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Something for everyone...

Who uses these papers? The sky's the limit! But here are some whose work can greatly benefit:

What separates Japanese washi papers from the many other papers in the world are two factors. One is range - the continued expansion of the Japanese "line" over 1400 years to include literally thousands of variations, both handmade and machine made, both made with great attention to detail. The second factor is flexibility of use of the papers made from kozo, mitsumata and gampi.

Though papers often look the same, the particular qualities differ. Ask our Fine Paper Manager, Sigrid Blohm, if you need to find the right paper for your special use!

For Artists

In the hands of artists, washi - traditional handmade Japanese paper - made from kozo, gampi and mitsumata are at their best. (To learn more about washi, please visit our "About Washi" page.)

If made without chlorine, with carefully-prepared fibres, these papers are strong, translucent, malleable, warm to the touch and absorbent with beautiful slightly textured surfaces. It is this multiplicity of characteristics that offers potential to the artist like no other medium. The excitement for the artist comes from exploration of these qualities, often a long journey which results in truly unique expression.

One can print, dye, draw, paint, cut, paste and stitch these papers to alter the surface, all of which can simply be framed as art. Beyond that, an artist or craftsperson can use the other qualities of the paper he has 'altered' to make a book cover or end paper, a lamp or candle-shade, window covering, screen, hanging sculpture, box, piece of clothing or jewellery, wallpaper or cushion. These items then have dimension and resonance well beyond the norm.

As we are frequently asked by artists which papers work best for which applications, we have assembled a series of PDF "User Guides" for different disciplines with suggested papers as well as "tips and tricks":

 

Bookbinders

Bookbinders love the colourful patterned Chiyogami (silkscreened) and Katazome-shi (stencilled) papers for cover and end papers. And although these papers are not made with a pure kozo base, the printing techniques give them a surface that wears very well.

Any of the natural kozo papers (Nishi-kaji, Tengu-jo Heavy, Uwa Senka) can be marbled or dyed or stencilled by an artist quite readily, and it creates a unique paper which can then be used on or in a book. Kozo is certainly the strongest paper for making books and boxes, and it is important for the bookbinder to know the percentage of kozo in the paper he/she is using. It should be at least 70% to be strong enough to wear as a cover. Using leather or bookcloth corners and spine ensures that the paper in the covers will be especially long-wearing. Gampi 's exquisite sheen and ivory colour can contribute a special aesthetic touch to a project but is tricky to use and not as strong as kozo.

Conservators

Kozo is appropriate for almost any paper conservation technique because of its wet strength, its long strong fibre (10-15mm) and its malleability. For guarding signatures, hinging, attaching cover to book, repairing page tears, kozo is the best choice. We carry at least 50 variations of kozo from 5g. tengu-jo in rolls for repairing over print to 100g. Kurotani kozo for backing very heavy maps or documents.Top quality papers like Inoue 21g., Sekishu Hanshi Mare, Kurotani #16 and Usumino are all very popular with conservators for a range of repair.

Gampi has limited use for conservators, but is sometimes used in the repair of vellum bindings as a match for the sheen of vellum.

Mitsumata is occasionally used for the particular tone which is sometimes close to the colour of aged paper, but its strength is not as great as that of kozo which is better for most uses in conservation.

Craftspersons

Speaking of kozo, the traditionally-made kozo paper is so strong that basketmakers can weave it, weavers can spin it and make shifu thread from it which can then be woven, sewers can stitch it,  and jewellers can wet and shape it into small articulated shapes. (It is also regularly used by jewellers who lay their wares on it to entice buyers.)  Furniture makers have used it to cover chests and tables, candle-holders and screens. One woodworker we know laminates it between glass for insertion in cupboard doors.

Graphic Designers

We often see Japanese papers used as background for photographs and graphics  to emphasize refinement or beauty of product. But it is the incredible range of colour, texture, weight and design that is most useful to graphic artists. As end sheets or divisions in annual reports or books, printable surfaces for invitations or special brochures, any letterpress edition, envelope or packaging to make a piece stand out from the rest, Japanese papers offer great solutions. Translucent or opaque, gossamer thin or pearlescent card weight, colourful or simply organic, the choices are yours. We stock up to 3000 sheets per sample, but delight in having larger quantities shipped quickly from Japan in a low-stress manner to any point on the globe.

Inquire about custom swatching to meet your needs of colour, texture or weight.

Interior Designers

One of the early uses of Washi in Japan was for shoji, or the latticed sliding paper doors to the outside. As a medium for the transmission of light, these papers can be used in a myriad of ways.

The use of the translucent kozo or abaca papers have  great potential in the hands of interior designers. For window coverings, shutters, stained glass-like hangings, the translucent papers are perfect. For lamps too or wall sconces, the soft beauty of light filtering through the paper adds warmth and light to any room. As wallpapers or furniture coverings, the silkscreened chiyogami if used in moderate amounts, can bring interesting focus and colour into a setting and can be made more serviceable with a protective coating. Imagine a bedroom ceiling covered with clouds cut from cloud-like multi-coloured  kozo or a cupboard door bearing Japanese calligraphy-printed paper to liven up a kitchen.

Some papers come on rolls, and you can buy a sampler of these particular papers for $25.00 from us. Then you can truly think big!

Manufacturers

Packaging, lampshade-making, book covers, boxes and framing mats are some of the uses of the paper which can be take place in large production facilities, often by laminating them to another material. Many of the papers we carry in sheets are available in rolls up to 43" wide and are available by special order.

Painters and Drawers

Kozo papers with extra weight like seichosen or Kurotani #4 are useable with all water-based media as long as the artist does not use heavy washes. Most Japanese paper shrinks somewhat when wet, though some are sized to prevent shrinkage. Acrylic paint and gouache are both very effective on washi. Oil paints are not recommended. It's best to keep your brush and paint on the dry side.

For drawing, all Japanese papers are possible, depending on the media used. Conte, soft charcoal, graphite (softer leads) and coloured pencils are all suitable on kozo papers. Gampi papers have a natural sizing which makes them good for pen and ink, and the sheen of the paper makes a beautiful ground for drawing. Pastels need a paper with some tooth like Moriki kozo or any Kurotani paper.

Drawing and painting are usually most effective if some of the beautiful surface of the paper itself is left to breathe or speak  and  is not completely filled in.

Printmakers

Printmakers can get a range of unique effects with Japanese paper, and if the paper is made the traditional way, any printmaking technique can work with almost any paper.

100% kozo papers - Handmade excellently prepared kozo papers without chlorine bleaching such as Hosokawa, Seichosen and papers from Kurotani, are the hardiest and are great for woodblock printing, monoprints and linocuts. Thin kozo papers are good for chine-collé. They have good absorbency even when very thin because the careful preparation of the fibre creates an even receptivity to ink and moisture. Their great wet strength makes them also appropriate for etching, though they are better misted rather than soaked. The fine texture of a well-made sheet of kozo means that it is used more effectively when there are areas of the paper left unprinted to go hand-in-hand with the artist's work.

100% mitsumata - Mitsumata paper often has a more creamy tone than kozo, has a shorter fibre than kozo which makes it not quite as strong, and is even more absorbent than its hardier cousin. It is especially good for relief prints especially when the artist wants soft edges on printed areas rather than very clear definition. Seikosen, Mitsumata Tissue and Izumo dyed papers are some of the papers we carry made from mitsumata.

100% gampi - Favoured by Rembrandt for his etchings, gampi papers hold the inked line with amazing delicacy yet depth. If clarity of image is desired, this fibre is the one to choose. Gampi tends to shrink when it is wet, so it can be tricky to use for chine-collé. To get around this problem a paper called gampi-etching was developed with a thin layer of gampi on top of a much heavier cotton and sulphite base. Thinner versions of gampi are wonderful for lithography as the sleekness of the surface prevents the fibre pulling off onto the roller and we have a wide range of weights of gampi