Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Dutch travelers, Holland Barens, and the Genius Loci


Aafke and Bastiaan
I'm enjoying the company of two young Dutch artists, Aafke Ytsma and Bastiaan Epker who are traveling from the Netherlands to Cyprus for an artists' residency but they've turned the road trip itself from Holland to the Mediterranean into a separate project and have sponsors and patrons that are supporting their journey.  Aafke and Bastiaan are producing Mokuhanga postcards, one for each stop along the way that they're cutting and printing and then sending back to their sponsors.  Aafke is a painter and Bastiaan an oil-based woodblock artist but they're now using traditional Mokuhanga techniques on these mail-art pieces.

They're now in Florence I'm sharing my studio space with them so they can work out their next prints and hopefully will have enough time to imagine, carve, and print a new image based on their visit here.
The works and trip are based on the concept of the Genius Loci--the spirit or spirits of a particular place--and they're interpreting that individually, with each of them working and producing alternate prints.

I've been communicating with Aafke for a few months after she shared with me some photos of two barens she had made using my blog posts on making twisted-cord barens as a model.


Fine and coarse barens made from twisted, wax cords on a cardboard backing

A good tie-job but they're covered with waxed paper that isn't going to last.....
                                        
Finished Barens

She was happy with how well they worked but was having trouble sourcing a material in Holland for covering them. I was so impressed by her work that I sent her a few bamboo leaves from the garden so they could be properly covered and asking that she share with me her comments on how they perform.
And when I heard she'd be passing through Florence on the way to Cyprus we agreed to meet to share some stories and that I'd be able to have them as guests in my studio so they could have a temporary work space.  Today we spent the day in the studio looking at materials and I got to see their completed blocks and a few prints and they were able to get to work on the next ones.
I hope I'll be able to post photos of the finished print/s soon.
Tomorrow, since they're working on the local spirit, I'm going to try to introduce them to the Olive Trees and see if they also like picking Tuscan olives.



Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sweet Tea. White-line.



 It's a rainy day today. While hurricanes are pounding my old hometown, there are storms here too with dark skies, thunder and lightning and rain. The dog is shaking under the stairs and the kids are reading or doing homework.
Rainy days are good for printing but I wasn't up for anything grandiose.  So I decided to try another quick white-line print.



 It's from a rapid doodle of a few days ago that I quickly cut yesterday afternoon.
And today I snuck back into the studio to see how it would print.
The light one is on some odd Japanese Masa to which I added a little extra size.
The dark one, which sadly got an ink blotch when I wasn't paying attention, is on Italian etching paper.
In honor of my southern upbringing, and the end of the hot days of summer,  I offer this quirky pitcher of Sweet Tea. Anyone from the American South will know what this is. You can never guess how sweet it is by just looking but it's almost always too sweet.

This is on etching paper and is a little too dark and has a yellow splotch.
Both were printed on damp paper, with tube watercolors and with a baren.
 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Apostrophetic

 This is my second attempt at a white-line or Provincetown print.  You can just make out the thin white halo around the color areas that are the hallmark of the American variant of tradional moku hanga.

A simple drawing of commas and apostrophes, black shapes on white paper, caught my eye and I played with it, changing the composition.
I liked it enough to draw it a few more times.
Then enough to trace one of those drawings onto a piece of shina, and cut out, with a V-gouge, the outline of my fat apostrophes, heavy and irregularly drawn.

Today I went to the studio and made a couple of color proofs.
Pink, Blue, Violet, Black, Mica, Sumi.

I'm not sure which I like best. The original idea was to make the forms black, on a white chalk ground on tan paper but I didn't print any like that.  But I also thought about the colors of traditional printed text: blue, black, red, blue-black and ended up working with that palette.

You may not notice but the apostrophes get a little bigger as they move to the bottom row and you definitely can't see the effect of the mica powder on the background, which makes the lighter center section slightly opaque and iridescent.


1

Monday, September 4, 2017

Another smile.



    I'm happy that this little thing found a new home today. 
I have this and the four blocks that I used to print it in the studio window that faces the street and it's designed to catch the eye of people walking by to draw attention to our studio and my work. It's also one of the prints that is priced really low....it's an open edition and I wanted something bright and cheerful that would allow almost anyone, despite their budget, to be able to collect a piece of original art, made with care. It's a simple thing, lighthearted and fun and it's one of the prints I use sometimes when I want to demonstrate Japanese printmaking. 
   Today a Flemish couple stopped by my studio and spent a fair amount of time looking at my work and the work of my studio mates. They asked questions and looked at prints and blocks, my tools and studio setup.   Despite some language issues I was able to show them how the prints are made and how they're different from rubber stamps and letterpress or wood engravings or etchings. I got to meet two lovely people and they left with a small print and one of my business cards. I can't say that they'll ever be back or that I made any real money off this particular sale, but we were all smiling when we parted and I'm glad this is off to a new home and that they'll remember my little studio in Florence, and maybe me too, when they look at it again, another day, in another city, far away.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Walla Walla?

Why I am going to Walla Walla, you ask?
Well, this is the second year that Whitman College is offering a moku hanga program and they have invited Kitamura Shōichi, one of the best contemporary Japanese woodblock carvers to Walla Walla who will be in residence during our work-study period. I got wind of this from April Vollmer a few months ago and jumped at the chance to be able to improve (I hope) my carving by observing the proper technique of a skilled carver.   We'll be working alongside but separately--sort of in the Japanese tradition of watching and learning through observation, but we'll also be allowed to ask questions and have him available for an hour or so a day to assist us and I'm hoping to have him show us the proper way to sharpen the hangi-toh and my larger nomi that I haven't really been able to keep sharp enough. Meanwhile, we'll be working on individual projects, and I've ordered some blocks and paper from McClains to be shipped directly to the center and that are waiting for me to get cracking.

The only current snag is that I've been thinking about this for a few weeks now and I still haven't really an idea of what I'm going to work on.  Maybe one of my etagami that I thought would make a nice print, or an idea I've been saving, or a loose abstract work from one of my sketchbooks or try to tackle one of my line-drawing nudes from my still ill-defined shunga series?

At the very least, I may have to find a glask flask and tie a noose and try out this ancient method of achieving the diffuse light that I hear is ideal for carving.

I get in later tonight and tomorrow, I should get to see the facility and meet the organizers, Akira (Ron) Takemoto and Keiko Hara, and my fellow participants. And I'll have 5 uninterrupted days to come up with SOMETHING.  Now that's something to be excited about.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Tying the baren cover-takenogawa.

I tied a new baren cover recently on one of my home-made barens during a visit from fellow artist Monique Wales, who also filmed most of it. You can see me pleating the leaf edges along the curved rim of the baren and then twisting and holding down the surplus ends that will become the cords to tie the part that will become the handle.  She recently shared the video so I add it here. These are bamboo leaf culms from our garden and are big enough (some of them) to cover a 12cm baren.
I don't think my fingers are quite this pudgy in real life. I think it has  to do with the focal length of the lens or the dpi or something. Someday, I'll add the how to prepare the bamboo leaf for tying to this video so you can have the whole process to watch before trying to tie your own.
This is a finished baren with a fresh new cord and cover:

Friday, June 30, 2017

Present


Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
 "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."--Wm. Morris.
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html

I work in the San Frediano neighborhood of Florence and it's still known as a center for the small workshops and studios of the craftsmen and women that once applied to most of city. I regularly stop in on the local carpenters, antique restorers, jewelers and luthiers, metalsmiths and bookstores. Around the corner and two blocks away on Via Borgo San Frediano is the AtelierGK run by the young and talented couple Lapo Giannini and Michiko Kuwata. He's a 6th-generation bookbinder and she's a Tokyo-born conservator and restorer of books and paper and they've done some work for me restoring some old illustrations and ephemera. Their small shop and workshop is full of handmade books and boxes, colorful hand-marbled papers and printed endpapers, shoes and jewelry boxes and the odd and curious tools of the bookbinder and their neat and orderly shop is a measure of their attention to detail and aesthetic of doing things as they should be done. On days that they're working, I like to pop in to watch what they're doing and other times just to see what they're up to or to discuss Japanese paper, books, boxes, or future projects. It's not unusual that the conversation turns to the importance of trying to reawaken in the public an appreciation for craftmanship and quality and hand-made things in a world of mass production and consumption.
A few days ago, however, they surprised me by asking if they could come by my little studio.  I'm tucked away on a little-traveled side street so I don't get many visitors.  They didn't know it's almost my birthday, but still, they left a remarkable gift.   





Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html