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The 'Arts of Japan' series comes ‘home' this time - our image shows the process of making the actual object you are holding at the moment!

The image is taken from one page of 'Saiga Shokunin Burui', an illustrated book showing the work of various traditional craftsmen, which was designed by Tachibana Minko and published in 1770. My friend the young print dealer Shingo Ueda owns a couple of copies, and graciously lent me one so that I could make an accurate reproduction.

I just used the word 'traditional' to describe those craftsmen, but of course at the time the book was created nobody would have described such people in that way; they were just doing a routine job, making things that were used in their society on a day-to-day basis. The paper being made by the lady in this image may have been intended for use in making novels, writing letters, doing accounting, or making lanterns, screens, or even umbrellas.

As I sit here and leaf through Ueda-san's book, I marvel at the thought that it was made over 240 years ago. One Edo morning in 1770 - some years before the USA even existed! - a printer sat down for the day's work, put the carved block in place on his bench, prepared his stack of washi, and printed a few hundred copies of this page. These would be bound together with the other sheets by the publisher's staff, and then sold. And that washi was so strong and pure that all these years later, the book is still here to give pleasure.

The paper you are holding is Japan's best washi, the Echizen Hosho. Barring accidents, this print will still be with us when 2300 rolls around. Ask me again if I am enjoying my work! :-)


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