Netsuke - Reclining Goat & The Road To Granada

Goats Bicyles + Bells

While carving the Reclining Goat, a cycling trip back in 2004 rises to the forefront of my mind. We were cycling from Malaga to Granada, climbing up mountains slowly for hours and racing down the other side in what felt like seconds. We passed derelict buildings, old castles, churches, olive groves, poppy fields, wild boars, donkey, sheep, men in cardigans, cyclists, cats and dogs and one little dog snapping at our heels, barking like mad as we sped through the village. When we made it to the top of a mountain between Colmenar and Riogordo we stopped on the side of the road to snack on a carbohydrate picnic of garlic potatoes and bread. In this moment of tranquility we heard a faint symphony of bells. People appeared on the road in the distance followed by a herd of mountain goats. I pulled out my mini disc to record the sound of the goat bells mingled with birdsong and conversations in Spanish. You can just about hear the goat bells here on Soundcloud over a wind buffeted microphone.

The Metamorphosis of a Goat or Carving the Root from Japan to Bristol


As I carve into the wood, following the black outlines of this goat like a road map, I picture the smooth roads carving the Andalusican landscape, winding around lakes, deep into the valleys, high on the peak of the mountains, taking a wrong turn, getting lost on muddy stone tracks, battling lorries along cliff edges, navigating maps, finding our way again as the sun sets, our shadows black on the orange rocks as we pedal along the road to our final destination.

I finish carving the goat and make a print. This goat has a full coat of hair and I can’t see its beard for the thick lines so I carve out a little bit more of the beard and make another print. A beard appears from the swirling hair so I make a few more prints. This goat has travelled far. Starting somewhere in Japan, hand sculpted into ivory by a Japanese netsuke carver, worn on a Kimono or kept as an ornament, given to the British Museum, placed in storage or in a display cabinet, transformed into a photographic image, printed in a full colour reference book, sketched, scanned, digitalized, Photoshopped, printed on to inkjet paper, printed onto Gampi, carved into magnolia wood and its final destination for now, hand printed onto Japanese Hosho paper in a studio in Bristol.


Year of the Goat (hitsuji)

Original netsuke by Kaigyokusai Masatsugu (1819-1892)

Kaigyokusai Masatsugu who considered one of the greatest netsuke carvers of the the Osaka region, together with his contemporary, Ohara Mitsurhiro. Masatsugu carved different types of animal, especially those represented in the zodiac cycle.
— Netsuke - 100 Miniature Masterpieces from Japan.