form and emptiness


Wonderingmind Studio: Miriam Louisa Simons, washi bowl

washi bowl
Kyoto, Japan
Japanese washi, silver threads, cardboard stand


I find the fragile beauty of  Japanese handmade washi irresistible and came home from Japan laden with sheets of all kinds.  Actually it’s much sturdier than it appears.  Not quite strong enough for bowl-making, however.  How could it be stiffened, strengthened?

I decided to do some research and unearthed an old Chinese recipe used to stiffen silk for flower making.  A few dozen experiments and many failures later I had devised a recipe that enabled me to make bowls using just one layer of washi.  The diaphanous quality of the paper was preserved, and the bowls held their shape. Stitching sometimes appears, but seldom for construction purposes.

The bowls each have their own small base, and a storage box – just as do traditional tea ceremony bowls.

Why bowls?  To spend time in Japan, to participate in the rituals of tea making, serving, and drinking, is to enter another entire mindscape.  Coupling this with contemplation on the paradox of form and emptiness is a deep and profoundly awareness-enhancing practice.  Bowls can be potent teachers.

More bowls
Nomad Collection: Japan

2 thoughts on “form and emptiness

    1. Hello Ivan – the bowls I make are only “usable” in the decorative sense, ie, they retain their shape and can be used to hold small treasures.

      This is my recipe for stiffening silk or washi:
      Dissolve 1 tbsp cornstarch in 1 tbsp cold water. Add 200ml boiling water. Heat – stirring continuously – until thick and clear. Remove from heat and add 1 tbsp PVA glue. Stir, and set aside to cool. This makes the basic mix, which can be further diluted depending on your purposes. Keeps well in the fridge for a week or so, or longer if you add a few drops of formalin.

      The washi is layered in a mold – a ceramic bowl for example – and successive coats of the stiffener are applied, allowing each one to dry fully. When rigid enough the washi bowl is removed from the mold and the outside is treated in the same way.

      Hope this helps 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s