Edmund De Waal

North Art Summer Show Exhibition

Thanks to my wonderful friend Patrick who helped me hang my woodblock prints for the North Art Gallery Summer Show. Thanks also to Adrian for curating the event. The preview was fab and the show will be up for 4 week so do pop in and say hello! 

Hanging the Woodblock prints


Netsuke Miniature Prints

Save The Elephants


£5 from the sale of each print will be donated to Save The Elephants

Through my interest in Japanese antique netsuke, I have become more aware of the ivory trade that is still in operation today. 

Save The Elephants are a founding partner of the Wildlife Conservation Network in the US which transmits 100% of donated funds to the field. 

"Our mission: to secure a future for elephants and to sustain the beauty and ecological integrity of the places they live; to promote man’s delight in their intelligence and the diversity of their world, and to develop a tolerant relationship between the two species."

Save The Elephants continue their research to find solutions to reduce conflict, end poaching, trafficking and the demand for ivory. They raise awareness and provide internships and scholarships in conservation education. 

Inspiration for the Project

The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal


This book was the inspiration for my journey into the wood. Each woodblock is hand printed with a baren using Japanese carbon ink on white hosho paper. The description 'NETSUKE’ is debossed with 10pt New Clarendon metal type printed on the adana 8 x 5 printing press.

The space invites you to take a quiet moment and sit on the cushion provided and read from the book if you wish. There are also hand printed bookmarks for you to take away.  

Other Artists exhibiting at North Summer Show 2018 include:

Show Miche Watkins, Tina Altwegg, Gareth Pitt, Sarah V Penrose, Ian Pillidge, Jane Warring, Jess Stevenson, David Brown, Tony Eastman, Victoria Fox, Ian Usher, Caroline McGlone, Lenny, Andrew Wilson and Luz Gallardo-Franco.

North Art

Gallery Opening Hours

Thursday 2pm - 6pm

Friday 2pm - 6pm

Saturday 10am - 4pm

Sunday 10am - 2pm

...and by appointment; please email contact@northart135.com

Netsuke - Hare With Loquats by Okatomo + Kit & Eleyne Williams


Kit Williams

Yesterday I was invited by friends to visit Kit and Eleyne Williams' gallery.

We step into the garden and cross a paving stone carved with fish and water lilies to meet a one eyed glare and snarling teeth. This woman's profile is intricately carved into the flesh of a pumpkin. We open the door to Kit's studio. Five beautiful oil paintings in lucid colour stretch along the gallery wall. A wonderland of delicately painted women – billowing tulip petal skirts – clasping high heels in windswept motion. Animals appear in oil on canvas metamorphosing into the wooden frame. Oranges ripe by a peach bottomed nude as the artist slumps over his desk. Teacups strung from golden silk hair. A mouse balances on a thread. The thread disappears for a moment beyond the frame – the gap between frames – returning tight between the fingers of the woman in the neighbouring canvas. Seductive and sensual, mysterious and surreal – Mystereal.

Masquerade + Jack the Hare

Kit Williams is well known for his book of paintings, Masquerade, published in 1979, and story of a hare called Jack who loses treasure on his way from the moon to the sun. It is up to the reader to find this treasure by deciphering the clues in the paintings.

“What I must do is to find a way to make people look and look and look again. And if I said, this is art, you know, you must really look at it because it's art, that turns people off. But if I said, there's some sort of puzzle here that you must work out, they would be looking at art through the back door. Kit Williams” - The Man Behind the Masquerade

Eleyne Williams + Narrative Jewellery

We walk down the steps across the patio into Eleyne's studio. Jewels adorn the space. An arrangement of timeless riches. And what is even more alluring for me is the hand written narratives that sit beside each work of art. Poetic words revive the origins and history behind these beads – time travelling through these ancient beads and found objects in glass, silver, brass, bronze, ceramic, wood and stone in all shades and densities. Hares nuzzle, the tail of a whale, a silver bicycle and a Japanese garden with cherry trees become fine necklaces earrings and head-dresses "to enhance the spirit of beauty." Eleyne Williams

“To hold a bead in your hand is to touch hands back through a history warm with humanity's intimate past.” Eleyne Williams

I'm reminded of 'The Hare with the Amber Eyes', when Edmund De Waal talks about his own collection of antique netsuke.

What they collect are objects to discover in your hands, ‘so light, so soft to touch’ – your fingers move along a surface of uncoiling rope, or spilt water. Others have small congested movements that knot your touch: a girl in a wooden bath, a vortex of clam shells. – I realise how much I care about how this hard-and-soft, losable object has survived. I need to find a way of unravelling its story. Owning this netsuke – inheriting them all – means I have been handed a responsibility to them and to the people who have owned them.
— Edmund De Waal - The Hare with the Amber Eyes

Hare with Loquats


I sketched the Hare with Loquats at the Royal Festival Hall from a flat photograph in 'Netsuke 100 miniature masterpieces from Japan' by Noriko Tsuchiya. I didn't initially have the same connection with this netsuke as I did recently with the Rat with Brass Eyes, the Rabbit with Red Eyes and the Monkey Wearing a Short Gown at the Bristol Museum. I was able to hold those netsuke and view them from all sides which enabled a closer connection to their history and to them. By carving the hare into the wood and re-carving to simplify the marks, by making an impression into the paper and a visit to Kit and Eleyne's enchanting studios, I make a new and deeper connection with this Hare with Loquats.

“Ever present in Japanese folklore, and one of the twelve animals of the zodiac, it comes as no surprise that hares are a common theme in Japanese paintings and decorative arts - Okatomo mainly created birds and animals in ivory, demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of the anatomy of his subject.” Netsuke 100 miniature masterpieces from Japan' by Noriko Tsuchiya.

The loquat, (Eriobotrya japonica) also known as Japanese plum and Chinese plum, and sometimes as the Japanese medlar, is a small evergreen tree, native to China and Japan. It is cultivated for its yellow, plumlike fruit and as an ornamental plant.


Kit and Eleyne Williams' gallery.

Eleyne Williams

Edmund De Waal - The Hare with the Amber Eyes

Netsuke 100 miniature masterpieces from Japan' by Noriko Tsuchiya

Goats Herons & Whales

Netsuke - Recumbent Goat

In the last week I've been trying out my new tools carving a galloping horse and an ama suckling an octopus. Today I've carved a larger Recumbent Goat from Edmund De Waal's collection on magnolia wood. The resulting print is much better than the print I made from the smaller sketch.



Alongside this new netsuke project I have been working on another carving which is much bigger than the netsuke.

I make a simple sketch of the heron directly on to the larger plywood, then trace the outline with black pen. It's much more tough to cut than the magnolia but I'm not ready to blunt my new tools yet so I carve the heron into plywood with my old tools. As the sketch is quite loose, it frees up the carving resulting in an imperfect but dynamic heron.


Travelling with Birch Plywood

I bought this plywood a few years ago. This gigantic piece of birch plywood was stacked amongst more gigantic pieces of plywood in the warehouse of Robbins Timber Yard. I had cycled up to buy the wood and didn't think about the logistics of getting this giant home! They kindly offered to cut the plywood into smaller squares so we went for 30cm x 30cm. Even at 30cm x 30cm, when you have over twenty of these, it's a heavy load for a bicycle but somehow miraculously I managed to fit them all into my panniers and cycle home without any problems. I remember as soon as I arrived home I dived into my box of wood cutting tools and started carving immediately. I didn't draw or trace an image first, I just carved straight into the wood not knowing where I was going but just following the grain. I enjoyed the freedom of just letting the grain do it's own magic with no preconceived idea or pressure for any kind of result, only the process of carving. When I had finished I had made a carving which was more figurative and than I expected. I didn't have the facilities to print at home so I put it back on the pile and started to work on a new block with the idea of making a two colour print.

Woodblock Registration Block

I had kept the copy of Peter Brown's clear instructions for registration and re-written these for myself help me clarify the process. I drew out the registration marks. Instead of carving the block I initiated the idea of bringing the blocks to a fellow print making friend's house with a view to exploring the process of two colour prints together. If we could get our heads around it together, we might get there quicker. So one morning I arrived with the blocks with my instructions in my bag and as I pulled the blocks out of my bag my heart sank. I realised my idea wasn't going to work. One of us needed to have some knowledge on how to do this and I had given the impression that I did know but I had spent just one day on a Japanese woodblock printing course and hadn't got my head around the two colour printing. I was not ready to step into this process as a group until I had got to grips with the process myself.

I had lost the enthusiasm to print the first image which had felt so dynamic and free. So instead of following up on my quest to get more experience I felt so overwhelmed by what felt like a huge hurdle that I left the blocks stacked up in a pile under my desk at home gathering dust.


A few months ago when I brought the blocks to my studio I finally made the time and space to have a go at printing this block which I had enjoyed carving so much. I used my letterpress inks with a hand roller; laid a large piece of white somerset satin 300gsms paper on the plywood and rubbed the back of the paper with a baren. When I peeled back the paper there was a sea of swimming whales and mountains flowing from the wood. Although it's a faint print and would need a press to get a good even solid colour I like the immediacy of the image and free flowing expansiveness.


Netsuke - Hare & Rat

Edmund's Hare with the Amber Eyes

I have been looking forward to making a print of Edmund's Hare, who along with 264 other netsuke has had many adventures, travelling great distances and been on display in many spectacular places. I wonder where Edmund has placed this hare which by now is probably reaching celebrity status. It's photograph published in books, magazines, newspapers and in centre of Edmund's writing page on his website the hare looks out from behind the words 'Gallery' with its paw lifted up and ready to shake your hand. Here you meet Ambassador for Edmund's netsuke collection.

I draw the hare directly on to the tracing paper and rub the tracing onto the plywood. My new tools haven't arrived yet so I continue with blunt tools and rough plywood and begin to carve. I then print the finished carving on some Japon Simile paper and some on Somerset Satin 300gms. It's quite a challenge to get the right mix of nori paste with ink. I've read that you don't need to mix nori with the ink for the key block but I quite like the effect even though, again, it's quite a crude image.


Piebald Rat Gnawing on its Tail

This little rat in Edmund's gallery has a has mischievous nature - holding it's tail up to his mouth nibbling between its paws as if it was an old rope from a sailing ship. I imagine this rat rocking back and forth on the curve of its tail like a see-saw following the carved lines of its own body. Its beady eyes look jet black. In Edmund's description these dark little circles were originally made from Buffalo horn. I print this piebald rat on Japon Simile and Somerset Satin paper. So far I have only printed on dry paper and at some point it will be good to see how these woodblocks print on dampened paper.


Last November I bought Japanese woodblock printing materials from Intaglio Printmakers to get ready for my My New Years Revolution 2015


  • Japanese Side Grain Woodblocks 100x150mm

  • Japanese Paper Brush 3"

  • Japanese Inking Brush 24mm

  • Japanese Inking Brush 15mm

  • Japanese Inking Brush 60mm

  • 5×Gampi Tissue

  • 1×Bench Hook 200x300mm

  • Japanese Rice Paste (Nori)

  • Japanese Carbon Ink 150ml

  • Chinese Sumi Ink 250g

  • and 1 Hosho Pad.

I remember using dampened paper on the Japanese Woodblock Printing course back in March 2012 with Peter Brown.

I am looking back through some old folders and find the print I made of a tree. I remember the time and effort we put into the registration for this two colour print. I liked my first print of the green tree but lost all sense of understanding two colour printing by the time I came to making the second print. The registration was fine but the image just didn't work. I knew what I wanted to achieve in my head but the result was nothing like it. I can't remember the name of this paper but it's a lovely texture. I contact Peter Brown to find out what paper we used for to print on the course. He's happy to hear I have found my way back to the wood and reminds me the paper we were using was Japanese Hosho paper. This paper is tough but smooth and is very popular. Intaglio sell it by the pad. I add it to the list.

A Collection of Netsuke

I am daydreaming about visiting Edmund De Waal to sketch his netsuke collection. I love the idea of making these unobtainable objects available as mini prints allowing the possibility of each netsuke, with its own story to tell, find its way into somebody's home. Rather than block my vision, daydreaming of meeting Edmund and his netsuke, I explore some of the netsuke collection from his website gallery and begin to sketch.

Netsuke - Fox

I am drawn to the 'Fox' and ’A Bathing Woman in her Wooden Tub’ and make a quick sketch in my notebook. Edmund has written the dimensions in the description. Netsuke are tiny. Many of the netsuke in the collection are between 3 and 4cm height. I make some drawings keeping the dimensions in mind. It feels right to try and keep these mini prints as close to the size of the original netsuke as possible.


To make these prints I'm going to carve them on some birch plywood I sourced from Robbins Timber Yard a few years ago using a cheap set of Japanese woodcutting tools from Bower Ashton Art College. I have bought some Japanese carbon ink mixed with a small bit of nori paste both from Intaglio Printmakers so I'm ready to go...

Netsuke - A Bathing Woman in her Wooden Tub


I am so excited about creating mini prints of Edmund’s netsuke and so with a cup of Jasmine tea, bag of salted popcorn and raw chocolate for fuel at the ready, I lay some tracing paper over my tiny sketch of the bathing woman and re-draw her outline. She is quite plump with rounded shoulders, her black hair wrapped up and curled into a bun on top of her head. She is squatting in the wooden washing tub with a flannel in one hand and the other hidden in the tub. Her face is long and pear shaped with wide chin. Sketching is limited from a photo and I imagine being able to turn her around and see the nape of her neck or her profile but for now I am using Edmund’s chosen snapshot.

The result of this mini print is not great. It's is such a tiny print (3.9cm width) and my amateur wood carving skills make a crude print.


Woodcutting Tools

These woodcuts are very small and the wood is rough so fine details are a challenge. I am not expecting or wanting the woodcuts to be perfect but I think it will be worth investing in some better quality tools so I can make that choice. My cheap wood cutting tools have been well used for previous designs on lino so they are becoming blunt. The stone in the box seems too rough and I might make the cutters worse without any sharpening stone knowledge so I ring up Intaglio Printmakers for their advice. They have a new set of Japanese woodcutting tools with three extra V & U cutters. After discussing the difference between these and my cheap wood cutters I am swayed to order these much better quality tools. I ask about the different types of wood and add a pack of magnolia side grain woodblocks. The magnolia (HŌNOKI) is a bit softer and smoother than the plywood so it will be interesting to see the results.

Magnolia Wood / Honoki

"Honoki is rather soft. Its surface with the rough fibre produces an impression not altogether pleasing. But beginners use it mainly on account of its being easy to cut. Sakura and katsura have a harder grain, but they are more satisfactory than honoki. In olden times other kinds of wood, such as keyaki (Zelkowa serrata, Mak.), were inlaid in the block in order to give the benefit of the grain in special selected parts of the print"Japanese Wood-block Printing by Hiroshi Yoshida. From David Bull's encyclopedia of woodblock printing


Robbins Timber Yard

Bower Ashton Art College

Intaglio Printmakers

David Bull's encyclopedia of woodblock printing