will be available on hiromipaper.com only, and we will notify updates through email. Therefore, please contact us with your e-mail addresses if we do not already have them.

You can send us your name and e-mail address to washi @ hiromipaper .com
call us at 1-866 HP WASHI(1-866-479-2744) or 310-998-0098,
or use the sign up sheet in our store. Thank you!

We have just finished proofing the spring issue coming up and that should be mailed out by the end of the month. As stated, it will be the last printed newsletter indefinitely.  Past articles be found on the website, but we are also planning to post the articles and updates from future World of Washi issues here, on our blog! Starting next week, I will post parts of the spring issue daily, even before it is mailed out.

Otherwise, I am off to Boston for some personal time until Tuesday, see you next week!

CAA 2009

Back in Los Angeles after ten years, the College Art Association 97th Annual Conference (CAA) took place at the LA convention center. It was also our return to the CAA Book and Trade Fair as a vendor in 10 years! The CAA annual conference is the “world’s largest international forum for professionals in the visual arts”. Taking place in our own hometown meant that we were able to bring more supplies and allow every staff member to join in and experience the conference. So, we took turns exhibiting in pairs each of the 3 days met many new faces, as well as some old acquaintances that attended. Not only did we meet people at the conference, but many attendants also made their way to our store in Santa Monica, so thank you to those who dropped by!

On Wednesday, February 25th, Hiromi, Frank, and I (Yona) headed off to downtown in the morning with supplies, display boards, and products for the setup. The LA Convention center is quite large, but it was not so difficult to find our way around. We registered and made our way to our booth when we realized in horror that we did not have any tables or chairs! Turns out they came as “extras”, so we ordered them right away and waited until they were delivered to our station so that we could setup.

Thursday, Felicia and Jennifer started off the opening day and manned the booth from 9am-6pm!

People were happy to see us exhibiting at CAA this year along with the
publishers of fine art books and other suppliers of art making materials.
Hiromi occupies a unique place on the West Coast as a primary import agent
of Washi and often people who have recently visited Japan say they had not
seen a business such as hers. -Felicia

Then, on Friday, Sachi and I took our place. Closing day on Saturday, Hiromi and Frank took their turn at the booth.

It was a wonderful experience! – Frank

CAA 2009

Sachi  at the HPI booth

This time, we brought newly printed samples on our inkjet paper from Japan and Kristina Simonsen. We also made a display of recommended art paper along with our Gampi collection. Samples of our latest paper creation “Toyo” came in just in time, so we passed them along in hopes of getting feedback for our store. We also got in some Asuka samples to pass out, along with selected paper (like paperwood and Yucatan), sample books, and catalogues to sell. As with our usual conference policy, catalogues are discounted at $2.00 and attendants enjoy free shipping if ordered at the booth!

From my experience at CAA, we met a wide range of people at the fair. From teachers and professors, to printmakers, to art students, and even some people I had met at Codex! Like Hiromi’s good friend Harry Reese of Turkey Press in Santa Barbara, who is a CAA committee member, and Archana Horsting, co-founder and executive director of Kala Art Institute.

Now, we are preparing for the SGC in Chicago next week, we are on a roll!

Codex 2009

Very early Sunday morning of February 8th, HPI staff members Jennifer and I (Yona), headed out from southern California to Berkeley for the second ever Codex Symposium as a vendor at the Bookfair that went on from Feb. 8-11th. This was a first for HPI as well as a first for Jennifer and I being on our own, so we had to prepare for the unknown. What we did know was that it would be a gathering of fine book artists, printmakers, curators, collectors, and more. We were not only right, but was also overwhelmed by the number of book art vendors and their works. There was too much to see in one room! Perhaps luckily for us, our booth was situated outside of the main room with other suppliers. We were able to enter the larger room of exhibits on our breaks and join the crowds.

codex booth 2009

Our booth itself was covered with our paper (Yucatan, Katazome, Gampi Torinoko, Mohachi, Anna Amalia, and Brazilian Banana), all of our sample books, our latest catalogue, inkjet/digital samplers, and Orihon. Behind us loomed our display board with cut out samples of Gampi, Kozo, Berlin Tissue, and more, which people were free to walk up to feel. I would say our booth was like a peek into our store in Bergamot!

Despite being new at Codex, we felt very welcomed by the other exhibitors, several being acquaintances of Hiromi and our paper. We were delighted each time someone would stop by to show us our paper in their beautiful books, and we learned alot from that experience. To top it off, Jennifer and I were able to spend the mornings visiting various studios and get a first hand look into their world and how our paper is used.

magnolia editions codex 2009

Pictured above is Jennifer and David Kimball of Magnolia Editions next to one of their newest printers, which can print on just about anything! Next, we visited the Zukor Art Conservation studio, receiving a look into the world of conservation. The place was also very tidy and bright, we loved it there. Kala Art Institute was another must-see in Berkeley, we learned quite a bit touring the different workstations and the gallery. One of our guides Kazuko showed us some of her etchings as well as the Aya rolls we sent her, I hope to see more of her work in the future! Next, we visited Paulson Press and were very fortunate to catch them in the process of etching. It sure looks like a fun job! 🙂 Last, but certainly not least, we visited Hiromi’s good friends Miyuki of Miki’s Paper and fellow Codex exhibitor John DeMerritt who showed us the binding of our Gampi paper to the spine of their latest book project, which needless to say was very neat to see.

So, we had a lovely, though short, time at Berkeley in our booth at Codex as well as out in the city, visiting studios and HPI friends.