Bunni Bresver, Sharon Dembo, Sharron Corrigan Forrest,
Dominique Prévost, Susan Ruptash, Noriko Yamamoto

Washi Sisters: A journey

Washi Sisters: A journey features six artists working with washi to showcase its beauty and versatility. Many of the pieces express the strength and translucency of this amazing material in sculptural and dimensional works. The six artists share respect and understanding of the qualities of washi, although each artist has a distinct response and expression.

October 5 to 23, 2022

Opening Reception in Gallery: Saturday, October 8, 3 – 5 pm
Zoom – Let’s Talk About Washi: Tuesday, October 11, 7 – 8 pm
Artist’s Talks in Gallery: Sunday, October 16, 2 – 4 pm
Zoom – Washi maker in Japan!: Thursday, October 20, 7:00 – 8:30 pm ET

Inspired by the Promise of Sekishu exhibition at Toronto’s Propeller Art Gallery in September 2019, five of the exhibiting women artists had their taste whetted for a longer journey with Japanese paper. One visiting artist lingered at the exhibition, moved by the impressive variety of works on the walls. She walked home meditatively, aware that she relished being part of this journey with these apparent soul-mates: and reached out with an invitation for lunch. The now six Washi Sisters began to meet monthly during the pandemic, often on ZOOM, exploring the special qualities of traditional Heritage Washi, laboriously made essentially as it was centuries ago. As time passed, they embraced the challenges of working with this versatile material, worlds away from paper as we think of it. Eventually, each found a path that led to ways of using its special characteristics to express visually what they wanted to say. This exhibition of these six voices is the result of their explorations.

Washi is the Japanese word for Japanese paper, originally referring to those papers still made by hand from 3 plant barks: kozo, mitsumata and gampi. It was invented in the late 1800’s to differentiate it from western papers once western papermaking machines arrived. In recent years the word washi is used commonly to include any paper made by machine that looks like Japanese paper. 

Heritage Washi is a new term to describe top-quality paper handmade in Japan using only Japanese fibers and time-tested methods, basically unchanged from the year 610.

In this exhibition, most of the papers used are Heritage Washi.

View Washi Sisters Process Video at bottom of the page.

View Performances by Noriko Yamamoto & Claudia Moore and Martha Randall during the Opening Reception on October 7, 2022, at the bottom of the page.

Artonto.ca review of Washi Sisters: A journey by Lex Barrie, Oct. 20

The Propeller Project: The Washi Sisters – A journey Blog (Nov. 2022)
a critical response produced by third-year art and design students from OCAD University.

Bunni Bresver

Washi has become my creative companion – not pushing me, not pulling me, but working with me. Its own memory and complex history naturally meshes with my memories and history. It is strong, responsive, forgiving, resilient and generous with its endless tactile and visual pleasures. It brings calm and joy.

“I am an artist “ is difficult for me to say. While engaged in private psychology practice until five years ago, I often sought out artistic activities typically with a heavy Asian influence –  weaving, Japanese brush painting, calligraphy, collage but I have no traditional training. Now, having turned 75, I am giving myself permission to make and break rules and enjoy where creativity takes me. Paper in many forms – envelopes, found papers, books, boxes, but especially washi – totally draws me in. Its history, strength and resilience alongside its beauty, allows me to create visual narratives, ponder continuity, recreate memories, grapple with the concept of memory loss in abstract yet meaningful ways. Becoming free to all the possibilities has made all the difference.

Bunni Bresver

Since retiring five years ago from her private psychology practice of 40 years, Bunni (Barbara) has been focusing on creating a life she loves. And a major part of that process has been pursuing artistic interests, culminating in her involvement with the Washi Sisters, an extraordinarily talented, generous and caring group of women who share her passion for finding new ways to work with heritage Japanese paper.  Her priorities outside the studio are her family and revelling in being a grandmother, serving on the executive of the GTA chapter of DWDC, and consulting with an education foundation. She has participated in group shows at Bending Spoons Gallery, Art Square Gallery, and Latitude 44 Gallery.

Sharon Dembo

Washi inspires me to dream and create. This “simple” material captivated me with its possibilities. As I begin to work with Washi I find myself playing, exploring and discovering. It is the perfect partner in my creative journey.

Through my interest in printmaking over the past 15 years, I have used many kinds of paper with a variety of techniques. Along the way I discovered Japanese paper, washi, and began to try it with hot wax printing as well as Shiburi dying, sketching and collaging. The discovery has taken me from one exploration to the next. When we formed our group of Washi Sisters, we gave ourselves the challenge of taking Heritage Washi and using it 3-dimensionally. It has been fascinating to explore working with these papers. I wanted to translate the images I had been creating of dance and movement into sculptural forms, and I soon learned that whilst I began with one idea, working with this “simple” material, I became captivated by possibilities. The washi inspired me to dream and create, to play and explore. 

Sharon Dembo

Sharon Dembo is a visual artist and child psychotherapist living in Toronto.  Sharon’s focus has shifted from “plein air” painting 15 years ago to printmaking. She has explored a variety of print making modalities, and her current work is done using encaustic pigments on a “Hotbox” with a wonderful variety of washi papers. Sharon is a Board Member of Propeller Art Gallery. She has exhibited and sold her paintings and print works in a number of venues in Toronto and Alton Mills over the past several years.

Sharron Corrigan Forrest

Heritage Washi provides me with a complete sensory experience: to see and appreciate its natural beauty; to touch the delicate, yet strong surfaces and treasure their power of absorbency; the aesthetic scent that the fibers in the paper evoke; to savour the elegance of regionally-made papers and, lastly, to thoughtfully listen to the poetry and whispered guidance that each Heritage Washi paper generously offers. 

This series is an expression of the beauty and complexity of the designs found in the diverse habitats; the play of light at different times of the day and season and the traces of the ecological history of each location. Shape and structure are important components in the layering process with the ephemeral play of light and shadow bringing unusual aspects to each piece. It is a mixing of different elements, materials and processes and an integration and experimentation on a variety of surfaces including traditional hand-made Washi (paper) from Japan. It is the Japanese Kozo, Mitsumata and Gampi Washi that offers exciting and endless possibilities and, in this body of work, I attempted to incorporate several of the beautiful and rare Heritage Washi. It is in honour of the 1400 year-old history of hand-making paper traditions in Japan and includes the pleasure of being able to tell my ‘Washi art-story’ as part of the ‘Washi Sisters: A journey’ exhibition.

Sharron Corrigan Forrest

Sharron Corrigan Forrest’s artistic practice draws upon the light, intricate patterns, textures and raw beauty of nature; most notably influenced by years living in a remote area in Northern Ontario. This formative experience is evident in the subject matter of her encaustic and mixed media drawings and paintings, paper assemblages, digital designs and other creative inventions applied to a variety of surfaces. One being Washi since it offers multiple opportunities to explore its many qualities. She has Co-curated and Co-organized several exhibitions including ‘The Promise of Sekishu Washi’. Sharron is a Member of the Ontario Society of Artists and Member of Propeller Art Gallery. Her artwork is included in public galleries and in private collections across Canada, the United States of America and Europe. 

Dominique Prevost

Heritage Washi papers have become my trusted studio collaborators! Always responding generously to anything I throw at them, they reward me with new paths to follow!

Dominique’s artworks are atmospheric abstracted landscapes. They are assemblages showcasing changing light, organic patterns, and stylized structures. Each artwork is composed of multiple painted and manipulated surfaces that evoke the perception of depth and space. Dominique uses watercolour, acrylic, ink, crayons and found material on a wide variety of papers; ranging from exquisite handmade Japanese Washi papers and classical European watercolour papers, to utilitarian papers. In the works, many patterns are at play. They are the ones found in our veins, rivers, trees and skies. Lino printing and Japanese Suminagashi marbling technique are used to make visible the connections of what’s above, below and within. 

Dominique Prevost

Dominique Prévost was born in Québec City and now resides in Oakville. She has shown extensively in the GTA since the early 80’s and her work can be found in many collections here and abroad. Three times recipient for Best Watercolour Award at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, she is a Board Member of the Burlington Fine Arts Association, a Member of the Ontario Society of Artists and a Member of Propeller Art Gallery.

Susan Ruptash

I feel lucky and honoured to be able to work with such an amazing material as heritage washi. The washi helps me along in the process – revealing to me the best path forward.

Working primarily with Heritage Washi, I apply minimal interventions to form a new expression for each sheet. I want to draw attention to the translucency, gorgeous fiber structure, subtle colours, and surface textures. Through my ongoing exploration, I seek to unlock Heritage Washi’s untold stories – its hidden qualities of strength and the subtle differences caused by the choice of fiber, drying method, even the quality of the water used in the process.

Susan Ruptash

Susan Ruptash is a Toronto washi artist who works in a variety of paper arts including explorations of handmade heritage washi, printmaking and bookmaking, building on a lifelong fascination with the properties and possibilities of paper. Susan’s career as an architect has informed her explorations of structure, form, materiality and process. Susan’s work often includes embedded efforts that may not be readily apparent on viewing, but contribute to the finished piece through a curiosity and respect for the materials. For this reason, many of her works appear minimalist at first glance.

Noriko Yamamoto

Washi is more than being Japanese. It’s about being a part of human history. When I use Heritage Washi, 1400 years pass through my hands and into my creative spirit in an instant. 

In this new series of heritage washi works, I have come to a greater appreciation of this beautiful handmade paper. It is a meditation on contrast. Delicate, subtle, sensitive, and imperfect to the eye, yet strong, responsive, capable, and flawless to the hand. This paper forces me to continually condense my ideas from my imagination till only the essence remains. What is left is clear and concise, with empty space often a part of it. I have learned that this emptiness is expressive and powerful.

Noriko Yamamoto

Noriko Yamamoto’s visual art life has been greatly influenced by her performance career as a dancer, mime, clown, choreographer, and Silent Storyteller. A great part of her visual art expresses movement, often shown through nature or the human body. She subtly uses lines, layers, shadows, and colour to create texture-rich sculptures and mixed-media works. She strives to evoke motion and emotion in stillness. In 2019 at the Promise of Sekishu Washi exhibition at Propeller Gallery, Noriko’s piece, Sora, received an Honourable Mention from the judges and won the Audience Choice Award. It was at this point that Noriko joined the collective, Washi Sisters.

Presented with the support of The Japanese Paper Place | Muses and Mentors: Victoria Cowen and Nancy Jacobi

Special thanks to our community partners, donors, and supporters. 

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