Papermaking is no easy feat. The traditional process demands of its practitioners a meditative and meticulous mindset from start to finish.
Artisans set off to collect the inner bark of paper mulberry so that its branches can be steamed and then bleached in water. Later, the bark is shaved for its cotton-like fibres, which go through a grooming process: it’s boiled, washed, beaten to a pulp for about an hour and soaked in a water tank mixed with solution.
A screen is then used to shape the sheet’s texture and thickness and to dispense of the solution. Stacks of wet sheets are left to dry in the sun, so they can be pressed for the day to come. Once dry, final touches for the delicate yet durable washi can begin, with artists adding dabs of colour, print or pattern for effect.
For the better part of the tradition’s 1,000-year history, the village of Kurodani, located near Kyoto, has been the site to visit for a glimpse into the production process. Kurodani has clung to its designation as the oldest papermaking village for about 800 years.
A trip to the Kurodani Washi Exhibition Hall, where workshops and tours are available, requires a detour into the countryside. For now, armchair travellers can marvel at the art of papermaking through this short film that charts the process from raw form to the polished piece. – Beatrice Paez