Who knew that the best city to explore handmade Japanese washi paper, outside of Japan, was Toronto?   Turns out, Toronto is home to two amazing places dedicated entirely to Japanese washi paper: The Japanese Paper Place and The Paper Place.    In the next two blog posts I will introduce these two amazing resources.

Today:  Part One, The Japanese Paper Place.

The Japanese Paper Place  imports and distributes Japanese paper to retailers throughout North America.  But it’s much more than that.  The Japanese Paper Place is on a mission—to promote the use of washi paper in the arts and to disseminate knowledge and information about washi paper to artists, craftspeople, and designers around the world.

Bryan Kelley "the River" woodblock print on washi

Here’s what they have to say:

“Washi is not for every artist. Made by hand from renewable plant barks  (kozo, gampi and mitsumata) which are painstakingly stripped and cleaned, it isn’t paper as we know it. An artist can’t easily transfer his or her techniques from western paper to Japanese. But for some, with a particular openness to new materials and a desire to stretch their creative expression, it stirs them to new heights, and encourages them to produce new work that owes its success in large part to the very existence of washi.”

"Snow Flower" Terhi Hursti

The people at The Japanese Paper Place love their artists!  In their gallery of washi art they write that the gallery is an expression of “gratitude for those artists who persevere with a significant material that’s not easy to know; gratitude for audiences like you who continue to show curiosity about its potential; and gratitude for the papermakers in Japan who continue to make this magnificent sustainable resource.”

detail, "Lilies" by Marilyn Lightstone, digital print on torinoko gampi

The Japanese Paper Place hosts amazing talks by washi paper artists, and sponsors exhibits, and even, I think, leads study tours to Japan to paper-making villages.  It also maintains an artist resource center of paper that is basically unobtainable outside of Japan for artists and designers to come and examine in person for their work.   Recently they published photos of golden washi “so rare and expensive that most people never get to see them”

Fused metallics Fusuma paper

As a person who has loved and worked in washi for 25 years now, I was thrilled to discover them.  I haven’t had a chance to visit them in Toronto yet but it’s great to know that I don’t have to go all the way to Japan for some of the best washi and washi information available (and it’s in English–that’s icing on the cake!).  What a resource!