Mokuhanga Innovation Laboratory Residency

MI-LAB Mokuhanga Innovation Laboratory 2015.

Located at the foot of Mount Fuji, in peaceful rural surroundings, MI-LAB is a dedicated space for artists to learn and develop skills in Mokuhanga (Japanese Woodblock printing). Residencies are awarded to around 6 artists each year for a period of 35 days in April to May. Workshops are led by professional Mokuhanga artists, master carvers and printers; enabling participant artists from differing cultural backgrounds to explore their practices through the traditional techniques of Mokuhanga. I will be taking part in this years residency from April 20th until May 25th. 

'Founded in 2011, MI-LAB is an artist-in-residence programme designed to provide extensive knowledge of Mokuhanga (water-based woodblock printmaking) and its techniques to international artists, printmakers and teachers of printmaking, as well as to enable them to make use of traditional tools and materials.'
For more details visit their site.

Home for Christmas

Japan - Shanghai - 
London - Buckingham - Bexhill -
Brighton - Bexhill - Barrow - 
Manchester - Cumbria - Manchester -
 London - Brighton - London 
Shanghai - Japan 

Rice Harvesting

Early October is the time for rice harvesting. I had missed the opportunity to plant rice earlier on in the Summer due to the long wet rainy season here. So when the opportunity came to help harvest sake rice we took a train to Tanushimaru, where we joined a team of around 30 specialists and enthusiasts in o-sake to up tools and gather the rice. The sky threatened rain but gave us long enough to harvest a long strip of the crop, bind it with grasses and hang it out to dry on bamboo racks. We caught a lift in the back of a truck to the nearby Kyoho winery, a perfect setting for a sake tasting afternoon and oishii BBQ prepared by Torikura 鳥蔵  . As the sake flowed it became more challenging to identify the subtle taste differences of each brew, yet the last one I tasted was always my favourite! The sake was complimented perfectly with the ninon no ryouri and by all of the knowledgable company whom heartily loved and respected o-sake.

Grape Farming

In early September we drove to Hasami to visit the wonderful Monne-porte collection of unique pottery galleries. A beautiful place where you can see a wide selection of locally made ceramics. Stopping for lunch at Gallery Arita (ギャラリー有田) we had the opportunity to view Imari ware and chose any cup from their extensive gallery to drink coffee from. A little further on, tucked in the hills was the farm of Inou san, a kind and generous farmer, managing a family run grape farm cultivating over twenty varieties of grapes. They were giant, absolutely delicious, sweet, moorish and plentiful. Up in the vineyards the bunches were shrouded in paper bags to help the ripening or to protect from the rain. Multiple radios played loudly and simultaneously to scare away the birds, by far the best cared for fruit I'd ever encountered. 

International Mokuhanga Conference 2014 - Tokyo

The 2nd International Mokuhanga Conference was hosted by Tokyo University of the Arts, with the Satellite show held at 3331 Arts Chiyoda. On Thursday I attended the Washi Dialogue - Printmakers Meet Papermakers after spending some time in the gallery absorbed in the Printmaking Studio / AIR Showcase exhibition. Feeling excited and moved by some of the possibilities and potential of Mokuhanga and impressed by the artists I met (Melbourne Printmaking), my hands were itching to get carving. 

Friday brought the opportunity to browse the wondrous Isetatsu paper shop to stock up on decorative woodblock printed papers, wander the haunting Yanaka Rei-en cemetery and visit Scai the Bathhouse gallery. I hot-footed it to Omotesando to catch the Letterpress From London exhibition at Paul Smith Space, where a collection of inspiring London-based printer makers presented an eclectic selection of Letterpress broadsides, books and ephemera. The exquisite work of Harrington and Squires made me feel homesick for England and for my own Adana press. 

I returned to 3331 Arts Chiyoda later on to listen to the The AIR Open Forum, where printmaking studios introduced their workshops and artist-in-residence programs. The opening reception was a good opportunity to talk to the directors and representatives of international studios and meet talented artists such as Dolores de Sade of East London Printmakers and Toshihiko Ikeda currently showing at Museum of Machida

On Sunday I spent the day at the main site of the IMC as a delegate attending a packed schedule of lectures and exhibition viewing. The speakers lectured on a huge variety of subjects and were so informative and inspiring. A few highlights for me were the artists' talks by Norwegian artist Karen Helga Murstig who spoke of Nordic light, snow, paper and print, and Katie Baldwin whose collaborative project 'Wood Paper Box' described a ten year friendship bound by Mokuhanga evolving into a 1 year project between the 3 printmakers with stunning results. A beautifully titled paper 'Handing out Happiness' delivered by the magnetic Tuula Moilanen was pure inspiration, focusing on  Japanese subjects of happiness in the form of mokuhanga ephemera. I was privileged to hear Yuasa Katsutoshi discuss the concern in the decline of Japanese elementary school children being taught mokuhanga in the current curriculum, and lucky to hear Kitamura Shouichi, master woodblock carver talk about his recent printmaking collaboration with Ogawa Eitaro in Shanghai. 

During the lunch break I explored the group exhibition 'The Content', where I could view the beautiful 'Wood Paper Box' collaboration as well as 'Yuki', a small collection of artists' print responses to the notion of snow. The Artist Print Book Exhibition 'Mokuhan-Ehon' showed treasures from the talented Karen Kunc and the lovely Sumi Perera . The wonderful humour and simplicity of the book by Tuula Moilanen stayed with me, as did the stunning mokuhanga works of a current student at Tokyo University of the Arts, who beautifully depicted moments titled 'Sigh' in woodblock and watercolour. The conference filled me with ideas and knowledge in an area I long to flourish, yet am only a sapling. 

On Tokyo Time

The window view from my temporary home, in Asakusa, East Tokyo.

An afternoon stroll around Asakusa & Senso-ji.

 A meander around Yanaka, browsing delicious paper shops, 
tasting homemade kinako omochi, basking in the Tokyo sunlight. 

A late night unpredictable karaoke treat with 20 wonderful Australian printmakers.

A lovely 'Crafternoon' with Hello Sandwich at 'East side Tokyo', making envelopes 
alongside new friends. Sharing oishii ramen, (tokyo style) and a long walk-it-off.

Stumbling into 2K540 Aki-oka Artisan on Saturday afternoon delivered 30 minutes
of wonder at an imono workshop, where I cast my own o-sake cup, with the help of a 
bevy of young craftsmen. Boy bands in Shinjuku freestyle jazzing and bidding a 
snappy sayonara to Tokyo as I skipped through Ueno park to catch a flight home. 

BABL went to Brighton for Press & Release

There's no better place to be on a gloriously warm weekend than Brighton. Heading to the sea with the full BABLibrary in tow and a few special friends to help transport her, we listened, prescribed, laughed and basked in the delight of all those we met. The fabulous Press & Release exhibition lived up to the hype and was a joy to behold. Karin, Belinda, Sumi, Ben, Anna, Pip, all the Borbons and even Prof Mizrah - my thanks to all you lovely lovely people. x

Hidden Gem Art Walks - PAPER Gallery

This Wednesday February 27th at 5.30pm the Manchester Art Walk takes place. Meet by the mural at Victoria Station and be led to the city's hidden gem galleries and artists' spaces. It's a great chance to catch the PAPER #4 - Leanne Richardson & Lucy May Schofield show before it closes on March 9th. 
For more details go here & to paper-gallery.
Tweet - @MCRArtWalk

Highland Air

A late November whirlwind week once again teaching on the wondrous Portfolio Course at Bridge House Art in Ullapool. The moment the train chugs north of Edinburgh my heart swells with a feeling of utter warmth. Perhaps my ancestors were Scottish, I can't explain the love I feel for this part of the world. It was a week of long train journey love, the warmest hospitality at Old Moss Road, observing how to cable knit post Shetland G&T & a vat of local mussels, Full Luminous Moon gazing, Talent galore students for 3 full days of book making, hazy sleeper cabin to a frosty station home. Lovely & Lucky.

Love Letter to a week of contemporary bookmaking

The wondrous Eleanor at Bridge House Art  invited me to teach a week-long course during her Summer art school in the sublime surrounds of her Ullapool studio in the Highlands. It was truly refreshing to be around such a group of inspiring, committed students that were as keen as mustard to learn the techniques and explore the possibilities of contemporary bookmaking. Thank you to you all for responding so eloquently and imaginatively to the briefs I set and making my working week a joy. Lovely cakes too. 

Going Underground

A resolution I intend on sticking to is to spend the year being a curious tourist, to look with new eyes at what I see every day, to ask questions and wander without aim, to treat Manchester as I treated New York, with the same awe and wonderment. So as the snow settled on Saturday evening my love led me to the steps of the Midland to embark on a tour of the underground tunnels of the city. We huddled together with a few other hearty souls and embarked on our historic education of Manchester's underground world. Torchlit intrepid footsteps led us to spine-chilling bomb shelters. Darkness + unsettling + snow-cold. romantic.

New Happy Year

It's a little past January 1st, yet I always like to hold out on the new years wishes until I've fully survived 'Blue Monday' (statistically the darkest day of every year). So, as the sun reassuringly sets on the 3rd monday of January, may I say a NeW HaPpy YeAR to you.

For me the year of the Dragon brings/ standing in LoVe/ Godmother status (finally)/ a Book fair tour/ plenty more tap/ nights of long dark secret warmth/ letterpress printed editions/ lungfuls of sea air/slow H Van meandering/ new tiny lives/ stimulating collaborations/ NY ideas/ Brandy nightcaps/ poetic ambitions/ oh and a mane of red hair.

2012. The year of possibility.