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'Hyakunin Issho'
Newsletter for fans of David Bull's printmaking activities
Issue #62 - Winter 2005
Contents of this Issue:


So they're done - the final six prints in the Treasure Chest series, on time and on budget! It feels wonderful to be finished with plenty of time left before the exhibition.

What will follow that series? Read all about it inside; not one new series, not two new series, but three new projects this year!

We also have an overview of some of the media coverage of my work last year, along with the regular feature from Sadako.

And finally, there is news about a new addition to my family ... now what could that be about do you think? Read on!

Media Pickup 2005

2005 was an average 'media year' for me, with a sprinkling of magazine stories and a few TV appearances. It was a good balance; interviews and appearances are fun to do, but do take up a lot of time, and the work schedule didn't leave much room for such extra-curricular activities!

Here is a taste of some of what went on ...

Tokyo Seikatsu

Early in the year one of the 'glossy' lifestyle magazines in Tokyo decided to write about my work; it was interesting to see my prints featured in such close proximity to photos of fine dining, expensive shopping, and upscale residences! (It's a good thing they didn't come to my own home to take pictures!)

Quote: "... so the reaction of people who are confronted by his work for the first time is usually the same. And this reaction? Most people think of woodblock prints as 'flat' objects, but to see David's hand-printed traditional works is to appreciate not just the blend of the multiple colours, but the skillfull three-dimensional printing on the rich Japanese washi."

Science & Technology Journal, May 2005

This one was a bit different - it wasn't a story written about me, but a story written by me. I was a bit surprised to have a magazine focused on high-technology ask me to write about my low-tech work, but that certainly made the choice of topic easy!

"Some might say it is a waste of all those hours for me to carve the blocks by hand when they could be carved by a robot while I did other things. I guess you know my reply to this ... No, those hours were not 'wasted'; those hours were used! Think back for a moment to a time a hundred or more years ago, when this job of woodblock carver was common in society. Did anybody think that those men were wasting their time? Of course not; they played a productive part in the society of the day. Then why - simply because it is now possible to do a particular job mechanically - would we think that it is wasting time to do it by hand? What a strange idea!"

Design, Summer 2005

Another glossy magazine! This one glossy beyond belief, full of ultra-modern photography of ultra-modern objects: trains, electronic appliances, furniture ... And tucked away at the back, four pages about my woodblock printmaking! The group of young people who visited me to research, photograph, and write the story were extremely serious about showing my work in an attractive way, and this magazine has to be the finest presentation of my prints I have ever seen. They look far better on the page than they do in real life (which I guess is par for the course for this type of magazine).

Quote: " ... He has no particular desire that his name should become widely known. He does this work for no other reason than that he likes carving and printing. ... His face when seen while working is somewhat frightening; enveloped in the work, deep lines become sculpted there. It is frequently said that we can clearly see a person's life visible in their countenance, and this is certainly the case with David. His face could itself be one of his carvings."

Young Sunday, February 2005

What to say about this one!? When I got the phone call "We want to write a manga story about you ...", I thought at first it might be some kind of a joke. It wasn't though, and a couple of months after an interview with the manga artist, the 10-page story appeared in one of the popular magazines (and was subsequently published in book form together with other stories by the same writer). It purports to be about a young Japanese looking for some advice on life matters who 'learns' from David that a big part of a happy life is having people appreciate one's work ...

O-Edo Iki-iki

One of the TV appearances was a 'shorty' - a two minute filler program, part of an on-going series featuring craftsmen working in fields with some relation to the Edo-era, and that certainly covers me!

As for the content, there wasn't much that would be new to many of the readers of this newsletter, but I had to smile when I heard the closing lines of the narration: "Isn't it wonderful to have this blue-eyed printmaker showing the whole world how to appreciate Ukiyo-e!"

O-Hiru Desuyo!

This one was the highlight of my media year: an appearance on NHK's live noontime variety show - It's Lunchtime! These are such fun to do! It's kind of unreal, standing backstage waiting for my turn to come, and then upon hearing my name called and the curtain lifting up, stepping forward into the lights and the applause from the studio audience. And this one was live! The producer had mentioned that the program was usually watched by around 4,000,000 households each day ... Gulp!

Now I'm not such a wonderful public speaker in Japanese, but once the sequence gets under way, it's not so difficult; the main point is to try and answer the questions concisely, without wandering off into convoluted answers that would bore everybody.

And this program had a special feature that made it even easier for me; I had brought some of my printing supplies to give a live on air printing demonstration - my brush and baren could do the talking! This has its own difficulties though, as the paper and block moisture condition has to be just right in order to pull a good impression of the print, and a TV studio is of course not the best place to try that.

It turned out well though, and when one of the guest 'talents' tried printing, even he could do a good job!

They even gave us lunch - on camera - to which we of course all said in unison ... "Oishii!"

I used the word 'unreal' to describe my feelings at getting that kind of 'star' treatment in front of the cameras, but what is much more unreal is walking back to the station after the broadcast. I walk down the busy avenue through the crowds of people, and - of course - nobody takes the slightest interest in me. Nobody knows who I am, nobody recognizes me, nobody cares at all! Keeps my feet firmly planted on the ground!

Who knows what next year will bring?

Projects for 2006

This is my main printmaking project for 2006 - the reproduction in scroll form of an ukiyo-e painting by the artist known as Kaigetsudo Ando, who worked in Edo in the early 18th century. He is not known to have left any designs for woodblock prints, but a number of subsequent artists from his 'school' did, and these are among the rarest of all Japanese prints. The women, standing in monumental poses and dressed in the most luxurious of kimono, are truly larger-than-life, and once seen, they can never be forgotten.

What you see here is an image of the painting that I have scanned from a reference text (the original is in a museum in Europe). To make my print, I will work from an oversize enlargement, tracing the outlines carefully with a brush, in what is pretty much the same procedure that would have been used back in the Edo era.

At the end of the long process of printing, each sheet will be thinned down from the back, and then sent to a professional for mounting as a brocade scroll. (I will not attempt that work myself.) The scrolls will then be ready for packaging and sending to the collectors, who have been (hopefully patiently!) waiting all year for them!

Speaking of 'waiting all year' ... If I had the money for a full year's living expenses saved up, I could work all year without payment, but that isn't the case. So I am asking the collectors to make 'progress payments' as we go along. Every three months during the year, I will send a printed Progress Report out to the subscribers, containing photos and descriptions of the work done to date. Together with these - at the end of March, June, September - I will enclose a payment slip for 1/4 of the amount of the print purchase price. Together with the final report - expected to be ready in early December - I will of course ship the completed scroll, professionally mounted and ready for hanging.

The price for the scroll print will be 50,000 yen.

It has been more years than I can remember, since I first saw an image of the painting that I have chosen. Even though it was hopelessly beyond my skills at the time, I instantly conceived of the idea of reproducing it as a woodblock print. That thought stayed with me all during the years of work since then, and occasionally I would bring out a colour photocopy that I had made of the image, and study it, drinking in the details of the design. A couple of years ago, after making my 5th Surimono Album, I toyed with the idea of starting this project, but didn't feel that I was ready.

Do I feel ready now? Well, to be honest, I'm not perfectly sure about that. But I have come to realize that I am now at the stage where the longer I wait, the more difficult the project will become. This is a very large print, and will require considerable physical strength to produce. I am now 54, and although I hope to be able to work 'smarter' as time goes by, I doubt that I will ever be able to work 'stronger'. The time is right for me to tackle this project.

The 'Small Print Collection' ...

The 'Hanga Treasure Chest' that I made in 2005 turned out to be one of the most successful among the various print series that I have made. Collectors living in Japan as well as those overseas, seemed to find it a good mix of designs, and an attractive concept. I had many requests to 'Do it again, please!', but there is no way that I can take on such a labour-intensive project two years running. I don't wish to abandon those collectors though, so for 2006, in addition to the large scroll print that I will be making, I am offering another collection of smaller prints.

The 'Small Print Collection' is another series of postcard-sized woodblock prints (11 x 15cm) that comes with its own storage/display case. There are ten designs in the series, and they will be issued at the rate of one each month during the year. The display case will be shipped together with the first print, and as the prints arrive one at a time during the year, you will remove the previous one from the front panel display and slide it down into the storage section of the case.

What will the theme of the series be? I will not be carving new blocks for this set, but will re-use those that I carved for the 'thank you' prints that I sent out to friends and collectors at the end of each year's work, from 1990 to 1999. My gift cards for New Year have never used the astrological cycle symbols (Year of the Dog, etc.), and are not overtly tied to the new year at all, although some of them do incorporate design elements involving traditions connected with the season (playing the game of karuta for one example). So, although these images were 'born' as New Year cards, I think that they do very well as general interest prints. With the price of each print being only 2,000 yen, and only ten prints in the set, this is the most affordable print series that I have ever issued. If you like the idea of having a beautiful woodblock print dropping into your mailbox every month, please consider subscribing to this series!

So that is the outline of my work for 2006. I will be pretty busy, as usual, but for me one thing is certain - it is time for me to challenge, not just my ability to make prints quickly, but my ability to make something very special! I hope you find one (or both!) of my projects to be of interest ...

Family News

There has actually been quite a sprinkling of family news in 'Hyakunin Issho' over the past year; with my parents and brother visiting here for the previous exhibition, and me going over to Vancouver for a short trip in the summer, the family has been feeling quite 'together' recently!

But there is still one member who has eluded me for nearly three years now - eldest daughter Himi! Her employment on cruise ships in the Caribbean doesn't leave her with much flexibility, and we haven't managed to cross paths in that time. This year though, will be different. We have a firm date to get together sometime this summer. Where? At her husband's home in Romania.

Eh? Did I say 'husband'? Yes, you read that correctly ... my 'little' Himi-chan got married in November, to Ioan, a co-worker she met on her cruises. I heard about it only a couple of days before it happened, so wasn't able to attend, but got reports from my parents who were there (it took place in Vancouver where the two of them were on shore leave).

Going by this photograph that they sent, and a couple of phone calls, Ioan seems to be a sensible young man (can you guess that I'm struggling a bit here to think of something to say!), and I'm looking forward to meeting him and his family at the (delayed) wedding party this summer. The two of them are now back at work on a ship in the Caribbean, although I don't know if that counts as a honeymoon or not!

I've never been to Eastern Europe, so am looking forward to learning more about it when I go this summer. If I can manage it, I might stop by my brother's place in Germany first before heading over to Romania. I tell you, the airline companies just love families like ours!

Sadako's Corner
My Inner Furnace

I become a muti-layered 'bamboo shoot lady' in winter. Every morning as soon as I wake up I stretch my arms, open the curtains to check the weather and the temperature, and then, considering my body condition, decide which underclothing to put on. Short sleeves, long sleeves, an undershirt, a stomach band ... Please don't laugh, because this is not just a habit, it's serious business - to maintain my daily health.

Recently, there are many high quality fabrics available to help keep us warm, but I personally prefer simple cotton products. This material is very easy to handle: after wearing something all day I can just toss it into the washing machine and turn on the switch. As a result of this preference, I move around in baggy clothes, and if I end up looking a bit dumpy, that can't be helped! It's a bit of a problem when I have to fumble through all the layers when in the bathroom, but I try to just laugh, saying to myself 'I am a bamboo shoot!'

At such a time I sometimes recall when I was younger, and able to generate endless amounts of heat from inside my body. I always wore thin clothes, as my father wanted to train us not to depend on having thick clothing all the time. I was even proud of wearing nothing but very thin layers under my uniform when I was a student. But now ... Oh, what a sorry plight!

I recently saw an eye opening scene! I was sitting at the kotatsu in Dave's place, and saw a short video on the internet, showing young and lively young women in Brazil dancing the samba. Their breasts and hips were swiftly shaking ... I was inspired by that scene! No exercise would take less space for practicing than this! At home that evening I secretly imitated their dancing, and soon got very warm! What a good way to make my body warm - with energy-burning exercise. The only problem is that I can't do this while anybody is around ...

Later that same night I proudly told David about this while we were chatting via free internet telephone. I kind of boasted to him, "You wouldn't be able to dance Samba no matter how cold it became!" His reply came instantly "Don't need to! My body is vibrating even as we speak! Brrrr ..."

You win, you win! Incidentally, David doesn't have any undershirts. Though living in a cold mountain area he survives in just two layers of clothes. Thinking about this now makes me start to vibrate: Bull buuu-ll buuuu-ruru!


What a crowd of prints are going to be on the walls at this exhibition! The largest number of new prints I have ever produced in one year up to now has been ten; with 24 new ones done this time, it's going to be a challenge to find a good way to display them!

I'm looking forward to seeing them all together; although the box that contains the Treasure Chest prints is very nicely made, it only allows the prints to be seen one at a time. The full series of 24 should be quite effective, I think.

As always, setting up the show on the Sunday morning is going to be very difficult, due to the extremely limited time available, and I hope that I can again ask some of you to help out with that job - my parents and brother won't be here this year to help, like last time!

Here is a recap of the exhibition information; I hope I can see you there!

Exhibition: January 22~28, 2006
11:00~7:00 (last day until 6:00)
(All free admission; David will be present to meet visitors at all times.)

Gallery Talk: Sunday January 22, 2:00 p.m.

Gold Salon, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan, B1
Yurakucho 2-10-1, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
03 3215-7933 (during show only)