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NIPPONIA No.30 September 15, 2004

Special Feature*
Life Is an Art in Kyoto— 2
The Secret of Kyoto's Charm:
A Combination of Old and New
Horiki Eriko
Washi art director

Left: "For people years ago, the white color of Japanese traditional paper (washi) represented the ability to purify things. That is the spirit behind washi," says Horiki Eriko. Photo taken at her studio.
Right: This "light wall," one of Horiki's works, decorates the hall at Rakusui, a pub and restaurant on the 6th floor of the Hotel Granvia Kyoto.

Horiki works on the design of another light wall. The paper is the same size as the artwork she has in mind.
Just a single sheet of handmade Japanese paper, but a huge one, covers the length of an entire wall. Horiki Eriko teams up with numerous architects and artists to make translucent "light walls" and objets d'art using traditional paper called washi.
The client gives her an idea of the desired effect, and then she achieves it, perhaps by mixing in color dyes, or adding other plant fibers or even wire. When light shines through the paper, it is amazing how much the mood can change.
Her lamp cubes decorate the arrivals lobby at Narita Airport's Terminal One. The paper features seven different colors of fiber. In a Kyoto hotel, her "light wall" reminds guests of the wavy lines raked into the sand of a stone garden at a Zen temple.
"I use the medium of washi to keep changing the mood of a space. One way to do that is to make the paper interact with light."
Horiki was first drawn to the visual warmth of Japanese paper almost 20 years ago, when she was 24. Her fascination was triggered while watching artisans working very hard to make one sheet after another in the cold, damp environment of their workshop.
"Washi is remarkably strong, and over time it develops its own personality. I thought to myself that it would be really interesting to use it in interior design."
She obtained the backing of a kimono wholesaler. Kyoto has a long tradition of large storeowners showing understanding of the goals of young artists and helping them succeed. Horiki says this has always kept the Kyoto art scene innovative.
"I like trying to do something that others say is impossible. I believe just about everything is possible with washi, so I find a way to do it. After all, isn't that where innovation comes from?"
Take her huge sheets of paper, for example. Washi is ordinarily made by pushing a bamboo grid (called a keta) back and forth in a wooden box filled with the liquid pulp of plant fiber. But Horiki's paper is much too big to be made this way. So she turned the process upside down by developing a huge immovable keta and moving the liquid pulp instead. This is one example of how she realizes the "impossible."
"The technique combines old and new, with nothing between the two. Kyoto has the same kind of mixture of old and new. That's what I like about this city."
Today, Horiki's art decorates public buildings and commercial enterprises. In the future, she says, she wants to find ways to use her artwork to highlight the interior design of private homes as well.


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