Bristol Design

Saw Into The Wood

BristolDesignToolsHefga.jpg

I have been trying to saw a piece of wood in my studio with my foot as a clamp and using a saw which I learn later, is designed for metal work! It doesn't bode well, as you can imagine, so I head over the road to Bristol Design for some tool tips.

As I step through the door, I take a step back in time. This shop contains some of the most beautiful old wooden tools I have ever seen. They are laid out in orderly rows on shelves, in all different shapes and sizes. Hand saws, plane hand tools, chisels and sharpening stones. Vices nesting in wooden boxes and giant tools hang on the wall making strange shapes as if I might have entered a tiny museum of curiosities.

Gail from Bristol Design is brilliant and helps me find a saw to cut my pieces of magnolia wood. So far I have been printing woodblocks mostly without any registration. This is fine for test prints but at some point I will want a bit more consistency and I will need some kind of registration. Rather than create kento registration on the woodblock I am going to make an L shaped piece of wood similar to one we used on Paul Furneaux's Japanese woodblock printing course at Edinburgh Printmakers.

Sawing magnolia wood for L Shape registration

Thank you Gail for your help and also for lending me your vice to saw the wood! I'll definitely be ordering one as soon as they come in. And no more foot clamping!

Thank you Gail for your help and also for lending me your vice to saw the wood! I'll definitely be ordering one as soon as they come in. And no more foot clamping!

Bristol Design

Bristol Design, 14 Perry Rd, Bristol.   

Bristol Design, 14 Perry Rd, Bristol.

 

Netsuke - Fox or Tanuki Wrapped in Monk's Robes

In November last year I made another trip to Bristol Museum to draw netsuke. Kate brought me down to the basement of the museum, unlocking a door to a small room. She opened a cupboard on one side and pulled out a drawer filled with netsuke. I picked a dog, a snail and a fox, headed back upstairs and made some sketches.

Three Views of Fox or Tanuki Wrapped in Monk’s Robes

"Netsuke, ivory, Japanese fox or Tanuki kneeling up, wrapped in monk's robe - unsigned" - Bristol Museum

FoxMonksRobesSketch.jpg

In the museum's collection this netsuke is described as Japanese fox or tanuki. There appear to be quite a few similarities between the fox and the tanuki in Japanese folklore. Mark Shumacher's wonderfully rich and informative online dictionary on Buddhism & Shintōism in Japan, reveals more in-depth writing on the folklore of these animals. Here's a snippet from his site.

In Japanese folklore, the kitsune (fox) and tanuki (racoon dog) are masters of transformation - Kitsune are renowned tricksters. In many Japanese folk tales, the kitsune appears in the form of a bewitching woman who seduces and tricks unworthy men or rewards and protects deserving people - Fox folk can also cast illusions, appear in dreams, and read thoughts.
Tanuki as a Monk (Bōzu Tanuki 坊主狸 or Tanuki Bōzu 狸坊主). A common theme in Tanuki lore and artwork, wherein Tanuki disguises himself as a fat well-nourished Buddhist monk (see discussion of iconography under Big Belly). The tanuki, mujina, and fox appear often as trickster priests in Edo-era Japanese tales.

Copyright Mark Shumacher

Fox or Tanuki in the Studio

Today I decide to make a carving of the netsuke using kento registration. I find my notes from Peter Brown’s Japanese woodblock printing course at Spike Print Studio and work out the measurements to fit my block. As I look at my sketch I feel it looks more like a tanuki than a fox with it's small rounded ears and darkness circling its eyes. When I first saw this netsuke in the drawer, I saw a fox. Now I see a tanuki and I can understand why the museum haven't been able to label it as one or the other. Maybe this netsuke holds deeply its magical folklore as it shape-shifts between fox and tanuki showing us that the need to define ourselves by labels only constricts and hinders our potential. What is more interesting is the spirit of transformation to realise our potential and deepen our understanding of our true nature.

Fox or Tanuki - Transformation from Paper to Paper

Pasting Image on Gampi paper to Woodblock

Pasting Image on Gampi paper to Woodblock

Kento Registration and Carving Fox on Magnolia Wood

Kento Registration and Carving Fox on Magnolia Wood

Printing Fox with Japanese Carbon Ink

Printing Fox with Japanese Carbon Ink

Original netsuke 'Fox or Tanuki Wrapped in Monk's Robes' from Bristol Museum. Unsigned.

Original netsuke 'Fox or Tanuki Wrapped in Monk's Robes' from Bristol Museum. Unsigned.


Christmas Steps Steps Quarter - celebrating local creativity

In the three years I have had the studio, I have never managed to fully engaged with the area where my studio is situated. I have usually rushed into the studio printed and rushed home. My New Years Revolution was to make more time for my studio. Now that I am keeping to my word and spending more time here I am thrilled to be here. Christmas Steps Arts quarter is a creative and vibrant part of Bristol buzzing with independent shops & creative businesses from galleries, cafes & restaurants, a bookshop & florist, antique and jewellery shops, clock shop & apothecary, vintage clothes & independent hair dresser, music & art shops.

Bristol Fine Art

In a major clear out of my studio I find a small paper bag of unused purple pigment. It must be about 10 years old. I pull it out of the cupboard and lay it on the table. I'm not sure what's the best way to use this so decide to pop up to the nearest art shop for some advice.

Usually I cycle everywhere in Bristol. It's the fastest way to travel through town, speeding past the traffic, knowing you will make it to your destination in time. But today I decide take my time and walk. I walk slowly from my studio to Bristol Fine Art I look over into the skyline over the rooftops and my eyes follow the chimneys of the tall victorian buildings as they wiggle their way down the hill towards the centre of town.

I arrive at Bristol Fine Art and ask the owner, Nick, about the pigments. Nick advises me to mix the pigment with gum arabic so I can experiment printing with the pure pigment instead of my cheap watercolours. He opens up a box on the floor with bottles of pigments that have just arrived. He shows me a bottle of blue rocks which have been hammered into small pieces at the factory. It's cobalt blue. Beautiful iridescent glowing rocks. A moment to wonder at the magic of this planet. This is cobalt blue in its natural source, luminescent in the jar like treasure. Nick will go through the box later and see what other colours have arrived. These are for display only. I can't wait to discover the rest of the pigments he has ordered. I buy the gum arabic and head back to my studio.

Amelie and Melanie - Japanese Antiques

On my way back I am looking in the windows of the shops on Park Row. (Put in right order) A hair dresser, a Kimono shop, ceramic gallery, and behind the glass of the next shop on a shelf sit a group of tiny netsuke. This Japanese antique shop is across the road from my studio, right on my doorstep, and I haven't taken notice before. Was I really rushing around that much?

Mel

I ring the doorbell. A young woman answers and lets me in. I introduce myself and ask if it is possible to see the netsuke collection. Her name is Mel. She brings me into the back of the shop, disappears for a moment and comes back through with a box full of tiny Japanese netsuke. They are beautiful and delicately carved objects. I mention Edmund De Waal's book. Of course she has read it and agrees the netsuke play a crucial yet small part in Edmund's search for his roots. I ask if there would be a possibly to draw the netsuke. She sees no reason why not but they will be busy at Antique fairs over the the next couple of months. She gives me her card with contact details.

Ammy

Later I pop back over to give her a card with my details. I ring the bell. A woman opens the door. It's not Mel. It's her business partner and mother Ammy. I ask her to pass on the message to Mel. Ammy goes into the back of the shop and brings out a red photo album. Inside are photographs and sketches of netsuke. These are her sketches. She hasn't looked at this album for years and hands the photo album to me so I can draw from these while they are away.

I am so grateful and extremely excited and head back to my studio. I sit down, make a cup of tea and flick through the album of netsuke. I'm drawn to the photograph of the netsuke man with a fan.

Photograph of Man with Fan netsuke


ManwithFanPhotoWeb.jpg

Bristol Design

These tools are new and extremely sharp but soon they will be in need of a good sharpen. A few doors down from Amelie and Melanie is Bristol Design - they sell wood cutting tools. I open the door and am greeted by a woman behind the counter. I ask her for help with sharpening stones. They have many second hand sharpening stones. The other customer waits patiently as Gail gives me advice on the sharpening stones. Most of them are oil stones in handmade wooden boxes. After much deliberation I finally find one I like. The surface is smooth and flat and is a fair price. The conversation sparks interest from the other customer as we all discuss sharpening stones and ultimate frisbee championships.

I get back to the studio and find the purple pigment sitting on the table. I spoon some of the pigment on a saucer and mix in the gum arabic and nori paste and brush the colour onto an experimental carving of a fish. It's a delicate colour that prints, not the strong purple powder in the bag but mixed with a little nori gives it a little translucent softness.