Kamiko – Paper Clothing Workshops

I’ve started giving workshops on how to make Kamiko – or, clothing made out of Japanese paper in the traditional method. I came upon this knowledge as an offshoot of my PhD research, and realized that it is a dying craft and no one is teaching it. Not only that- IT IS INSANELY BEAUTIFUL as a material for clothing and has huge potential for expression.

As you may be aware, I am currently trying to write my dissertation. This process is somehow simultaneously fun and horrifying. It’s fun because I get to spend all of my time reading and writing and learning, while it is horrifying because I am overwhelmed by the sheer amount of prerequisite knowledge one must have, in order to say anything meaningful.

It’s all going to be fine, though. Probably.

So I have started giving workshops on Kamiko (Kami紙– paper, Ko– short for Koromo衣, which means clothing). There is a long history of papermaking in Japan, and with it comes paper clothing. While in the West there was a short-lived fad for paper clothing that was linked closely with hyperconsumerism and disposability, the Japanese version of this paper clothing phenomenon was linked to localism, need, animism, and nature. If you want more info, I’m writing a paper about it right now for a certain Journal. If it gets accepted I’ll be sure to share it!

For now, I’ll share the recent workshop I held in March in Boras, at the Swedish School of Textiles. For these workshops, I start with a lecture on the history, context, and technical stuff, and then we do a hands-on workshop with handmade paper and materials I brought from Japan. 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. Or, students can simply get excited about the ability of a crisp, white sheet of paper to become to many different things after applying oils, paints, tannins, starch, agar, other fabrics, and whatever else they like.

I learned to much from these amazing students! I look forward to doing more of these workshops in the future.