“Japanese Paper Conservation techniques using the Karibari drying board“ in KUMU

Last April 19th & 20th, the Art on Paper conservator Ms. Namiko Tagawa gave the workshop “Japanese Paper Conservation techniques using the Karibari drying board“ in KUMU, to which I was delighted to attend along with an amazing group of paper conservators from the National Archives of Estonia and the Art Museum of Estonia, both organising entities.

Since the emergence in the early 80’s of the use of the traditional Japanese techniques and tools for the mounting and work on paper and silk based works in the field of Paper Conservation, these have been taking greater prominence throughout the time. Nowadays, such techniques are used for the treatment of not only Japanese but also Western paper-based works, which may explain why it is imperative for any major European institution dealing with paper conservation to be in close touch with them.

Therefore, and given that there are two karibari in the KUMU Conservation Department but we lacked of the technique to use them, we decided to contact the Japanese paper conservator Ms. Namiko Tagawa last September, with the aim for her to kindly come and give a workshop on Japanese techniques related to the use of the karibari. From the very first moment, Ms. Tagawa was greatly committed to and excited about the project, always supportive, which encouraged us and helped enormously to carry out the idea.


On the first day, after a long journey for some of the attendees who came from Tartu, we all gathered in the cosy meeting-room of the Department and, not to make the “audience” wait, eager to learn the secrets of the Japanese techniques from top to bottom, just a brief welcome was given before the beginning of the first lecture.

The first topic was an introduction to the karibari structure, materials and assembly process using bamboo nails and half lap wood joints, without glue. Also the characteristics, function and application process of each of the different layers of Japanese paper (seven or eight depending on the maker) that are necessary to build the karibari, as well as the last step applying the kakishibu (fermented persimmon juice) coating, were tackled and perfectly explained by Ms. Tagawa. She managed to make the learning process easy and smooth, making a small karibari sample to illustrate each procedural step. And although the workshop was not focused on the making of the karibari but on its use, this information was considered essential for the attendees, so that we could have the resources to make it in their workshops.

After that, a first break helped the attendees and the lecturer relax, chat, ask questions and catch up about the Estonian scene.

The day continued with one of the practical sessions, so the group moved to the studio. While all attendees were collaborating by turns, cooking the wheat starch to be used in the practical part, Ms. Tagawa began by explaining the different brushes and tools used and their specific use, materials and making-processes. She even enlightened us with the current situation faced by this industry in Japan and talked about how traditional Japanese brush makers are closing down due to the mass production of these tools by MNCs.

The last session of the day was focused entirely on the use of the karibari. We received both theoretical and practical explanations and demonstrations of how to lining and stretching the paper by using it. We were totally astonished by her superb lining technique, just using a bamboo stick and lots of practice. Then, all attendees could try and practice, using samples and papers that Ms. Tagawa expressly brought for us. It was greatly satisfying to see how all the participants were actively involved and everyone was eager to try and ask questions.


The second day, after a revitalizing morning coffee, a new theoretical session started. We enjoyed watching a video about the traditional making of the Yukyu shi and an interesting speech about the many types of Japanese paper, which take their names from the regions where they are manufactured.

Afterwards, the practice session was focused on lining long works by joining several pieces of Japanese paper and attaching and stretching it on the karibari. This process is especially useful when working on hanging scrolls or paper rolls. Again everyone turned in testing, and although it was not possible the lining of a roll for each participant due to space restrictions, everyone had the chance to make small samples by attaching papers.

Finally, at the end of the second day, the first tests that still remained in the karibari were satisfactorily peeled. This process must be done very carefully, using a bamboo or bone spatula – in any case metallic – not only because of the possibility of tearing the work but because the karibari, made of paper, may also be damaged.

All in all, I would like to thank The National Archives of Estonia and the Art Museum of Estonia for the support in the organization of this event and especially to Ms. Namiko Tagawa for her outstanding lectures and powerful character. All participants very much enjoyed the workshop and they are already enthusiastically asking for the next project.




Pascual Ruiz Segura

Paberalusel kunstiteoste konservaator / Works of Art on Paper Conservator

E-mail: pascual-ruiz.segura@ekm.ee