Did you know that in Japan, there is a paper so strong it is used not only to bind books, but also to make clothing? In my latest explorations as I catalog the Reference Collection at the Center for Book Arts, I’ve come across a section of books on Japanese papermaking and dyeing techniques. One of these titles, Momigami: Japanese Kneaded Paper by Donald Farnsworth, details the history and process of creating this incredibly durable paper. Pronounced mō-me-gô’-me, momigami is a vegetable product that is made of paper and starch. It has been used to make kamiko (articles of clothing) worn in Japan for thousands of years. In the West, it is also frequently used as a bookbinding paper due to its strength and durability.
As Farnsworth explains, “Traditional momigami is made by applying paste to a strong, handmade kozo paper, wrinkling and kneading the paper, then allowing it to dry. Momigami’s rich texture combines the complexity of entangled fibers with millions of wrinkles, creating a paper with the soul of a well traveled road…The amazing strength of momigami is due to the nature of the wrinkles coupled with the strong kozo fibers. The millions of small wrinkles add an elasticity to the paper, operating under the same principle as an accordion.”
momigami book by Ampersand Duck
Readers of this title can find out more about the impressive paper, learning how to create momigami, how to decorate it, and how to create a number of momigami projects such as a covered portfolio, wallet, and origami card case.
Woad and Indigo: Working with Woad by Prue Dobinson and Kon’nyaku Art by Asao Shimura are two other gems I found in my recent processing of the collection. These miniature books were published in Japan in the early 1980s and printed by a platen letter press.
In Woad and Indigo: Working with Woad, Dobinson navigates the history, distribution, extraction and dying process of woad, used as the primary European source of indigo blue dye for more than 2,000 years. Woad is a native of the Mediterranean, originating in Turkey and the Middle East. Widespread use of woad in textile dyeing took place in Europe during Medieval times, where it remained the dominant source of blue dye until it was later replaced by imported indigo.
In the second title, Kon’nyaku Art, Shimura explores artwork made from kon’nyaku paste ink (kon’nyaku is a tuber plant originating in Indochina). The use of this ink results in a uniquely translucent paint quality. As Shimura notes, “While revealing the surface of the paper, it can also mask initial layers of ink, making it a versatile medium that can either be translucent, semi-translucent, or opaque.” In this work, Shimura also explores the relatively new process of creating art through the mixing of kon’nyaku paste and natural dyes which are then printed as a mono print, lino (rubber) cut, woodblock, or silkscreen.
“The Burning Clock Tower in Johannesburg”
by Minnette Vari, 46cm x 61cm piña paper
Both titles are beautifully illustrated and printed on elegant piña paper. If you have the time, I would encourage you to take a look when you can. You can find all three books through the online Reference Collection Catalog.
The Reference Collection is one of three collections at The Center for Book Arts. The other two include the Fine Arts Collection (composed of artists’ books and prints) and the Archives (containing Exhibition Catalogs and the Center’s ephemera). All three collections can be viewed on-line via the Center’s website or in person by appointment. Note that the Reference Library is currently being cataloged, with roughly 50% completed.
-Sarah McCarthy, Collections Intern