Linocut Workshop - March Hare

Tea and Oranges

Lovely workshop this morning exploring ideas for Julie's linocut. Very fitting that Julie chose a hare for this month of March! Our Mad Hatter's tea party included a healthier option of fresh fruit with plenty of cups of tea. 

Julie brought her inspiration into fruition, producing a lovely chocolate brown hare, by mixing vermilion, cobalt and orange relief printing ink.

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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

Netsuke at the Royal Festival Hall

The train is sighing and heaving and trees blur behind rain scratched windows. I'm drinking a hot take-away tea while reading a book 'Names for the Sea, Strangers in Iceland' by Sarah Moss. My fingers seem to take longer to thaw as I hold the book of ice. It was glorious sunshine yesterday. I'm heading back into the city of London as the clouds darken. The rain is persistent.

100 Miniature Masterpieces

The first and last stop is The Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank. It's too wet and too cold to keep trekking through puddles and be rain soaked without an umbrella or raincoat. I stay here to keep warm and dry. I was hoping to draw netsuke at the V&A today but instead I'm drawing from the book I bought yesterday at The British Museum. 'Netsuke 100 miniature masterpieces from Japan' by Noriko Tsuchiya. I flick through the book containing photographs of netsuke in human form, immortals, ghosts, masks, animals and manju. I am interested in the animals and pick out one of the oldest netsuke in the museum (about 1700). 'Elephant and man in the form of a seal'. The photograph of the netsuke is at least three times the size than an original netsuke making it so much easier to draw and kinder to the eyes. I don't have the option to turn the netsuke and view it from a different angle but I can take as long as I like as there is no time restriction here.


Drawn with Music

I feel relaxed drawing the netsuke while listening to music on my headphones. The Royal Festival Hall is buzzing with people working and chatting and the music doesn't shut it out, it just softens the edges. A one-to-one language course is in full flow at the table behind me. A couple on the far table are in deep conversation with paint pots, brushes and paper and lunch all piled up together. A man sits with his smart phone, a woman with her lap-top. Two woman with pads of paper and paper cups also in deep discussion. Downstairs people are piled in the cafe. The rain continues to fall as I move on the 'Reclining Goat' by Kaigyokusai Masatsugu. Then 'Horse' - unsigned, 'Hare with Loquats' signed by Yamaguchi Okatomo and lastly 'Sleeping Cat' - unsigned.


When I've finished I look back through the sketch book and compare drawings. These are much larger than the ones I drew at the British Museum. It will be fun to carve them and see how they print. I pack up my books step out into the rain and head for the tube.

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.

Netsuke - The Hare with the Amber Eyes


My first encounter with Japanese netsuke is Edmund De Waal's book 'The Hare with the Amber Eyes.' A photograph of the white hare sits with its head turned and one amber eye stares out from the cover of the book. It is an intriguing story of Edmund's family, the collection of 246 netsuke being passed down through the generations from Charles Ephrussi in Paris during the impressionists, to Emmy von Ephrussi in Vienna during the second world war, Edmund's Great Uncle Iggie in Japan and finally to Edmund in England where Edmund currently lives with his family.

I am fascinated with these little objects and Edmund's story. I sketch a light bulb in my notebook. Next to the lightbulb I write 'Japanese woodblock prints in miniature - mini prints on Hosho paper.' I search for Edmund's website and discover a gallery of 29 beautifully carved netsuke.