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Material & Technique | Japanese Umbrella

Gifu Wagasa

By Claire Ann Wellesley
December 11, 2008
The sunlight flowing through translucent and colorful washi paper reproduces the feeling of a skylight. Through its drapings, light accentuates the perception of a woman’s beauty. 
Dream Witness
Dream Witness -Nathalie Levene

Gifu Wagasa is the traditional Japanese umbrella, which has a sense of ornament, ritual, and design.

The basic Wagasa framework was introduced to Japan from China during the Heian Period, 794-1185, a period of peace when Kyoto was established as the capital of “peace and tranquility” and was laid out according to a grid pattern.

It was a period of poetry and painting, and has occupied a central space in Japanese ceremony, and fashion for a thousand years.

The sunlight flowing through translucent and colorful washi paper reproduces the feeling of a skylight.

Through its drapings, light is diffused and tinted in soft rose, violet, and jonquil hues, accentuating the perception of spirit, which idealized a woman’s beauty.

Traditional Wagasa artisans from the village of Gifu, draw on a range of influences to create this impression.

A Gifu Wagasa is made of bamboo from the Kiso River, and Mino-washi, a paper crafted from bark and plant fibers, and coated with flax oil and natural lacquer.

The rib structure is made from a single bamboo cane, which, when closed forms the original shape of the cane. When opened, the wagasa silhouette is an arrangement of geometric design and elegant color.

Its intricate composition and emphasis on the changing qualities of light reproduce the patterns of a woman’s changing moods.

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