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Article Review: Masters of Indigo | Meet Awagami

Wa (和) meaning Japanese and shi (紙) meaning paper

Greetings fellow book enthusiasts! Today, I'm excited to share my insights into an enchanting world of craftsmanship — a journey into the heart of Awagami, the renowned Japanese paper mill. Join me as we explore the intricate art of making washi paper and delve into the fascinating marriage of indigo dyeing.

Nestled near the Yoshino riverbank, Awagami has been perfecting the art of washi paper for eight generations. Aizome washi, or indigo-dyed paper, made its debut in 1878 at the Paris World Fair, unveiling a tradition that continues to capture hearts. Awagami's home in Tokushima, the birthplace of Japanese indigo, adds a unique touch, intertwining centuries-old farming practices with the craft of papermaking.

Awagami stands out for its commitment to tradition and meticulous craftsmanship. The family-run mill, now led by the skilled duo Yoichi and Mieko Fujimori, specializes in the nagashizuki method, producing strong, thin, and resilient papers. These sheets, akin to fabric, are highly sought after by artists, calligraphers, conservationists, and bookbinders worldwide.

The variety of papers is staggering, each made from natural fibers like kozo, mitsumata, hemp, bamboo, or gampi. The commitment to sustainability is evident, with materials harvested from the mountainside and the entire process aligned with nature. The result? Papers that not only reflect 200 years of knowledge but also stand as an environmentally friendly alternative to wood-based options.

Awagami's fusion of tradition and innovation is striking. The mill's ability to experiment with techniques while preserving the essence of washi has led to unique papers, some even produced by machine, albeit at a fraction of the speed of Western counterparts. The indigo dyeing process, with its intense aroma and intricate steps, adds an extra layer of artistry to their creations.

Awagami's dedication to the craft is evident in every sheet, and their reputation precedes them with collaborations with iconic brands like Hermès and Mont Blanc. The mill's foray into 3D paper, interior wall coverings, and even a collection of washi for inkjet printers showcase their commitment to pushing boundaries. The influence of Awagami extends globally, with artists like Chuck Close and Frank Stella utilizing their papers for remarkable pieces.

As a book enthusiast, the connection between washi paper and the literary world becomes palpable. The intersection of tradition, innovation, and sustainability is truly commendable. Awagami's journey isn't just about paper; it's a story of preserving heritage, nurturing creativity, and leaving an indelible mark on the artistic landscape.

In the realm of bookbinding and paper preservation, Awagami stands as a beacon of excellence. Their commitment to tradition, innovation, and sustainability creates not just paper but a narrative that bridges the past and the present. Whether you're a bookbinder, collector, or an aficionado of all things bookish, the allure of Awagami's washi paper is a journey worth embarking on. The mill's creations are more than just sheets; they're a testament to the timeless beauty of craftsmanship. Happy reading and binding!


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