Friday, 28 September 2012

Large Scale Paper Making

Away from Twitter now...I'm enjoying it too much! Can you believe two weeks have gone already, time for a day off? I think not!  Spent the day working in a Government funded paper research centre. It had the atmosphere of a sixties factory about it, (if you've seen Mon Oncle, it was like the hose production plant).  The people who worked there were a delight, really calm, careful and attentive. They were very patient with us bumbling, yet excitable, artists.  The leader of the facility, Mr Sato, was a geneal chap.  He mixed paper pulp for us all day long, in batches of white, violet, blue, brown and black.  

The main difference between this and the other paper making techniques that we have learned about, is that the pulp mixture is literally thrown over the mesh.  As you can see below, the process might look chaotic, but it produces astonishing effects, particularly when your use two contrasting colours at the same time.  I think the pictures say more than I could at this point, there are one or two more pics on Twitter too, @roamingdunn.

The Paper Research Facility

Mr Sato and the Technicians Demo the paper making technique

We all pat down blotting paper to soak up the moisture

Mr Sato skillfully brushes down the paper to dry
The paper is easily removed once dry

Alternative colour variations (White and Black)
(Black and 'Violet')

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Hi Ho, Hi Ho...'s off to the workshop I go.  There are some updates on the Mino A.I.R web-site; you might like to look at some of the images of myself, and the other attendees, arriving in Gifu and more images of the welcome party.g.

Latest Paper Pieces...

....utilising the paper I made yesterday at the Mino Washi Museum.g

And here's our teacher for the past three days, 
(I neglected to write down his name - sorry).  
He was a really kind, funny and PATIENT bloke, a natural Sensei.  

If you go out in the woods today... sure of seeing a great big effing praying mantis - what a beauty!! g.


Saturday, 22 September 2012

Birthday Parcel!

It's Klara's birthday today, her host family gave her a small parcel to share with the rest of us at lunchtime.  The beautiful 'art work' was full of small packets; these contained a sweet gooey substance, mixed together with a small bottle of thin treacle...oishi!! delicious.  

Wish me luck, a birthday party tonight and I am tired from making paper.  I have no doubt, Dutch courage will take a part in tonight's proceedings;-)

Friday, 21 September 2012

Precious Paper

So, day 2 of Washi Paper making;  and once again, I have to remind myself, the reason I am here.  It's really hard to communicate the value of this paper to the people of Mino and Japan I think.  It's highly prized for it's lightness and strength.  It is used for print making as well as making Akari lamp shades.  It's also used in the construction of room dividing screens, it's just amazing stuff.  We've been given the chance to learn how to make the paper in a four day course.  We're given the basics and have been allowed to run amok in the workshop, testing new and unsusual ways of working; our approach is un-hindred by years of repeated making, so some of the results have been really interesting, both for us and the local people.  

 Mino Paper Museum and Workshop Facility

The method for making Mino, (the town) Washi, (paper) is called a 'discharge' method.  The fibres of wood are extracted form plants such as Kozo(Mulberry), Mitsumata and Gampi.  The wood goes through a lengthy process of soaking, stripping, boiling and parting, before being mixed in a large, deep sink with  a gloopy substance, (also extracted from the roots of plants).  The whole mixture is churned by hand and this suspends the fibres evenly in the water.  The next stage, is called 'scopping'.  A wooden frame, (the 'Suketa') is dipped into the liquid mixture and swing backwards and forwards; and from side to side.  These actions disperse and discharge paper fibre, evenly over the bamboo mesh at the base of the frame.  The video below shows how it should be done.  The woman performing the process is a highly respected local crafts person whom we just happened to witness today. Check out her skill and the way she sways from side to side and back and forth....I bet shes a great ballroom dancer!


You know, I really didn't think I would get the hang of it, but by the end of yesterday, I was producing basic sheets of paper....really.  I'm hooked too, the repetitive process, the atmosphere in the workshop, it's all so calming, meditational almost. 

 Newspaper, sandwiched between layers of washi.

We made this!!

I'll leave it there as my dinner is almost ready - can't be late:-/, will post more details and examples of work at some point soon.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Being Received by the Mayor of Mino.....

Here we are, the second day of the residency, jet lagged to hell, meeting the Mayor of Gifu.  It was very formal, but genial, as I said before, I liked him, I think he liked us too.  Check out my cheesy grin, it hasn't left my face since I arrived.

Talking of paper, we've been paper making today, it deserves more than a quick mention here, especially as its the reason I'm here.  It was a great experience, really hard work.  The hard work came from disciplining oneself in the process, repeating the same mechanical movements and not deviating, in order to produce the same, finished product, over and over again. The results, even for us as beginners, were astounding, the material is beautiful, pure and humble?

Anyway, two more days of learning paper making, to come, will update you soon. Love to all of you following this, it's great to know you're there:-)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Let me introduce to the Watanbe Family!

The man with the cheeky smile is Mr Watanabe; he and his wife Akemi, have very kindly accepted me into their home, (and very kindly allowed me to publish these pictures).  I feel so lucky to be staying with them. They have done everything to make me feel at ease with the situation.  Mrs Watanabe is a very modest but brilliant cook, she likes hiking, Ikebana, (she also teaches this, as well as needlecraft and baking!).  Mr Watanabe is a sign maker and exhibition stand constructor; he is also a talented artist, using thermo-formed acrylic and Mino Washi to beautiful effect - I feel right at home!  The two of them seem to be well respected members of the Mino community and everyone speaks highly of them - bless! 
I'll attempt to share more of the goings on at the Watanabe household in the coming weeks.

Mr Watanabe & Mrs Watanabe preparing & cooking Yaki Soba :-P
Kampai, Cheers, Chin Chin.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Monday, 17 September 2012

And so to Work!!

First experiments with Mino Washi paper.  I cannot believe this material, it feels so high tech, but it's produced in the most traditional way you can imagine, (see video link on a previous post).  It glistens in the light and is so incredibly strong, it really resists all efforts to damage it.  I initially, used my own forms to shape it; the results were fairly predictable.  I began to degrade the surface and even put it out under the warm Japanese rain.  Things started to happen, I have been enamoured by the results, photographing the paper in front of an electric lamp really helped bring out the inner qualities.  We are all entering an 'Akari' lamp competition in October, the pressure is on to make a good piece of work, (over 500 people will be displaying their work in the streets of Mino).



Sunday, 16 September 2012

Japan - Where to begin?

Sorry it's taken so long to write.  I am just about getting over the time difference and my feet haven't touched ground since arriving last Thursday.  Myself and the other artists have been treated to a welcome party and various civic functions, including meeting the Mino City Mayor.  He was a well presented, tall man with a twinkle in the eyes behind his designer glasses and brushed back grey hair.  He appreciated my gift of a bottle of Worcester Sauce and various Worcestershire guide books:-)  It seems he is a bit of a cycling fan, which is great, because the Tour of Japan passes through the city, sometime in October.  I do hope I'll get to see some Keirn Racing too, in the nearby city of Gifu. We were photographed and interviewed, and yesterday, it was all published in the local newspaper - the photograph is sweet and I'll try and forward a copy.

I found out yesterday that the four of us were picked from 130 applications!  It was great to meet the main judge - a man called, Takeshi Shinohara.  God, he was nice bloke, a talented, (and apparently well respected artist in his own right, judging by Noriyo, my fellow Japanese artist's response).  We were taken to a beautifully minimal concrete gallery/house in Gifu City to see Mr Shinoharas work and discussed, over a coffee and macaroon our worthiness in the project.  I am still blown away that this man chose me over other applicant, I can't tell you what it means to have another human being, from another culture, on the other side of the planet select me.  We will visit him again, only next time at his studio in Kyoto....

Let me introduce my fellow Artists in Residence, Kata, Noriyo and Klara, receiving the robot bags I'd made for them, (Oh and that's 'MoMo Jan' the Corgi leaving the room!

Shinohara San, Kata, Klara Me, (In case you didn't recognize the big oaf in blue) and Noriyo

I will write more posts, as I am beginning to feel less tired; there is so much I want to tell you all, there are so many dream - like moments on this trip, you just won't believe some the things I've already seen and tasted!!

Love to you all, for now,

Sunday, 2 September 2012

MA Show Shots

The Post-Graduate art courses at Birmingham City University are currently having their end of year shows at the Margaret Street building.  As it's the end of my first year, I get to exhibit too.  It's the Interim Stage show and serves as a good test bed for showing the world your latest ideas.  There is a good standard of work this year, across the board, we have to work hard to ensure next years final show is equally as impressive.  I have included images of the beautiful building, (which never ceases to impress me) and some of my most recent piece work, 'Performance Shell'.  

'Performance Shell'