Back in October, during the frenzy leading up to my move, I attended a talk and demonstration at Kala by some Japanese master papermakers - Hiranao and Osamu Hamada (pictured above). Hamadawashi Mill is known for the paper Tosa Tengucho - "Wing of the Mayfly," - handmade paper that has the distinction of being the thinnest in the world. Osamu, who apprenticed at Mino Washi, is a master of rakusui (lace paper).
Some of the talk focused on young artisans like themselves, who are choosing to take up skills such as papermaking in a modern world. They compared traditional papermakers to ghosts, saying that many printmakers never see them.
Two points in particular resonated with me - the first being the farmers and growers of kozo are just as essential as the papermakers.
The second point was that papermaking is more than just a skill set, it's a feeling from inside. Hiranao compared it to cooking, or more accurately, the desire to make delicious food.
Which made me wonder - the desire to make delicious food, for me, is about more than eating. It's about sharing. And I wonder, to them, is papermaking also about sharing? The idea that one makes a sheet, which is then transformed by another? The act of papermaking is then realized as a continuum and community act.
I think my favorite question after their talk was from someone who asked, "How long did it take to get your mastery?" to which they simply replied, "Three years." (I think the audience was expecting them to say most of their lifetimes, although when I mentioned this to Don, he just answered that it used to be seven, but they've reduced it so as not to drive young interested people away).
Following the talk was a nagashizuki demo.
Papermaking is indeed a community act, although I will argue that the community is much more extensive than those who just go on to use the paper. Cellulose, as Don likes to say, is a polymer made up of strings of grape sugar molecules, one of the most plentiful polymers on the planet. To make paper is to be interconnected to a myriad of histories, processes, art forms and sciences.