A History of the Berlin Tissue By Papermaker Gangolf Ulbricht
In 2008, Hiromi Paper became the exclusive USA distributor for one of the world's thinnest handmade paper called the Berlin Tissue. Created in Berlin, Germany by Gangolf Ulbricht, this handmade paper is 2 gsm and made out of Nasu Kozo and Tsuruga Mitsumata fibers imported directly from Japan.
This past October in 2015, Hiromi met with Gangolf while attending the IADA Congress in Berlin (International Association of Book and Paper Conservators). Out of their conversation, Hiromi recorded Gangolf's account of his journey to the Berlin Tissue and how his visit to Japan greatly influenced it.
Part 1 Gangolf Travels to Japan in December 1997
Before studying in Japan, Gangolf had learned western art paper making in France. Deciding to learn what he can of Japanese washi paper making, Gangolf contacts Naito Tsuneo-san of Tsuruga Yunoshi paper.
Why was Naito Tsuneo-san chosen?
Before contacting him, Gangolf researched and found that Naito-san only uses the fibers Mitsumata, Kozo, and Gampi, and nothing else. Such a pure way of making paper interested Gangolf greatly. He also knew a printmaker who came from Naito-san's area (Shizuoka Prefecture near the foot of Mount Fuji) and used his paper for her printing. After she contacted Naito-san for Gangolf, an invitation was issued and Gangolf was on his way to learn about handmade washi.
Did you see other paper makers?
Actually, one month into Japan, Gangolf took some time to see more papermakers in the other regions. One of the places was Yame in Kyushu. Coincidentally, the Young Papermakers Association's annual meeting was taking place and Gangolf was able to join. Meeting other young papermakers, he was invited to visit their mills. Around May/June, Gangolf visited Fukui, Japan meeting the papermakers and the senior Umeda-san. Gangolf immediately fell in love with Umeda-san's Gampi and his sincere, scholarly personality. Seeing his interest, the senior Umeda-san has Gangolf working with ECG (Echizen Color Gampi Series) papermaker Naho-san, creating lasting memories. See Naho's interview here.
Afterwards, he went back to Shizuoka to complete his study under Naito-san of the 3 washi fibers. It was very hard and strict to learn, but Gangolf is happy to have learned so much from him
Part 2 Return to Berlin in December 1998
How was the Berlin Tissue created?
Back in Berlin in 2005, Gangolf met conservator Ritsuko Shuster-Ishii of the Bavarian State Library. Ritsuko uses thin gossamer paper for leaf casting. Wanting to learn how to make such thin gossamer paper, Gangolf approached Ritsuko to learn. He found out that this paper was invented by Frank Mowery of Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. Frank only uses Kozo paper (Tosa Kozo from Kochi), which led Gangolf to try making his gossamer paper with Mitsumata and Kozo. He then showed this paper to Frank Mowery and was approved for selling since both Frank & Ritsuko were not selling their paper creations.
In 2007, he had been advised to change the name and the "Berlin Tissue" was born and he has been making Berlin Tissue out of Nasu Kozo & Tsuruga Mitsumata until now.
EDITOR: You can purchase Gangolf's Berlin Tissue here. And contact us for more information about his other handmade, woodfree, ph-neutral papers, as well as his new bacterial cellulose conservation paper.