The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 9, Number 6
Nov 1985


Masuda Workshop on Oriental Paper Conservation

by Diane van der Reyden

Reprinted with permission from Washington Conservation Guild Newsletter, October 1984.

The nine-day-long workshop was a condensed version of the three-week program Mr. Masuda has taught at the ICCROM Center in Rome, Italy, since 1981. For those who have never had an opportunity to attend, an outline of the agenda and salient points follows.

The variety, use and makeup of the brushes, cutlery and wooden utensils used by Japanese paper conservators was reviewed. The relationship between form and function was emphasized by a distinction between the shapes of pounding brushes made in Tokyo (triangular, narrow-stemmed head held by the stem) and Kyoto (semicircular, wide-stem heads held by the base). Masuda outlined the numerous papers that can be made from three fiber types that are cooked, pulped, cast and finished in different ways. The characteristics of the three fiber sources (kozo, gampi and mitsumata) are determined in part by the length of the bast fibers of the inner bark, which affects strength, and by the addition of hemicellulose impurities from the outer bark, which affects transparency, rattle and surface qualities. Combined with various types of mold screens and casting techniques, these three main fiber types can produce papers with specific properties and uses.

Masuda also demonstrated the separation of flour into protein and starch and noted that the protein could be used as a very sticky adhesive for non-paper objects. He discussed some questions about the use of traditional aged paste by explaining that it is used for scrolls since it is very flexible, and that mold is not a problem because the mold is consumed and latered by a parasitic agent. However, the paste could become acidic and could change colors if used with vegetable-dyed cloth.

Various lining techniques were practiced using different thicknesses of paste, and false margins were made of attached accordion-pleated tissue which could accommodate any dimensional change. For "dry" linings Masuda recommended crinkling the lining tissue so that it becomes nappy and then pasting only the raised fiber heads. Students also learned how to line textiles by making scrolls incorporating two brocades and several types of tissue and paste thicknesses.

The class participated in making two Karibari drying screens. The procedure was similar to that outlined by Masako Koyano in Japanese Scroll Paintings, a Handbook of Mounting Techniques, FAIC, 1979, pp. 95-98. Masuda noted that the more layers were applied, the softer the screen was.

The various hands-on exercises yielded a wealth of handy techniques for the craftsman, including squaring off paper by finding its natural roll and pin-pricking to establish parallel lines (good for achieving right angles on large sheets of paper), making small pasted edges by folding over with a release tissue, the use of paper models, etc. During informal discussions, Masuda revealed many interesting Oriental conservation tips and practices, from filing down a chopstick for a microspatula to fixing soluble inks with animal glue applied through the back. Several films and slide lectures supplemented the demonstrations and practice sessions.

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