Awagami Factory: Interview with Craig Anczelowitz

Awagami Factory: Interview with Craig Anczelowitz

"Awagami Factory" is a brand of Japanese washi papers produced solely in Tokushima, Japan. Awagami operates on 8 generations of family knowledge and skill focusing on quality and refinement within this world-heritage craft. Awagami papers are used by the world's leading artists, photographers, designers, bookbinders and conservators and unlike other washi of unknown origin, guarantee their papers 100%.

Responding to the needs of artists and creators, Awagami strives to incorporate washi paper into contemporary society and is known as a modern-day facilitator of washi culture. Besides creating the worlds most trusted Japanese papers, Awagami also operates a paper museum, runs international papermaking workshops, maintains an ongoing artist-in-residency program and a multi-disciplinary printmaking lab. The mill also collaborates with artists on custom-made papers and has most recently created the Awagami International Miniprint Exhibition; a juried printmaking show (for works on any type of washi) with over $10,000 award in cash and prizes.

It is Awagami’s desire to promote the beauty of Japanese washi and to proudly pass washi culture on to the next generation….and then well on into the future.

Awagami is a generous sponsor of our call for art and will be giving away $300 worth of fine Japanese paper to one lucky winner selected for issue IX.

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When was Awagami Paper founded and what is the story behind the company?

Awagami's Fujimori family has been making washi paper for over 200 years going back 8 generations. In the old days, papermakers were farmers who during the winter months turned to making paper to earn additional income while there were no crops. Traditionally, Japanese papermakers never used a "brand" or added an identifying mill watermark to their paper as they were simply 'humble craftsman. With an influx of Japanese-style papers entering the market from other countries and an increased artist interest in their papers origin, we established the "Awagami" brand in the 1980's.

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What makes Awagami paper different? Tell us about the unique properties of your materials. 

Awagami paper or "washi" is typically made using eco-friendly/renewable fibers such as kozo (mulberry), gampi, hemp and more-and-more, bamboo. These plant-based fibers renew annually providing hundreds of usable harvests over the plants lifetime.  Typically, washi paper is thinner than Western papers however these papers are remarkably strong and resilient. Awagami makes a few hundred types of paper suitable for fine art, conservation and even digital/inkjet printing.

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Japan has a history of beautiful paper. How is this tradition continued and used by contemporary artists today?

Because of the inherent beauty, strength and archival qualities of washi paper, artists are still drawn to using them.  Our mill works with many inspirational creators who use Awagami papers for many types of work including fine art, product and interior design, etc.  Awagami maintains an artist-in-residency program and washi paper museum to promote contemporary artworks on washi.  In recent years, we have seen a growing demand for inkjet/digital papers, so our collection of "AIJP" inkjet papers has gained traction with professional photographers looking to give a new dimension to their prints. Traditional printmakers have also started to use these inkjet papers to create "hybrid printworks" by combining digital output + traditional print techniques (lithography, silkscreen, etching, etc…) in a single print.

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Name a few interesting facts about your company that artists should be aware of. 

-We are one of the few mills in Japan to make such a wide variety of papers (art, inkjet, conservation, interior)…. Done in an effort to adapt washi to meet the demands of a more modern following WII.  

-Awagami's 6th generation master papermaker, Minoru Fujimori was awarded by the Emperor of Japan as a 'National Sacred Treasure'

-We have often accepted challenges by artists to make unique custom papers and have the ability to make some of the largest handmade papers in the world…some of which you can see in works by Chuck Close, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, Yu Youhan and Ding Yi.

-Although our papers are sold in over 50 countries, we are still a small family-operated papermill. 

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Is it possible to visit the factory when in Japan?

Of course, sure…..our mill and washi paper museum are open to the public from Tues.-Sun. Please visit, make paper, visit our paper shop and galleries, etc… We also hold 2 annual International workshops each year (in January  & August).  More information may be found on our website: www.awagami.com or via our facebook page.

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Where can we learn more about the products and purchase it?

Our website has more information and a page of international Awagami stockists. Also, please check out our facebook page as we update it regularly with papermaking photos, interesting paper facts, paper artworks and other paper goodness.  Feel free to message us there anytime too if you have specific questions and/or paper needs.

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Carla Kranendonk's Collages at Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery

Carla Kranendonk's Collages at Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery

Lisa Golightly

Lisa Golightly