I instantly fell in love with Keiko Tanabe’s work. Every little detail is simply stunning. Born in Kyoto, Japan to an art loving family, Keiko Tanabe is mainly self taught in her work. She travels all over the world painting and offers workshops in learning some of her technique. Her subjects include Japanese, Italian, French and California landscapes. Her study of figures is pretty remarkable too. If you are a watercolor artist, please go do a workshop with Keiko Tanabe. To learn more please visit http://www.ktanabefineart.com/
The art of Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) is one of my favorite classes to teach- after all, who doesn’t love flowers? This is always a favorite activity for the kids to do. Their excitement about flowers (especially for the girls) is really fun to see. The beauty of ikebana is it’s personal expression of the individual, yet is created for all to see. They have their own idea about how it should look, what flowers to use, the placement of those flowers, how many/how little to use. It is a gift to see how much thought is given to each flower- the attention and intention when placing each. It brings many smiles and lots of happiness!
A great starter book is Ikebana: by Shoza Sato (enter here). The book has very simple instruction with color photographs, materials list and so on. There are other very beautifully illustrated books on ikebana, but start with the basics.
I bought floral foam from Joann’s and shallow aluminum baking pan from the 99 cent store. The flowers were purchased from Trader Joes and some even came from my own yard. I have authentic Japanese hasami (Ikebana scissors), and I purchased a class pack of scissors at our local school supply store. It really is that easy to get started. I gave each student their vessel (aluminum baking pan), floral foam and scissor. Then they each chose their flowers and added water to their vessel. I like to show them beforehand what to look for and keep in mind that balance, texture, color, contrast, movement and lines are all important. A great deal of thought goes into each. Once the demonstration was over they were free to make their own beautiful ikebana.
Today, we made beautiful tsumami kanzashi hair ornaments. This style (folded flowers)- are usually made out of silk.
Our version has a modern take on this traditional craft. We used a variety of card stock paper for the base- there are so many types to choose from. Next, we glued our card stock (I suggest making templates to use) and placed it carefully onto our alligator clip and french clip barrettes. Lastly, we chose kanzashi flowers and sparkly gems to glue on. We had so much fun making these hair ornaments. Each girl had so much fun with this craft for our Summer Camp. Many told me they can’t wait for next year! As a teacher, this makes me so very happy. 🙂
The Great Wave off Kanagawa is probably one of the most iconic pictures in Japanese Culture today. Produced between 1830-1833, Katsushika Hokusai was a very famous Ukiyo-e woodblock print artist in his time.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that Hokusai first started to paint at age 6. It was stated sometime years before his death (at age 89) that he once said:
“At the age of five years I had the habit of sketching things. At the age of fifty I had produced a large number of pictures, but for all that, none of them had any merit until the age of seventy. At seventy-three finally I learned something about the true nature of things, birds, animals, insects, fish, the grasses and the trees. So at the age of eighty years I will have made some progress, at ninety I will have penetrated the deepest significance of things, at a hundred I will make real wonders and at a hundred and ten, every point, every line, will have a life of its own.”
We had a great time re-imagining our own interpretation of The Great Wave. Many chose several shades of blue that really made each picture unique and special. Japanese arts and crafts are rarely taught outside of Japan. Even in today’s Japanese culture, arts and crafts are taught as a way to preserve and understand the past.
I believe it is a beautiful sentiment to carry on traditions of the past to future generations to learn and appreciate the beauty of it’s culture. I am so lucky to be able to share these wonderful arts with children.
Woodblock art is a favorite medium of mine. With its youthful playfulness, deep, rich colors used in this type of style speaks with an honest and realness that I just really love and admire. The process of making a single woodblock is quite labor some. Each color you see in the print is made from a seperate wood block. Here is a great tutorial by David Bull (tutorial here)
I have been scouring the internet for classes in my surrounding area to learn in the traditional Japanese way in the art of woodblock. Unfortunately, it’s such a small niche that not many people are doing. So the searching continues…
One of my favorite modern day wood block artists is David Bull, out of Tokyo, Japan. He became obsessed with woodblock art after seeing an exhibition in Canada. Unfortunately, there were no classes offered so he started making them himself (I should take this as a hint to myself!). I hope you enjoy the collection I have presented here.
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends: they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” Charles William Eliot
Books have always been a companion for me. These are books that have a special place in my heart. They have been pulled down from the bookshelves over and over again. My little paper treasures…
Rain of Gold– Victor Villasenor
This book was a gift from a Villasenor family member, who is also a wonderful friend. Victors work is colorful, passionate and deeply poetic. Having met him on several occasions, his gregarious personality is larger than life and his language and spirit is a feast for the soul and heart. His storytelling begins with his family’s journeys in the time of the Mexican Revolution. It is a tale of struggle and triumph, as well as a beautiful story of two young lovers.
If this is a man, the truce– Primo Levi
The true story of Primo Levi’s own internment in Auschwitz in 1944. In this book he chronicles the everyday life, challenges, struggles and heartbreak. In spite of the horror, Primo Levi lived through it. Perhaps his wish in writing years later was to illuminate the dark and painful times and struggles, helping us see that there can be light at the end of dark.
Wild: From lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail- Cheryl Strayed
I picked up this little gem after reading highly recommended reviews about it in a magazine. From the title you might expect this to be a hiking guide. This is a memoir. A true story of a young woman coming to a cross roads in her live after making many poor life decisions. Her struggle leads her to nature (the Pacific Crest Trail) to regain herself back. Her writing style is personal, raw, honest and courageous. Her story truly remarkable!
Diary of the way– Ira Lerner
This book also happens to be my husbands most cherished books. Beautiful pictures throughout. Written in 1976, it covers the lives of three artists:
Yukiso Yamamoto– a Rodokan in judo before starting his path, nonetheless in middle age, in Aikido. Even well into his 80’s, he still did Aikido. He is my hero! His belief was: “Be diligent when working, and playful when playing. Many are skilled at their labor, too few well-versed at play.”
Lily Siou-practices herbal medicine and acupuncure. Here she stresses living in balance (yin and yang), treating disease naturally and keeping the chi (energy) alive and well. She says “Man arises from nature, and gets along most effectively by collaborating with nature, rather than trying to master it.”
Andrew Lum- a teacher of Tai Chi Chuan he talks of societal conflicts, ways of centering oneself through physical movement and meditation, thus reflecting a centered mind.
Essential Dogen: Writings of the great Zen master-Edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi and Peter Levitt
Many years ago I had the priveledge to meet and attend one of Kazuaki Tanahashi’s shodo (calligraphy) courses in Claremont, California. “Kaz”, as he liked to be called has translated many of Dogen’s philosophy teachings into books. He has been Dogen’s “voice”. This book is a collection of Eihei Dogen’s teachings. Born in 1200, he was a visionary, poet, writer, scholar and leader of a spiritual community. His introduction of Zen makes him one of the most widely read and studied Buddhists. Here is a delightful excerpt: “Mindfulness and a respectful heart on each moment are applied in daily activities including work, interaction with others and cleansing ones body. Practicing and living in this way helps us to clearly see, understand, and value what is right before us as none other than the wholeness of life itself.”
The Cooking of Japan-Time Life books (out of print)
I picked up this cookbook at an antique store years ago. Whenever I see high quality Japanese items I have a tendency to buy. This book, from 1976 is a lovely cookbook. It is said that the Japanese “eat with their eyes”, presentation is key and this book proves that to be true. Stunning pictures, recipes and an in depth look into Japanese culture and traditions.
The Illuminated Walden- Pictures by John Wawrzonek
The content of this book is composed of essays by Henry David Thoreau, one of my favorite humanists along side the photography of John Wawrzonek. The picures were all taken at Walden during the seasons. It really is a special book. Thoreau talks of his time at Walden- “I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much more over and above my usual allowance.”