” Combining these Washi paper with my fragrance and candle collections has united two beautiful elements, a Japanese artisan craft and the art of perfume making together which is an explosion of culture and color, evoking enjoyment for all of the senses! ”
It was about 18 years ago when I first discovered Washi paper while on a jewelry trunk show event in San Francisco. While strolling through Japan Town and visiting the Japanese Museum I stumbled into an incredible paper store and bought several sheets of this wonderful paper. My original fascination with the paper was that it had such an incredible texture to it, to me it reminded me very much of the incredible global vintage textiles that I have been collecting for years and had been forever fascinated with.
Not more than a year later I began the development of my fragrance collection… and needed a very unique box to house my perfume bottles. I remembered the Washi paper and its vibrant colors and knew then immediately that it would be a perfect pairing. I then began the initial design of the boxes, at the time no one had been creating cylinder shaped boxes for fragrances and I began the difficult task of trying to find a local box manufacture that would be able to use such intricate papers and apply them properly. Luckily I did find someone to make them by hand using these incredible Washi paper. I began importing the papers directly from Japan and having them all handmade locally here in Los Angeles. I was ecstatic to say the least that I was able to incorporate these centuries old designs into my new fragrance collection. To this day, 18 years later, all of my signature fragrance and candle boxes are still made the same way, with love and care and in small handmade washi paper batches, proudly made in Los Angeles, USA.
Legend has it that about 1,500 years ago a woman taught people in this area of Japan how to make paper with the natural materials from special plants for washi called Kozo, because she had sympathy on them since they did not have any rice fields to make a living. She mysteriously disappeared to the upper river, so she was named “Kawa-kami Gozen”, meaning “upriver princess” in Japanese. Since then, the princess has been enshrined as a paper goddess with two local gods in Okamoto Otaki Shrine.
They say she might have been from Korea or China.Around that period, there had been many people from China passing through Korea to bring their techniques to Japan, which later became the present Japanese handcrafts. The Fukui accent is very similar to the Korean one, due to the fact that Fukui was one of the main locations Koreans could first land on naturally with the strong tide of the sea. When they landed, they only found a vast swamp, which made it difficult for them to settle in. As a result, they went to the surrounding mountain valleys to live. These locations are the origins of where pottery, lacquerware, knives and Washi (Japanese traditional paper) are made.
Since then Washi has been a main industry in the Echizen area. There are now about 70 factories that use either handmade, industrial, or processing methods, with about 500 people working in Washi related jobs in the Imadate area “Goka”.
“Goka” is called by five villages of the town, Oizu, Iwamoto, Shinzaike, Sadatomo and Otaki, in all together. This area have been producing Japanese paper since 6th century and constitute “Echizen Washi no Sato”.
There used to be lots of paper villages every where in Japan, but it is very unusual to see an area like Echizen only making paper through all the year, whereas the others used to make paper only in winter when they didn’t produce rice. As a result, Echizen is one of the largest handmade paper industries in Japan along with Tosa in Kochi and Mino in Gifu Prefectures.
Washi paper is made from the Kozo tree, it grows more than three meters high in a year and it’s cultivated every fall. Kozo grows fast and its one big root and it keeps growing new branches one after another every year. Its long and thick fiber creates strong paper. It is sustainably harvested in this region.
“The Japanese believe that papermaking is from the soul. It’s not a job, it’s an art,” says Cindy Bowden, director of the Robert C. Williams American Museum of Papermaking in Atlanta.
Enjoy and be well!
“My life is my work, there is no line between the two for me.”