Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tengucho Very Mucho

Made a special trip to Hiromi papers (the most superb selection of Japanese washi outside of Japan in my book) at Bergamont Station in Santa Monica this week to get more of the very perfect washi for Halfland puppet skins. They had 10 colors* to choose from! I also bought a sheet in tea green that may be nice for the Yanu mothman puppet as well.

I had used their machine made Color Tengucho Series in light pink ($5.76/sheet) to make main character Rana's undertone structure intending to add a layer of tinted paint on top to lighten and shade it. But having a paper finish was giving me a handmade look that I had to keep going with. This time I bought three sheets of their Tengucho (made from 100% Thai Kozo† Machine Made in Kochi, Japan. Kozo is Mulberry bark) in neutral to top over the pink and tone it down.

The secret to this process working for me is the hand tearing I do to the paper before beginning to paste. First I tear the tiniest portion of the outer edge of the 25"x37" sheets off, side by side, until only the heart of the paper is left without anything remotely straight. No no no straight edges in papier mâché ever ever ever. see how sheer the Tengucho is over my hand upper left. Middle top shows a macro of how the fiber in the paper looks around each and every stamp-sized piece of it that I make ready to use. This type of hand work goes nicely with a movie. Multi task! I bag the torn pieces in labeled bags so that I know for certain what I'm about to apply to the puppet.

The Tengucho is so sheer that while wet, one layer of it applied with Aleene's elastic glue hardly shifted the pink color at all. But two or three layers of it, once dry, did the trick perfectly. One of my favorite results of the puppet so far is her elbow, center bottom. The pale paper skin over the strong pink underneath looks so natural with wrinkles. The blotchy sort of pinky fleshy result of this double layering, right bottom, is an uncanny match for my skin color. Wonder what animator made me?

Kozo (Mulberry) bark is used in approximately 90% of the washi made today. Kozo was originally found in the mountain wilderness of Shikoku and Kyusu Islands. It became a cultivated plant used especially for paper and cloth making.  The fibers are longer than in washi made from Mitsumata and less expensive than those made of

* Colors available (online as well); Light Pink, Red, Light Green, Tea Green, Black, Royal Blue, Purple, Pale Blue, Beige, Chocolate


  1. Wow, that looks amazing! In the bottom right photo, the texture looks so smooth and realistic, but in the bottom center photo, you can see more of the edges of the paper. Is that because it's a different angle or lighting, or was the bottom center one not quite finished?

    1. HI Tea Rose! Those aren't paper piece edges you are seeing in the center bottom photo... those are the gaps/bends/wrinkles of her elbow in that shot. She's old so the spots that bend a lot look saggy and much more textured.

      The lumpy bumpy look of it is my favorite part so far. Looks just like a real old lady's elbow due to the two colors of paper interacting. Her face won't be smooth either. Plus, I'm hoping the total effect looks "handmade puppet" rather than "uncanny valley creepy almost real"

      Thanks for checking things out so carefully!


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