Monday, May 27, 2019

Papermaking in Japan!

Visiting Papermaking in Ogawa-Shi

Hey there. It has been awhile but I am keen to tell you about an amazing trip I took recently with my partner Chris. Or more specifically I want to share with you a visit to Japan and some papermaking! It has been in my travel dreams for some time and last March we finally got it all together and were able to go. Takao Moriki-San offered to meet us and take us to visit a papermaker. We had met Takao Moriki-San previously a couple of times through Nancy Jacobi owner of the Japanese Paper Place, he is a third generation paper exporter at Moriki Paper, and keen supporter of Japan's traditional papermakers. Kindly, Takao-San met us at a very busy subway station at rush hour to travel with us to Ogawa-Shi. The trip was about an hour and a half from our meeting point but I am not sure because the three of us chatted like old friends the whole journey, and I noticed because Japanese people don't really chat on public transit. : )

Anyhow, once we arrived at Ogawa-Shi, Tamakasa Kubo-San met us at the station in his car and drove us to the Saitama papermaking museum and workshop where people can work on their papermaking in a shared facility. There were a few people working while we were there and were happy to answer our questions. The museum was lovely and the blossoms on the trees on the grounds were about to burst. In 2014, Ogawa-Shi was designated UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Status for keeping the ancient traditions of Japanese papermaking alive and well.

The papermaking co-operative as seen from the garden (above) and the washi museum (top).

We went for a delightful traditional lunch where we had to remove our shoes (for the first time as this was only our second day in the country). I almost wiped out on the raised platform.
After lunch we went to Kubo-San’s paper making studio. Tamakasa Kubo-San is a fifth generation papermaker. We went to his studio where his mother, father and wife were hard at work making paper. Later we also saw the shop his grandfather built, which is a retail store, gallery and work space. They grow about 1/2 acre of domestic kozo (mulberry) to supplement what they purchase. The average age of a kozo farmer in Japan is 80+, so the future of the crop is uncertain. Kubo-San showed us raw materials and their differences, processing kozo, beating, mixing, etc. His wife and father were making sheets that day. It was absolutely mesmerizing to watch. They must have thought we were a bit simple, just staring at the process. We learned so much about the many stages in paper making and hope that all of our questions were good ones. 

He showed us the steamed and peeled kozo bark and explained how rare and expensive the domestic kozo is. Korean,Thai and Philippine kozo is less expensive because they have a longer growing season and so can grow more, faster. The only drawback to the cheaper fibre is that because they are also more humid climates there is some naturally occurring waterproofing or oily material in the bark to protect the plant. This waxy deposit is found sporadically throughout the fibres and needs to be pulled out by hand while soaking. It is difficult to see as it is the same colour as the fibre but if it isn't removed it will turn brown or black later on and be a flaw in the finished paper.

Tamakasa-San has successfully integrated the use of domestic and imported kozo to try to keep the cost of the paper down while endorsing the domestic fibre. Tamakasa-San gave us this collection of bark fibres (above) for the store to show the different types of Japanese papermaking materials. From left to right: domestic kozo, Chinese kozo, Thai kozo, Chinese mitsumata and Philipine salago.

Here is the process in a nutshell: after harvesting, the bark is steamed and removed from the cut bush, the rough outer bark is then boiled off or peeled off to separate it from the prized inner bark, which is then soaked in water to soften, then it is cooked, pounded to break the fibre down, then put in the paper pulp grinder, and then into the bath with a hibiscus root jelly to help keep the slurry in suspension. To make a sheet, a screen frame is worked through the bath, picking up just the right amount of slurry and shaking the screen in different directions so that the fibers are laying in different directions to make the paper stronger, removed from the screen, and stacked, then dried on a board or on a heated metal wall. And voila! You have a sheet of washi. All steps done by hand with the help of a few simple belt-driven gadgets. There are a couple of videos that Chris took of the steps in my next post. He was very impressed with the lovely machines.
For this post, I have a few photos of the many stages in making a lovely piece of handmade Japanese paper.

 Here we are examining some domestic kozo compared to some Thai kozo.

Soaking the mulberry and looking for any pieces that might have some wax in them that will need to be removed by hand.
Here is a lovely cushion and work area for working with the fibers after they have been softened with soaking.
This gorgeous window and vines in this building part of the paper making studios. Sigh.

Kubo-San making sheets of paper. This is Tamakasa Kubo-San's father. 
A repetitive and meditative process, I think.

Until you have an awesome stack of beautiful fine handmade paper.

 This is a photo of a display of lovely papers in Tamakasa Kubo-San's family shop/studio/ gallery. I wanted everything in there but didn't know how I could travel with it.

Here I am so excited and geeky after a wonderful day with these two cool guys (and Chris!), Takao Moriki-San (L) and Tamakasa Kubo-San (R) outside the shop/studio/gallery space.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Summer Studio Art News

Hello there! 

(first I must apologize for the lateness of this post- it is the newsletter that I sent out prior to the Black Sheep festival and maybe an incentive for some of you to sign up for my newsletter? Though I promise to try to keep better time with my posts here soon : ) Here is the sign up form, if you would like to get mail a couple times a year from me. )

I hope you are keeping cool and enjoying the sunshine. Yes- somehow all at the same time ; )

This year has brought lots of wonderful things my way and I thought I might send you a note to let you know about some of them and to invite you to a few things coming very soon.

My work has been morphing more and more into the fibre art world with all my hand stitching, quilting and patch-working over the past number of years. This Saturday (July 7th), I will be showing a few new fibre art pieces at the brand new
Black Sheep Festival in Elora. There will be lots to see and do- you can find all the details here. I will be set up inside the Elora Art Centre- please come say hi.

A good selection of my larger format fibre art pieces are being shown at
Langdon Hall right now until the end of September. I am thrilled about this opportunity to have my work in this gorgeous setting and can’t wait to hang out with the work at one of their famous barbeque series events soon. You can find out details about their events here.

Recently I had the opportunity to teach monotype to a delightful group of print enthusiasts through
Print London as part of a month long print series. My workshop was in the middle of the screen print and paper cutting workshops. The whole thing culminated in a paper mural of all the various work, layered and edited to create a coherent installation piece highlighting the various techniques and a mash up of all the various participants’ work.

The teaching work made me nostalgic for spending more time in the studio with others. If you are interested in joining me and some other lovely print people for some open sessions of printing, please let me know. I will keep the sessions at a maximum of 5 people per day so that there is lots of press time. You are to bring your own paper and the rest is included in the $45. fee. The days for open sessions are Thursday, July 19th, Saturday, July 21st, Tuesday, July 24th, Sunday, August 12th and Saturday Aug.18th- all days are 10am-4pm and will depend on the temperature of the studio. It is often fine working in a warm studio but occasionally the heat does get quite high and we would need to postpone. Please get in touch with me to confirm your space through my email link at the bottom of  the page.

 This Summer also finds Chris and I spending some time dreaming about our future studio space and making plans and sketches about how this wonderful new project will take shape. We will take lots of photos and keep you posted on the progress because there will definitely be a celebration when it is complete.

If I don't see you soon, I wish you lots of lazy Summer daydreaming kind of days, hopefully somewhere with a cool breeze.



All images are copyright © *Tammy Ratcliff 2018 All rights reserved

Our mailing address is:
123 Woolwich St. 3rd floor
Guelph ON


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Memento, recent work

Memento, recent print work by Tammy Ratcliff
at Renann Isaacs Contemporary Art November 2 - 25th

Please join us for the opening Thursday November 2nd, 6-9pm
at 5 Gordon Street, Guelph
The pieces in Memento - hand-pulled prints inspired by observation and memory, photographs, plant clippings and traditional decoration - each represent a souvenir of a significant moment in time for the artist, and collectively serve as a type of personal travelogue of the literal and metaphorical journey she has undertaken over the last year and a half.
This journey includes the bittersweet milestone of having one’s child leave home, the exhilaration of a month spent in the Norwegian arctic, and the painful and frustrating experience of confronting personal illness. This body of work represents the arrival at a point of resolution, where the impressions of place and time - some joyful, some painful - have been digested, distilled and given a fresh new airing, aided by the clarity of hindsight and context.
Objectively, the works stand as sensitive and thoughtful interpretations of nature, employing varied print techniques to render the expansive sensations and rugged beauty of a landscape, or the more intimate investigation of a botanical study. More subjectively, each is coloured with subtle emotional undercurrents that touch alternately on fear and melancholy, admiration and wonder, and hint at the artist’s desire, and the universal impulse, to make sense of one’s place within these intertwined narratives.
Copyright © *2017, Tammy Ratcliff All rights reserved.
the view I, monotype with chine collé

Our mailing address is:
123 Woolwich St. 3rd floor
Guelph N1H 4E8

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mentorship Project, part II

Here is the second half of my notes on Heather and my sessions in the studio as part of the Guelph Young Artist Mentorship Project through the Guelph Arts Council, the School of Fine Art and Music at the University of Guelph and Ontario 150. The young artists will be having a show the end of August at the Boarding House Gallery- I will post some notes on that as well.
Mentorship Project- (Part II)

June 28th 

We were not sure if we were going to meet this day or not as Heather would only be able to come if she passed her drivers test the day before. She was successful with her test but did get a bit misdirected when she found herself heading for the highway by habit and had to turn around and get on the country roads. She arrives completely unfazed and dives into printing, completing the next three colours of the print, with an  edition of 12. (I am in awe here as I remember my first drive alone with my new license, it wasn't far and I was frazzled.)
All the while, we are chatting about the many aspects of showing, selling, promoting print work and the application process for shows, residencies and grants. I pass on some valuable knowledge that I received years ago when I found myself discouraged to get my first refusal letter after spending much time on the preparation of an application. I was told that once you prepare a good application, duplicate it and send it out everywhere. If you send out 10 proposals or applications, you might hear back from 3 and might have 1 successful. If you stick to this practice, you won’t find yourself so attached to one call for entry and then completely shattered when it is not accepted. Another good thing to remember when applying for shows (grants, etc.) is that the jury are one group of people who have come together to find agreement in choosing. What one group chooses on one occasion is not the same as a slightly different group on another occasion. So it may not be that your proposal itself is unsuccessful but simply the time and place and within the context of the other applicants, etc. Try, try again. Of course it is important to have let someone whose opinion you appreciate look over your applications first!
Heather is interested in something I show her and call a ‘brag book’. This is a portfolio with clear sleeves that is handy for keeping a copy of your bio, statement, CV, installation photos, awards, show posters, invites, etc. Not only is this a good way to protect these papers and keep everything together but is an easy way for someone to find out quite a bit about you at a glance.

July 9th Sunday 

This is our last formal meeting as part of the mentorship program. Heather arrives and gets to work cutting her printed gampi pieces to prepare for chine collé. Her 4 colour registration went very well, especially because the plate and the paper were semi-transparent. I get the feeling that Heather is a meticulous and precise printmaker who has had to let go of her strict habits for this print, not so much with the new technique but definitely in working with the gampi. This last part of the project proves more difficult but she moves through with a willingness to screw up a few pieces for the sake of learning. In the end, the work is lovely and Heather and I both feel it was a worthwhile accomplishment for her. Of course the teacher always learns a bit on the journey with a new student and I am grateful for the experience to work with such a talented and positive individual.
Today we discuss the mentorship group and their attempts to work together at a distance in preparing their exhibition at the Boarding House Gallery. Luckily the date has been changed to August, which will give them some much needed time to prepare.  We chat about travel and far away residencies and wonderful ways to learn and adventure within the printmaking community. Heather shows me the brag book that she has put together and I am very impressed with how much she has accomplished so far in her short career. I make a few suggestions to make it more visual and suggest the addition of a CV at the front. She announces some very exciting news that she received recently (She is the recipient of Open Studio's Don Phillips Scholarship!!) and we chat about what a great opportunity she has been granted. The next year looks very promising for Heather and her printmaking practice. I feel fortunate to have been able to spend this time with her in my studio and I look forward to following her print adventures at Paper, Sweat, Ink.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Mentorship Project

Hello hello! I have not written for some time, but am ready to spend some time sitting and catching up. Seems there is much to write about. Most recently I took part in a mentorship project through the Guelph Arts Council and the Studio Fine Arts and Music at University of Guelph called the Ontario150 Young Artist Mentorship Project 2017. Below is part I of the diary notes and photos that I took during our time working together.

Mentorship Project- (part 1)
I first met Heather at the Art Council offices where we heard a bit about the program that we had both applied to take part in. The group of mentors are introduced to our Young Artists and I find I have been paired up with a printmaker named Heather Thomson. Heather has lots of questions and ideas, is animated and her excitement is infectious. I am looking forward to our time working together! The office is across the road from my studio, so after the meeting we run to my studio to do a quick tour and exchange contact information.

June 15th, evening
We arrange to meet at my studio on the evening of the15th. The focus of Heather’s interest is divided between professional development and printmaking technical.  We figure that we can manage both in our sessions if we are well prepared. She is excited to do some printmaking that will not be graded and is keen to just get on a press again for the first time since graduating from the fine arts program at Guelph. Heather has prepared quite a long list of questions for me and we decide to have question/answer time in the middle of our visit, between preparing some experimental pronto plates and printing the pronto plates on my etching press. Heather’s printmaking interests and experience is mostly CMYK in lithography and screen printing. My experience is in intaglio and relief but I am familiar with a lesser known lithography technique, called Pronto plate that I can print on my etching press. This plate comes prepared for you to draw on with Bic pens, Sharpie markers, litho crayons, tusche wash or anything greasy. Heather is particularly interested in this techniques as her drawing tool of choice is a ball point pen. I am excited to introduce her to this simple litho technique that she may be able to do on her own, away from the University studio.
Heather gets to work on her sample plates, trying all the different drawing tools that I present to her. We chat all the while and move through various questions covering exhibition strategies, getting yourself out there and applying for shows. We are busy with this until we realize the time and decide to continue with the questions next visit. We will have to quickly print the test plates to see how they turn out. The results are good with the second inking and printing and I think that Heather is happy with how well the ball point pen works with this type of plate. We clean up and I send her home with some pronto plates to work on so that we will be able to jump into printing at our next visit.
We both agree that the time seems very limited for the type of project we want to accomplish. We are going to try to arrange more time so that we both feel content with the outcome.

June 20th Sunday afternoon
We meet when Heather is able to arrange a ride from Oakville where she lives and is currently without a drivers license. Heather arrives with plates prepared for a 4 colour separation drawing of a cactus in bloom (I am not sure of the name of this one but it looks slightly festive : ) Printing and questions go well and Heather is able to get familiar with the process, printing her first colour on very fine gampi silk paper. She is diving into this process with the hopes that she will be challenged and learn. Working with very fine tissue papers is an exercise in patience, but I feel the pay off will make the struggle worthwhile.

So far, so good. Above the second colour printed on the gampi silk.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Working with my husband

Hello hello! It has been some time since I posted here and lots has kept me busy in different ways, but now is the time to sit and tell you a bit about it.
You might remember I have been working at Wyndham Art Supplies with my husband
for a period of time to help the store through some big changes. My session of full time
store management lasted into almost 2 years now and we can't believe how far we have
come in that time. It is pretty scary dealing with so many major changes all at the same 
time but almost immediately their was a huge payoff. Things are better than they have
been in many years. We have an amazing team of talented people who we are so happy to work with. Our new website is working well, growing every day, and we are getting close to our 25th anniversary! Working together again has been good for both of us, once we figured out some rules about how much home time can be spent on the store. So much is about balance!

It is easier for me now to shift into my previous behind the scenes work with some new 'off the floor' fun jobs to keep me involved. This allows me to balance more studio time with my work at the store. I am also working on scheduling that encourages Chris to spend more time with his art practice- this has been very exciting.

Please come check out some of our recent work at the RedBrick Café in downtown Guelph. They have coffee, tea, beer, wine, snacks and often live music and other fun stuff. It is just a really nice place to hang out and take in some art in a leisurely fashion. It was also really fun hanging a show together... maybe more of these in the future...

Here are a few photo teasers of work in the show. My in situ phone pics are mostly too fuzzy to post but I will share the best of the lot.

These are just to give you and idea of the show and how our work hangs together. (We think, pretty well : ) Please let us know what you think.

This is Chris's 'four o'clock shadow' acrylic on terra skin on panel. I love this one, it completely puts me in a state of mind of being on holiday somewhere. Wandering around in a new city in the afternoon, taking my time and looking up at the foreign architecture. 

This is my 'love rays' mixed print and washi piece with hand stitching. There are five works like this in the show. I am really enjoying pushing my print work on fine washi in more of a textile direction. Actually I am not sure what direction it is yet but I really like sewing all the printed pieces of washi together better than pasting right now. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lovely Fibre Works

So many beautiful works at the World of Threads Festival. Here are a few snap shots of work that I was able to see. I was at the opening for a few hours but still did not manage to see everything there. Such a diverse large group of fibre art works from all over the world. (I believe there are over 300 works from 134 artists!) You should definitely go. It will be up until the 27th of November and you can find all the details you need here.

Lindy Fyfe, Toronto 'Tectonic 30' recycled knit fabric from clothing. sewn and stretched over canvas

Sung Ja Kim Chisholm, Toronto (detail) fabric and plaster

Sung Ja Kim Chisholm, Toronto 'Pages from Life's Journey, Series 3' white fabric and plaster. fabric sculpted with plaster

Neha Pari Dhir, Vadodera India, 'Motley Poncho' patchwork, stitch-resist, discharge-dyeing, overdyeing, Sashiko over-dyeing

Neha Pari Dhir, Vadodera India. 'Ripplet', 'Intersect' and 'Fragment' tussar silk, hand woven

Lou Roy, Bretagne France. 'Chevreuil III' cotton and iron wire made with bobbin lacing

Cathy Jacobs, Ann Arbor, Michigan USA 'Extruded Plaid' handwoven linen, aluminum rods, stainless steel hangers. woven on a jack floor loom

Catherine Heard, Toronto, 'Indigo' antique fabric, glass eyes

Miriam Medrez, Monterey, Mexico. 'Serie Conectores' metallic mesh, thread, cotton textile and metallic structure.

Chris Motley, San Francisco California. 'Brown is the New Green' hand-knit wool on artist made armature

Marilyn Clarke, Guelph 'Autumn Hill, Bath UK' mixed threads, cotton, silk, synthetic. textile collage, free motion machine stitching

Jeannine De Raeymaecker, Mechelen Belgium 'Criss- Cross' handmade paper from old books, coloured fabric, cotton thread. knotted in artist's own technique

Glenys Mann, Callignee Victoria Australia. 'WAITING #1 Remembrance Woman's Loss'
found wool blanket, red yarn. French knots

And a couple pics of me with my work. Here with 'wind in blue branches' 12 plate etching on Japanese tissue paper, woven and hand stitched

this is 'blanket (for dreams of hanging gardens)' 12 plate etching on Japanese tissue, woven and hand stitched

and one of the best things about these big group shows, is meeting the other artists and exchanging ideas and techniques. Here I am with Sung Ja Kim Chisholm