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Introducing Awagami Papers

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Education at The Paint Spot is presented in many forms from demonstrations and workshops to videos and blog posts. We believe in helping artists understand the labour, time and care that goes into making handmade art materials. The more you know about your materials the better you can evaluate them and make choices on how to use them. However, we are artists too and understand that using precious materials may be intimidating and (gasp) sometimes we can feel unworthy.

Today, you’re invited to read about the history and process of paper making; in particular, Japanese Washi paper making. Let the words below inspire you. We hope the next time you are selecting washi papers, you feel empowered and aware that your work is supported by a rich artisan tradition and that many hands are collaborating with you. Be fearless! After all, it is only paper.

Awagami Fine Art Paper is made by combination of traditional and innovative paper making techniques to develop unique papers for printing, printmaking, calligraphy, bookbinding and conservation of paper borne art. I read the 16-page Glossary at lunch today. It reads like romantic poetry. It is full of new words and phrases to exactly describe the process of paper making. The post below is excerpt from Awagami Factory website.

We also have a quick read called  “ How Washi is Made” by the Japanese Paper Place. 


“Awagami Factory” is a brand of Japanese washi papers produced solely in Tokushima, Japan. Awagami operates on 8 generations of family knowledge and skill focusing on quality and refinement within this world-heritage craft. Awagami papers are used by the worlds leading artists, photographers, designers, bookbinders and conservators and unlike other washi of unknown origin, guarantee their papers 100%.Awagami Washi Collection


The original papermaking technique came from China and quickly spread throughout Japan. This evolved into washi that reflected the special skills of the papermaker, the feelings of the people and the area (materials, climate, and traditions). Many types of washi reflect their area of production in their names, such as Awa (Tokushima), Tosa (Kochi), Mino (Fukui) and Sekishu (Shimane) prefectures.
According to the Kogoshui (807A.D.), an ancient record, Awa prospered due to the production of paper and cloth from the locally grown hemp and paper mulberry(kozo). Since the god, Amenohiwashinomikoto, an ancestor of the ruling Inbe clan, made the first paper in Awa, this technique has been transmitted down through the generations until today. During the Edo period, various kinds of paper from Awa became well known, especially the indigo dyed washi. This was even exhibited at the 1890 Paris Expo and today, remains a special product of Tokushima.

During the Meiji era, when washi production was at its peak, there were 500 manufactures in the Yoshino River area and 200 in this Kawata River area. However, it was also the beginning of the decline for washi, as the demand for Western paper instead.

The tradition of washi making is not a thing of the past but is something to be maintained and passed to the next generation.

The Awagami Factory was established to preserve and broaden the awareness for the beauty, strength and sensitivity of washi.   >>>READ MORE HISTORY

Making paper images

The Basic Paper Making Process

The beaten fiber is added to the water in large vat called a sukibune. Usually the amount of fiber is equal to about 1% of the amount of water in the vat and this is mixed well to evenly disperse the fibers. Then a mucilage glue called ‘neri’ is added, the amount depends on the kind of paper to be made. If too little neri is added, the water drains too quickly for the pulp mixture to be flowed repeatedly over the screen surface; too much and it drains too slowly resulting in paper that is difficult to remove from the screen. (see Glossary for more information on neri.)

The nagashizuki method requires that the fiber mixture be constantly in motion over the surface of the screen. The sheet of paper is formed by three basic actions, KAKENAGASHI, CHOSHI and SUTEMIZU. The actual motions involved varies according to the kind of fiber used, paper to be made and the individual papermaker. It is said that on the average, and depending on the kind of paper, a single sheet of paper takes one minute to complete; resulting in about 40 sheets per hour (allowing time to add pulp and neri to the vat) or about 300 sheets per day.

Once the three basic actions are mastered, improvement comes with the elimination of all unnecessary or wasted movements. Depending on the size of the mould, it can become very heavy when it contains the fiber mixture during the papermaking process. To help counter the weight and movement of the mixture, the mould is supported by a YUMI, an overhead suspension system. Traditionally these were made from bamboo but now high tension springs are often used. The suspension system is attached to the center back part of the lower portion of the mould and to the handles of the mould. Smaller moulds are suspended only from the handles.

The screen and the completed sheet of paper is removed from the keta and in a smooth overhead motion it is moved from the mould to the SHITODAI or couching stand. The couching stand is placed directly behind the papermaker and has a flat surface unlike the curved surface of the Western style couching stand. The flexible screen is aligned with the guides or JOGI attached to the stand, to insure the accurate placement of the new sheet directly on top of the previous sheet. The edge closest to the papermaker is laid down and the flexible screen is kept at a 90° angle as it is carefully lowered to prevent trapping any air between the sheets. When the entire screen and the new paper is laid on the post, the screen is lifted starting from the edge nearest the papermaker then peeled off away from the papermaker, and replaced in the mould but with the opposite side of the screen now facing up. This insures even use of both sides of the screen and prevents the build-up of any fiber residue on the surface that may interfere with the smooth removal of the new paper. If the papermaker will not immediately make another sheet of paper, the screen is left on top of the papers on the post to prevent the surface of the top sheet from drying out.


Couching the Paper.

The post of newly made papers is lightly weighted and allowed to drain naturally overnight. The next day, it is put into the ASSAKUKI or press and gradually pressed until about 30% of the moisture is removed. Traditionally a counter-weighted press was used but nowadays hydraulic presses are also used.The pressed papers are carefully removed one by one from the post and brushed onto boards to dry naturally (ITA BOSHI) or onto steam heated metal surfaces (KANSO-KI) to dry quickly. The drying method, natural or mechanical, affects the finished paper, so the drying method is matched with the kind of paper made. (see Glossary for more information on drying).  ITABOSHI-Board drying the papers. In the old days, the finished papers were then cut by hand into specific sizes and also to remove the deckled edges. Nowadays the rough or deckled edges are maintained as an indication of its manufacture by hand. The finished papers may be treated with DOSA (a sizing to prevent ink bleeding), KONNYAKU (a starch derived sizing for wet strength) or KAKISHIBU (persimmon tannin). It may also be dyed with chemical or natural dyes or textured to make paper like MOMIGAMI (a randomly crumpled paper) or CHIRIMENGAMI (a crepe textured paper). The completed papers are then made available for sale after a final check and grading.


Awagami Print Chart



< Preface
Introduction-Following the Paper Trail
Pre-paper History
The Beginning of True Paper
Papermaking in Japan
Awa Washi and the Fujimori Family
Washi-Tamezuki and Nagashizuki
From Plant to Paper (the process of making washi from kozo)
Harvesting the Bast Fiber
The History of Awa Washi
Preparation of the Fibers
The Basic Tools and Equipment
The Basic Papermaking Process
Western Paper and Washi


Hall of Awa

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