The world has tons and tons of paper that are force fed daily into printers, faxes, and copy machines, cash registers and ATMs, so these machines can spit them out in a constant stream. We send them flying, they come to us in stacks of mail, we stare at them in bulletin boards. We buy them in reams and rolls, we write notes, read them, discard them, without giving their genesis a second thought. We see the pictures and the letters but we never see the paper.
Paper has become so much a part of our daily drudgery that we have taken it for granted. Paper-making for the most part is an industry that mass-produces the glut using big machines, and even bigger technology.
But there are parts of the world where paper is not an industry but a craft, an art; not manufactured by machinery, but created by hand, using techniques learned by tradition that is passed down by families through the generations. Certain districts in Japan, like Mino, Echizen, and Tosa, are such places. Japan after all has been a center of paper-making since the 8th century, and the same methods and techniques used back then are still used now.
Although the term washi literally means “Japanese paper”, it has come to refer specifically to paper made the traditional way. Washi have a wonderful translucence and lightness, and gorgeous textures from the plant fibers used in it. You’ve got to hand it to tradition for creating objects of such great beauty, delicacy, and strength. If it can make paper this awesome, why mess with perfection?
If want to know more about Japanese paper-making, visit the Washi page at infomapjapan.com.
Here are some awe-inspiring applications for washi.