Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Thursday, March 08, 2018
Re-Stitching/Binding an Asian style book is relatively simple. (not something I do on a regular basis) Having taken apart one of my three copies to facilitate scanning the pages, time to reassemble the said book.
A borrowed Tapestry Needle really makes short and sure work of stitching.
Wednesday, March 07, 2018
A typical Asian 4-Hole stitched book binding, intended to be read in reverse, as to a Western style book. Turning pages to view the book is similar to viewing a long horizontal scroll. This revels the simple ingenuity of the book design and construction. Photographs below:
Back cover of the book.
Images from an old hand stitched Chinese book.
Pages 3 thu 24 show: amassing materials, processing materials, pottering around, packaging for river shipment and accounting with the accountant. Each sheet folded at the center, with each half sequentially numbered, eg 3-4, 4-6 etc. Reminder: read from Right to Left
More on the book anatomy in a future posting.
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Ozu Washi instructor Nao Tanaka demonstrates how to pick up a film of pulp that will eventually dry into a sheet of paper.
‘Mummy, where does paper come from?” This was a question recently asked by my young daughter that was easier to answer than her usual string of what's and whys (“Do insects cry?” and “Why were we born?” among them).
On this occasion, I was not only able to tell her with confidence that paper most definitely came from trees, but I also managed to take her and her sister to a workshop to learn precisely how to make it.
The class took place at Ozu Washi, a multi-story emporium that impressively dates back to 1653 and is devoted to all things related to the art of traditional washi (Japanese paper) .
It’s one of a string of thriving centuries-old family businesses that can be found hidden among modern towers and shopping malls in Nihonbashi, the birthplace of Edo and the starting point of modern Tokyo.
It’s also incredibly child-friendly. Upon entering the building, passing beneath a traditional red noren curtain, my daughters — aged 5 and 3 — immediately gravitate to something startlingly modern: Pepper the robot, who greets them cheerfully and introduces them to the store.
Ozu Washi spans three levels — on the first floor is a colorful shop space packed with hundreds of different types of paper in every hue and design imaginable, while the upper levels are home to a museum and a culture school.
Our destination, however, is just in front of the entrance: a first floor atelier housing the Handmade Washi Experience Studio where the workshop would take place.
The girls take an immediate liking to their teacher, Nao Tanaka, who is both friendly, gentle and informative as she first explains that we will go upstairs to watch a “washi cartoon.”
The anime is a visual feast for the children — a colorful hand-drawn illustration of a girl and her animal friends embarking on a seasonal washi-making journey, from collecting twigs to drying the paper in the sun.
Next, it’s time to get messy. Back in the studio downstairs, the girls are dressed in large turquoise plastic aprons and, to their undisguised glee, they are instructed to stick their hands in a clear slimy liquid that falls in gloopy strands from their fingers.
Tanaka explains to the girls that this is neri, a plant-root derivative, before the pair clamber excitedly onto blocks and watch as she pours it into a vast metal vat of white liquid made from the mushed bark of kōzo (paper mulberry) trees.
“Now we’re going to start making the paper,” says Tanaka, reaching for two flat bamboo sieve-like racks, before showing the girls how to gently swing them back and forth in the water, so the fiber is scooped up, forming a light film that will eventually become their prized sheets of washi.
Next comes another highlight: decorating the sheets. The girls sit at a table covered in a cornucopia of tiny paper cutouts and other trimmings — from rainbow-hued flowers to the silhouettes of tiny black cats.
Unusually silent, the two concentrate on placing their decorations of choice on their paper. Once satisfied they carry the bamboo trays back to the large vat of mulberry-bark water and copy the teacher, sprinkling drops onto the surface of the decorated sheets and giving them a final dip to seal their work.
The drying process is next: One by one the girls take great pleasure in switching the “on” button of a large metal drying machine, upon which they place their creations, complete with a previously made sheet of paper covering it for protection.
Once dry enough to move, the sheets are placed on a heated vertical metal board, with Tanaka’s hands guiding the girls’ as they gently stroke the sheets with a brush, before removing the protective paper and revealing their very own handmade pieces of paper.
When the sheets are fully dry, the girls, delighted with the end results, take great pleasure in the final touch: formally imprinting a red Ozu Washi stamp onto the creations before sliding them into envelopes to take home.
The hour-long workshop flew by surprisingly quickly, thanks mainly to Tanaka, who is clearly experienced at making washi with very young children. The whole process was seamless good fun, hands-on and just the right side of messy.
Best of all? At least one of my daughters’ endless questions has been firmly crossed off the What to Ask My Mummy list as they both now know from firsthand experience that paper definitely comes from trees.
Ozu Washi holds several workshops a day, from Mon. to Sat. Reservations are recommended. Each session lasts around one hour and it costs ¥500 to make a single A4-sized sheet of washi paper. Classes are conducted in Japanese but English-speakers are welcome. For more information, visit www.ozuwashi.net/en/workshop.html.
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Exploring war through woodblock prints
BY JOHN L. TRAN CONTRIBUTING WRITER JAN 20, 2018 ARTICLE HISTORY
Sensō-e, literally “war pictures,” are a particularly dramatic form of Japanese woodblock print that emerged as a style of reportage during the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877, and went on to become a widespread and popular way of disseminating patriotic imagery during the First Sino and Russo-Japanese wars. The 2017 catalog “Flash of Light, Fog of War” features 75 of these images and was produced following a donation of a private collection to the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Flash of Light, Fog of War: Japanese military Prints 1894-1905, by Bradley M. Bailey, Gene Roberts, Katie Ziglar. 160 pages ACKLAND ART MUSEUM, Art.
A woodblock print titled 'The Great Naval Battle of Haiyang Island' by artist Bairin and carver Hori Yata (1894)
Artist: Nakamura Shuko; publisher: Sekiguchi Masajiro: 'The Japanese Destroyer's Great Victory off Haiyang Island' (1894)Artist: Kobayashi Kiyochika; publisher: Inoue Kichijiro: 'The Naval Battle of Pungdo in Korea' (1894)
Sensō-e — reproducible images made to depict current events — were not intended to be appreciated as “fine” art by a cultured elite. They were, however, meant to be eye-catching and sensational and, whatever their aesthetic aspirations, it was incumbent on them to deliver.
During Japan’s industrialization in the Meiji Era (1868-1912) the woodblock prints business was on the decline, and sensō-e were, to some extent, an effort to make bank in a trade that was to be made redundant by the spread of photography.
Several factors contributed to the distinctive style of sensō-e. The depiction of modern firearms and military uniforms, armored battleships and anatomical realism in the medium of the woodblock print make for a singular kind of image, of course, but Ackland Art Museum’s curator of Asian art, Bradley M. Bailey, focuses on two particular visual features of sensō-e: the way light and obscurity are depicted.
To depict artillery, searchlights and ships extravagantly bursting into flames required experimentation with new kinds of visual techniques. Woodblock artists were not embedded war correspondents and their frame of reference was not first-hand experience at the front lines, but photographs, news reports and literature, such as the popular memoir “Human Bullets,” written in 1904 by Tadayoshi Sakurai (1879-1965). This resulted in stylized, almost avant-garde, lighting effects of globules of red flame, hard-edged cones of white against black backgrounds and, perhaps inevitably, explosions that resemble the rays of the Rising Sun flag of the Japanese armed forces.
Another innovation was a response to the fact that, in contrast to the more honourable practice of fighting in the daytime, when you could identify yourself and your opponent, modern warfare often took place at night. Bailey points out that while night scenes are not uncommon in earlier examples of ukiyo-e, the illumination and coloration of subjects would not necessarily be different from that of a daytime image. Sensō-e show strong directional lighting — from camp fires, artificial light, explosions, etc. — and the resulting shadows are used to suggest tension, threat and violence.
Bailey also notes that sensō-e are distinctive in their treatment of smoke, fog, haze and snow. Previously in woodblock prints, the color white would be represented by the base paper being revealed through an absence of ink. However, printers in the late-19th century started to use the white, opaque powder gofun, derived from calcified oyster and clam shells, to create more nuanced representations of the snowy conditions that afflicted soldiers of all sides.
Sensō-e vary considerably in quality, the work of Kiyochika Kobayashi (1847-1915), generally being considered to be among the best of the genre. With their bellicose nature and anachronistic mix of modern subject matter and Japanese woodblock print visual language, sensō-e is a curious sub-genre that has been given something of a wide-berth by art collectors.
The origin of the museum’s collection is itself an interesting story. The collection is a recent donation by Gene and Susan Roberts. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gene Roberts — who started collecting them after covering the Vietnam War for The New York Times — was “intrigued by the notion that a war could be reported through woodblock prints.”
After realizing that the prints were unreliable as journalistic testimony, Roberts’ appreciation of them as visual imagery grew. The jingoism of sensō-e, in which Chinese people are depicted as subservient and backward, while Japanese troops stand proud, is certainly unsettling, but at the level of dynamic composition, kitsch and melodrama, they do have an undeniable appeal.
Academic interest in sensō-e is building, and Bailey graciously acknowledges that, in 2016, Rhiannon Paget, a contributor to The Japan Times, and curator Philip K. Hu organized “the most authoritative and comprehensive historical resource on this material” at the St. Louis Art Museum. That publication, “Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan” enjoys higher production values, and is more substantial in terms of textual entries and breadth of content. However, focusing on the presentation of the images themselves, Bailey’s catalog provides an immersive experience of these quirky visualizations of Japan’s glory days.
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Friday, January 12, 2018
Raised in Scotland, travelled and lived in SE Asia for a considerable number of years, I’ve encountered many many pronunciations / inflections / intonations etc. when pronouncing a word for Tea / Cha .. Throughout Mainland China you hear a potpourri of pronunciations for “Cha” 茶 .. from a soft “sha” to a crisp “Ta”. Mostly encountered when being asked to “Drink Tea” He Cha 喝茶. The pronunciation of; Drink he 喝 also has regional variations. Most common sound like the English “her” (The possessive form of she) as in; Her book.