stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sumi - Japanese ink work

This is Christine Flint Sato, who I met in England but lives in Japan, in Nara (quite close to Kyoto of my heart) She had come to Dorset to exhibit some of her work with Hands On Art and also give a day workshop in Japanese ink work (sumi is the Japanese word for Chinese ink). Her website gives some more details and background.

We were a select bunch of four ladies, and the setting was the light and airy barn classroom at New Barn, Bradford Peverell. Everything was laid out for us. Christine explained the use of the elements - ink, brush and paper. It didnt feel like a workshop, rather a conversation between someone more experienced and us less experienced.

Our first task was to create our own ink with by gently grinding the block of ink with a little water on the inkstone. The fragrance of the ink was very delicate, but instantly took me back to Kyoto and I was inside a temple. The very essence of Japan was released under my nose. Bliss.

We played with dense ink and then much lighter ink, and at first just made lines on the paper and watched the ink spreading - or not if it was more ink than water, and got used to different tones. Then we made wavy lines, spirals (my all time favourite - as you can see on my workspace above) and watched how the ink spread on the soft rice paper.

Just watching Christine create marks on paper was a lesson in itself. It was fascinating to see how the brush was part of her, and how she moved her body rather than just her hand as we do in the west when we use a brush on paper. These are the characters for mindfulness that she created for us - very appropriate!

All of sudden it was lunchtime, and we went to the small cafe within the New Barn site. I had egg and chips, with chips that were light and crisp. Mmmmm. Followed by honeycomb flavour ice cream. Food was included in the price of the workshop, as were tea/coffee and cakes. Perfect.

In the afternoon we moved on to trying out a few simple Japanese characters, and some of the calligraphers amongst us were totally involved. Not having any experience (apart from learning the basic few at my Japanese conversation class a few years ago) I was more taken by using patterns. All these photos were taken on my phone, apologies for the quality, and the one above was taken by Avril on hers. We spent a moment sending the photo from her phone to mine. Wonders of the age eh?

Christine suggested I could create a pattern using a Japanese gravel garden as a theme. I had great fun, and it all felt a bit familiar. I realised that, at school, I used to spend time in class doodling - I would take a word or group of letters, quite small with space between, and create shadow shapes around each letter, spreading out like ripples - just like Japanese stones in a gravel sea! Weird or not!

At the end of the afternoon, we were invited to do a hand print with purple ink as the people doing workshops had done last year too. This is mine - it had quite dark patches of ink, and an amazing hollow in the palm. They were all so different.

Christine does some beautiful paintings, that show what can be done with sumi, but I just had fun and was very happy with my spriral.


At 12:43 am, Blogger Tabor said...

This sounds like something I would like to do. I remember the smell of pine resin and bees wax brings me back to the little bamboo house where I learned about Batik in Indonesia.

At 3:57 am, Blogger Kerri said...

That sounds like a fun and interesting way to spend a day.
Isn't it wonderful how scents can transport you to another place in time?


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