Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japanese Printmakers

My work: "Treasure What You Have"
I'm back from my Chicago and NY trip. I was going to write about my lovely trip to the Roses on Park Avenue. However, life has a way of writing this blog.

Yesterday morning I went to post my latest Etsy team treasury on Twitter.  On the right were lots of hot topics about Japan.  As I clicked through the stories, I reached for the TV remote.  The world knows the rest. I don't need to tell you what happened when an 8.9 level earthquake hit, followed by a tsunami with 30 foot waves slammed into Japan.  I have been watching the news.  Waves of emotion roll over me, as I see the devastation on our TV.

Being a printmaker, I was introduced to Japan through the art of woodblock and engraving printmaking techniques.
So many artists have been influenced by Japan's printmaking artists.  Most people have seen "The Great Wave of Kanagawa" by Hokusai at the Metropolitan in NYC.  The Japanese are no strangers to big waves. 
Hokusai's "Great Wave of Kanagawa"

I jumped when I had the opportunity to go to Kyoto.  At the time women made the paper and men were the printmakers.  My sense of proportion, and 3 elements (Heaven, Earth, Man) of nature, I learned from the Japanese printmakers has stayed with me.  As well as the Tea Ceremony.  I shipped home a very heavy box of beautiful handmade papers, some I still have.  I also learned to wrap gifts as if they were treasures. I am often complimented by the wrapping I use for my Etsy shop.  I buy Japanese Washi Tape with polkadots and make paper ornaments for every box sent.

In Florence I met and worked with Takuji Kubo, one of Japan's master engravers.  We were instant friends. He came to visit Bob and I in Santa Fe.  Takuji wanted to teach me to make sushi. So we spent a day looking for all the ingredients. Scoring at Whole Foods and Wild Oats.   This is New Mexico, there is NO fresh fish unless you catch it yourself in the Pecos River.  I apologized for the thick seaweed found dry or in cans...and near the end of our shopping day Takuji would say: "I know, I know, we are in the desert!" Takuji  is represented by the Verne Gallery in Cleveland Ohio.  We have several of his engravings. One of the Flat Iron Building in NYC, and another: "Fallen Angel" which he gave me of a dead bird.  These are items that I would carry out of the house if I had to leave forever.
Takuji Kubo Engraving
His Website:

Takuji had a show at the Verne Gallery and I purchased a book Michael Verne published of several printmakers who are Americans and live or had lived in Japan.  The following are some of the artists  in:"Japan Through The Eyes Of Nine Americans" book.    When I saw this gallery and the book I was impressed by the influence Japan had on me and all these other artists. The Gallery's web site is stunning. Treat yourself to a look at it.
The book's isbn# 080483126-2 and I think they may still sell it at the Gallery.
Sarah Brayer "Surge" painted with paper pulp.
Sarah Brayer "Sisters"
Carol Jessen's "The Paper Makers"
Carol Jessen's Kozo" A paper made with long fibers.
Sarah Brayer's "Veil"
Daniel Kelly's "Junko" which is the book's cover. Below it the Keyblock.

Japan has withstood horrific blows for centuries that we know of. They are a strong and brilliant country that treasures what they have.  I know they will emerge from this monstrous tragedy with wisdom, courage, and the inventiveness that has brought them through others.  Japanese papers are made from the inside long parts of plants and fibers which give their paper incredible strength -while soft and transparent.  My experience with the Japanese is that they are like their beautiful papers.

My heart aches for Japan.  I have not been able to reach Takuji.  I will keep you posted.
There was a wonderful Japanese paper store in Chicago, Aikos.  They are now on the internet only, but carry so many beautiful Japanese papers:

Thanks for reading.
Each day is a gift. Open now.


PS.  I have items in my ThePolkadotMagpie shop on Etsy that I will donate all the proceeds to The Red Cross relief for Japan.  I made a treasury of other shops on Etsy doing the same.  You can search Etsy using "relief for Japan" and find a growing list of shops doing the same.

No word on Takuji yet.