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tinyaltar
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 12, 2013 4:27 am    Post subject: On Making Washi Reply with quote
It was tough to decide which topic to post about first: mokuhanga or washi. I went with this.

If you have a decent public library nearby, I highly recommend you look for the book Tesuki Washi taikan (手漉和紙大鑑). This is a comprehensive compilation of Japanese papers, listed by region, and with samples included. There are also numerous essays on the general status / history of Japanese hand papermaking.

Another one is Washi Soukan. Both of these are excellent, and they are distributed to libraries around the world (including many in the U.S. and Europe).

The process varies region-to-region, along with the materials being used, so it is difficult (and not desirable) to pin Japanese papermaking to a single process. There are general similarities and consistencies that are found almost everywhere (for example, the use of the sugeta is pretty much standard -- the woven bamboo "mat" itself is called the "su", while the "sugeta" is the overall frame/mould). The great thing about Washi Soukan is that it gives descriptions of each paper type. When I mention "the process" here, it is in a rather general sense. There are a number of write-ups on this process around the Internet, but I kind of pepper this description with my own experiences/substitutes, which can be elaborated on if there is sufficient interest.


My humble sugeta. More experienced makers / masters can make large sheets with large sugeta by using suspensions from the ceiling.

I apologize if this is rather dry, but I want to explain it in plainest terms possible to enable a discussion or to inspire intrepid users to try it at home. If there is interest, I can give tips for suitable replacements of equipment (basically, stuff you have in your garage / plants you have in your garden) so that you can try something like this just for kicks. Of course, nothing beats having a studio and your own sugeta, but you can certainly make beautiful papers even without fancy stuff.

* * * * * * *

To start, the plant is harvested. For this write-up, I'm going to assume it is kozo, though paper can be made from any fibrous, long-fibered plant (the "big three" being kozo, mitsumata, and gampi). Kozo is harvested in the early winter months, after the trees become bare. The pieces of bark are steamed, and subsequently dried in bundles. Bark that is dried out in the sun will have a significantly different "shade" than bark used right away. The next step is to soak the bark for a day or two, and then the inner bark is separated from the outer bark (stripped with a knife). Sometimes, bits of the outer bark are left in the batch to create an interesting effect in the final paper product (speckles).

After the white, inner bark is stripped from the outer bark, the white bark is soaked for another day or two, and then cooked. I use wood ash to cook some batches, depending on the color I want. Wood ash tends to make the pulp a little darker overall, no matter how much I rinse, whereas soda ash or lime makes it lighter. I've heard of makers using buckwheat ash, but unless I want to buy bulk buckwheat in bulk and burn it (or stuff a lot of pillows), I stick to whatever wood ash I can get from the ceramics students. After cooking in this solution for a couple of hours, and stirring often, the pulp must be rinsed. You don't want to keep remnants of these substances in your pulp, as it will threaten the archival nature of the final product (archival = longer lasting ... so when you go to Jinbocho and see 400-year-old books intact, that's the result of careful chemistry).


This is (or was) my setup for cooking. The wood stove was built by ceramics students. I use a wood stove, and then use the wood ash from that stove to cook subsequent batches.

After cooking and rinsing, a process called "chiri-tori" commences. In a lot of paper shops, you'll see groups of women doing this job. I'm not here to debate traditional gender roles, though -- just telling it how I see it. Anyway, for my own washi, I do this whole process alone, so I can tell you: if you are alone, and you harvest bark in the winter and want to make sheets in the winter (which is preferable because cold water prevents bacteria growth in the pulp), then be prepared to also do chiri-tori in the cold of winter (this is assuming you want the purest, whitest paper). Chiri-tori is the removal of impurities from the bark. It involves constantly dipping the strands of bark into water and using tweezers or your fingers to remove the little bits. It takes a really long time, gives you wrinkles, and makes your hands go numb. But, we aren't even making paper yet...

After chiri-tori, it's time to beat the pulp. For my own paper, I use a handcrafted wooden mallet. Dense woods are good, and you can whittle away a handle. Nowadays, there are even electric machines that do a lot of the beating. I do not have this luxury. How long you beat the pulp, and how vigorous, will effect the properties of the final product. If the maker wants a batch to really show the kozo strands, then less beating is required. Additionally, the nagashizuki method of papermaking (explained below) typically requires less beating than the tamezuki method. If the maker prefers the paper to have a more uniform appearance, more beating is required. Again, I think it's rather common these days to see automated beaters (see: naginata beaters).


Only 2 pounds of kozo here. Shops in Japan are typically dealing with many times this amount.

After beating the pulp, it is time to prepare a vat. I fill my vat with water and add kozo until it is a consistency I am happy with. I also add what's called "neri" (a formation aid). In Japan, this comes from a plant called tororo-aoi (called nebishi in some regions) -- a plant that generates a viscous, slimy liquid. If you've ever eaten tororo gohan, you can imagine this. Again, I don't have access to this kind of material, so I use okra. You can steam okra for a bit, put it in a thin mesh bag, squeeze it or let it drip for a while, and then you have your formation aid. There are also tons of chemical formation aids (coagulants and such) available on the market.

Kozo is a very fibrous plant, so the strands of pulp are quite long in the end. The beating process does not necessarily "shorten" the pulp strands as much as thin them out gradually, though of course it depends on what the maker wants. But imagine these long strands of pulp in water. No matter how much you mix the vat, quickly grab your mould and dive in, some of that pulp will start drifting to the bottom of the vat. So, we need to suspend the pulp in the vat. That is what neri is used for. You mix it with the water in the vat to an acceptable ratio (I do it until the water seems to slowly drip from my fingers in a certain way, but I'm sure masters have a specific ratio). The neri-water solution also improves the bond between hydrogen molecules (for me, that isn't something I can see or feel necessarily, so I'll just have to take the word of those who taught me Laughing).

I use a heavy stick to mix the fibers around quickly with the water-neri solution (in many paper shops in Japan, they have suspending "mixers", which are many sticks that can be pushed at once using a wooden bar). Then, I take my sugeta, and I form a sheet using the nagashizuki method. This is when the sugeta is dipped multiple times in the vat to form the actual sheet of paper. In Western papermaking, the mould+deckle is only dipped once, pulled up, given a shake, and then quickly couched (actually, the Japanese have a method called tamezuki, which is similar). In the nagashizuki method, it is dipped multiple times. The paper becomes thicker and thicker after each dip. A special movement is required to perform nagashizuki. It's difficult to explain, but imagine waves moving back and forth across the surface of the bamboo screen (su), with excess water/neri/pulp being flicked from the edge.

After the sheet has been formed within the sugeta, the wooden mould is opened, the su is pulled out, and the sheet is couched on a piece of felt, or other kind of surface that will accept it (yet another factor that will determine the properties of the final product). Each sheet is separated by a string, and pulled apart later, after pressing under large amounts of weight. Before adding weight, the stack is left for several hours / overnight, so that some of the water is drained. When it is time for weight, it is best to add the weight gradually, so as not to squish the papers together (again, only a string separates them). I place a big plastic trash can on top of my stack of paper (wedged between two wooden boards), and place a hose on a slow drip so that weight is gradually added.

After the paper post has been sufficiently drained of water, the sheets are ready to be separated and dried. They can be dried on wooden boards or using a hotplate. When using a hotplate, the surface touching the plate becomes unnaturally smooth and flat -- but this is what some makers want. Using the boards creates a more "natural" feel on the side being placed down. The wet sheets are brushed onto a surface and either left in the sun to dry (if on wood) or carefully heated until dry (if on a hotplate).

There are many ways to treat dried papers. Personally, because I like to draw and print, I treat my papers with dosa -- an animal gelatin sizing. Dosa is prepared with animal bone (nikawa). After it soaks overnight, it is heated and applied to the paper using a brush. The paper dries, and sometimes needs to be humidified and flattened again. The reason paper needs to be sized is so that it retains ink. If a paper is not sized, any ink application will bleed. If you go to Jinbocho and find those centuries-old books or artworks, you can still see the glisten of the sizing on some of the pages. Dosa, at the perfect concentration, can give the paper a subtle sparkle.

* * * * *

I'm serious when I say that you can do this at home if you have a decent amount of space and the right materials in your garage. You're likely not going to find kozo (paper mulberry) lying around anywhere this winter (unless you live in Iowa or Alabama or have a random tree growing somewhere). Think of other fibrous plants. I have made some gorgeous papers with banana leaves, using a similar method as described above. Sometimes you can buy bundles by the pound at specialty grocery stores.

You can also purchase kozo bundles from some papermaking stores. Usually they offer two types: Japanese and Thai. Thai is cheaper.

* * * * *

Now that the process has been described in detail, we can more adequately discuss the history. Smile

Nicholas
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 12, 2013 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Great article. John
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 13, 2013 4:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thank you kindly, John.

* * * * *

I wasn't sure if I should start a new thread or continue here, but I decided to continue here so that information on these arts is linked. If there is enough interest, I can start an entirely new thread on Japanese bookbinding. A good deal of these histories feed off of one another, so I do believe it is appropriate to keep this stuff together.

So, for another intro, here is bookbinding. This is pretty basic stuff. There are so many other styles beyond the yotsume toji and its variants, but I'll go into those in more depth at a later time. Additionally, I'll talk more about the history of certain styles.

Japanese Bookbinding intro

"Yotsume toji" is the name for the four-holed binding variant commonly seen in Japan. In European methods of bookbinding, folios are made by folding sheets of paper in half. In turn, a certain # of folios creates a signature, and a certain # of signatures creates the "book block". There are certainly folded paper bookbinding techniques found in Japan, as well, which I'll get to another day.

For now, it is fun to look at the difference between Yotsume toji (which originated from a 5-hole design found in China) and those European books. The Yotsume toji is essentially stacked sheets of washi which are punched all at once using a heavy wooden mallet/slab and a sharp, thin, sturdy awl (large needle). The four holes are punched and the binding is laid in via a simple-yet-elegant sewing method.

In Jinbōchō, you can find a lot of examples of this in the Edo jidai era-specific book shops.

There are variants of Yotsume toji, which embellish that simple style ever-so-slightly, to make something quite special.

There is Kangxi binding, named after the Qing era emperor, which embellishes the corners. Then there is asanoha toji (hemp leaf style), which embellishes all of the rectangular spaces between the original sewing of the yotsume toji. Then there is the kikkō toji, which embellishes the actual sewn points by adding two more on either side of each awl mark. If I can find suitable examples of these variants, I will post them!

Here are some examples of my books, made with my paper as well (this is a kozo variant of mine ... except the cover for the first book, which is mixed with hemp -- fitting for the asanoha symbol of the cloth):











Nicholas
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 13, 2013 6:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wow. I never knew that much about the papermaking process... Thanks very much for this, Nicholas (sorry!!), and for the beautiful pictures! What a wonderful, thorough description.

Somewhere around here I have my notes on other modes of bookbinding, and such, but for now, just a few bits I thought I'd share, from my experience:

*On bookbinding, though the covers are sewn on with thread, this doesn't really hold the book together. And, in fact, I've seen plenty of books with very loose thread, in which the covers are coming off, but the pages are still nicely held together. A separate set of holes hold small twisted pieces of paper, called neji ("screws") in Japanese, which do a surprisingly good job of holding the pages all together.



Also, in traditionally woodblock-printed books, you can tell if it's printed (versus being manuscript, i.e. written into the book directly with a brush) by a number of signs, the most obvious of which is the hashira, the text which wraps around the outer edge of each page. This often includes the title of the book, and the page number.

The pages for books were printed with that in the middle, and then folded over to be bound together. Manuscript pages, of course, do not have anything printed on them, and so do not have these marks on the edges of the pages. They also do not have the printed boxes, or frames, containing image or text as are quite typical in printed books.


2) Kozo paper, and I believe mitsumata and ganpi as well, hold up really well over time. As John was saying about getting the chemistry perfectly right and all, unlike the more acidic Western-style papers used in the Meiji period and later, Edo period papers don't yellow as quickly or as badly, and don't turn brittle. I've seen Meiji books that are so yellowed they're dark brown, and literally crumble with a minimum of disturbance.

Edo paper, by contrast, is quite flexible, and in fact really doesn't tear all that easily either. I got to spend some time this summer at the Okinawa Prefectural Archives, working with a number of different woodblock-printed and manuscript objects, including books, single-sheet kawaraban prints, and one official letter from King Shô Kei to the shogunal elders (rôjû). The latter was on really thin paper, so I did have to be extra careful with that one, but none of the works were discolored, even after hundreds of years, and all were quite pliable. So long as you're careful, and keep your hands clean and dry, you can handle these kinds of items without gloves, no problem.








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Last edited by lordameth on Sun Oct 13, 2013 8:37 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 13, 2013 7:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Nicholas, meth. signed John
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 13, 2013 7:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
lordameth wrote:
Wow. I never knew that much about the papermaking process... Thanks very much for this, John. What a wonderful, thorough description.


Thanks for reading! My name is Nicholas, by the way. Smile

lordameth wrote:
1) On bookbinding, though the covers are sewn on with thread, this doesn't really hold the book together. And, in fact, I've seen plenty of books with very loose thread, in which the covers are coming off, but the pages are still nicely held together. A separate set of holes hold small twisted pieces of paper, called neji ("screws") in Japanese, which do a surprisingly good job of holding the pages all together.


Very correct on this. The "inner binding" is actually called koyori, rather than neji. It is pounded flat with a hammer, so it does not protrude from the finished product. My books above all have koyori, though of course the latter book's twisted thread is thin (I used some of my kozo).

Also, the inner binding is usually applied to folded sheets of paper (as opposed to precut), and then the book block is cut all at once using a paper cleaver and a wooden weight (they stand on the wooden board and use the cleaver to chop off 1/8" or less ... an incredibly precise operation). This is before the application of the cover using yotsume toji.

lordameth wrote:
2) Kozo paper, and I believe mitsumata and ganpi as well, hold up really well over time. As John was saying about getting the chemistry perfectly right and all, unlike the more acidic Western-style papers used in the Meiji period and later, Edo period papers don't yellow as quickly or as badly, and don't turn brittle. I've seen Meiji books that are so yellowed they're dark brown, and literally crumble with a minimum of disturbance.


Precisely. That is because they take care in the chemistry, as mentioned -- rinsing the caustic stuff out, making sure that balanced water is used, and so on. The water is extremely important. Buckets were often taken from nearby cold springs or rivers because of the water's purity. This still happens in some regions.

Edo period books are definitely well-preserved. Seriously, you can go to Jinbocho and have a field day. That place heavily inspired me during the early part of my career. They aren't famous books, but they are absolutely magnificent to look at if you are interested at all in this topic (or the Edo period in general).

lordameth wrote:
I got to spend some time this summer at the Okinawa Prefectural Archives, working with a number of different woodblock-printed and manuscript objects, including books, single-sheet kawaraban prints, and one official letter from King Shô Kei to the shogunal elders (rôjû). The latter was on really thin paper, so I did have to be extra careful with that one, but none of the works were discolored, even after hundreds of years, and all were quite pliable. So long as you're careful, and keep your hands clean and dry, you can handle these kinds of items without gloves, no problem.


Very cool! I'm extremely envious of this. Someday, perhaps. Smile But as a side note, it is my understanding that kawaraban were printed from ceramic blocks, not woodblocks.

Also, in regards to thin paper: sometimes thin sheets are actually the strongest. They are pliable. Thick sheets tend to become creased easily, whereas thin sheets are like cloth. You can tug and tug at them, even if they are centuries-old, and they will not rip.

Nagashizuki weaves the fibers with one another, creating remarkable strength. If the vat ratio has less pulp-to-water, a thinner sheet can be obtained. These are typically more difficult to couch, though, and more difficult to handle when wet. But it's worth it!

Nicholas
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 13, 2013 8:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
shin no sen wrote:
Nicholas, meth. signed John


I'm confused.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 13, 2013 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Oops. How did my post get put up before I was done with it? Weird.

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PostPosted: Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Travis (meth) had addressed Nicholas by the name John. Corrected now, all is well. I guess my post looked slightly drug addled, shouldn't use short forms of names I suppose. Actually I wish posters used their common names for address, it is sort of strange addressing people by forum nom de plume. John
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 13, 2013 4:08 pm    Post subject: Re: On Making Washi Reply with quote
tinyaltar wrote:
It was tough to decide which topic to post about first: mokuhanga or washi...


Thanks for taking the time to post this information. Great information and reading!
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2013 4:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Quote:
kawaraban were printed from ceramic blocks, not woodblocks.


Really? Interesting. While there's tons of scholarship out there on single-sheet prints, and on books, I feel like we see very little about kawaraban...
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