Au Papier Japonais
By Dorothy Skutezky

Lovers of the Longest Fibre

“I had no idea that paper could look like that!” That’s what Lorraine Pritchard said to her husband Stan Phillips, fellow co-owner of Au Papier Japonais, in 1984, during her first encounter with washi (Japanese paper) at what was then the only Japanese paper shop in Canada. The owner of the Toronto shop, Nancy Jacobi, nominated the couple to open the first Japanese paper shop in Montreal. Lorraine and Stan liquidated their assets, including their house, rented a Ryder truck, and headed along the 401.

Au Papier Japonais occupies the same space on Fairmount where Lorraine and Stan set up shop after the first year they opened the store. Stan recounts his experience of Montreal at the time: “On our moving day, I counted 20 other Ryder trucks heading from Montreal to Toronto; we were the only ones going against the flow! In 1993, the Mile End was a ghost town.” Since then, the Mile End has come to resemble the interior of Au Papier Japonais: chock-a-block with ideas and creativity.

We’re here because of all the people who like beautiful things. - Stan Phillips, co-owner

Enough Paper for a Millennia of Exploration

Au Papier Japonais stocks a splendid and astounding array of over 800 types of Japanese paper of all different colours, patterns, weights and textures. There are myriad paper accessories and gift ideas. The book section is one-of-a-kind in Montreal for paper-related interests.

The store also offers 63 diverse paper courses and workshops. One of the most recently added ones is Iphoneography, or “Mobile Arts,” a popular course about using apps to make art. The shop also offers instruction in bookbinding, Western and Japanese calligraphy, paper making, printing, tempera painting, collage making, printing, lampshade making, origami – and the list goes on.

Far Out Folding

Boundaries continue to be transcended through Japanese paper as an art and communication medium, thus its widespread appeal. Stan engages a constant stream of people with riveting anecdotes, facts and observations. He says, “In the past few years, origami has suddenly become very popular, more than we have ever seen it.” Origami is one of the ways that the special quality of Japanese paper continues to lend itself to mind-blowing applications. In earlier times, washi was used for armour lining, due to its extremely long fibres. Today, origami masters are consulted by NASA to create sophisticated folded designs for objects aboard space shuttles.

The primary fibre of washi is that of the mulberry tree, which can contain smaller portions of other fibres, like hemp. In general, the strength of a piece of paper is proportionate to the length and quality of its fibre—not the thickness. Mulberry trees have extraordinarily long fibres, which is why the Japanese have been laboriously perfecting its paper products for over 1,300 years strong.

Japanese Paper for Everyone

Lorraine and Stan – purveyors, teachers, artists and paper lovers – have opened the doors to a new generation, excitedly interpreting an ancient tradition of pure dedication. This is true of people coming to find a gift, like an original card, a bestselling Buddha Board, or spinning paper lamps from The Magic Lamp Company, which reflect a carrousel of colourful cut-out patterns. Washi’s inherent low-acidity and unique qualities and appearance attract all kinds of artists, craftspeople, designers, small presses, conservators and photographers.

Washi is distinguished by its diversification, and by the many different kinds of people it draws into its sphere – “everyone who responds to beauty,” says Stan.

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