Yesterday I did a lovely class in washi paper-making, something I've wanted to do ever since I got to Japan. It was a simple class and just a taster of an hour and a half, but was a lot of fun. It was held in the beautiful washi paper shop called "Ozu Washi" in Nihonbashi.
We learnt how the pulp is formed from the inner part of the Kozo tree branches. The branches are cut and steamed in a cauldron, and while the branches are still warm, the bark is removed by hand. The inner layer of the bark is what is used for washi paper. The inner layer is then washed and boiled with soda for a few hours. The soda helps to loosen the binding of the fibres of the branches.The bark is washed again, and then mashed with a wooden hammer. The mashed bark is then put into water in a large container called a sukibune and a slimey liquid called Tororo-aoi is added to help bind the fibres. This is where we joined the process......
First of all the teacher showed us how to use the "sugeta", a sieve-like structure that scoops up the fibre in the water. You have to swing the sugeta backwards and forwards about 20 times (twice) to disperse the fibres evenly across the structure.
You can then open the sugeta frame and take out the "matting" that holds your newly formed fibres.
The newly formed paper is then rolled out onto a mesh screen to dry.
We were given an array of paper items to decorate our washi paper with. These get sandwiched between two pieces of paper.
I loved the pretty colours of the washi paper so decided to arrange the cut paper in rows. It is placed on the wet paper which is still sitting on the mesh screen.
Once it has started drying (and with the help of a big hoover contraption) the paper is then taken off the mesh screen and placed on a heated plate to completely dry, using a big wallpaper brush.
Once taken off the hot plate, the paper is slightly curly so is then flattened for a while.
We were then each given the chance to "display" our creations in front of a light ........