The conference began on a Tuesday evening with an opening party where I spent the evening peering at name tags. There were over 100 participants from 20+ countries, and I met so many people whose names I already knew -- Richard Steiner of KIWA, artists Ralph Kiggell, Paul Furneaux, Elizabeth Forrest and Tanja Softic, Susan Rostow from Akua Ink Company, my Cullom Gallery mates Eva Pietzcker and Tyler Starr. I was also delighted to meet many artists I already "knew" from the online group The Baren Forum, including Andrew Stone, Jan Telfer, Margot Rocklen, George Jarvis, Mary Brodbeck, Preston Lawing and the previously mentioned Linda Beeman. Everything was running smoothly thanks to the hard work done by conference organizers Tuula Moilanen, Kari Laitinen, Karen Kunc and April Vollmer.
The next morning the heart and soul of the conference began with demonstrations and workshops offered from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. I'll take you through the demos I saw over the next several blog posts.
I walked over this little canal every morning on the way to Kyoto Kaikan where the conference sessions took place
The first demonstration I attended was a printing demo by Keizo Sato. Sato San (san is a way of saying "Mr." or "Ms.") is a 2nd generation master woodblock printer who runs a studio in Kyoto with three apprentices. Sato Studio makes ukiyo-e reproductions, Nihonga reproductions, and original prints based on works by various living artists. Sato San is Deputy Vice President of the Association for the Preservation of Japanese Traditional Woodblock Printmaking Techniques.
Above is Sato san preparing his materials for the demonstration. Seated to the left is Bill Mathie and, right, Andrew Stone and George Jarvis is standing behind them.
Sato San demonstrated printing gofun, a white pigment made of ground shells, on one design from an early 20th century compilation of textile prints called Aya Nishiki depicting twill and damask brocades in 11 volumes. These prints were originally created for Kyoto Nishijin Museum with the dual purpose of supporting woodblock artists and displaying examples of textiles considered too fragile for actual display. Above is the original page that Sato San was reproducing from the volume.
Sato San was using the original blocks to work on his reproduction. Here's a beautiful block that looks like a textile in itself.
And a beautiful kento!
This is the block that Sato San was printing from during the demonstration.
As the demo progressed, it became clear that the white of the print was being built up very slowly with many overprints of gofun. This slow and painterly approach is said to be a hallmark of Kyoto-style mokuhanga. Essentially, Sato San was creating many tiny bokashi blends on the block.
In one instance, Sato San used quite a bit of water and a pouncing device to ink the block.
He said that the screen inside his pouncing tampon was made of human hair.
It was difficult to see the effect of this single pass: the pounced layer on top of the white that had already been laid down.
Sato San printed the pounced layer alone on the edge of one of the prints so we could see what it looked like by itself. It was a very delicate application that added texture and depth.
Someone asked how the gold in the print was made, so Sato San did a quick demonstration for us. He uses a powdered brass to simulate gold. He said that he usually rolls on a transparent oil base and prints it to hold the powder, but since he didn't have any of the oil base with him he brushed on nikawa (animal glue).
After printing the glue just as one would print ink, Sato San used a soft brush to apply the powdered brass.
Woodblock scholar Claire Cuccio did an excellent job translating. Next to Claire is Seiichiro Miida, an artist and professor at Tokyo University of the Arts.
Andrew Stone taking a close look at Sato San's work.
Karen Kunc and Tetsuya Noda watching Sato San's demonstration. Left of Karen is Kari Laitinen, artist and conference organizer. There was a professional film crew there taping Sato San's demo.
Linda Beeman taking careful notes at Sato San's demonstration.