Revisiting the photos for this post and thinking about that amazing paper workshop we visited, and the people in it, has made me feel very emotional. People who, in the face of the completely different requirements of modern life, and also in the face of advancing age, are prepared to work unbelievably hard at their traditional skill. This is what provides the likes of me with my paper fix. And paper fix it is. Paper is what got me into etching in the first place. That inexplicably lovely union of pressed image and clean paper made by the ‘platemark’. The stacks of beautifully made paper (albeit by machine) I buy by the hundred from R K Burt in London. All of this I’ve been involved with and known about for the past 40 years. But nothing could prepare me for the experience of finding myself in the presence of the paper makers of Yame. I’ll put a link to a great little documentary video about them in a minute: I just need to finish this rant…Two bird-like grandmothers with arms and backs of steel (and full make-up on to boot) shaking their deckles side by side in an ancient rhythm; the creamy soft paper, or ‘Washi’, flying onto the smooth stacks of that day’s production (300 sheets a day), while Mr Matsuo in the yard hauls the fresh kozo plants around on bamboo rakes.
I bought a load of paper of course. And then carried it around Japan on my back. It was extra to my baggage allowance, but I went through check-ins on the way home with it anyway. They asked what it was. I said ‘Washi’. ‘Ah, Washi….’ they replied, letting me through.
Have a look at this video: Yame Washi