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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 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

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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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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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

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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

Useful links on Mino Paper Village

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