Japan MI-Lab Artist Residency

I am following a new path in my work: woodblock printmaking using the Japanese technique known as moku hanga. My experience with Katazome — its simple materials, tools, and its familiar rhythms of preparation and repetition has naturally led me to to explore this new direction. 

Mount Fuji from Lake Kawaguchiko

One year ago I was in Fuji-Kawaguchiko, Japan participating in a five week long artist residency at the Mokuhanga Innovation Lab (MI-Lab). Each session invites, through a juried application process, six artists from around the world to learn Japanese woodblock printmaking from master printmakers. This was a transformative experience for me and I am so grateful to have participated!

Garden behind Itchiku Kubota Museum

Memories that linger: the beautiful and quiet town of Katsuyama near Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko; the awe-inspiring presence of the mountain (“Fuji-San”); the rhythms and tasks of the studio and daily life with this small group of diverse artists.

Lake Kawaguchiko

Our Sensei, Chihiro Taki , and two visiting Sensei (Ayao Shiokawa and Michiko Hamada) shared their expertise and demonstrated many intriguing possibilities for a contemporary approach to this ancient art form. I know that my work will continue to be transformed by this learning.

Tokyo Alley Cat

During this year I made three prints (images below), which are now available in my online shop.

Inspiring printmaker: Jean Shannon

Jean Shannon is a Minneapolis woodblock printmaker. She studied with Tetsuo Itoi when living in Mashiko, Japan, where her husband, potter Lee Love, was an apprentice with Tatsuzo Shimaoka. Below is an example of Jean’s work,  a small print called Kitchen Goddess. Click the image (or link) to go to Jean’s blog, where she explains the significance of this delightful little figure in Japanese Culture and how she has interpreted it.

Jean on her work:

During my ten years in Japan, I studied woodblock printmaking (sosaku hanga), a “made by the artist” style that includes monoprint techniques. I draw in many mediums, but I prefer printmaking to painting because it is always full of surprises for me.

Because of my long-standing interest in Asian culture, I tend to focus on process rather than on products or intellectual stance. There is a paradox about creativity in that the creative impulse is a natural part of the human spirit, yet it can be hard to activate and difficult to sustain.

Jean and I are both fans of Keisuke Serizawa, a prolific katazome textile artist who was part of the Mengei, or “people’s crafts” movement of ’20s and ’30’s Japan. Jean offered me an “extra” February from a Serizawa calendar folio in her collection, which I couldn’t pass up (see below).  Serizawa’s number and letter forms are so animated and energetic! I also admire the simplicity of the birds and blossoms!