Nettle, Willow fibres

Nettle, Willow fibres

In The Spirit of Kamiko

The invention of the Japanese shirt, or Kamiko as it is known in Japan, has long been lost in the mists of time. Perhaps first made by a Buddhist monk or a rural farmer, the creation of Kamiko essentially came as a response to a lack or shortage of textiles.

Industrial development has made materials and products from across the world readily obtainable, cheaper, and more accessible. Naylor and Ball (2005) argued that mass production has led to greater consumption and, as a result, 'a mass devaluing of ever-increasing products manufactured'.

"In the Spirit of Kamiko" was a craft project that aimed to revive the tradition and symbolic message behind the Japanese paper shirt as a commentary on how in a time of environmental crisis, we need our cultural craft practices to reconnect with the ecological cycles in nature. The project resulted in experimental paper shoe artefacts celebrating the, currently endangered, craft of handmade papermaking and the potential of paper as a versatile and meaningful medium. In Japan, Kamiko came to represent the 'transitoriness of life and cycles of nature as the paper clothes would gradually disintegrate with time and wear.

By creating paper shoes, Katarzyna intended to encourage reflection on the impermanence of things and how, through materiality and making, we can reconnect with nature.

Additional information

Firstly, Katarzyna collected nettle plants and willow branches from the North area of London. Secondly, the plants had to go through initial processing. While nettle plants could be used as a whole, including leaves and stems, the willow branches had to be cooked and the outer bark separated from the inner bark. The very outer layer of bark scraped off.
To make the paper sheets, nettle plants and willow bark were cooked with an addition of soda ash (Interestingly, the willow fiber would turn pink at this stage). After cooking and rinsing, the nettle plants and willow fiber were beaten into a pulp. Lastly, the fiber pulp was mixed with water and rice thickener, sifted through a mould and deckle, and dried. Small amounts of mitsumata fiber were mixed into nettle and willow fiber for strength.

Ingredient list

Nettle fibre, Willow bark fibre, Mitsumata fibre, PVA Glue (Although PVA glue was used to create the shoe artefacts, it could be substituted with natural glue alternatives).


Katarzyna Suzuki


Lucy Baxandall (Tidekettle Paper)

Photo credits

Aniela Fidler Wieruszewska and Tom Mannion