Event hosted by the Endangered Material Knowledge Programme

The Endangered Material Knowledge Programme is delighted to host this lecture by Kazuko Satō, a weaver with over 65 years of experience in shifu, a Japanese textile woven from paper thread.

In this session, Kazuko will outline the history of shifu and kamiko, the two paper textiles of Shiroishi, a small city in Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture. She will also present the steps now being taken to preserve these celebrated textiles.

Shifu is produced from fine, strong paper cut into strips and rolled on a stone; once separated, the rolled strips are twisted into thread and woven into cloth. Kamiko, on the other hand, is produced from treated sheets of paper. Both were worn during the Edo period by different strata of society, from farmers to Buddhist priests and samurai warriors. Fine examples of shifu, produced by the samurai class, were gifted to the Shōgun and feudal lords.

With industrialisation and a dwindling number of hand papermakers in the 20th century, the production of shifu and kamiko fell into decline. These traditional techniques and processes are in danger of being forgotten as there is little demand for paper textiles, which are expensive and have extended production times. Only a few remaining papermakers are still active in emulating the fine handmade paper of the past, with the aim to keep these once highly prized textile traditions alive for future generations.

The lecture will be held at the Stevenson lecture theatre, at the British Museum, on Monday 3rd June 2024, from 2.00pm to 4.00pm.

This event is free, but places are limited, and reservation is required. The booking service and event details can be found here.