Archives for category: Spotlight

If you google the words “Kyoto” and “book art” together, the only relevant item likely to pop up is Seika Hanga, Kyoto Seika University’s printmaking department. Being so, I decided that I must go visit while I’m here. Although it is summer break and they are busy preparing for the next round of entrance examinations, Marie Yoshiki of the printmaking department very kindly agreed to meet with me and show me their department.

So on Tuesday I took the very scenic Eizan Line to Seika University. The train stops right in front of the main entrance.

The main entrance leads into an open plaza which gives way to this spectacular space.

I was quite impressed that the printmaking department had an entire building to itself. Spread out among its three floors are studios for woodcut, intaglio, lithography, screen printing, polymer printing, photography, digital art, papermaking, and of course, book art.

As I have mentioned, it is currently summer break and the department was mostly quiet and deserted. However, the Seika Hanga Passport (a guide to the printmaking department) has some photos of the students in action.

The only live action happening that day was in the papermaking studio where the more senior students were teaching the new students how to use the equipment.

After touring all the studios, Yoshiki-san and I returned to the staff room where she showed me books made by the students. They had been tasked with making one accordion book and one case-bound book.

Most of the books, besides the fact that they were handmade, resembled conventional illustrated books. A few, however, were beginning to make that transition into “book art,” especially the books in which the structure itself became an integral part of the concept and presentation. All in all, the books were well made and the content was thoughtful, and it was exciting to witness the potential of another generation of artists.

We were eventually joined by her colleague Kohei Takahashi and commenced discussing book art and the art scene in Kyoto. It was very illuminating to speak with local artists and has further shaped my (informal) analysis of the status of book art in Kyoto (and Japan) which I will share on the blog later.

Both Yoshiki-san and Takahashi-san gave me their personal recommendations for art spots (and shops) in Kyoto, and I’m hoping to visit at least a few of them before I leave.

More reports from the field soon! And meanwhile, you can check out the activities of Seika Hanga on their blog.

Karafuneya ceased their letterpress printing operations in 2009 and no longer retains any of their letterpress equipment (yes, I asked!). However, the gallery (also a shop) still carries a fine selection of their original products as well as other innovative paper goods from some of my favorite places in Japan, including the Origata Design Institute.

Most paper specialty shops in Kyoto focus on traditional washi and designs, but if you want a taste of contemporary paper crafts and design, Karafuneya is a good place to start.

I couldn’t resist these paper plates by Wasara. Using pulp from sustainable resources such as bamboo, Wasara has created a line of elegant disposable dishware for your dining pleasure. They’re so beautiful I don’t even know if I could bear using them. You do, after all, have to chuck it once you’re done eating. (I can’t imagine what washing would reduce them to — a worthy experiment?) However, it seems very appropriate for a culture that appreciates the beauty of fleeting and ephemeral things.

I also picked up some envelopes made with original Karafuneya washi as well as some postcards created back during their letterpress days.

Many of the products displayed at Karafuneya are produced by the company Kami no Kousakujo (かみの工作所). Their mission is to take a sheet of paper and turn it into as many wonderful things as possible. Justine and Matt from Upon a Fold (the blog is a great read for art and paper lovers) recently visited the Kami no Kousakujo factory in Tokyo, and you can learn more about the company and see photographs from their visit here.

Justine has also recently written up a list of great paper places to visit in Kyoto. You can check out her recommendations here, featuring shops such as Uragu and Karacho.