Today I ordered supplies from McClain's for my Baren Forum Print Exchange print, including some hand-made Japanese washi (paper). This will be my first time using washi, which everyone says can't be compared to the Rives Heavyweight I've been using because it's tougher than western-made papers and it doesn't weaken when moistened. All I know about washi is what I learned about it in the summer of 2004 when I went on a guided tour of northern rural Japan with Esprit Travel and we visited the Endo family, 12th generation (!) master washi makers. I'll show you a few photos from that visit with the Endos.
Here are two generations of the family, who kindly opened their combination home and business to us:
The Endo's home is a 300-year-old farm house nestled into the middle of what is now a fairly urban setting, in a town called Shiroishi. They grow their own mulberry, shown here in the month of June. Paper made from mulberry is called kozo:
Here is some mulberry from the previous year's harvest, dried and bundled:
The next step is to strip the bark from the mulberry twigs. Endo san demonstrated this process on the machine she uses:
The bark is then pounded and made into a pulp using some kind of glutenous material that I didn't catch the name of. Endo san showed us this sack of pulp ready to be formed into paper:
Endo san was not making any paper that day, but she showed us how the bamboo mould is used for forming paper of any thickness:
Our tour guide told us that Japan's constitution is written on washi made by the Endo family. Endo san also makes a paper that combines the mulberry with silk, a paper which has been used by Issey Miyake to make clothing. Someday I'd like to try a print on some of Endo san's paper.