Visit Washi Arts at the Codex International Book Fair

From February 8th – 11th, Washi Arts will be part of the fifth Codex International Book Fair in the San Francisco Bay area. Come by and visit and be inspired by the wonderful selection of washi, chiyogami and book arts tools and supplies we'll have on hand. You'll find Washi Arts at Table #36. The venue is spectacular and the calibre of book artists, small press and fine press exhibitors is extraordinary.

Codex V will be held at the Craneway Pavillion in Richmond, CA

Codex V will be held at the Craneway Pavillion in Richmond, CA

CODEX V, February 8-11, 2015 - Craneway Pavillion, Richmond, CA (click here for map link)

Over 180 of the world's best book artists and fine press printers will be exhibiting their spectacular works at the CODEX V Book Fair. The Public is encouraged to attend. Entry tickets for the Book Fair are sold at the door. $5.00 students, $10.00 general, $30.00 multi-day.

Sunday 12:30pm - 5:30pm
Monday 12:30pm - 6:00pm
Tuesday 12:30pm - 6:00pm
Wednesday 10:00am - 3:00pm

CODEX is the largest Book Fair of its kind in the United States, and is proud to be a part of Rare Book Week West. For more information on all of the bookish events happening Feb. 5-11th, 2015, go to

Codex International Book Fair

Unesco Designates Japanese Washi Paper as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Japan’s traditional art of making “washi” paper – a millennium-old craft – has been officially added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

UNESCO Designates Washi as an Intangible Cultural Heritage Item

UNESCO Designates Washi as an Intangible Cultural Heritage Item

The traditional craft of hand-making paper, or Washi, is practised in three communities in Japan: Misumi-cho in Hamada City, Shimane Prefecture, Mino City in Gifu Prefecture and Ogawa Town/Higashi-chichibu Village in Saitama Prefecture. The paper is made from the fibres of the paper mulberry plant, which are soaked in clear river water, thickened, and then filtered through a bamboo screen. Washi paper is used not only for letter writing and books, but also in home interiors to make paper screens, room dividers and sliding doors. Most of the inhabitants of the three communities play roles in keeping this craftsmanship viable, ranging from the cultivation of mulberry, training in the techniques, and the creation of new products to promote Washi domestically and abroad. Washi papermaking is transmitted on three levels: among families of Washi craftspeople, through preservation associations and by local municipalities. Families and their employees work and learn under Washi masters, who have inherited the techniques from their parents. All the people living in the communities take pride in their tradition of Washi-making and regard it as the symbol of their cultural identity. Washi also fosters social cohesion, as the communities comprise people directly engaged in or closely related to the practice.


My Inspiration for Starting Washi Arts

I started Washi Arts after being inspired by Nanci Jacobi of The Japanese Paper Place in Toronto, Canada.

My mother was an artist who loved Japanese design and craftsmanship, and traveled to Japan on a couple of occasions. She instilled in me early, a love for detail, packaging, presentation and the subtle beauty of well made materials.

I grew up near Toronto, and when in college my Mother and I would often visit a Japanese paper store together — the one founded by Nancy Jacobi in 1982. It was small but well stocked with papers and artisan goods I’d never imagined before. They were memorable visits.

Many, many years passed, and I moved to the United States and had a career involved in design and marketing, and eventually the book arts. During a visit to Strasbourg France, I visited a stationery store and saw the display window was filled with packages of Japanese paper from the Japanese Paper Place! When I next visited Toronto I contacted Nancy Jacobi to remember myself to her, and compliment her on the apparent expansion of her small Toronto based store to a company with global reach.

I was very inspired by her story, the growth of the Japanese Paper Place retail store to a global wholesale distributor of washi, and her passion for the artistic uses of heritage washi. I was at a transition point in my life and career — was open to her suggestion that I get involved with marketing and selling washi on the west coast of the United States.

Nancy Jacobi has become my Japanese paper mentor and has set me on an exciting path to share the unique qualities of Japanese papers, tools and supplies with artists, conservators, printers, designers and artisans. I am proud to represent the papermakers of Japan in the United States and beyond. I have benefited greatly from her forty years of experience as a merchant of decorative Japanese papers and heritage washi.

I now have a growing business focused on Japanese papers, and sell online, at trade shows and conferences. I teach and make presentations at Universities and for professional associations, and offer special trunk shows and events for artists to discover the unique qualities of washi.

What is Washi?

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

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. Then with the introduction from Europe of mechanized papermaking technology and as things "Western" became sought after including curtains (not shoji) and French printmaking papers (not kozo), production declined until by 1983 only 479 papermaking families were left. Today the few remaining families struggle to compete in the world market with handmade papers from India, Thailand and Nepal, where a lower cost of living makes it possible to produce papers more cheaply.



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

Kozo (paper mulberry) is said to be the masculine element, the protector, thick and strong. It is the most widely used fibre, 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 fibre, noted for its richness, dignity and longevity. It has an exquisite natural sheen, and is often made into very thin tissues used in book conservation and chine-collé printmaking. Gampi has a natural 'sized' finish which does not bleed when written or painted on.

Other fibres such as hemp, abaca, rayon, horsehair, and silver or gold foil are some-times used for paper or mixed in with the other fibres for decorative effect.

Methods of Production

Branches of the (kozo, gampi or mitsumata) bush are trimmed, soaked, the bark removed, and the tough pliant inner bark laboriously separated, cleaned, then pounded and stretched.

The addition of the pounded fibre to a liquid solution, combined with tororo-aoi (fermented hibiscus root) as a mucilage, produces a paste-like substance when it is mixed.

It is this "paste" which is tossed until evenly spread on a bamboo mesh screen (called a su) to form each sheet of paper. The sheets are piled up wet, and later laid out to dry on wood in the sun or indoors on a heated dryer.


As Japan rushes with the rest of the world into the 21st Century, and more modern technologies take over, machines produce similar-looking papers which have qualities very different from authentic washi. As of the fall of 2008, there remained fewer than 350 families still engaged in the production of paper by hand.