Japanese Paper (Washi) is prized for its many excellent properties including its warmth and tactile qualities, strength and low acidity. Traditionally-made Japanese papers are truly acid-free if they are unbleached and unsized. Examples of printed papers exist in perfect condition in Japan from 1000 years ago.
The flexibility in grain direction in washi and resistance to creasing makes it perfect for covering books and boxes. The translucency of certain sheets makes them ideal for lighting and screen making. The wet strength and absorbency of washi means it is perfect for a huge array of printmaking techniques. Many traditional uses of the paper have endured: origami, kites, doll and umbrella-making and unparalleled packaging. Today, its uses are limitless: paper jewellery; to cover mats in framing; used as a background for photography and to develop photographs on; to cover walls and furniture; to produce memorable wedding invitations and for a host of graphic design and public relations promotions.
The inner barks of three plants – kozo, mitsumata and gampi – are used primarily in making washi although other fibres are sometimes mixed in with the other fibres for decorative effect.
Kozo (paper mulberry) is said to be the masculine element, the protector, thick and strong. It is the most widely used fibre, and the strongest. It is grown as a farm crop, and regenerates annually, so no forests are depleted in the process.
Mitsumata is the "feminine element": graceful, delicate, soft and modest. Mitsumata takes longer to grow and is thus a more expensive paper. It is indigenous to Japan and is also grown as a crop.
Gampi was the earliest and is considered to be the noblest fibre, noted for its richness, dignity and longevity. It has an exquisite natural sheen, and is often made into very thin tissues used in book conservation and chine-collé printmaking. Gampi has a natural 'sized' finish which does not bleed when written or painted on.
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