Japanese hand fans, especially the folding fans, are easily cherished as an Asian masterpiece, a work of art, and gift for all occasions as not only do they represent the first folding fans ever made in history, they also flaunt exquisite craftsmanship and stylish versatility.
While coming in different types, Japanese fans are, basically, a collective effort of Japanese hand fan artisans, who carefully select the materials for their ribs and craft them into hand fan frames, and hand fan artists, who create the beautiful designs on their leaf or front. Several techniques and tedious processes are required to make a Japanese fan, and such include the following:
Choose the right quality of bamboo, wood, or sandalwood to make for the hand fans’ ribs.
Japanese fans are, traditionally, made of bamboo, which is picked usually according to their age and pliability for easy carving and craftsmanship. Bamboo is then shaved to reveal the creamy-white color of its wood and it is then cut to the length, thinness, shape, and size of the folding fans’ ribs, and then smoothed to prepare them for carving.
Carve the bamboo to make them decorative as ribs for the folding fan.
Today, carving machines and carved hand fan ribs of different patterns that serve as design templates are available to make the designing and carving of the ribs fast, uniform, and easy. However, in the olden days, every step that is needed to carve each Japanese hand fan’s rib is done by hand, which process includes the planning of a prospect design on and individually making holes on the bamboo until they complete as a decoration.
Polish each carved wooden rib to make them both neat and smooth for holding.
The bamboo ribs are then smoothed with sandpaper to make them both neat and smooth for holding. If intended to be used without paint, hand fan ribs at this stage are ready to be gathered with a metal rivet and used as frame for the final product.
Paint or lacquer each wooden rib and then secure with a metal rivet.
Painting and lacquering, which yields an elegant gloss, are two (2) of the common techniques that are used to color and design a Japanese fan’s ribs. After which, they are then gathered in sets, including the thicker ribs or guard sides, and then secured altogether at one end with a metal rivet, which helps them to pivot or open and close in a sweeping motion.
Finish each Japanese fan with its fabric leaf or any decorative design.
Normally, the featured design of a Japanese fan is separately done by a hand fan artist, painter, or pyrography artist and many others. After decorating or attaching the fabric leaf, the finished product is then gently folded and wrapped with a small washi paper that helps to keep it tightly closed and secured.
To use a new Japanese folding fan, open and close it carefully until its folds are properly established. Hold your folding fan with one hand and enjoy its refreshing breeze with a gentle fanning motion.