Oh gampi, is there anything that matches your elegant sheen and exquisitely smooth surface? Well, maybe not exactly, but if you like gampi, you really owe it to yourself to also give Mitsumata a try.
In over 1000 years of trying, no one has been able to cultivate the gampi plant. It must be cut from the wild mountainsides. Not only is the harvest a physically demanding task, but climate change is also affecting the growth of the plant. At this time, no new gampi fibre is available to the papermakers. Some papermakers may still have stock from previous harvest, but scarcity of the fibre is defintely an issue. So, where does a gampi lover turn?
Image above from left: Gampi plant, Mitsumata plant
Mitsumata is sometimes considered to be the shy sister of kozo and gampi. While many people have heard of kozo (at least as mulberry), and gampi, fewer have heard of mitsumata, or recognize what a beautiful and versatile paper it is.
Mitsumata, (edgeworthia papryfera) is a tall shrub that is cultivated in temperate central Japan. The name “Mitsumata” comes from the word Mitsu meaning "three" and mata meaning "pronged" or "forked" and describing the plants appearance as each stalk divides in three at each joint. The plants can be harvested for eight to twelve years before they need to be replaced. The forking of the stalk also makes fibre gathering and preparation more labour intensive, as two people must work together to strip each stalk, as opposed to kozo where only one person is needed.
Image above: Mitsumata papers (From left: SCK12905 Mitsumata Iron Oxide Grey, SCK12906 Mitsumata Iron Oxide Pink, CON13057 Mitsumata Tissue Heavy, )
Because it has a shorter fibre than kozo, mitsumata and the resulting fibre lacks the strength we associate with kozo. It does, however, have a luxurious softness to it. Pure mitsumata paper has a naturally-occurring warm, pinkish tone, is fine grained, with a subtle surface sheen. Mitsumata also takes dye beautifully, as can be seen in the luscious Mitsumata Iron Oxide Pink.
During in-house product tests, mitsumata was a regular favourite for use with graphite, brush markers, coloured pencils, and ink. We also know it is lovely for relief printmaking and are sure it would fare well for intaglio as well.