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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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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

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

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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

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

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