The Japanese are amazing when it comes to design. Their attention to detail, exquisite color palettes and skill are what I admire most. So I was delighted to see Legend Design of Toronto at a recent craft show. Founded in 1992, they now also wholesale their washi paper jewelry to major museum gift stores around the world, including the Victoria and Albert Museum of Design in London, England where their collection has been selling well.
Washi ("wa" means Japanese, "shi", paper) is handmade Japanese paper traditionally made from three types of shrubs including the mulberry which grow in many parts of Japan. Other sources like bamboo, rice and wheat are also used.
Image by Jomind via FlickrThe basic process of making washi is intricate and time-consuming but less chemicals are used compared to ordinary paper. First the plant material is harvested - the bark is boiled off and dried. It is treated with lye to remove the non-fibrous components like starch and rinsed in cold water. The resulting long fibers are then bleached. Impurities are removed by hand. Pulping is done by bashing the fibers against a rock or a board. The pulp is collected on a screen to make paper. Some papers have a mucilaginous (gummy) material from a plant source added to bind the fibers together.
It was often the winter time activity of farmers because the process needs pure, cold running water. The cold reduces bacterial degradation and makes the fibers contract more for a crispy effect. The resulting paper is stronger than regular kinds.
The traditional designs on the paper are also superlative as you can see from the wide range of paper based jewelry from Legend Design. Shown here are my favorite picks. The amazing paper frog is a brooch. A lacquer finish protects the washi jewelry.
Japanese Fishing Lure Jewelry
The Man Who Loved Pearls (Story about Kokichi Mikimoto)
The Ama : The Women Pearl Divers of Japan
Japanese Marital Countdown Bra Stops with an Engagement Ring
For more tutorials check out my Jewelry Making Tips
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