Art, horticulture team creates North American alternative to Japanese washi

An interdisciplinary team of artists and horticulture students at Iowa State University have created an alternative to the Japanese handmade paper washi (used in printmaking and paper arts like origami). Their research has been published in the Journal of Visual Art Practice.

The team identified a North American fiber, Dirca mexicana, that’s similar to what is used to make washi. The handmade D. mexicana bark paper was a success in its use for intaglio, lithography, relief, digital, screenprinting and origami.

Historically, artists have had to import Japanese fibers for sheet-forming like washi because there were no alternatives in the U.S. This team proposes a North American source that has similar properties but is better able to withstand repeated bending, folding and creasing.