'Perfectly Imperfect': Horie Mika (1984)


Horie Mika is a Japanese photographic artist who focuses on creating cyanotypes on paper made by herself. Trees, water and light are the main elements that Horie uses to create her artworks.


Horie lives in Yamanaka Onsen, Kaga, Ishikawa prefecture, in a Meiji-era farmhouse and studio in the mountains. After the snow melts in spring, Horie drives up narrow winding roads into the mountains to fill her car with gampi branches—the raw material to make traditional paper. Horie processes the gampi fibers fully by hand into delicate-looking but sturdy paper, which is the material on which she prints cyanotype images of the landscapes, foliage, nearly-forgotten villages  and objects in or around her home. 

Horie’s photographic process is nearly as natural and time-consuming as her paper making. After having photographed her natural surroundings, Horie treats her paper with ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide, places the negatives directly on top of the paper and allows the sun to expose them to shades of cyan and deep indigo. She then washes the paper with spring water to fixate the image and lets the art work dry in the wind.


Horie’s work is suffused with wabi-sabi. Her artworks are first of all the result of her process of working with natural materials. Furthermore, her prints are not perfect. They are all different, unique, even when they show the same image, because of the handmade paper and the ever-changing sunlight. Each print has a different texture, with uneven rims, some blurry parts and a large variety of tones of blue. The imagery is also very modest and humble. Horie’s way of living furthermore implies wabi-sabi: 


“Wabi-sabi is simply the feeling of my daily life of creating. Each day I spend a significant amount of time catching its essence of tranquility, harmony, beauty and imperfection through shooting photos, making paper and cyanotype. I embrace the condition of gampi tree fiber, spring water and sunlight changing all the time. One day I realised that being surrounded by abundant nature has changed my mentality. I am getting to understand my imperfections.” - Mika Horie


Horie’s words clarify that wabi-sabi is first and foremost an integral part of how the Japanese think and feel and her work is very fitting to evoke a feeling of wabi-sabi.