Re: crepon paper

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Posted by John Fiorillo on November 26, 1999 at 21:42:25:

In Reply to: crepon paper posted by Ellen Zeiss on November 25, 1999 at 14:29:24:


I do not have the van Gogh catalog, but I assume you are referring to crepe prints (crinkled paper prints), which in Japanese are called ‘chirimen-gami’ (literally something like "compressed thread paper"). Crepe paper was produced at least as early as 1800 in Tokyo. There was a revival of its production in the 1880s with the advent of crepe-paper books and the growing Western market for printed books, especially those published by the Hasegawa company, which was opened in 1885. ‘Chirmen-gami’ prints were used for alternate states of some ukiyo-e designs, and they were popular for printing children’s books, supposedly because the crepe paper was somewhat resistant to tearing and thus had a better chance of surviving the handling by children.

The process of making ‘chirimen-gami’ was relatively simple. After all the images and text were printed in the usual ukiyo-e fashion, the dampened printed sheets were wrapped around cardboard molds (‘kata’) and interleaved with other sheets, which were then all wrapped together around a vertically mounted cylindrical wooden post roughly 3cm in diameter. This post had a fixed collar at the bottom to secure the wrapped sheets of paper, while the upper part of the post had a loose collar that also held the papers and was moved downward by a wooden lever. At about 1/3 from one end this lever had a hole drilled for the vertical post to move through freely. The lever was unattached at the other end (the end held by the person making the ‘chirimen-gami’) but hinged at the end closest to the vertical post by a dowel run through the lever and mounted horizontally between two vertical supports. By pressing the lever down (that is, moving the free end downward while the other end remained secured by the two supports), an enormous amount of pressure could be exerted upon the papers and molds, thus compressing the papers. Multiple pressings were applied after arranging the sheets slightly differently following each compression, and this was done about 10 times to gain the desired crinkled and compressed effect. The process not only crinkled the papers but reduced their size significantly while still maintaining the proportions of the images and text in all dimensions.

The apparatus can be seen in fig. 5, p. 12, in Frederic Scharf: Takejiro Hasegawa: Meiji Japan’s Preeminent Publisher of Wood-Block-Illustrated Crepe-Paper Books, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, 1994.


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