I love washi tape. It is a type of tape made from special Japanese paper usually made from mulberry, or other natural fibres, but not from wood pulp. Although washi tape has a delicate appearance, it is actually quite tough. Because it is paper tape, it is sort of like masking tape but usually decorative, often with printed patterns and slightly opaque. Because it is paper, it can be torn by hand and written on. I find it quite versatile and use it to decorate pages, tape down ephemera in my journal, or seal envelopes.
I bought my first roll of washi tape at a store called The Artworks. This tape is from a Japanese company called mt with a fascinating history dating back to 1923 when it began as the Kamoi Fly Catch Paper Works. It makes sense that as the market for fly paper shrunk to shift the business to making masking tape. I love the colour and elegant design.
My daughter knew about my enthusiasm for washi tape and brought me back three rolls from Japan. One has a blue chevron design and is from the Rinrei Tape company. They don’t have as interesting a website as mt, but they also began making washi tape in the 1960’s.
The other two rolls are part of a set called Islands & Waves that she got at the Benesse Art Site Naoshima. The actual wording on the package says: “Inspired by the gentle waves and the islands dotting the Seto-Inland Sea, these masking tapes. They are made of Japanese traditional handmade paper (washi), and have been used for architectural use. With your imagination please find many different uses for them; little accents for letters or cards, for wrapping or collage.” I feel something may have been lost in translation as I am not sure what the architectural use would be.
There is a big difference between true Japanese washi tape and novelty tapes. For example, I bought patterned Scotch “Expressions” masking tape from Target a few years ago. It has its uses, but is very coarse (just like the beige type) compared to washi tape.
I also bought a set of decorative tape with a maps and old paper theme which is really like a long sticker on a roll but it doesn’t at all have the feel of washi tape.
If washi tape was a person they would be attractive and refined but not as fragile as they look. Washi tape is a great collaborator and adaptable to many situations.