Ralph Kiggell is a British artist who was born in Zambia in 1960. He is a woodblock printer, whose work is strongly influenced by East Asia.
Since he was a child, he had always been interested in Japanese woodblock prints. Works by masters such as HOkusai and Utamaro could be seen periodically in special exhibitions at the British Museum in London.
In 1990, Ralph Kiggell came to Japan to study woodblock printing. He first studied at the Yoshida Hanga Academy in Tokyo under Tsukasa Yoshida, the son of Toshi Yoshida, and the grandson of Hiroshi Yoshida. Later, he learned contemporary woodblock printing techniques at Kyoto Seika University and at Tokyo’s Tama Art University.
Kiggell enjoys the sensitivity of Japanese woodblock printing, because the whole process is carried out by hand using hand-made and natural materials. There is an organic connection from hand to wood to paper. Kiggell thinks that in the digital age that we live in, woodblock printing has particular resonance as an important medium for contemporary artistic expression.
Sericulture had been actively practiced in Isesaki since the ancient times and it is said that the making of silk textile in this area started in the periods before Christ. However, it was not until the latter half of the 17th century that a production center for ikat, or popularly called “meisen,” became established. In the Edo period (1603-1868), closely-woven cloth was called “me-sen (a thousand eyes),” from which the word “meisen” was created.
When it came onto the market in Tokyo in the Meiji period (1868-1912), it gained the popularity and the name of Isezaki Meisen was known throughout Japan. Then in the Showa period (1926-1989), too, Isezaki Meisen industry reached its second peak. At the present time, although a burst of popularity has calmed down, several hundred craftsmen continue making this traditional textile.
Isezaki ikat is characterized by its dyeing techniques, which include “itajime-gasuri (board dyeing),” “kukuri-gasuri (tying the printed part before being dyed)” and “nasen dyeing (employing pattern paper and dyeing with brushes and spatulas).” After being dyed, the ikat threads are woven into a wide variety of patterns ranging from the very simple to those of a complex nature. In whichever case, Isezaki ikat all makes the best use of the qualities of silk. These handmade ikat cloths are loved by people even today because they are strong but reasonable in price.
Edo kiriko is a glass-cutting handicraft that began in the late Edo period. The origin of this craft dates back to 1834, when a craftsman, Kagaya Hisabe, first created a new technique of cutting glass with powdered emery.
In the late Edo period, transparent lead glass (crystal glass) was the main glass material used for this craft. The patterns were familiar ones seen on kimonos, such as bamboo fencing, chrysanthemums and hemp.
Now, many Edo kiriko pieces are made using faded glass. The layer of colored glass is thin and vivid.
In 2002, Edo kiriko was designated as a Traditional Handicraft by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Honba-kihachijo fabric is a graceful, yellow, brown and black cloth woven in Hachijo, Hachijo Island, Tokyo.
In former times, people from Tokyo passed the techniques of silk production to Hachijo Island. The islanders developed the technique in the Muromachi period, and presented their silk fabrics as tribute.
In the Kanei period, the island craftsmen started to weave an 'eagle-colored' fabric using camphor bark. In the Kansei period, they developed the dyeing techniques used for the production of kihachijo.
Kihachijo's characteristics are its unique dyeing and weaving techniques that were developed in Hachijo's island climate. The colors are mainly yellow, brown and black, and are all natural vegetable dyes from the island.
Kihachijo does not discolor, in fact, the more you wash it, the more vivid it becomes.
Tama woven fabric is a practical textile woven in Hachioji or Akiruno in the Tokyo area.
Tama woven fabric is the general term for five fabrics: tama-yuijo, tsumugiori, futsuori, kawari-tsuduri and sujiriori. Tama woven fabric is the epitome of the history of fabric making in Hachioji.
Already by the late Heian period, silk fabrics such as Takiyama or Yokoyama-tsumugi were being made in Hachioji. In the late Muromachi period, the craftsman Hokujo came to Tama and encouraged people to produce fabrics; this made Tama a major textile-production area. After the Meiji period, Westernization led to a rapid development in cloth-weaving and a new technique was invented, which became the basis of Tama woven fabric.
Traditionally, Tama woven fabric was both tasteful and practical, but today, new sophisticated designs, feelings and skills mean that unique and excellent works are being produced by traditional handiwork. In 1980, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry designated Tama woven fabric as a Traditional Handicraft.
Tokyo dyed 'komon' is an elegant cloth with fine geometric-patterns, which is made in Tokyo.
It was not until the Edo period that 'komon' was dyed all over Tokyo. At first, it was a cloth made for Samurai only, but by the mid-Edo period, it was being used by commoners, developing along with the free and fashionable culture of the townspeople.
Komon means fine-patterned dyed cloth. The 'daimon' design is used for flags or tents, while 'chumon' is used for yukata or facecloths.
Komon kimonos appear to have no pattern when seen from a distance, but a closer look reveals the fine geometric pattern. The pattern used in 'kamishio' (a set of jacket and trousers) features shark-like, small squares and diagonal lines giving a dignified and grand appearance. Other patterns include designs using tool-, letter- and animal-like motifs.
In 1974, komon was designated as a Traditional Handicraft by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Toshimichi Shiraishi is an Edo lacquerware craftsman, born in 1937 in Horikiri, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo.
Toshimichi's father was also a craftsman. In 1953, Toshimichi was apprenticed to a craftsman in Senju. In 1963, when he was 26, he set up on his own.
Edo lacquerware became popular in the early Edo period when the shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, invited Kyoto lacquerware craftsmen to move to the capital. Since then, the craft developed mainly to make strong practical ware, such as sushi boxes and buckwheat noodle steamers.
Toshimichi's lacquerware is amazingly inexpensive for its quality. Now, the emphasis of his practice is to repair lacquerware. 'Whether it is chipped or cracked, any wooden ware can be fixed repeatedly and once fixed, it will keep for another several years. I'm willing to fix any lacquerware,' he says.
Toshimichi has been designated as a Tokyo Traditional Craftsman, a Traditional Craftsman of Katsushika-ku, and a National Lacquerware Development First-Class Technician.