Wa 和 - Japanese and shi 紙 - paper
Washi is traditional Japanese paper made using techniques developed over 1,300 years ago. It is now on UNESCO’S list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The paper feels alive in your hands and holds a quiet integrity and beauty. Grown from natural plant fibers, washi is a truly environmentally sustainable product. Washi is flexible and versatile in its uses, facilitating new creative pathways and encouraging experimentation across a wide range of disciplines.
How It’s Made
The paper is commonly made from three different plant fibres grown in Japan: Kozo, Mitsumata and Gampi. The most common is the Paper Mulberry plant (Kozo). The process involves many steps to get from plant to paper:
Harvesting - Steaming - Stripping, shaving and drying the bark - Bleaching and coking the white bark - Removing dark spots - Beating - Sheet Formation with bamboo screen and wood frame - Drying by sun and wind - Inspecting and finishing.
During this organic process, the fibers are soaked in clear, cold river water, thickened using a gelatinous formation aid that suspends fibers evenly in water (Neri), and then filtered through a bamboo screen. These fibers, painstakingly processed by hand, are far longer than those used in Western paper, making them more durable and resilient. Washi is also naturally acid free, meaning the paper can maintain its original character for hundreds of years. Each maker has the unique opportunity to convey their own personality, spirit and craftsmanship through their paper.Awagami's harvested Kozo field
Steaming kozo branches at the Ogawa Washi Learning Center