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What is Handmade Japanese Paper?

I describe nearly all of my lino prints as being printed on “Handmade Japanese Paper”, and many customers may wonder what this actually means and why it’s important.

Printmakers, including photographers who sell prints, will often list the type of paper used in their artworks and it’s a good indication of the quality and care that has gone into the product. 

Some papers are better for printing on than others. Printmakers will look for “wet strength”, absorbency and a suitable surface quality to print on (very smooth if printing by hand without a press). Finally, for professional prints being sold to customers, there’s the all important longevity of the paper. The paper must be acid-free. Anything with a high acid content such as newspaper or cheap drawing paper will turn yellow with age. A good quality paper should be able to see out several centuries and still look good.

Personally, the fact that the paper I use is handmade is also a very important factor and for this reason I source my papers from the Awagami Factory in Japan where beautiful papers are hand-crafted using natural and renewable plant resources. It’s an impressive fact that the Fujimori family who run the Awagami Factory have been making paper for as many as six generations! You can read more about them here;

The Awagami paper “Hosho Select” is the paper I have been using now for several years. It is strong, supple and a lovely warm shade of white. One side is slightly textured and has a fibrous nature, but the other side is amazingly smooth, just like a fine silk.  It is this extreme smoothness that makes it such a good printing paper – it allows for great contact between the plate and the paper, meaning a great print every time.