A Traditional Japanese Craft

Photographer Rei Yoshizawa reveals how the Cho Light chochin is made at Suzuki Mohei Shoten, where artisans continue to use time-honoured techniques to make paper shades entirely by hand.

The history of chochin in Japan is said to date back to the Muromachi Period, which continued from 1337 to 1573. As time went by, chochin went from being used as implements for religious purposes to being used as lighting in everyday life. Today, chochin have become an integral part of Japanese culture and play a major role in its customs and religious beliefs.

The form for the chochin is assembled in a process that has been passed down through the generations. The wooden ribs are secured together to create a structure that the chochin shade will be made on. The Cho Light paper shade is created from joining eight paper panels which require eight support ribs in the structure.

Japanese Washi rice paper is gently smoothed, glued and secured by hand to fit the form. A high level of skill is needed to control the joined edges to achieve a minimal overlap and consistent width.

Washi papers are made from wood pulp, they are translucent, malleable, tactile and warm to the touch. Their appealing textured surfaces and strength are the reason why they have been used for over 1000 years as a material with which to build and make.

Washi has a resistance to tearing that means it can be used like cloth, rather than paper. After the glue has dried, the round parts at the top and bottom of the form are removed, and the wooden ribs are taken out of the chochin from its opening.

The Washi used in Cho Light is softly crumpled and delicate in appearance – its physical softness is a fitting metaphor for the softness of the light it filters.

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