小泉襖紙加工所 Koizumi Fusumagami Works
Fusuma is a sliding door which is a prominent traditional feature in Japanese housing and interiors. The structure is made of a wooden frame and covered with Japanese traditional papers and fabrics on both sides.
Koizumi Fusumagami Works is a printing studio originally established as a Karakami Paper studio by Shichigorou Koizumi during the Edo period, Kaei Nenkan (1848-1855) on Nihonbashi Dori (street), in Tokyo, Japan.
Now they have moved to Yashio city, a suburb of Tokyo and descendants of Shichigorou Koizumi, nationally qualified Japanese craftsmen Yukio Koizumi and his sons Masayuki and Akio Koizumi are using those traditional skills inherited to continue to make Karakami papers.
Karakami is a form of paper originating from China during the Heian period (794-1185), used for writing Classical Japanese poetry and letters. Subsequently, in the Azuchi Momoyama era (1573-1603) Karakami paper was introduced into the making of Fusuma sliding doors. Later again, during the Edo period (1603-1868), when political and cultural power was transferred from Kyoto to Tokyo, Karakami paper was developed by many artisans and more broadly used for a wider range of decorative purposes and introduced into the households of the 'common people'; Karakami therefore no longer existed only for Kyoto’s elite and noble families.
Karakami paper generally has a variety of design features and is printed by wood cut shapes, but real qualities and character of the Koizumi Fusumagami Works are seen in using their skills in intricate and sophisticated designs with a very rich expression. These skills include brush dying and gradation dying of the paper, wood cut printing, Sarasa stencilling and gold gilding.
Koizumi Fusumagami works’ Karakami uses the highest grade Echizen’s “Torinokoshi” Japanese traditional paper (washi), made in Fukui Japan.
Akio Koizumi explains the more recent history of Karakami...
In Tokyo, the wood cuts used in the studios producing Karakami paper were mostly lost and burnt by The Great Kanto earthquake (1923) and the bombing of Tokyo (1945).
Before the world war, Fusuma sliding door papers were made joining 12 pieces of smaller paper together but after the war larger pieces of paper were made available. Older remaining wood cut blocks are used where possible and modified and repaired to preserve the authenticity and traditional methods.
Since 2010, alongside their traditional wood cut Karakami making, Koizumi Fusumagami Works also introduced Sarasa stencil printing, a longstanding technique using a persimmon tannin which strengthens and hardens the Japanese paper. This then facilitates the application of the pigments to the cut in 'Katagami patterns'. Koizumi Fusumagami Works had originally only used the wood cut techniques but siezed the opportunity to take over the sarasa stencil print business to ultimately save it from going out of business.
Akio Koizumi explains, “Both techniques have a different beauty; the original wood cut prints give us softer overall feel and impression while the Sarasa stencilling shows a clearer and sharper finish."
Karakami uses a dyed mud pigment, mica powder and Gofun, a white pigment made from crustacean shells. These three ingredients are all basically the same as used in Japanese painting, but then adapted especially for Karakami making by blending with a seaweed Konjac based glue. There’s no hard and fast rule to how the pigments are applied, although many years ago the patterns produced were steeped in deep superstitions. Akio Koizumi assures us that in todays modern world the patterns produced are more for the beauty of the visual art, and the superstitions do not matter anymore!
Karakami paper artisan Koizumi Fusumagami Works, have worked on printing beautiful Fusuma papers for many years, passing down the specialist skills and techniques through the generations, but modern Japanese housing styles have changed and demand for the Fusuma sliding doors has decreased rapidly. The father and master of Karakami craftsman Yukio Koizumi had to consider “How can I make sure I pass down these traditional wisdoms and techniques to my sons and to the next generations?”
This desire, to protect the traditional craftsmanship whilst introducing Karakami into modern life settings, prompted him to start producing smaller products using those same methods. The notebooks and mini envelopes being sold by Kotatsu are part of their new project for the conservation of these traditional wisdoms and skills in producing Karakami. Using top quality papers and printing colourful patterns...Bamboo leaf ,Bamboo, Pine, Cloud, Water, Plum, Cherry, Peony…they show a true expression of Japanese traditional patterns within nature. These notebooks have an exquisite visual quality and luxury feel in their use, which gives an extra special meaning when offered as a gift to treasure.
Now the two sons of Master Yukio are following in his footsteps. Akio said “As young boys, we both naturally started to learn through us watching and helping with the Karakami making in the studio every summer holiday... so it wasn’t a difficult decision for us to become involved within the business as we grew up.”
We asked Akio what is the most important and treasured thing he has gained from learning alongside his father?
“Treat these special papers carefully and heartily, and work thoroughly on every single tiny detail…technically we can’t catch up with our father’s huge experience and dedication yet, but we are surely now following in his steps. Around Tokyo there is only a dozen or so Karakami craftsman left, so for this reason we have a strong desire and responsibility to retain Karakami within Japan's traditional culture. The stationary range is our new challenge as we start producing this spring. We would like people to understand and appreciate Karakami through this new collection.”
We at Kotatsu are delighted to have the opportunity to show case the beautiful work of the Koizumi family and we hope that in doing so, more people can see wonderful Japanese craftsmanship at its best.