It is the end of the year… the time to say thanks to our home and do a major clean up. Though we have to clean up in the cold with our windows open, I really love this activity…. to dust off, wipe, wax, polish, bleach, wash, cleanse, trim, sort, file, give away. Say thanks to this year and prepare for the next.
One of my favorite activities is changing the rice paper on the shoji screens. Screens are made of wood frame, and rice paper is glued to the back.I use warm water to dilute the glue which allows me to peel the old rice paper off the wood frame. It’s incredible how easily and perfectly the paper comes off. Then I do another thorough cleaning of the wood frame and let them completely dry.
Once dried, I apply the new glue (made from rice) to each wood piece and carefully lay the rice paper over the frame to glue it down. Cut the edges off, and let the glue dry. After the glue has dried, I spray the entire frame with mist of water. This allows the paper to be perfectly taut against the wood frame.
Every year I do this, I become in awe with the ingenuity of the shoji screens. Here we have simple 3 natural materials: wood, paper, and glue. Wood is light in weight that it can be used to create intricate patterns. Rice paper, made of wood pulp and water, is so flexible it can be completely wet and it will dry in the same form nice and flat. And oh does it ever diffuse the light so perfectly, changing the light quality throughout the day, throughout the year. And the glue that binds the two materials is also made of rice. Traditionally, people used to boil cooking rice mixed with water to make their original glue.
All it takes is water to bring these three materials into one beautiful screen. Wood frame will last a very long time, paper is changeable and recyclable. It is so simple, so clever and so beautiful, no modern architectural window invention has surpassed its ingenuity…. I think ;)