Aaron Studios

Specialist in Restoration of Japanese Screens


Screens today are constructed in the same way as they were in the Momoyama era when paper hinges were first introduced. At its center, a screen is made of a wooden lattice frame similar to a shoji frame. This is the "bones" of a screen. Much care must be taken when building the "core frame" as a weak core will make for a weak screen. No metal nails are used, rather bamboo nails are required as they will easily last over 100 years and remain as strong as ever.

Over this frame several layers of paper are laid down. Each layer is of a different paper and is applied with differing strengths of paste and techniques.

Next, the great Momoyama invention, paper hinges. Hinge paper, a thick and very strong handmade paper, is cut and laid down in alernating sections. Each hinge on the face of one panel is wrapped to the back of the next panel. When the panels are folded together another layer of lighter paper covers the whole edge. This invention allows there to be a single flat surface for the artist to work on as each panel of the screen is held tightly against the other.

The next layer of paper to go on is the uke or pillow layer. Small sections of very light but strong paper are carefully laid onto the screen panel with only the very edges wet with paste. This allows for a firmly anchored substrate to hold the painting while also absorbing the stressed as the painted paper expands and contracts with changing humidity.

At last we get to mount the art work. The art, having been previously restored as needed and backed with supporting paper, is pasted and carefully hung on the proper panel. If there is more than one panel, care must be given to insure the edges of the paintings are aligned both vertically and horizontally.

The next steps are putting on a silk border (we often use old antique obi), then the back paper, usually with a roundell pattern called suzumegata, and finally the decorative black wood edging and metal corner hardware.

The above description is just a general outline. Depending on the actual project there can be from 45 to 60 steps required in restoring and building a screen.

Detail from 18th Century painting on Silk.