Making Paper Thread at Kami no Sato with Seiki Kikuchi

In early May, Emiko arranged an amazing afternoon with Seiki Kikouchi at his family papermaking studio, Kami no Sato.

Kikuchi-san had agreed to show us how he makes paper thread. It was an hour or so journey north of Tokyo by train, through Mino to Nishinouchi and a 5 minute walk to the studio. The studio is a large rambling building on the side of the highway. We entered through the gallery space of the store and were led to a smaller room to the side. Kikuchi-san invited us to sit and coffee was brought; we talked before being led to the weaving and spinning studio. I had already learned shifu earlier with Emiko-sensei, (see earlier post: A Special afternoon with Emiko) but this proved to be the extra experience burning shifu gestures deeper into memory. This was also my first experience using a spinning wheel. Emiko is obviously an expert! It is often the little details, the tiny piece of equipment that adds to ones pleasure and learning. The plastic straw acting as bobbin, that Kikuchi-san placed on the spinning wheel making it easy for him to remove the thread was the revelation for me. I’ll be able to use that on the bobbin-winder that I use for thread-making at home.

Three videos of Kikuchi-san demonstrating different stages in the process are available on vimeo: #1 preparing the cut paper for spinning, #2 making a continuous thread-including making the omu ( twisting the switchback at each end of the sheet of paper) and #3 the actual spinning using a spinning wheel.

Kikuchi-san demonstrates making paper thread #1

Kikukchi-san demonstrates making paper thread #2

Kikuchi-san demonstrates how to spin paper into thread #3

I felt a bit of nostalgia for my childhood, sitting with Kikouchi-san and Emiko-san spinning paper. The afternoon sun suddenly turned to hail and thunder and rain. The sound of the cars and trucks swooshing by fast on the road just outside the studio was accompanied by a radio not quite tuned to the station that added it’s own sparking and hissing with the interference of the storm.

The studio included a huge store and display area. I bought more paper for thread-making and some beautiful sheets for a future printing project. I am including an image of some of Kikuchi-san’s clothes made from woven paper, lovingly worn and washed many times FOR OVER 30 YEARS!