Moenkopi Washi Bizan: The Handmade Paper You've Got to See to Believe

Moenkopi Washi Bizan: The Handmade Paper You've Got to See to Believe

When it comes to a handmade fine art paper, this is one that absolutely does not mess around, and with the right image, it can stop a viewer dead in their tracks. In fact, it's so serious that this paper is sold by the individual sheet.

I adore seeing printed work, whether it's my own or the work of someone else, and as I explore different papers, I find myself being drawn to paper that both looks and feels unique. When it comes to choosing a paper for your prints, there are basically two schools of thought, the first being that the paper should be invisible. That is to say, that the paper's purpose is meant to house the work, to neither add nor detract from the image itself and to allow the image to stand completely on its own. The second line of thinking is that paper is meant to be a living extension of a given work, adding its own properties to the image in either subtle or drastic ways that emphasize the intended mood and reception of the image. I am without question of the second line of thinking.

The Moenkopi Washi Bizan 300 from Moab is a paper that does indeed look and feel as unique as its stats. This is a handmade sheet (yes, each sheet is handmade in Japan) comprised of mulberry and hemp fibers available in 300 gsm sheets complete with deckled edges. As each sheet retains the natural color of the fibers, this paper has a not particularly subtle, warm color tone to it, something to be aware of when selecting an image to print on it. While the warmth is not subtle, the texture is a mild one, pleasing to both the eye and to the touch. The sheets have a heft to them, and knowing that each one has been handmade is all the more impressive.

If you're wondering what the catch is, Moab isn't trying to pull the wool over your eyes and is upfront about the cost of this paper. Bizan is not inexpensive. I repeat, the Washi Bizan paper is not an inexpensive paper, and you need to know that going in. Directly from Moab's website, they clearly note the following: “This is an incredibly expensive handmade sheet. We only sell it in units of one sheet. It also prints softer than any of our other products and is best suited for applications which require a more ethereal look. Because of its weight and nature, we only recommend using this in professional grade printers capable of custom platen gap settings. It will require an investment in fine tuning the print quality.” What that means for you as a consumer is that this is not a paper that you run test prints on or that you use as you get your printer set up.

Essentially, if you decide to investigate the Bizan paper for yourself, take the time to select your image carefully and know what you're doing on the printing side of things (ICC profiles, color space, etc.). If you don't, make sure to reach out to someone who does so that you don't accidentally waste a single sheet of this paper, as a failed print might just break your heart. I would be as bummed as I've ever been if I accidentally wasted a single sheet of this paper. Has anyone out there printed on this paper before? I would love to hear your thoughts. Was it a personal print or was it for a gallery, for sale, or for a gift? Is this a paper that you would use in the future or one that you'd now consider trying?

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13 Comments

Allen Ng's picture

Best article about paper printing porn yet!

Steven Hille's picture

Having just gotten back from Japan a few weeks ago, I can attest that they take fine art paper seriously. You can find fine craft paper at Tokyo-Hands or Joyful Honda which are located all through Japan. Nice article.

Daniel Rodriguez's picture

oh man... i might need to check this paper out. always looking for good print quality

Marcus Joyce's picture

$40 a sheet...

[Stock photo]man lighting cigar with hundred dollar bill[/Stock photo]

What your printer does when it jams/loses connection/does weird stuff for the first time ever when you Go try to print on this paper.

Matt Williams's picture

I really want to try this now. I love Moab papers. The Juniper cotton baryta is beautiful. Luckily, Dury's here in Nashville sells Moab paper, so I get to check it out before buying it (they have sample booklets). Doubt they'll have this, though.

There are many wonderful handmade Japanese papers available in the US, in a range of qualities and price points. Test on less expensive sheets before using ultra-premium sheets. LInda / Washi Arts www.washiarts.com Please feel free to email me at linda @ washiarts.com

Alex Herbert's picture

I'm guessing at this point it's more about the paper than the image? Maybe I'm a philistine but would rather the paper I print on not detract from the image I'm printing on it? Surely a perfectly flat and smooth paper with no 'natural fibre colours' would do an image more justice?

Maybe I just don't understand.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Read the article "Not Everyone Looks at Photos Like a Photographer" it is one of the most accurate statements about photography.

Spending $40 on a sheet of paper when most happy with smartphone snaps on Instagram...?

Alex Herbert's picture

Not really the same thing. As I said, anything other than perfectly white paper with no visible texture is adding something to the photo, or taking something away from it (depending on your point of view). Now if that's the intention, to add 'character' to the overall 'package' then fair enough. But some might say that printing a photo on 'artisan' paper with frayed edges and visible fibres is akin to using an instagram filter to add 'mood' to your photo after the fact...

Wondering what pro labs offer this paper? Any recommendations?

Evan Kane's picture

I am not personally familiar with any. A possible work around if you didn't want to print at home would be to purchase sheets and take them to a local fine art printing shop for in person assistance. Just *make sure* they know what they are doing haha

How would you display such an image? If under glass, I would think that some of the textural effect of the paper would be lost. If exposed, it would be very vulnerable.

Evan Kane's picture

Museum glass tends to cut the overall reflectiveness quite a bit, but yeah that is always the question haha