Paper textile workshops

For many hundreds of years, and in many parts of Japan, people wore paper clothing.

There are three main kinds of paper clothing made  from sheets of paper:

1. The paper is sliced, twisted, then woven into cloth called Shifu.

2. The paper is sliced, twisted, then knotted into a net or mesh. 

3. The paper is not sliced and made into yarns, but kneaded, softened and applied with natural jellies to make it strong. This type of garment is the target of my investigations and interest. 

There isn't much written about it, especially in English, so I have been researching, gathering, and experimenting with these paper textiles.

I have given lectures and workshops on this topic in Tokyo, New York, Boras (Sweden), London, and Melbourne.

There is one coming up in January 2021!

A student in London @ The London College of Fashion with a paper oilcloth. This would take about 3 months to fully dry, but would be water resistant and soft. 

The workshops begin with a talk on the history, context, and technical stuff, and then we do a hands-on workshop with handmade paper and both conventional (traditional) and nonconventional (experimental) materials.

If possible, I give the students a few days to work with the material and let it lead their designs. There are so many ways to approach and explore paper as a material for clothing: metaphorically (paper is disposable, but also very expensive), physically (it can be crisp, but also soft, like fabric), contextually (you can relate to the various historical contexts of design and use), sustainability (the paper is biodegradable and made in small-scale, local communities)…etc.

Paper textile maker Fumiko Sato in her home studio in Shiroishi, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to give lectures and workshops on Kamiko in different parts of the world. ”Kami” meaning “paper”, and “ko” short for “koromo”, which means clothing.

While in the West there was a short-lived fad for paper clothing in the 1960s that was linked closely with hyperconsumerism and disposability, the Japanese version of this paper clothing phenomenon was linked to vernacular subsistence, community, need, and the local landscape.

Or, students can simply get excited about the ability to turn a crisp, white sheet of paper into many different things after applying oils, paints, tannins, starch, agar, other fabrics, and whatever else they like.