Tuesday, May 29, 2012


It was a productive weekend of fiber preparation. I decided to go ahead and make paper from some of the dried plants I'd been hoarding, although I'm not sure what I'll be doing with the paper once it's made. Meanwhile, it provided a lovely opportunity to spend time in my garden. Above, the fiber is cooking, near plants with paper potential - yucca and rose-of-sharon, with some calla lilies that appeared, as well as white sage.

I began the weekend by stripping the bark off of the stalks and soaking them in water.

After stripping, the bast fiber is cooked in soda ash, as seen in the image at the top of this post. It cooked for several hours, and then sat in the liquor overnight. The next morning, it was rinsed, and then I commenced to pick off the remaining little bits of bark on the fibers, in a practice the Japanese call chiritori.

It was the first time I ever really spent an extensive span picking chiri. I've done it before, but never this intensely. I kept thinking about how in Tim's book he mentions that for a single batch of pure white paper, it usually takes about nine hours to pick it clean. At Shikoku Wagami, it takes them about two months for their entire yearly paper production.

I lost track of how many hours I spent. Yet, it was such a gift to slow down, sit quietly, calmly focus, and pick chiri. And to feel that all I had to accomplish was clean fiber. I was resigned to beating and sheet formation for next weekend, so I didn't pressure myself to rush in order to squeeze in the entire process. And after watching this, I was trying to enjoy the moment I was given to work, and to work well.

While picking, I kept thinking of the song Simple Gifts. It was a simple task to pick bark, to clean fiber, and let the part of my mind that has a continual to-do list running be quiet.

I managed to pick through about half of the fiber. Have to admit, I'm in love with the clean fiber just as it is. Of course, after all this gentle labor comes the beating.

On a humorous note, I made mention of chiritori on Facebook, and Marie, using Google translate, was told it meant "dustpan." So now I'm wondering about the etymology of the word...anyone out there who could explain it to me?


Mimi said...

Lovely post - I felt I was there with you. Yes, it is a very methodic and therapeudic process. I love each step of the process and feel a continuity with the ancients as I follow the age-old traditional steps in the process... Thanks for all the great photos of your process... Mimi ♥

Yuka / ippiki industries said...

In Japanese, chiri is dust or dirt (I also think of it as small bits) and tori is a conjugated form of toru, which is to take or remove. I don't know how to say dustpan in Japanese, but the idea is similar enough and dustpan would be a more common usage than our papermaking lingo, which Google translate probably can't handle.

Perhaps we need to insist that Google elevate papermaking terminology in their vast database!

Your fibers are beautiful. I wish I could stick my hands in that bucket!

Rocinante Press said...

Thanks Yuka!

Yes, Google should elevate all art terms in all languages into their database. What else does anyone ever use it for? ;)