NAF Atsugi FFSC offers traditional craft classes
Japan is known for its rich artistic culture and Naval Air Facility Atsugi’s Fleet and Family Service Center (FFSC) provides opportunities for community members to try their hand at various traditional art forms.
One is a class where students can learn how to make washi crafts. The course is held every Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the FFSC in building 949.
Washi, which means Japanese paper, has been a popular creation used in many crafts and products throughout the world such as fans, screens, shades, paper dolls and home décor.
Washi Instructor Mickey Imamura said that Washi paper was first created in Japan during the 7th Century when Buddhism first came to the country because monks used the paper for their manuals.
“It was made by hand and had many different patterns and colors,” said Imamura. “The paper was thicker like fabric and was worn by Samurai.”
The repetitive patterns on the paper, called Chiyogami, originated in the Edo period and created by people using woodblocks. Today the patterns are created using silkscreens.Chiyogami was traditionally used for paper dolls, origami and folk crafts.
The paper is shiny on the decorative side and plain on the other, similar to wrapping paper but not as waxy.
Students use chiyogami to create their products, providing an extra touch of tradition to the artwork.
“Washi is like Japanese paper mache, only more elegant.” said washi student Chelsey Waldridge.
In the class the students learn to make various Washi boxes, baskets, vases and eggs.
The boxes have various shapes such as the eight-point box, or an oval shaped box with the lid on it makes it look like a Japanese sandal.
One class takes about three hours because the projects are detail oriented and require some preparation work.
Every piece of material in the class is used to its maximum. Scraps of washi paper are used to decorate washi eggs, and the bases of boxes and baskets are made from milk cartons and other recyclables.
To make baskets, students use two milk cartons and thin pieces of cardboard shaped to make a handle.
The finished products are then lacquered to give the items an extra shine.
Most of the products made in the class are purely decorative items to display in the home or used an ornament like the washi egg.
The baskets, vases and small boxes with drawers can be used to hold smaller light weight items such as memo pads, pencils, flowers, or jewelry.
For the students, finished products are worth the time and work it takes to complete them.
“I love to do crafts,” said washi student Tran Vu. “I’ve attended numerous washi classes here and I love everything about it. It’s exciting to be able to measure, cut and finish a project.”
Beyond creating traditional artwork the students are given a chance to interact with one another and form bonds over crafts and the shared interest of learning Japanese culture.
“I hope that my students leave with a developed artistic sense that helps to unlock their imagination,” said Imamura. “Watching them leave the class with a smile and their artwork in hand makes me very happy.”
To sign up for the washi craft class or for more details please call FFSC at 264-3372.