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.
Ichibee Iwano was born in 1933 in Imadate in Fukui Prefecture. He is known as the son of the 8th Iwano Ichibee, who was designated a Living National Treasure for his work making washi (Japanese paper) in Echizen.
His son, the 9th Ichibee Iwano, was also designated a Living National Treasure in 2002. The paper he crafted was beloved by many artists, such as Picasso. He inherited his temperament for this work from the 8th and, for 60 years, worked hard to make the best washi.
Ichibee Iwano's paper is stiff, and is not easily torn. Its thickness prevents the paper from blotting. He also created an extremely thin paper for publishing reprints of Katsushika Hokusai's woodblock prints. To print these, it is necessary to rub the back of the paper with a special burnishing implement called a baren a few hundred times. To be sure, it is difficult to make a thin paper that withstands these rubbings. However, the 9th smiles and asserts that 'The harder it is, the better it is.' The spirit of craftsmanship may even exceed that of his father.
Kamigata Ukiyoe is ukiyoe print made mainly in Osaka dating from between the late Edo period and the early Meiji period (1800s).
The subjects of the paintings are dominated by Kabuki actors rather than beautiful women and scenic vistas. Unlike the prints made in Edo, today’s Tokyo, actors were painted as they were, without being beautified.
The technique to print woodblock prints in full color was invented in 1765 and the colored print style quickly took off and became popular among the common people in Edo.
In the next quarter century, Ukiyoe welcomed its golden age and Utamaro enjoyed his heyday. In 1791, right before Hokusai and Sharaku came to the scene, ukiyoe was starting to be made in Kamigata, today’s Kyoto and Osaka.
Kamigata Ukiyoe became known as “Osaka Prints” outside Japan and its collections are housed in art museums world wide including the British Museum.
Arimatsu Narumi Shibori is a tie-dyed kimono cloth handed down in Arimatsu-machi, Aichi Pref. It is nationally designated as Traditional Craft Product. The making of tie-dyed cloth in this town is dated back to 1608, when the founder of this technique, Shokuro Takeda and his fellow workmen established the methods. The techniques were put under protection of Owari clan, which controlled this region in those days. Arimatsu Narumi Shibori as a specialty product of the clan was used for making tenugui (Japanese towel) and Yukata (summer kimono) and became favored by people including travelers going along the Tokaido Road. The success of the business was depicted in Hokusai’s Ukiyoe. The process of tie-dyeing technique is to dye after tying parts of the fabric so that they will not absorb dye, creating various patterns. The knotted parts shrink and give three-dimensional effect to the fabric. In this craft, a technique itself creates designs, which are not swayed by the fashion. The techniques are used for various purposes including silk fabric, cotton fabric, and even materials for interior decorations these days.