Friday, 21 September 2012

Precious Paper

So, day 2 of Washi Paper making;  and once again, I have to remind myself, the reason I am here.  It's really hard to communicate the value of this paper to the people of Mino and Japan I think.  It's highly prized for it's lightness and strength.  It is used for print making as well as making Akari lamp shades.  It's also used in the construction of room dividing screens, it's just amazing stuff.  We've been given the chance to learn how to make the paper in a four day course.  We're given the basics and have been allowed to run amok in the workshop, testing new and unsusual ways of working; our approach is un-hindred by years of repeated making, so some of the results have been really interesting, both for us and the local people.  

 Mino Paper Museum and Workshop Facility

The method for making Mino, (the town) Washi, (paper) is called a 'discharge' method.  The fibres of wood are extracted form plants such as Kozo(Mulberry), Mitsumata and Gampi.  The wood goes through a lengthy process of soaking, stripping, boiling and parting, before being mixed in a large, deep sink with  a gloopy substance, (also extracted from the roots of plants).  The whole mixture is churned by hand and this suspends the fibres evenly in the water.  The next stage, is called 'scopping'.  A wooden frame, (the 'Suketa') is dipped into the liquid mixture and swing backwards and forwards; and from side to side.  These actions disperse and discharge paper fibre, evenly over the bamboo mesh at the base of the frame.  The video below shows how it should be done.  The woman performing the process is a highly respected local crafts person whom we just happened to witness today. Check out her skill and the way she sways from side to side and back and forth....I bet shes a great ballroom dancer!


You know, I really didn't think I would get the hang of it, but by the end of yesterday, I was producing basic sheets of paper....really.  I'm hooked too, the repetitive process, the atmosphere in the workshop, it's all so calming, meditational almost. 

 Newspaper, sandwiched between layers of washi.

We made this!!

I'll leave it there as my dinner is almost ready - can't be late:-/, will post more details and examples of work at some point soon.