Visiting Presenters Program: Washi maker Richard Flavin

Visiting Presenters Program: Washi maker Richard Flavin
Visiting Presenters Program: Washi maker Richard Flavin

As part of our Visiting Presenters Program, renowned Washi paper maker Richard Falvin, with whom we are grateful to have a long established relationship, returned to YIS to work with Grades 3 to 5 to provide them with hands-on experience of making this beautiful, handmade, traditional paper. Students had the opportunity to learn about, and take part in, the process from plant to paper.

Richard is a native of Boston, Massachusetts where he graduated from the Art Institute of Boston. A short visit to Japan inspired him to pursue Japanese woodblock printmaking following with studies at Tokyo University of Fine Arts from 1972 until 1974. The study of woodblock printmaking and the close relation with high quality handmade paper led to his interest in the hand paper making process. In 1976, he and his wife moved to the traditional handmade paper making town of Ogawamachi, Saitama. From 1976 until 2005, he lived as the caretaker at Jionji Rinzai Zen temple where he established Jionji Press as a studio and workshop for paper making, block printing and paper related art.

Richard grows his own "kozo" (paper mulberry) which he had harvested and brought in for our students to use. They learned how to strip the bark from the tree and prepare it for use.

The plant materials are then boiled and washed. Students were taught how the results can vary depending on a number of factors including the quality of kozo used and the season it's being prepared in.

The fibers are then mixed with water and "neri", a viscous liquid made from hibiscus root. This acts as a thickening agent. The amount used varies depending on the paper being made. The mixture is then filtered in to wooden frames to shape the paper sheet.

Once the thin fibers have become a sheet of paper, students placed leaves and petals on the wet surface which would become embedded in the final paper. It is then removed from the frame to dry naturally.

Richard also offered a workshop for YIS parents who got the chance to make and take home their own sheets of washi.

You can see more photos and video from the day on YIS Photos.