I start with an armature or frame made from wire or basketry reed. I build the frame so that it is sturdy enough to withstand the pressure from the drying and shrinking paper. Sometimes I factor in only a small degree of distortion, making a very rigid form. Sometimes I leave large portions of the frame unsupported, counting on the aper to twist the form dramatically as it dries and contracts.
Once the frame is ready, I make the paper sheets to cover the frame. In order to make the paper, I have to start with paper pulp – plant fibers mashed in a machine called a beater until they are a consistently fluffy mass, like very wet paper towels. The fibers I use most often for the majority of the pulp are highly beaten (for 5-8 hours), unbleached, and uncooked abaca or flax. For added texture, I usually add a handful of mulberry bark (kozo or gampi) that I have cooked and then handbeaten with a wooden mallet on a hard surface.
Next, I fill a large vat with the pulp and water and I make sheets of paper using a framed screen, draining most of the water out of it and then pressing it onto a damp surface.
At this point I sometimes paint or print the surface of the paper with water-based inks or acrylic paint. Because the paper is still wet, I have to be careful not to smudge the pigment or to rip the paper (by pressing too hard).
Finally, I usually seal the surface with wax. This keeps the paper from deteriorating if it gets wet and enhances its translucent quality.