Even a sheet of paper has two sides..

Traditions are significant. Shared experience, story telling, symbolism, and cultural memory and lessons are all contained in the traditions that we (often blindly) wander through. In the western world our traditions are very young. In American culture we can’t really claim to have any traditions that are much over 200 years old.

Though paper was originally made in China in the first century, the art was brought to Japan in 610 AD by Buddhist monks who produced it for writing sutras. By the year 800, Japan’s skill in papermaking was unrivalled, and from these ancient beginnings have come papers unbelievable in their range of colour, texture and design. It was not until the 13th century that knowledge of papermaking reached Europe – 600 years after the Japanese had begun to produce it. By the late 1800’s, there were in Japan more than 100,000 families making paper by hand.

So the tradition of handmade paper from renewable resources in Japan is over 1200 years old. Many of the patterns are just as old. I find it somehow connecting to touch and work with an art form that has survived this long.

Washi is the Japanese word for the traditional papers made from the long inner fibers of three plants, wa meaning Japanese and shi meaning paper.

The inner barks of three plants — kozo, mitsumata and gampi — all native to Japan, are used primarily in the making of washi.


Kozo (paper mulberry) is said to be the masculine element, the protector, thick and strong. It is the most widely used fiber, 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 fiber, noted for its richness, dignity and longevity. It has a natural ‘sized’ finish which does not bleed when written or painted on. Other fibers such as hemp, abaca, rayon, horsehair, and silver or gold foil are some-times used for paper or mixed in with the other fibers for decorative effect.

Katazome is a Japanese method of dyeing fabrics using a resist paste applied through a stencil.


Where the paste mixture covers and permeates the cloth, dye applied later will not penetrate. Later, screens were used to apply the resist paste. This method of dyeing was used to decorate linen, silk, and cotton as well as paper.

Yuzen patterns were originally designed for the textile industry in Kyoto where the production of cloth for kimonos reached its zenith.


Yuzen designs were very elaborate, and included a lot of gold.

Chiyogami is a specific word developed to describe the graphic, repetitive designs applied to paper in the Edo period.


Originally these patterns were printed by woodblock for use in paper doll and small accessory making. In the twentieth century, these patterns began to be applied using silkscreens and this continues today. Today, as Yuzen textile patterns join the traditional Chiyogami ones on paper, both terms are used interchangeably. I like “Chiyogami” simply because it was the term originally created to refer to paper (-gami means paper).

So next up is to create a paperboard box “T3” using traditional materials and cover it in traditional Chiyogami Washi. Maybe like this: