Washi Exhibit “American Made in Japan” by David Kamper
• In the studio, colorful washi with different textures were hung from the ceiling. Some papers glowed mysteriously when they were illuminated from behind. All washi papers were handmade by Kamper when he was in Japan.
• David Kamper participated in JET program
(Japan Exchange and Teaching program) in 2008 and went to a small town near
Obama City in Fukui Prefecture. A year later, he moved to Echizen City, a
famous town for washi making.
• He asked a woman at the washi workshop to teach him about washi making, and she introduced him to many older people in the washi making field, including an owner of a small museum. He said, “There was a big circle.”
• The washi makers worked during weekdays
and had some leftovers by the weekend, so Kamper could obtain the leftovers
for his own use. The amount of the material depended on how busy the makers
were. Sometimes, he received a great deal of it, but sometimes it was a little.
• Kamper said, “The master makers make hundreds of papers every day, all day. They don’t go to movies, just wake up, work, and sleep. They can tell you, ‘This paper is five years old,’ by only touching it. They know all those things because it’s their life.”
• Kamper made a great deal of washi during his stay in Echizan. He returned to the U.S. last April and brought his smaller pieces, which he could carry with him. He has more than 50 larger pieces in Japan.
• So what he can do with washi in his home
country? Japanese tend to see washi as crafts rather than arts because they
would see washi as for practical use. On the other hand, Western people see
washi as art and want to decorate their homes with it. He said, “I have to
think about how I can encourage people (to buy washi.) It can be more than
just for use. It can also be enjoyment.”
• Kamper said that he has been interested
in Japanese culture since he was a child because everything was coming from
Japan. In the middle of the 1980s, he learned that almost all toys, including
his favorite ones, were imported from Japan and he wanted to know more about
• (The full story is available in Chicago
Shimpo’s September 26th issue.)
Kamper smiles in front of his art works.
Some washi papers glow mysteriously when they are illuminated from behind.
Kamper makes book covers, boxes, and frames by using his washi.