Sunday, February 18, 2018

A White Paper ..

Ozu Washi instructor Nao Tanaka demonstrates how to pick up a film of pulp that will eventually dry into a sheet of paper.<I>Washi </I>workshop: Good on paper, better firsthand

‘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

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Exploring war through woodblock prints

Exploring war through woodblock prints

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)

Ackland_2014.40.52, 2/16/17, 2:31 PM,  8C, 2880x5079 (850+512), 58%, Feb'13,  1/25 s, R51.2, G23.2, B32.3Artist: Nakamura Shuko; publisher: Sekiguchi Masajiro: 'The Japanese Destroyer's Great Victory off Haiyang Island' (1894)p18-books-sensoe-b-20180121-870x457Artist: Kobayashi Kiyochika; publisher: Inoue Kichijiro: 'The Naval Battle of Pungdo in Korea' (1894)Ackland_2015.11.12, 2/14/17, 11:57 AM,  8C, 2838x4976 (905+555), 58%, Feb'13,  1/25 s, R51.2, G23.2, B32.3

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.

Article found in: The Japan Times

Friday, January 12, 2018

What’s in a name?

imageRaised 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.

Monday, January 01, 2018

A Matching Pair … 2018 has a great start.

A tried and true Shu-Pu from Long Run Tea Ceremony (company)20180101_081559image

Friday, December 29, 2017

Who does Polaroid's ??? What is a Polaroid ???

Days work at US Divers: … Captions by “Others” (Mike LaP.)

Working on a Non-SCUBA project .. Emergency Oxygen Supply for the US Bureau of Mines. Lead engineer: Mike B. plus test manikin.


Tree-Be-Gone .. Now I’m stumped !!!


Three musketeers … Team Triathlon

Michael.. swims, John.. bikes & Dan.. runs … Lake Mission Viejo2017_12_27_18_41_3600012017_12_27_18_40_0100122017_12_27_18_41_3600022017_12_27_18_41_3600042017_12_27_18_41_360003

Just a quick Nun around the block

2017_12_27_18_40_010018Yes-placed FIRST in the woman's division2017_12_27_18_40_010015Mary R. takes a gallant 2nd place Smile2017_12_27_18_40_010007

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Summer and Winter

Business trips spread over the year offer multi-seasonal views.image

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

UPDATE: Creating alternate tea storage ideas.

The more I think and plan making a Buddhist Alter inspired Tea Caddy,  I was favoring the style and wood coloring  pictured below, the more impracticable it becomes. I just don’t have the free space to house it and I abhor over furnishing.  So I’ll put in to the back burner on a very low heat. 


Monday, December 18, 2017

Imperial Measurements

What measurement system you use .. is best left to you.imp1imp2

Creating alternate tea storage ideas.

Lead up / backstory ……………

It’s probable ever since we had Tea we have had a need for Tea Caddies. Growing up in Scotland and literally having a score of Aunties, tea caddies were ubiquities and varied. Indian black tea was the primary tea being stored and served.

In addition we had a fair umber of Hong Kong Chinese families settled in an around Ayrshire. Going to Primary and Secondary school with the kids of Chinese family's I had early exposure to Guangdong / Hong Kong – Cantonese style of tea culture. Needless to say Scottish tea culture (stretching the use of “Culture”)  is vastly different to those of China … pause for nostalgic laugh

Having a sizable collection of Chinese teas allows me the opportunity to amass a number of tea caddies.  I have a thought of using the design and proportions of a Buddhist Alter, proportioned for use in the home, as a starting point for a new caddie.

Yes we are inching toward the metric system SmileCouple of examples below.  Updates to come as the endeavor progresses.buddhist-altarbuddhist-altar-051 Watch is VERY interesting YT video from an extremely down to earth & talented Kiwi woodworker: A Buddhist Altar,


Thursday, December 07, 2017

New Woodblock Carver …

David Bull is the go-to guy for Japanese Woodblock Prints and Carving. Recently a collaboration between David and an American artist, Jed Henry, has introduced an English Carver / Printer: William Francis

ttps://   WEB Site:

Recently a print designed by Jed Henry, carved and printed by William Francis is available for sale in David’s Tokyo store and on Jed’s Web site:


William has posted on his instagram site a few pictures that wonderfully show the progression of carving a Key-Block.

fh1fh2fh3fh441OjiIGSdBLPhotograph of a print made by: Matsumura Shunsho in 1782

David Bull:   and  Live 8 am Tokyo time.

Three out of a bunch.

These three tools are all, now, very sharp, ready to use. The center tool is by Hirsch, my go-to favorite.

Hirsch Carving Tools

Europe's finest woodcarving tools. Manufactured in Germany continuously since 1780. Hand-forged of Germany's finest high carbon tool steel and tempered to a Rockwell hardness of 61.tcttsA bunch more (15) await their turn.ctinab

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The Cutting Edge

Setting up to sharpen a number of dual bevel edge carving tools. Used for fine detail carving wood blocks. This is a little different than “standard” single bevel edge sharpening. I’ll be expanding on this over the next few posts.20171207_092009cup120171206_175851

The Hangi-to tool, the most useful and important tool in woodblock printmaking. (also called the kiridashi.  It is capable of cutting intricate, flowing lines that are at the heart of Japanese printmaking. All the outlines in the print are carved with this tool.

Single Bevel, Right-Handed Japanese carving tool.FourFW2imageOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe back face of the tool has a Flat Face that may or may not be Hollow Ground (as above example)