a washi workshop // part one

Beating fibres down with a wooden mallet or as Kamo and Chiaki present below (to our Aussie sporting delight), a cricket bat.

After soaking the dried kozo (shown on crates above) we scraped off the outer bark.
Separating the outer and inner bark.
After scraping, the inner bark is soaked in water and impurities removed by hand.
That’s Matt below, vigorously mixing our kozo pulp in water with a slimy liquid called Neri. Neri is extracted from the plant Tororo-aoi. It helps the kozo fibres to float and distribute evenly in the water.

Matt’s collection of leaves and petals to use in his handmade washi.
Kamo demonstrates the next few steps.
Matt getting guidance from the experts. Kamo and Chiaki were wonderful teachers.
The finest layer of pulp covers the bamboo screen to form our first sheet of washi.
Lovely little petals to add colour to our washi.



A while back I wrote a story for UPPERCASE Magazine telling of my creative adventure in a small town called Ogawa-machi in Japan. It was a paper inspired pilgrimage to learn everything there was to learn about making Japanese washi the traditional way.

Matt and I were invited to visit a papermaking workshop there, by paper artist and local resident Chiaki Morita. I blogged about Chiaki’s beautiful work and studio space here. I really meant to share this wonderful experience with you guys earlier – sorry! Better late than never though – so here I go.

Ogawa-machi is a picturesque town in Saitama Prefecture, Japan. It’s an easy train ride north of Tokyo to a region once well-known for its washi production. The area is blessed with an abundance of natural resources perfect for making washi. A cool climate and a steady stream of chilled mountain water once attracted more than 700 papermaking producers to this region alone. But over time the demand for washi in Japan diminished and sadly so did the industry. Only a handful of papermaking places remain in the area. Nowadays it’s more known for its organic farming and sake brewing.

The Ogawa-machi Washi Teaching Centre is a rare and historic place. Artist and papermaker Kamo Takako runs the centre and with decades of papermaking experience she knows all there is to know about washi. Kamo took over the premises from a former paper manufacturing company. All the old papermaking machinery remains scattered throughout the factory. It’s like a papermaking museum with original fixtures, antique interiors, rusty old tools, and a wonderfully aged exterior. The wooden factory structure dates back 100 years. I took so many photos. I just couldn’t stop. It was like taking a step back in time.

Our papermaking workshop took place among all this history. We really couldn’t ask for a better backdrop. Chiaki joined us as we got to work. She used to work here so learning the finer details of papermaking from her and Kamo really was amazing.

To be continued… (lots more to come)

images © upon a fold


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