Kami…revisiting the world of Japanese Paper

Kami is the Japanese word for paper and god and for a god, deity, divinity, or spirit. It has been used to describe mind (心霊), God (ゴッド), supreme being (至上者), one of the Shinto deities, an effigy, a principle, and anything that is worshipped. That it is also the word for paper is of no surprise to me. Paper as its own soul

At the beginning of 2020 I went to Japan with Art Textiles Made in Britain for the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival .(Little did I know then that this was to be my last live exhibition and trip for some time) The last time I was in Japan was in the eighties when I undertook several research trips to study paper and papermaking (supported by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and the Japan Foundation) It was there I fostered my love for all things paper, and, as it turned out, broadened my knowledge into the connected world of paper and cloth.

I spent some time re-organising my workspace and uncovered my original research material and marvelled at how things have changed. I am using a digital keyboard to write this blog but back then I used my old Adler and laboured to type my findings in blue onto Japanese Kozo (mulberry paper)

Drawing of Kozo leaf.

Each part of the report was created by hand from the drawings and diagrams to the black and white images I developed in the corner cupboard of my small studio.

Mold and Deckle and Maze used in Japanese Papermaking

Above images show me preparing the bark and forming a sheet of paper. My hands were checked regularly to check they were not bleeding when scraping bark as it would mark the fibre. Get that sweater.

Paper sheet forming showing the wet paper on the Su (Flexible screen in the mold made out of Bambo0)
Paper drying on boards in the village of Kurotni (Black Valley)

Momigami (Kneaded Paper) top and Katazome (stencil) Momigami paper. This flexible strong paper is used to create an assortment of items from paper purses to Kamiko (paper clothing) It can withstand washing and handling. I have used found papers in my work and adapted the process to create a similar feel to combine with cloth and stitch, although my pieces would not withstand the same wear and tear!!! If you want to explore the process using traditional materials Washi Arts has just thing.

Decorative paper in a Bento Box .

Yanaka district in Tokyo in 1985

Street scenes around Yanaka, Tokyo Dome area and Ueno today. A few more images and description can also be found here

What ties me to my past also leads me to the future. The ‘Kami’ allowing. I wish you the best the paper spirits allow.