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Mino’s Washi maker Akira Goto has an unique method of making paper that looks like web of washi, mashed in many directions, yet it has the consistency of a perfect flat plane and texture. Malgorzata Niespodziewana (below) demonstrates his work by holding up a sheet in 2002

Artist in Residency is Japan’s key to promote their culture through the vision of practicing Artists. The Mino Paper Village project since 1998 have invited artists from all regions of the world to the city of Mino, a rural town in Japan’s Gifu prefecture which is historically known for its handmade paper called Washi.

In Japan, paper was known through Buddhism and was introduced in 548. Washi is a strong translucent paper with a history traced to the eighth century. The oldest remaining actual samples of Washi are in Mino, Gifu Chikuzen and Buzen family register paper 702.

Five international artists in 2002 came together in one small building and for three months they work and focused on ideas to turn the most beautiful paper in Japan in o three dimensional paper works of art.

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Malgorzata Niespodziewana, one of the five participating artists at the Mino paper village in 2002 desplaying a sheet of washi at Akira Goto’s studio.

Minopaper Richard Bolai ©2008

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The Pharaoh of Eternity

Never forget me

God remembered this question, she chose not to be concerned, he is, she giggled, afraid. Feinin asked again, why? The mammoth of Time thought, you already cherished the moment, but this time it wept. This great light says he is afraid of you.

Feinin just wanted to stop, he too was tired by the accusations. He had lost his desire for almost anything. Schiller looked in awe, he truly called to him to keep his tone of admiration smaller, this was needed to rip him open, to suffocate his truth. Lies, lies, lies. Feinin called, he answered quickly, dear dude, have you realized what shit you’ve caused, they are so afraid of the work. Feinin wanted to get at his core, Answer me, why?

The man wept, he fell on his knees and to the floor hiding his face, then he peeked to see if I was looking. In his heart Feinin saw one object, a small frighten white dove. In its blue eye, he saw a dirt road with high rises in its path. A carnival street banner stretched across the street, Devour what you steal draped over.

Feinin walked right under it, he took a match and lit a flame below. The banner screamed, it went in circles holding its hands over its ass. The cloth tore from the post, it lashed its back where it felt death, Jesus Christ, I’m never reading his blog again! As the cloth burned, it separated love. It tricked many over deception, money is all it takes.

Feinin looked at the last corner of the banner, he saw nothing but pictures as a reminder of a place he fell over onto the side of victory. The cloth symbolized his terror of the unknown, he chose now not to believe, never to worry. The flames feathered into the sky, the soot covered his face like a Golliwogg. It was the end.

Hail Schiller, Lord of magic, King of fortune, Raise him high where eagles see the king to be…

Feinin was concerned this evening that God tried, she tried to convince him Schiller was indeed him. Tomorrow you will discover money….

Feinin listened, he went to the bathroom and shaved his upper lip. God sat over her chair, she drank whiskey and picked at her hair, Love is not something you need, forget wanting it Schiller. Feinin looked in the mirror, he looked like the Pharaoh. This was not a surprise as they chose him to lead.

God, God have you heard, Feinin speaks a language of gibberish. Feinin was not energized, thinking of sex now was bothersome and tedious. He felt just living without any emotions. What does this Pharaoh what of me? why do I feel nothing if he is me?

The time piece, the shards of glass, the reflection of Eric, how more dark could it be? Well there is more, a huge giant above, it put his hands to around his mouth and whelped, Peter Pan, silly me, dream of a boat at sea. Feinin took a shard, he looked into it, just darkness, then one spiral approached, it stopped, turned and jumped on his nose. listen fat bloke, take off your shoe and knit around your toe, its freezing in here.


The owl and the scroll of fortune

The dolphin realized that the boat’s mooring left Gulliver angry. She also suggested to the Owl that the time was right to continue his journey. The anchor which she had plowed hooked onto a timepiece, a small clock that measured the emotions of the heart. Each beat drummed a different beat, each cord pucked a different tune.

Gulliver wiped his tears, they dropped softly on his clothes then trailed onto his body. Each tear it seems carried an emotion which Hieronymus Bosch projected. Love is never missed when love never exists. Bosch concurred that his painting spoke of a dream like experience, and that he loved to explore the human temptations, namely the deadly sins of man. Gluttony was top on the list.

Gulliver’s tears continued to roll, they trotted over a man he thought he could spend his whole life with. The man knew better, he knew never to separate truth from truth, love from affection. The tears that splattered on the floor measured time, the ducks that flowed, ceased.

Schiller reads: These are not Pharaohs, these are Gods of time

The dolphin clapped her flippers, she spouted water like a mushroom. The mushroom looked looked a tree, a tree that gave beauty and the abundance of life, over and over again.

…This flute you speak of, who follows its tune?

Schiller confronts Imhotep: My joy comes to me over you (spoken in Greek) this I see with my eyes, its irks, for you send me over in distance far from my birth. How I believe, now that (spoken in French / Italian /Spanish) is God. I bury your secrets with vengeance and fascination

Time and time again you don’t remember me


Feinin holds the magic scroll – inscription for everlasting peace

I sending you a message Schiller, I’m cussing of course because you failed. Like any, I got to see the truth in what you talk. Today like any other I was blessed with remorse over the truth set in lies above me. I’m siting between the gift of giving , but you, brother can’t stand it because hate is chasing you away I see.

This devil that sleeps close to me is choosing you as to part me. Schiller wrote in his poem, If jealousy reduces a man from his duty, if comradely can cause petty insults. I choose not.

At dust, Gulliver found himself weak, wrenched with worry. He stood up and sang a verse, Love him not, pink, blue dot, tossing his handkerchief over the yonder. Who was the man waving back at him? Was it a refection?

Help me father, I’ve changed him to believe you still care. He’s talking to the other from yonder, bring the kiss of death so Schiller may join you back.


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Origami paper cranes being burnt on the last day in Mino, Japan

In 2002, I arrived in Mino, Gifu prefecture on a three month washi paper residency. I was selected based on my handmade Artbooks and this was my first travels to the far East. Mino, however was a small rural town located in the region of Gifu prefecture, and including myself with four other artists, we set out to experience what this paper making residency had to offer to our art practice and of our perception of the place.

The Mino Paper Village Artists in Residency is a regimented programme. Artists are confined to the area with the exception of a ten day break there they are free to visit any other part of Japan. The goal of the organizers is to insure that most of the time is spent in the town. The lists includes tours, events and lectures which all artists must attend. Three months in an isolated place can be daunting, and not knowing the language had its drawbacks, yet my bonding with the artists made this experience less taxing. It is recommended that you focus primarily on producing work, seeing what is possible, if you are considering on applying.

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The Emperor gardens during my visit to Kyoto, Japan. It can be described as one of the larges parks I’ve ever strolled through.

On my visit to Tokyo, Japan I found that it was difficult to find any address, and I literally walked in circles. Yet, in my travels I was protected by strangers I met briefly. On one occasion when I missed the last train and thought I had no place to stay , I was re-insured by a stranger not to panic, everything was going to ok, as it was. There are people that think of me since then, like Malgorzata Niespodziewana and Karen Havskov Jensen. Takaki Otsuka who sent a cd on the residency’s ten year anniversary reunion and Najib El-Khash who took care of me in Tokyo. These I do remember.

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The night before the last day at the Mino Paper village Artist Residency in 2002, Japan

As I look back after these six years, I’ve come to realized that documenting this work is important for the Mino Paper Village’s legacy, but it is also cathartic for me. All passing and all forgiven. [I will be remembered] for seeing the good from the mishaps which made the residency more awarding for future artists. And here, I wish thank the Mino committee, Shin Murase, the host family, Watanabe San, interpreters, Yoko Tabata, Fumiko Otsuka,  and finally the artists who I do fondly miss. – Until then – Sayonara, my deed has been done

All photographs and accompanying articles appearing on site are the exclusive property of Richard Bolai © 2008 All Rights Reserved.

Minopaper Richard Bolai ©2008

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A Japanese television crew documenting the book work at the studio, Mino, Japan

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Documenting the work for the upcoming exhibition

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Here I am being captured folding down pages of a book

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A second film crew shooting the artists for a news report broadcast on Japan television nationwide. During the questionnaire, I was careful not to insult the conditions of the place, My interpretor was also nervous that I may have voiced my concerns. In Japanese culture, showing any emotions is not common practice. Hence, If I was asked about the residency in terms of either good or bad, I would promptly answer, maybe leaving an ambiguous answer of not really offending anyone.

Minopaper Richard Bolai ©2008

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The poster for the Minio Paper exhibition in Japan ( Not all artist’s work are displayed here)

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Books being set up in the gallery

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The bookworks displayed on plinths at the Washi Museum, Mino, Japan in 2002

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Malgorzata Niepodziewana’s three – dimenional life size
Washi paper figures and Christina Lindeberg’s floating washi strands at the exhibition space

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Karen Havskov Jensen’s Washi paper folds with complex cut work and three dimensional sculptures

Minopaper Richard Bolai ©2008

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The messy worktable shows one of the many books made at the residency. Most of the books followed the guidelines of Japanese binding. The sample here could fold out but could also stand freely.

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An accordion book securely closed with a peg

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The book covers that show the influence of the place

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The book with its folds opened out using coloured fibres from raw kozo

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This book was constructed as a stand that couls support the back. The sections where attached together using part of the frame.

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This book looked like a miniature folding screen which hinged together and allowed it to fold open. It was free standing and found metals plates were attached to it.

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Here I worked around the idea of an Emperor book. The book was encased in a free standing cage

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The stand that locked the book

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A cloth silk accordion book

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A rather delicate book using washi folds inserted with threads and embedded collages. The beauty of it was to see it in the light.

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Simple folds secured by a wooden peg

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A book made for Karen Havskov Jensen at during the mino paper village, Artist in residency, 2002

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A washi book on display at the Washi museum, Mino, Japan, 2002

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Searching for a bookbinder in koyto, Japan 2002, and getting a few hints to how Japanese covers are assembled

Minopaper Richard Bolai ©2008

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Sheets of washi paper speckled with coloured kozo

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This by all means was an attempt to make a sheet of washi paper using kozo that was too old to be used, and on an apparatus that was makeshift. The solution itself didnot have an pleasant smell, yet I make every effort to pat the kozo onto a mesh screen without feeling nauseous.

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There is an example of paper which due to the weather look a long time to dry if at all. It is a clear example that don’t expect the best when you build upon the worst

Minopaper Richard Bolai ©2008

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A prototype cage for a washi lantern using wooden rods from discarded airplane model kits found in the warehouse.

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The working stages of a lamp which was eventually used in the lantern festival. It was constructed all together without using glue. The paper shade was lined with a silver thread which is commonly used in Kimonos. There is a vast difference between machine made and handmade washi paper. At my first visit to the paper shops in Mino, I was simply fooled by the many imitations. Handmade paper can be detected by its natural beauty, texture and feel.

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The washi lantern on display at the Mino lantern festival in 2002. This lantern received a honorable mention as one of the twenty certificates awarded during the competition. The lantern at a washi paper shop in Mino. It was a place the artists visited quite often for coffee. I think everyday.

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The detail of the lantern and the rods which supported the frame.

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One of Mino’s annual festivals is the Washi Paper Lantern competition. Over 700 entries throughout Japan participate. The exhibition ranges from playful concepts to professionals who come up with innovative designs. The lantern festival draws a crowd of over 20 thousand people who stroll through the cross roads of the two narrow main streets.

Minopaper Richard Bolai ©2008

The books below are samples of work I had done since the paper residency. It gives a general idea of how the washi paper has been used and of the Japanese influences

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This is a series of elongated journals which the covers were made using a fine coloured washi which were the ends of a tissue type paper I brought back from Mino

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Small journals with covers made from sheets of washi I worked on during the paper residency

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There is another sample of the texture of the paper used as covers

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A synthetic washi meshed as a cover of this backed book

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Covers made with a type of washi mesh

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Covers using Japanese doll paper and inlay with silver washi thread

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Covers using strands of coloured kozo and lined with washi thread

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One of my artbooks using Japanese doll paper as it covers

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an artist drawing book using washi thread and kozo

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Resin covers with washi tissue paper and inlay with washi thread

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A leather backed book using patterns related to Japanese paper

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small handbooks influence by Japanese patterns

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A lamp installation using washi plates


Minopaper Richard Bolai ©2008

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Buckets of Kozo thrown on a large screen in an attempt to see what the artists may produce

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Water draining off the solution.

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Note the size of the bamboo screen. Head of Artist programme Shin Murase to your right

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The paper in the process of drying using an absorbent material

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Rolling off the paper from the sugeka onto the dryer.

Minopaper Richard Bolai ©2008

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The work space at the Mino Paper Village in 2002. This was a warehouse that housed the five artists. Those large machines on the floor are heaters which helped heat up with the coldness of the place. It sounded like a jet engine. Coincidently they were taken from as high school as we were given smaller ones that really did not work. At the Mayor’s [Michimasa Ishikawa] visit to the studio, I bumped into him carrying a large canister of fuel and fidgeted trying the start the small heater. The next day, these were installed and the part of the open space to the upper floor were sectioned off with plastic so to keep the heat in.

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In Japanese culture, it is customary for guests to bring some small token. This may be a snack. The garbage bags you see here is evident of getting too much and being unable to manage with the surplus. Artists were also provided with bicycles so they could commute to and from their host homes.

open-house This was taken on the day of an open house, the public was invited to see what types of art were being made using washi paper. Minopaper

Richard Bolai ©2008

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Nelly Agassi worked primarily on a dress, she also had a public street performance where she asked people to make a formal wish using an Origami paper crane. Her exhibition work at the museum was a handmade dress held by strands of washi securely tied with stones. The Origami paper cranes were burnt after the residency.

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Richard Bolai (Feinin) make every effort to teach the simple methods of making a handmade book. He also used the traditional methods of Japanese binding to produce a series of art books for members of the Mino committee, artists, and to the Mino paper museum. Yet the first impression of the work space was quite a shock. They also had a portable tolet in the yard which [we] never used.

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Christina Linderberg on her way out on the Shinkansen train photographed by Karen

Christina Lindeberg work may have been best described as tactile in nature. The artist focused on intricate paper twists and washi threads which she hung from parts of the gallery in her final exhibition. She was steadfast and mature over her unquestionable treatment during her stay. She never displayed her concern.

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Washi threads by Christina Lindeberg

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Malgorzata Niespodziewana was blessed with a host family, Takahashi where she had her own private space. She was also an artist whose personality help bond all the artists together. As part of her work, she produced these human forms out of washi, such as with the child she is holding up. The infant here is a premonition. She give birth to a first child a few years later and she has managed to reunite with, Karen Havskov Jensen, Nelly Agassi, Christina Lindeberg and the Shinoharas since then.

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Karen Havskov Jensen experiences on this residency had its ups and downs, and also was traumatic. Yet she was capable to pull through and produced washi works using a process of patterns and mathematics, and thus her three-dimensional sculptures took on a life of it own. Recently, she sent me a postcard project she’s been working on which involved objects in a suitcase, a trademark in her work. The photograph shows she eating a supermarket brought Susi meal which we had most of the time located at the only corner shop in the town.

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Karen Havskov Jensen’s washi objects

Minopaper Richard Bolai ©2008

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As part of the Mino Paper village programme, artists had to include lectures and short workshops as shown with these Mino school children. Everyone had the opportunity to make a book from scratch.

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Mino students shown folding down a section in the process of making a simple single section note book. The translator is to your left. On one observation, this Mino public school was immaculately clean. Students were assigned to clean and upkeep the washrooms.

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The children’s books drying at the studio before they were trimmed

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Hideki Haba, one of the host families looking at a book he proudly produced through my instruction, Mino, Japan.

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Malgorzata Niespodziewana making the covers for her book at the studio

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Yoshiko Shinohara being taught how to make a book. She made a small version of a multi-section and it was exhibited at the museum in Mino along with my other books. My stay with the Shinohara’s was one of the memorable moments in Japan particularly when I rode a bicycle through the main streets downtown, Kyoto, Japan

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Christina Lindeberg sewing sections together to a book which she made. A copy of it was given to me which included inserts of pencil rubbing taken off burnt structures found at Hiroshima bomb site from 1945, Japan

Minopaper Richard Bolai ©2008

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HIROSHIMA book produced in 2005

The decision to explode two atomic bombs over a civil population will remain unanswered from the annals of history. Yet the consequences of August, 6th 1945 has demonstrated that for those who lost their lives in this act of war have since tamed the used of the device ever since.

At the residency in Japan I had anticipated visiting the city of Hiroshima for this very purpose. But financial restraints made it impossible. Although my fellow colleague Christina  did visit Hiroshima, I was grateful for the pencil rubbing she made from ruins and these  plates are  the focal point to the book project.

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HIROSHIMA opened on the centre spread

With these etchings, I have incorporated in a handmade book called, “Hiroshima”.  Constructed in Japan and made with washi paper. The covers of the book were designed by Christina Linderberg and placed within the folds of the washi are the plates of the actual pencil rubbing.

Modified for the Hiroshima project, 2005, a stand using bamboo rods supports the book, and the centre spread includes printed graphic plates of Japan’s national symbol and a photograph of the atomic bomb, named little boy

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Pencil rubbing from Buddhist  temple ruins,  Hiroshima, 2002

Minopaper Richard Bolai ©2008

Washi is born from the motion of stillness

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One of the washi makers at the Mino Washi Museum, Gifu prefecture, Japan shows the method of making sheets of paper. The tray where a sugeka or bamboo screen sits. The tray is dipped into the kozo solution and is worked back and forth and from side to side. This process is called Kamisuki. The art of Kamisuki is divided into three stages.

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Karen Havskov Jensen and myself practicing the steps of Kamisuki

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Under the strict guidance of Toshiko Ichihara, Malgorzata Niespodziewana is tilting the tray side to side. I do recall that she slapped your arm if you were not doing it correctly.

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Nelly Agassi with a television crew at the Mino Washi Museum, Gifu prefecture following the steps which include, Keshoumizu with a smaller amount of water is added, then Choushi when a larger amount of solution is scooped into the mold and the tray is moved side and side. This is called Yokoyuri. Moving the mound back and forth is called Choushi, and it also determines the thickness of the paper. The last and final scoop is called Harimizu, and this is to toss off the solution without moving the tray. It helps keep the surface of the paper smooth.

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Sheets of washi paper are piled on a press board. This is Tamegami or newly formed sheets.

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Removing the sheet from the sugeka. These are then pressed to remove the presence of water, namely, Oshiba.

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Christina Lindeberg inspecting a sheet of washi paper (Kansou) drying on these large metal dryers.

Minopaper Richard Bolai ©2008

A sheet of paper the immeasurable strength of a human being is concealed

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Types of raw material used in the process of making washi paper

Stage 1. Stems are cut in the autumn and stripped of their bark and dried. The fibers used in washi paper are. Kozo (paper mulberry) is a shrub of the Moraceae family which thick fibers made a strong paper. It is widely used in the production refinded papers, craft papers, calligraphy papers, and paper for screens. Mitsumata is a member of the Thymelaeaceae family and it produces a smooth, lustrous paper, which is used as sliding screens and printing papers. Gampi is a fiber it yields is very fine fibers and it produces a thin paper with a lustrous finish.

Stage 2. The dried bark is placed in a tank of running water or in a shallow part of a river for one to five days to wash out impurities in the bark. The bark is then cooked In order to soften the washed bar and boiled for several hours in an alkali solution containing soda ash. This process isolates the fiber of the bark.

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Kozo fibers being washed and cleaned by hand to remove any impurities or specks that may be found in the raw material. The Mino Washi Museum, Gifu prefecture, Japan

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Crushing the Kozo fibres with a mortar and pestle, Akira Goto’s studio, Mino, Japan

Stage 3. After the fibers are cleaned by hand to remove any unwanted bodies such as buds, knots or lumps or dirt, it is then beaten to separate the fiber into finer strands.

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A mallet and a stone surface which is used to separate the fibers, The Mino Washi Museum, Gifu prefecture, Japan

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The vat where the Sugeta is dipped into the solution, Akira Goto’s studio, Mino, Japan

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The Neri liquid, he Mino Washi Museum, Gifu prefecture, Japan

Neri is a paste from the Tororo-aoi root which is a family of the hibiscus plant. The liquid is used to dispense the Kozo fibers when agitated with water.

Stage 4. This is an important stage of the production of a Japanese handmade paper as it requires the most skill. The finely separated fibers are dissolved in water and a forming aid is added called tororo-aoi. The art of washi making comes from the method which the artisan moves the mold in the solution of kozo.

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Agitating the Kozo in large vats. The Mino Washi Museum, Gifu prefecture, Japan.

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An Sugeta artisan showing the process of making the bamboo screen, Mino, Japan

The Sugeta is a bamboo screen woven together by silk thread. The bamboo ribs are made by using black bamboo. To weave a screen 2ftx3ft 2000 ribs are necessary. According to the type of washi, a rib is .5m in size. It should be noted that there was much concern over the fact this type of cottage industry are slowing dying, so may the skills of artisans who make these washi tools.

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Wooden boards, Akira Goto’s studio, Mino, Japan

Stage 5. Individual sheets of washi are placed on wooden boards and dried or bleach naturally in the sun. The sheets are carefully inspected and trimmed to size. It takes about ten days to produce paper from start to finish and only 4% of the original raw material actually becomes paper. (Reference source: Traditions in Japanese craft)

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Goto’s samples of his unique washi work. There is a price on every sheet

Minopaper Richard Bolai ©2008

Richard Bolai [Feinin]

I am a trained Bookbinder which in 2002, I went on a three month residency relating to Washi paper making. According to the Japan Foundation, the Mino Paper Village is considered one of the most sort after residencies offered in japan. This website is aimed to give an incite of it but also as an appreciation of the beauty of washi. The Mino Paper Project's focus is to export the craft of washi paper internationally, but also it learns from artists many other ways the paper may be used

Useful links on Mino Paper Village

Disclaimer and Email

All photographs and accompanying articles appearing on site are the exclusive property of Richard Bolai © 2008 All Rights Reserved.