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.


Velma Bolyard said...

i am SO happy you are doing this. what amazing papermakers and paperworkers. you are so exactly where you should be. beautiful fibers. i remember having my small children around the vats, and once having hannah sleep on the floor at the autumn festival, while isis and i spun wool and sold paper and books...and i just removed 5 of these: ! from my comment.

Anonymous said...

oh WOW!