Last days

We returned to Tokyo on Saturday. I immediately went to Beaver Bread for my bread fix. Much as I love being in Japan the food gives me considerable difficulty. Too much salt. After a couple of weeks I get waterlogged and my diet tends to regress to yogurt, bananas and good bread, if I can get it.

Effectively the workshop was finished, but we had a few more things to do. We were scheduled to go to an art show opening on Saturday evening. First we went to a special shopping area. On our way we saw this wonderful little parade, complete with drumming. This is the second one I’ve seen on this trip. Not sure what they are about. The first, which was at Sensoji Temple, clearly had something to do with sake, since there was a huge cask of it on the float. 

The art show was in a building that was formerly a middle school, now occupied by galleries and some tech start-ups. The opening was at the Mi-lab gallery, the people who ran our workshop. 

On Sunday I went to the Nezu Museum, which has a huge garden I had never seen. It was filled with trees, almost a forest but with many interesting stone lanterns. Although I enjoyed it, I would never have fallen in love with gardens had it been the only one I saw.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I spent the remainder of the day wandering around Ginza and a little time in Ueno. 

Yesterday, Monday, was our last day. As a group we went to Team Lab borderless, a huge hi-tech installation. It was very exciting at first with all of the colored lights and movement, but somehow, after we were there for awhile, I wanted more from it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From there I went to another garden I had never been to: Kyu Shiba Rikyu. This was a truly special garden and I fell in love all over again. It was the perfect ending for my trip.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

May 24

is my birthday. I have celebrated each year since my 80th as a gift. This year my celebration was to go to Japan again and go to the workshop. It has been a great birthday and everyone at the workshop helped me celebrate. Without Nicolo, our teacher and translator, it would not have been possible for me to participate. Our workspace was on the second floor of the house and none of the stairs had bannisters, without which I don’t climb stairs. Nicolo helped me up and down the stairs, each time with great patience and love. He also gave me a charming birthday present.

Our Sensei, Chihiro Taki, let me buy a print from her at a lower price. She wanted to give it to me, but I could not accept such a gift. I love the print and only wish I could afford to buy one of her large prints. I did not even ask the price.

Erin, Katie and Yoonmi went out of their way, and made it all possible for me. I don’t like to be needy and special, but I have begun to need help under certain circumstances. They have been very kind and loving.

Everyone at the workshop sang Happy Birthday to me, and our hosts brought out slices of a melon for our dessert. This is a rare treat in Japan. And another rare treat: Fuji was visible all day and from everywhere I went.

9451FF6E-5E64-43F7-8184-29BAED934084

Since I finished printing on Thursday and wasn’t inspired to carve another block, I spent the morning working on the blog and then went for a walk down to Lake Kawaguchi.

47CFF9AE-9E1A-4C37-BEAB-6F8368BB86C7

After lunch I went upstairs to look at my dried, finished prints. This is the first time I have ever done any printing like this. I enjoyed doing it but will probably never continue. I don’t have space to set up a studio and I’m too deeply immersed in book making and computer graphics. As I began working I knew I would have no standards for this work. To properly carve the woodblock and print an edition where every print looks more or less the same, requires strict attention to every possible variable: carving clean, deeply cut negative space; the amount of water on your paper; amount of pigment in the color you mix; amount of nori you put on the block along with the color. My carving was never deep enough; too much pressure on the hands. My paper was too wet or not wet enough. Each of my prints is different. I am happy that I have completed work to bring home, never mind quality.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We had a big show and tell. Everyone worked hard and produced amazing work considering we had only a short time to work.

 

 

 

May 23

On this third day of the workshop I completed my project. I spent much time yesterday carving my woodblocks.

We also had a demonstration by a resident artist here at Mi Lab, Chihiro Taki. Loved watching her work.

Today, with much help from all of our teachers, I began printing my blocks.

I printed my gray block on about half of the 32 pieces of paper. Then I went back and printed the blue block, not always happily.

I didn’t take photos of the entire procedure so I will finish the story in my next post. In the evening we had a demonstration about drying our prints using my finished prints.

The workshop begins

We are in a lovely Japanese house with a beautiful garden and great workspace. We spent the morning learning about carving our woodblocks; 2 blocks, each with a different color.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the afternoon we started carving our own blocks. Since we are working within sight of Mt. Fuji, and I had the good fortune to see Fuji from the train to Kyoto, I decided to use it as my starting point and added some shapes from my recent echocardiogram for the second color.

FF533AF7-653C-4B6F-8D51-BC65332FCF01

This is my image with areas where color will overlap. These are not the colors I will use.

B8ABFE48-C6FA-47C2-A5FE-7F189BAB5D55

Tracing image onto block

074F19CA-AD3A-4E82-8AD3-192E7480A634

F376B4D8-132A-4CE9-9F4D-75FF804431B7

My two blocks with registration keys already cut.

I carved my first block today and will work on the second tomorrow. As a bonus the rain stopped and we got to see Fuji from the studio window.

253FCE53-D9DB-42B4-AD6E-457608DD2D08

Accomodation

I reached the limit of what I will do for art . We took a bus from Tokyo to the workshop site where we will be staying for four days and living for five nights in a true, rustic old Japanese inn. I am lying on 3 futons on the floor. That’s not the problem. I can get down. Getting up was the issue. It took me 10 minutes to move around to where I could finally lift myself up. Also Japanese pillows are filled with something that seems like small bits of gravel, probably beans of some kind. So they have now arranged for Gail, my friend and roommate and I to move to a hotel. I feel bad about this, but I’m not sure I would have survived four more nights. I’m very grateful.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Monday morning, before we left Tokyo, we visited Ozu Washi, a great paper store. I didn’t buy anything but I will have another opportunity before I leave. 

We also stopped in a brush store where they are actually making brushes. They had every kind, from toilet brushes to wonderful paint brushes. Again I didn’t buy anything. My suitcase was already full.

 

May 19

Ate Beaver Bread for breakfast. I bought three small rolls. One was filled with some kind of jam. I ate around the jam. The bread was great, easily number one here or at home. The second roll was chocolate chips with nuts. Yum. Third one for tomorrow.

We went as a group to two museums and an art supply store. Lots of walking again. Just barely getting to know people, but great so far.

4C40F125-DBE0-4BC5-8346-8C4104B796BD

Haven’t stopped walking. That total includes lots of museum shuffle. Much more exhausting than real walking. Fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

First thing we went to the Mori Art Museum for a show of contemporary Japanese Art. The show was called Connexions and featured the work of mostly young artists and their connections to the past, to current events and to technology. Some of it was very moving and thought provoking. One of the best shows I’ve seen recently.

9E9C465F-1A58-4C6C-841F-7EE5D55AB36C

Definitely is an obsession with cats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alongside the art museum is something called City View, which lets you overlook Tokyo from almost 360 degrees. It’s an amazing panorama and really shows the beauty and density of the city. I was awed.

Our second museum visit was the Ota museum for a show about Hokusai and his vision of Mt. Fuji. So lot’s more ukiyoe. This was in Harajuku where we had to cope with the Sunday crowds. After the museum I had a little more time to wander around to the wonderful mirror kaleidoscope and take more pictures. It’s also the best place for people watching.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A visit to a large art supply store finished up our evening.

Back in Tokyo

My workshop begins tonight at dinner and to meet everyone. I’m already installed in my own room in the Citan hostel in Tokyo.

I got here about 2pm after a two and a half hour train ride from Matsumoto. After I checked in and left my luggage I went for a walk here in the Nihombashi area. It’s very quiet and I didn’t find much of interest, but on the map was something called Beaver Bakery. So, with great difficulty following the GPS on the phone I came to a small line in front of an almost unidentified shop. It was the only thing around and sure enough, it was Beaver Bakery. I went in and bought 3 items.

A7DF7530-BAFE-4509-92A0-F3611DFDD2E6

The line was gone by the time I took the picture.

To understand bread in Japan think of Wonder Bread, only fluffier and more squishable. The things I bought don’t squish. Haven’t tasted anything yet. Tomorrow. It seems that Beaver Bread is famous. There is even a book about them, in Japanese, of course.

Went out for dinner with the workshop group. I think this will be another good one.