Sunday, June 14, 2009


I decided to squeeze one last cultural thing in before summer vacation. It was another opportunity through the social committee at Connor's preschool to take a class and learn how to make Washi paper. Washi comes from Wa meaning Japanese and shi meaning paper. There are stores throughout Tokyo that carry endless amounts of colors and patterns of Washi to be used to cover tea boxes, wrap gifts as well as so many other uses in traditional Japanese arts. The place holding the class was also a museum with a wonderful store selling an overwhelming collection of Washi. This stuff is much stronger than regular paper. They showed us a beautiful scarf and sweater made out of Washi as well as a Wedding dress that could actually be washed. Wow.

We were able to make two sheets of simple white Washi and one with a design sandwiched between two other sheets. Really interesting - many steps to the process that were explained to us at the start. When they saw the look of panic wash over our faces after reviewing the steps they reassured us that they would help us along the way.

There was a special way of dipping and dumping the pulp to get it onto the contraption. I was sweating knowing I wasn't going to remember the steps. Fortunately, the man assisting us was so sweet and helpful.
After a certain number of dips into the pool of pulp there were a certain number of swishes - so he tells me 9in Japanese of course) to count to twenty, 3x - but I not only forget how to count past 6 in Japanese, I then forget how many times to swish, 'Was that 2x to 20 or 3 times to 10 and what comes after 6? Ici ni san shi go roku...By my third washi paper making turn sensei gave up on me and started counting in English. So here I am counting as far as I can in Japanese and he is counting in English. You just don't want to screw up the method - this is an exact science!!!!!

Wiping of the excess pulp in a STRAIGHT line with a certain hand with certain fingers. Ah!!!

Transfer to a screen and lay down gently - rolling it little by little

Then rip it off - fast like a bandaid - can you see the look of relief on my face that I didn't screw it up?

Drying the Washi with a serious suction like machine

- The final step - smoothing the paper onto a hot metal board to dry, brushing it out from center to corner...she had to redo a couple parts for me
This is an art. I am not artistic, but can appreciate Washi paper now in a whole new way.


Cynthia Murphy said...

Washi is fascinating... but your hair looks especially fabulous. Can't wait to see you.

Linda said...

I really want to learn to do this!