Interior Design | Van der Postings

Reviving the fine art of washi paper

Wallpapers steeped in ancient Japanese tradition

Reviving the fine art of washi paper

October 12 2011
Lucia van der Post

Wallpaper, it seems, is creeping back into the nation’s affections. Anybody wanting to add decorative appeal to their walls might like to look into some exquisite wallpapers made from Japanese washi paper. Washi paper, Nippon experts will know, was traditionally made from the fibres of the Japanese mulberry tree for the ancient art of calligraphy. But as calligraphy is not exactly a growing industry, the art of making washi paper was dying out. Enter a Hungarian artist, Gabor Ulveczki, who was invited to bring his skills in the art of gilt decoration to bear on the traditional paper-making crafts in the village of Ikazaki. The result is a spectacular collection of gilt-embellished washi papers.

All four of the patterns devised by Ulveczki were taken from the Japanese countryside, inspired by trees, lotus, bamboo and camellias (the last two are pictured above). These extraordinarily sumptuous papers come in five different colourways, and cost £950 for a piece 53cm wide by 10m long. Bespoke colourways can be ordered.

They’re imported by Kuniko Thompson, a Japanese interior designer, whose company, Biden Designs, sells new Japanese designs made by artisans using traditional techniques. She showed them last month at Decorex, together with some octahedral paper lamp cubes made from washi paper folded rather like origami (£170 each). For extra effect, several can be stacked together.