Saturday, November 22, 2014

Astounding riches

This morning, I met Paul at the train station so he could guide us through a bunch of transfers and to Honma-san's incredible studio.
Her dad made this vat for her. The large one above came from a mill where she worked; they didn't need it anymore. She has pictures on her phone of her making paper with her son strapped onto her back. She is singular and so very remarkable.
Next to the leg of the press that her father also built for her. Her parents are happy that she is a papermaker. She studied Japanese painting in college and there is a lovely story about getting a letter from a friend on handmade paper and being enthralled by the texture and feel. From there, a long journey of reading books, tracking down papermakers, and training with a master.
In total, she has worked at four mills. These are her fibers, so well organized. She specializes in mitsumata paper, as her first teacher, Abe-san, is a mitsumata washi expert. [here's her website page about making paper, enjoy!]
I saw these sticks bundled above and asked her what she uses them for (as all of us know, they multiply like crazy after harvests). She said, decoration and ambiance, and one more thing that she would show us later....
!!! OF COURSE I had to buy this one. I should have gotten more to share but this one is mine. There are artists' books based on this, the real thing, but I think the real thing is so much more precious.
She has lovely drying boards as well, from auction and from another mill.
My camera is too slow to capture the moments, but this is where she pulled down very old gampi (at least 50 years, if not more) to show us. She said you must use kozo and mitsumata within a few years of harvest, but that gampi can store forever.
After concluding the interview in her studio (which is the old guest room of this house, originally belonging to her late grandmother), she took us into the shop, which, needless to say, was exquisite. So meticulously gorgeous that I didn't notice for a long time that her baby was sleeping on the floor in the back corner. He was on her back for half of the interview and when he fell asleep, she put him down in the back of the store.
I asked if she made shifu and she said no, but that she started making kamiko and pulled out this amazing kimono she made last year. These garments were always glued, not sewn like shifu garments. Which makes so much sense that I've always understood it without knowing I knew.
Can you tell that that display is an old vat? A friend told me before I left to please learn good ways to display paper because Americans are pretty awful at it. So very true.
He woke up while she was ringing up my sale, so I picked him up and he was quiet until he got very rowdy. She grows papermaking plants outside but also is preparing a field further west for her production plants. She works completely alone and is so very happy. I had no idea anyone like this existed in the world and my life is better, now that I know.
Afterwards, Paul and I had lunch and then I headed back to the room to rest, put down my things, and regroup before heading out to meet Hisane at Paper Nao.
I didn't know for a long time that I wasn't allowed to take pictures here. Probably partly because even the signs saying not to use cameras and cell phones were like works of art.



Hisane, who trained in Mino and Ogawamachi to make washi, also had wonderful stories that she shared with me over dinner.
It has been amazing to meet people in all these different walks of life and ways of interacting with washi. I know it's just a sliver of the picture, but it feels so much healthier than the state of hanji in Korea right now that I feel so much lighter doing research here.
I got home and had to look at all I had bought. The lighting is awful so these look much better in real life. Paper Nao is the creation of Sakamoto-san, who is an insanely prolific artist. He doesn't make paper, but he dyes and paints and manipulates and prints and and and. I could not even imagine outputting this much in one lifetime.




This book I saw and immediately had to buy. About Korean paper and Japanese paper.
The photos and designs are stunning. It's mostly photos.
And then this one, which I had seen all those years ago in a box container at my hanji teacher's mill. I had wanted this book since then, and now it's mine! I got so many little things to give as gifts when I return, but it's hard to imagine parting with any right now. That's fine. Sometimes it takes time before you can let go.

Tomorrow: more visit with Richard and Paul! I figure, I missed the paper museum AND the big paper store, so why not just repeat what I know is good. Plus, the latter is a visit for me to give a jiseung lesson, so I like to think I'm giving back.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What happens when the cup was already full and you try to add more?

Ayako Yoshizumi in front of the paper windows her students made that cover the glass windows of a lovely lunch room. She has had a remarkable career of teaching washi to elementary school children. I saw her a few hours after I got off the plane, escorted by another woman who did remarkable translations.
This classroom is way more amazing and well equipped than most colleges/grad schools I've seen. Can you imagine having this in elementary school?!?!
Chestnuts that are used to dip into colored pulp for fun. I got a pulp dipped one to take home. Prickly!
Kozo grows directly outside the classroom. We didn't get to see it until after dark but there was some light from the windows.
I'm not sure how I'm still upright at this point, while these two are so energetic! Yuriko RAN to get an express train on the way and I could barely keep up. In fact, I was not really keeping up, but thank goodness the doors did not close on me.
That sign says something about a class going on for many years. I just like the photo because Yoshizumi-san is in the mirror.
Who's who?
The kids make their own diploma paper in 6th grade to graduate and learn to make paper from kozo directly in 4th grade. They even have decorated the bathrooms (see the boy and girl above?) with washi on all the different floors.
150-year-old gingko wood drying boards from Ichibei-san, the Japanese beloved national treasure. His brushes, too. He signed and gifted them to Yoshizumi-san. Precious.
Today I went to visit Sind and meet Ryoko and Richard. This piece of his is outrageously gorgeous, an old saw on paper. 
Emiko Nakano also joined us. This is one of her pieces, made from pages of old account books.
She got this while antiquing, an old futon cover with cotton warp. She could see it was shifu from the slubs.
A very famous shifu book written by a shifu master who passed away. He came from a samurai family. I saw pictures. Impressive!
The itajime on this paper is ridiculously beautiful.
The entire sheet is so huge you can't even see where it ends. Richard made it.
I almost passed out when I saw this gorgeous dress with fabric that Ryoko had designed. The dress and paper use the same wood blocks to print/dye.
Emiko used 2mm washi to make this huge piece of shifu, cotton warp. She is still unwilling to cut it.
She brought these samples to show me.
Richard's new studio space above where they live (which is above the shop). He tore and pasted indigo-dyed washi onto the ceiling. He spends part of the week here and part of the week at his studio w/the paper mill a ways away. How sad am I that I don't get to visit that one?
That's what you see from out the door of the studio.
An old Korean lacquered paper amazement.
Guess who has stayed up WAY TOO LATE? But has finally finished transcribing three days worth of field notes from two countries? Let's hope I am functional tomorrow morning for two more interviews, a shop visit, and another meeting with a washi contemporary.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A day behind

Hello. I arrived to Japan today and hit the ground hard, working immediately until late at night. I almost collapsed into a heap onto the very comfy futon in the lovely ryokan where I am staying but of course I have to check how to get to my next appt tomorrow first...so here is what happened YESTERDAY, which explains why I am so behind. Up there is the husband of another jiseung artist.
It's very warm in here because he's raising these:
 !!!!!!!!!
The artist had her two other jiseung friends come and one, who makes hanji dolls, had these. Meticulous and perfect on their own, but also perfect
 when nested!
Lots and lots of colored threads ready to go. A very different method from how I learned.
I absolutely love how she gets her patterns. I learned some new things yesterday by looking at all three of these artists' pieces. Oh, and that was after I gave a lecture at Yongin University (in Korean). And this was all being filmed by the DP of a documentary on hanji to be aired on January 1 in Korea.
That's me shooting as we pull away from the house in the countryside (one province south of the one Seoul is in). We got stuck in lots of rush hour traffic. The professor who invited me to lecture had to rush off early so the PD took me home but insisted on buying me dinner first. I was so dazed that I could barely pack by the time I got home and put my shower off until 4:30am today before I got the shuttle bus to the airport, did last minute gift shopping, and got on the plane to Narita (next to two Czech guys).

Today: got off the plane, got my luggage, got my rental phone, took a late train out, called the ryokan because I didn't understand the directions I had so they actually just came all the way out to meet me at the train stop, and then met the first person for my research trip. She was an exchange student in high school years ago in Columbus during the Vietnam War. So fascinating, having this half day with her. She took me to see an 80-yo washi teacher who has so much more energy than me and I saw the most amazing facility and learned so much and got amazing gifts and all that I will expand on later.

It's already overflowing!