The Features of Washi, Japanese Traditional Paper
Washi is a term that appeared in early modern Japan, when the technology to produce paper mechanically was first imported to Japan. In contrast to this new, mass produced type of paper, “washi” refers to paper hand crafted from the bark of plants such as paper mulberry.
These days, almost any paper is marketed as washi as long as it’s “Japanese-like,” even paper that is made from pulp, by machine, or imported.
Washi is included in the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list as “traditional Japanese handmade paper,” and authentic washi is made by nationally-designated traditional craftsmen. Nevertheless, manufacturers market so-called “handmade paper” produced with chemicals harmful to the environment while lying about their manufacturing process and materials. We feel that the current state of our craft is disheartening.
Corsoyard aims to create washi while staying as close to the traditional methods as possible, creating state-of-the-art craft products with our traditional papermaking techniques.
Corsoyard is a papermaking studio located in the mountains of Gifu. Kenji Sawaki—a traditional craftsman recognized by world-class Japanese corporations for his skill—serves as director.
Our studio makes paper with groundwater from the clear streams of the Nagara River. We have two staff members who specialize in making craft products, as well as our apprentice, Yuga Arisawa. Yuga Arisawa is an active origami artist, popularly nicknamed the “Origami Prince!”
Papermaking at our studio is done entirely by hand, throughout the process from the bark of the plant to a single sheet of paper.
Accounting for cultivation, making paper this way takes a huge amount of time and labor; about a month, on average.
Because of this, our handmade paper has a high price to match its superior quality.
And yet, paper itself is not a work of art but a “resource.” Therefore, it can never be something that produces large profits.
Washi is a time-consuming resource to produce, and delivering it to important clients is not a simple task. We make every effort to create, deliver, and pass down appreciation for this craft, despite the competition.
Passing on Papermaking to the Next Generation
Director Sawaki is currently 41 years old. However, problems caused by aging leadership are already running rampant in the world of traditional Japanese crafts.
It is very admirable to be able to make handicrafts into old age. However, being a professional craftsman demands a level of physical fitness and manual skill, just like working as an athlete.
Historically, an apprentice would begin learning the craft in their teens, then graduate into making products as a representative of a studio during their 20s and 30s.
Tragically, papermaking almost completely lost that tradition during the rapid period of growth that followed World War II.
Passing on as much art and skill as possible to the next generation, making the most of that skill, and developing products and services that are ahead of the times with a youthful sensitivity--by doing these things, we believe we’re leaving behind a great legacy for the future.
Director Sawaki is resolved to continue leading the studio until he becomes 50. He currently works together with Yuga, his apprentice, to create washi crafts while passing down his knowledge and skill.
Yuga Arisawa and Origami
Origami, the art of paper folding, is now a common word and pastime known around the world. The profound origami culture that originated from paper crane folding is deeply rooted in Japan.
Origami came into Yuga’s life when he was a small child. This event became a turning point that resulted in his career making origami, pursuing design techniques, and his experiences with the handmade washi that he now uses in his work.
His desire to create a more genuine, finer paper led to his visit to our studio, where he was given the fateful opportunity to become an apprentice.
Thanks to his appearances on television, he was given the nickname Origami Prince. He is currently involved in product development at our studio, and designs unique origami models by commission for businesses and organizations.
Bringing his elaborate and delicate folding designs to life requires paper that can withstand such detailed folding.
The paper he uses is created by exploring the mixtures of plants needed for traditional papermaking, and the crafting method necessary to create a type of paper suited for origami. This has made it possible to create forms and shapes that never would have been possible with mass produced papers.
In order to broaden the spectrum of origami designs and further develop the art of origami, traditional Japanese paper and specialized origami paper are essential tools.
Our Current Situation
Until now, Corsoyard has made paper to order, created craft products with that same paper, and designed origami models. We’ve also shared our stories on Japanese papermaking, origami designing, and other related topics through lectures and workshops.
However, the impact from COVID-19 has been very severe, and we’ve suffered enormous losses including a sudden decrease in paper orders due to distribution delays. Our offers for lectures and workshops were also inevitably cancelled.
Use of Funds
Funds received from supporters of our project will be used as follows:
- Funds to continue Corsoyard operations during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Expenses for cultivating plant materials and developing new CORSOYARD PAPER
- Creating video content on Japanese paper and origami
Made in TACHIBANA Photography Art Prints
A special art paper crafted from local materials from Tachibana, where our studio is located.
This paper changes in color and depth depending on the angle it’s viewed from, and where the light shines. To go with this paper, we will print and send photos of Tachibana scenery, as taken by Director Sawaki.
Handmade Luxury Paper Filter Tachibana
Tachibana is a coffee filter named after our home region. Incorporating both new technology and traditional paper folding, this product truly represents the best features of Tachibana.
The extremely thin paper is made in the Tachibana district of Mino, Gifu Prefecture with paper mulberry and sunset hibiscus, before being folded by hand into the finished product.
Cultivating these materials takes one year. It takes several months at the earliest from harvest to finished product.
This product cannot be mass produced, as the process requires immense time and labor from the farmwork down to the papermaking. Nevertheless, we are able to create this beautifully delicate paper by not compromising a single step in the process.
This extremely thin paper results in a deep and mellow coffee flavor with little to no off-taste. This is thanks to the drip filter, as it won’t absorb your coffee beans’ delicious flavor or oils.
Provide hospitality to a loved one, use it on a special day, and enjoy a luxurious time.
A Luxurious Origami Scroll Experience
An origami scroll, inscribed with folding instructions. This hand-sized scroll is made to perfection by hand!
This reward comes with specially dyed CORSOYARD PAPER, so you can have fun making a beautifully delicate work of art with distinctly Japanese paper.
Online Access to a Origami Prince Lecture
This is content normally only available through our lectures. (Planned to include subtitles in multiple languages).
Through this lecture, you can learn all about the Origami Prince, from how he came to fall in love with origami to what got him into papermaking. You can also learn about his origami designing process!
This content is great for both origami enthusiasts and those that want to try folding origami for the first time.
Take an Origami Lesson Taught by the Origami Prince
We will hold a one-on-one origami lecture online.
A package enclosed with commercial origami paper and our special CORSOYARD PAPER will be sent to you beforehand. Arrangements will be made with the student to schedule a two-hour lecture.
(The lecture will typically be taught in Japanese. Our studio is able to do simple English or Spanish interpretation, but will be taught mostly through gestures for international students.)
A Two-Day Papermaking Experience at Corsoyard
Supporters that choose this reward will be given a studio tour, experience cultivating paper mulberry at the farm, and try papermaking firsthand. This will be a full-scale papermaking experience, using the actual tools and materials used by craftsmen. You will be able to bring home the paper you make!
The reward will include a night’s stay (includes breakfast and dinner) at a nearby inn as well as lunch for both days.
The course will be a maximum of four people per group.