"Washi" The Soul of Paper (Paper Maker / Stephan Kohler)
This German artist, Stephan Kohler, is one of the most unique artists I ever met. He spent many years in Venice, Italy. Next he studied at Cooper Union Art School in New York. After traveling the Yucatan for several months, he moved to Gifu Prefecture (Village of Paper), in Japan. Here he studied the ancient traditions of handmade paper making and paper umbrella making. He realized the tradition was dying because craftspeople were getting old and the younger generation was not interested in learning the skills. Recognizing these papers to be the world's most beautiful papers, he became concerned that within the next decade the tradition might be lost. He studied hard and met the papermaker who had been designated a Japanese Life Treasure. In negotiations with local craftspeople and the local governor, he was provided free housing and studio space. After several years he opened what he called the Washi Survival School, which trained the younger generation in the old skill. The school attracted not only Japanese students, but also students from a variety of countries.
In addition to papermaking he also became a master at making paper umbrellas. His concept for an umbrella installation project coincided almost exactly with the Cristo and Jeanne-Claude installation of umbrellas in Japan and Colorado, USA. Stephan's installation included 1,001 paper umbrellas floating on a lake in downtown Tokyo. He also installed 1,001 umbrellas in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo.