Japanese rice paper lamp for a Japandi, zen decor - Noguchi inspired

How is rice paper made?

Rice paper is traditionally made from the pith of the rice paper tree (Tetrapanax papyrifer), a native plant found in East Asia, particularly in China, Taiwan, and Japan. Despite its name, this tree is not related to rice plants; it belongs to the ginseng family (Araliaceae).

The process of making rice paper involves several steps:

  1. Harvesting: The first step is to harvest the rice paper tree. The inner layer of the tree's bark, called pith or pithy tissue, is the main material used to make the paper.

  2. Stripping the bark: The harvested branches are soaked in water to soften the bark, making it easier to peel off. The outer layers of the bark are removed, leaving the inner pith intact.

  3. Washing and bleaching: The pith is washed thoroughly to remove any impurities and then sun-dried to whiten it. Sometimes, the pith is further bleached using natural substances like lime or other traditional methods to achieve a brighter color.

  4. Beating and blending: The dried pith is then beaten or mashed to form a fine pulp. The pulp may be mixed with water to achieve the right consistency for papermaking.

  5. Forming the sheets: The papermakers dip a screen or mesh mold into the pulp mixture and gently shake it to distribute the fibers evenly. As the water drains away through the mesh, the fibers form a thin, even layer, creating the paper sheet.

  6. Drying: The freshly formed rice paper sheets are carefully removed from the mold and placed on flat surfaces to dry. The sheets are air-dried or exposed to sunlight until they become firm and dry.

  7. Cutting and shaping: Once dry, the rice paper sheets are cut into various sizes and shapes, depending on their intended use. They can be used as is, or further processed into items like rice paper lamps, calligraphy scrolls, or art pieces.

It's worth noting that modern manufacturing processes may use rice straw, mulberry bark, or other plant fibers in place of the traditional rice paper tree pith to produce similar types of paper. These adaptations are done to ensure sustainability and meet the demand for rice paper in various industries and crafts.

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