This past December, DaVinci Artist Supply hosted a Washi Weekend Workshop and Art Exhibition. Part gallery opening, part workshop, the exhibition featured artwork produced with Ogawa Washi, paper made in Ogawa Japan. The show featured artists Rie Hasegawa, Sato Yamamoto, Keiko Miyamori, and Chiaki Morita. Workshop participants were encouraged to register beforehand for the opportunity to make their own traditional kozo paper with Chiaki Morita, a paper artist and teacher who has been making washi for nearly 20 years. The exhibition continued the next day, along with a scaled down “drop-in” workshop open to the public.
The backstory to this event started two years ago, when a chance encounter with a traveler from Japan. Mark Bieri, on the Marketing & Promotion team, made the initial connection.
“Seiko Musashi, who made the arrangements to bring Chiaki Morita from Japan for the workshop this past December, just walked into the store by chance about two years ago. A consortium of papermakers in the town of Ogawa had hired her to do their PR, and she was doing an exploratory visit to New York to visit stationary stores. She happened to stop by and we got to talking. She showed us samples and we decided to carry them on a trial basis.”
The Challenge and Reward of an Off-Site Event
While hosting an event at a venue other than the store was a necessity due to limited space, collaborating with the gallery also had its perks. “People found us through the gallery website, and through a neighborhood calendar the gallery’s events automatically show up on.” DaVinci Artist Supply also advertised the event the month beforehand, both in-store and on social media. They charged a materials fee and sold tickets online on their e-commerce site. Mark was pleased with the turnout. “Selling tickets online is a good idea that I would recommend for others if they are having events, because people commit. It’s worth something to them and they actually show up.”
Participants enjoying the beautiful textures and patterns of Kozo plants!
Traditional Methods Engage and Inspire
The workshop consisted of a presentation about how paper is grown, harvested and processed by hand. “The pulp is made from Kozo plants,” Mark explained. “You need to beat them, sieve them and then suspend the particles in water with Nari (a hibiscus plant that acts as a binder); the fine mesh tray catches them. It’s a tradition that goes back 1,300 years.”
Two Days, Twice The Opportunity
Thirty paid visitors attended the Saturday workshop, creating their own paper over the course of three sessions. The gallery was open from 10am – 6pm each day. “I had a bit of a network of artists who worked on that paper,” Mark said. “We displayed their artwork as well as Chiaki’s. The artwork was for sale; Chiaki brought jewelry made from washi paper, as well as some of the sheets with her stencil technique (see window display image). We agreed that if they sold anything, DaVinci Artist Supply received 20%.”
The following day offered another opportunity for connection: passersby and people who couldn’t make it the previous day came in to decorate washi cards. “We really lucked out,” Mark said. “There was a husband and wife, a Japanese man and a New Yorker, with their children on their way to Japanese class. They came in and took a stack of postcards. They must have told everyone at their class, because they came back with a bunch of kids.”
Follow Up: Making The Connection
Because it took a little while to dry the paper, participants needed pick it up in the store later that week. “That sweetened the deal,” Mark explained. “We gave them $10 gift cards; some people we had never seen before, some come to everything we do, it was half and half. A lot of people spent the gift card on the spot.”
Workshops like this encourage people to engage with the act of creating; regardless of medium, the experience brings people into stores in search of materials and tools to spark their creativity and recreate the feeling of the workshop. “We want to do more things focused on the creating, with the secondary being to sell the product,” Mark says, reflecting on the success of the event. “People just need an opportunity to use art supplies.”
National Papercrafting Month isn’t over yet! Inspired by Davinci Artist Supply’s washi workshop? Learn more about the history of paper, check out this beautiful window decoration by Excel Blades or extend your papercrafting into February with this Valentine’s Day demo.