The final travelogue of my travels to Korea and Japan, 2014.
While in Japan, I visited 3 cities besides Osaka. I took the Japan Railway up to Echizen, and stayed 2 days with Rina Aoki in the paper making village of Echizen Washi. I then traveled up to Kanazawa and stayed overnight to explore this city known for its gold leaf production. (The day before I came home, I traveled to the port of Ono and got on a ferry to the island of Naoshima. There are many art museums, installations and activity focused on contemporary art, including the gorgeous Chi Chu Museum by Tadeo Ando.) In the paper making village, I was able to sense how things were in long ago Japan. Many of the paper producing studios are rustic, having been built years ago. Rina’s house is also of this period. While it contains modern conveniences, the natural world comes in through the window at night and during the day, even inside, the weather is clearly felt. Here the natural world is immediately present.
Paper making frame.
Cleaning pulp by hand.
The hand processes used to make fine Japanese papers are incredible to take in. Here the harmony with the natural world and the honoring of that relationship is most clearly understood. Raw material arrives in bundles. It is soaked and stripped, and then hand cleaned before it is beaten into pulp. The paper slurry is in large bins. Depending on the kind of paper being made, glue is added or not added to the slurry. The mastery of the sense of touch was everywhere. I kept thinking how much the paper makers’ hands know. The various paper studios produce what the market needs. The largest studio employs about 30 people and makes paper that is as large as 4 or 5 feet by 5 or 6 feet. I did not get exact sizes, but am approximating by the wooden frames for forming sheets hanging on the wall.
Laying out wet paper to be dried.
When I was learning watercolor with Larry Rathsack, he taught us to pay attention to the wide array of paper available. In essence, he taught us to be “paper sensitive”. I thought of him while I was in the village, knowing my sensitivity to paper is forever altered because of the opportunity to be this close to it’s creation. Mr. Osada produces textured and filigreed papers. He has designed standing paper lamps using the idea of the strength of paper. Our visit with him extended to a longer visit with him at his house. He has done a great deal to encourage and market the paper making industry of Echizen. For over 10 years he organized a yearly exhibition of contemporary paper works called “ArtCamp”.
Two lamps by Mr. Osada.
Filigree paper by Mr. Osada.
Mr. Osada working.
Before I left Echizen, I visited the cooperative paper store. Most paper makers of the village have their goods available at this store. I bought a wide variety of papers. Over the past 6 months I have experimented with gilding on textured and patterned papers. These beautiful papers will provide me with an extended foray into experimentation. While in Kanazawa I learned a great deal about gilding on paper. I visited with shop owners about tools, processes and materials. I’m prepared to gild on paper with a new approach, and curious about the prospects and possibilities of doing so.
Mr. Fukuka marbelizing paper.