Handweaver Jan Paul practices art of Sanganishiki

Jan Paul’s husband had to make a hole in the ceiling to fit one of her looms in their home.

  • Tuesday, February 17, 2009 12:52pm
  • Life
Kirkland resident Jan Paul works on a project with her loom at her home on Feb. 13. Paul is a hand weaver of Saganishiki

Kirkland resident Jan Paul works on a project with her loom at her home on Feb. 13. Paul is a hand weaver of Saganishiki

Jan Paul’s husband had to make a hole in the ceiling to fit one of her looms in their home.

“I’ve almost lost track of how many looms I own,” said Paul, an award-winning Kirkland handweaver who practices her unique talent for Sanganishiki – the Japanese weaving technique practiced only by a handful of people in North America.

Saganishiki, which loosely translates to “Japanese gold brocade,” is the weaving of silk onto paper warps. The warps come from Japan in silver, gold, and lacquered paper, and the technique can be used to create anything from pill boxes to divider screens.

A traditional and cultural art, Saganishiki items are often given to heads of state in Japan. The process is time consuming – weaving just an inch of a complex Saganishiki pattern can take an entire day, and even a simple pair of earrings requires three or four days for Paul to complete. Paul has 24-carat gold warp she plans to use soon.

Unlike knitting, Paul says, Saganishiki takes patience, full attention and ample space. It’s a hobby that requires passion and inspiration. For Paul, that inspiration can come from anywhere: nature, ancient textiles, and unique colors.

Making this Japanese art form into an attractive American product is what Paul excels in, so much so that she will give a lecture in Japan on the subject next month. Her primary focus will be how she has adapted the technique to sell in the U.S. market. Paul has made the traditional art a profitable hobby in the U.S. by making her items simpler than their Japanese counterparts. She makes less complex pieces such as earrings, pendants, and brooches, her top-sellers.

Many Japanese weavers are thrilled with the interest some North Americans have shown in Saganishiki handweaving, Paul says. She was invited to give the lecture by Miyako Ide, creator of a nonprofit organization that educates people on the cultural importance of Japanese weaving.

Paul’s fascination with handweaving began as she pursued her arts degree at the University of Idaho in the 1970s.

“I took a weaving class and knew I had found my calling,” she says.

Years later, Jan attended a Handweavers Guild of America conference, where she took a class from Tokyo Saganishiki weaver Mihoko Karaki.

Since then, she has served as the president of the Seattle Weavers Guild and as the Washington State representative for the Handweavers Guild of America. She teaches at conferences regularly and even had one student go on to study with a handweaving master in Japan, a very high honor.

The community can see Paul’s work at regional shows such as Aki Matsuri, a Japanese cultural event, in Bellevue this September.

Paul has made her passion into a hobby and a career, something she said is challenging to accomplish. As an artist it can often be a struggle to make your business profitable, she says. Paul often spends up to 30 hours a week weaving and teaching students. Though it can be exhausting for the eyes and mind, she encourages those interested in weaving to take private lessons or look for workshops that can teach the rare art.

MOLLY WALDRON is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Life

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe High Country
Car review: 2021 Chevy Tahoe 4WD High Country

By Larry Lark, contributor Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) for short, in the… Continue reading

2021 Lexus NX 300h
Car review: 2021 Lexus NX 300h

By Larry Lark, contributor The 2021 Lexus NX 300h luxury sports utility… Continue reading

Mazda’s 2021 CX-5 compact sports utility vehicle. Courtesy photo
Car review: Mazda’s 2021 CX-5 compact sports utility vehicle

By Larry Lark, contributor Mazda’s 2021 CX-5 compact sports utility vehicle continues… Continue reading

2021 Toyota Corolla XSE. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Toyota Corolla XSE

By Larry Lark, contributor Toyota’s venerable Corolla received a bumper-to-bumper, wheels-to-roof transformation… Continue reading

2021 Volkswagen Atlas. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Volkswagen Atlas

By Larry Lark, contributor Volkswagen’s full-size Atlas SUV received a bold refresh… Continue reading

2021 Chevrolet Blazer. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Chevrolet Blazer

By Larry Lark, contributor When it comes to certain car models they… Continue reading

2021 Lexus RX 350L. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Lexus RX 350L

By Larry Lark, contributor It’s always a good day when a Lexus… Continue reading

The Cadillac CT4 is designed to appeal to a new generation of Cadillac buyers with its athletic design and astute driving dynamics. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2020 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury

By Larry Lark, contributor With apologies to Oldsmobile, “the 2020 CT4 Premium… Continue reading

2021 Mercedes E-350 luxury sedan. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Mercedes E-350 luxury sedan

By Larry Lark, contributor Mercedes-Benz occupies rarified air in the automobile pantheon.… Continue reading

2021 Ford F-150 Platinum. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Ford F-150 Platinum

By Larry Lark, contributor It’s always a call to action when a… Continue reading

Eleanor Knight, 14, and her younger brother, Ivan, then, 9, horse around while waiting to surf a wave on the Class III Wenatchee River. Courtesy photo.
Kayaking kid conquers raging rapids

“Between Two Swims” captures family’s brave adventures on film.

Classic Eats Restaurant owner Tony Hayes distributing gift certificates to Highline School District staff. Hayes is one of many King County residents that have been giving back during this time of need in 2020. Courtesy photo/Tony Hayes.
Local fundraisers take on new meaning during pandemic

With these hardships have come stories of the power of community crowdfunding in our own backyards.