Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Moku Hanga Demo/Lailac Fair 2014

Villa Strozzi, the Limonaia (lemon greenhouse) Firenze.

Tea Ceremony(host)

Tea Ceremony (guest)

My booth as one entered the room.

There was a great turnout at the Japanese festival and I was happy with the interest and flow for most of the weekend.  I was set up next to a large photographic exhibit of Japan, but also next to the stage where the music, dance, and Taiko drumming took place.   The day started with a demonstration of the Japanese tea ceremony (a different version each day), and then there would be music, drums, and a show of how to wear a kimono/yukata/furisode/etc as well as musical performances repeated during the day.

Etagami tables;

There was an Origami section. A calligraphy corner and a whole section dedicated to Etagami.
Like last year they were recruiting people to join the etagami exchange.
 The flow of visitors would pick up quickly so by 11: 30-noon the building would be pretty full. There were couples, children, people with dogs, undeterred by the pouring rain.

I was placed towards the back, but well-visible from the entrance and the I had a striking Ukiyo print of a young beauty (bijin) which was easily visible from across the room.
      I had planned on placing some information
My explanatory sheets tacked to the table where they could be easily read.
 panels behind me and I had prepared some Plywood panels, gluing Japanese paper to them. But I found the tables fairly deep and with the panels behind me the sheets I had prepared were too hard to read. So I changed things around, putting my 10 informational sheets to the front of the tables (tacked down) and setting up my green panels behind me. I added screws to the panels so I could hang my framed work and the Ukiyo-prints I had brought with me.
In the end, this worked out better as when there were performances, I couldn't really speak, but people could watch me carving or printing and there were written explanations of what I was doing in front of me that I could point to and that they could read on their own.
The morning light was perfect for carving so I would get in about 9:30am and set up and start carving. Visitors would start at 11am and I would carve until about 1pm. The Taiko drummers would kick in about 11:30 am which would energize my carving and I can blame some of the cutting errors to the pounding beat of the Taiko drums.
Do you think there's enough to look at?
Morning carving. The "sharkskin" was a great conversation starter.

In the afternoon I would switch to printing and I had a wet pack and a stack of paper to print on in various stages during the rest of the afternoon and evening.

Meanwhile, on the main stage there were tea ceremonies, kimono-dressing demo, Taiko drumming, and a Japanese dance group that was very percussive. Then, music and dance from Mangushaka, a performing group that came from Japan to showcase traditional and contemporary Japanese dance.

As folks strolled by my table, they would usually stop and read some of my pamphlets and watch me work. There were a few artists, a few art students, a collector, some retired lithographers or other practitioners of the print trade.
The printers would all watch me for a long while. The look on their faces showing that something seemed unclear or out of place. We'd chat for a bit and I'd answer one or two questions (usually regarding registration of the paper) and they'd immediately "get it" and then either smile at how elegant and simple it was, or shake their heads at how laborious and complicated.  The Ukiyo-e prints I had up would have entailed 20+ blocks and many more impressions.

In fact the most useful part of my demonstrations was being able to show how the antique prints had been made. Having a printing station right next to old Ukiyo-e Japanese woodblocks really drove the point home. These were/are woodblock prints, and they were printed using these simple techniques that I use for my own art but during the Edo era, pushed by trained artisans to create works of stunning mastery and beauty.

  I had nothing for sale   so I can't judge the success of the weekend by sales figures or promises of future commissions, but I got some great comments, lots of interesting questions, and the satisfaction of getting to share the art of moku hanga/woodblock printing to the Florence community.  I did, however, have many of my work on display, and I handed out business cards and flyers for my upcoming class.


  1. What an experience! I have never tried carving with a loud drum in the background. And as far as the results of your efforts -- it is so hard to tell right after the event. I tend to assess things several months after to follow the trail of how people find me. Hope you are getting a needed rest now!

  2. It sounds like a lovely event and you did all the right things! Hope you are enjoying a percussion free day today!

  3. Thanks Sharri and Elizabeth. I met some great people and I had fun printing for a crowd and getting to talk about something I enjoy doing. Next year I'll try to bring less as I had WAY too many things.