Tokyo Art Book Fair 2016: That’s a Wrap!

Another Tokyo Art Book Fair has come and gone. Really proud of my fellow Art Byte Critiquers for their hard work. Loved their books and it’s so much fun to work with them.

I’m still really interested in creating mame bon. Mame bon translates to bean books, so called because of their small size. My friend kindly described my books as objets, and I was really happy to hear that. I want people to treat them as objects that they can look at and fiddle with and enjoy. I had a few other ideas for books that I wasn’t able to complete for this fair but I’m quite happy with my books this year. Bumble is probably my favorite book. I really like bees and this photo collection of bumble bees and lavender is actually quite cute. My ultimate favorite is the zine MaiNichi Mushroom. Lots of people were interested in MaiNichi Mushroom and some copies were sold. Foxey did a great job to promote the magazine.

What I probably enjoy most is watching people interact with my books. Of course it’s great when they buy them, but I also enjoy watching people pick up the books, discuss them with friends and walk away with a smile. It’s especially flattering to have someone by a book at TABF because there are so many great books for people to choose from!

The last two years I usually did interviews before the fair to promote their work and the fair. This year we were all working up until the deadline and had no time. But I really want to share their work with you so look for artist interviews in the next few weeks.

Tomorrow I will post about a couple of the books I bought. It’s too dark now to take photos that would do the books justice.

If you went to TABF this year, please comment and let me know what you thought of the fair this year. If you have any questions about my books, don’t hesitate to ask!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Harmony

This week’s photo challenge is harmony. I loved the sheet music image for the challenge post. Fascinating way to see someone’s creative thought.

I can play piano but I’m not really a musician so I was glad to see the other elements of harmony written in the challenge, “the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole.” 

And my first thought was cookies and coffee. Pairs that go together. I suppose that is more of a duet. Then I thought of photographing my yarns, exploring the harmonies in the color palettes.

Then I saw this image I took late last fall. I like the composition of the image, the consistent whole I see there. And though I prefer my photos to stand on their own merit, without having to explain the image, the harmony of this photo come from the fact that I took it while I was jogging around my neighbourhood. This is a cute little shrine not so far from my house but I had never seen it before.

The weather was pretty good, though a bit overcast, but I then fact that I could combine exercise, discovery and some photography is really an ultimate kind of harmony for me.IMG_3515.jpg

O-Tsukimi (Moonviewing) Report Part 3

There’s always a balance between what you imagine you are going to shoot and what you actually have to work with. I imagined this:

When I got there I found that the castle’s lightning rods were under construction. The low-lying clouds didn’t help either. By the time the moon emerged from the clouds, I lost out on the optical illusion of size created when the moon crests the horizon.But still, ya gotta test it just in case.
Tateyama Castle in Chiba with full moon behind it.
I think if I’d had a higher powered lens and more scouting time to find a distant hill or rooftop, I could have gotten something closer to my imagination. But that didn’t solve the pesky scaffolding situation. So I decided to try in bits and pieces rather than the whole facade.

But I like a lot of the photos I did. I liked a lot of my iPhone photos, too. Sometimes a bit better! That’s kind of annoying. But at the same time, the photos have a lot of noise.

shot with iPhone6plus
Shot with iPhone6 plus

lesncomparison-300-400-extendI was really glad to have a chance to test the Canon 100-400mm US ISM II against my 70-300 lens. I added the 1.4x extended to the 100-400 mm to compare as well. Here are the uncropped but layered frames to compare how much moon fills the frame. Some of the difference in the position is moonrise and some is my tripod moving during lens changes.

 

Sadly the eclipse creating the blood moon was not visible in my part of the world so I decided to pack it all up and leave around 9 P.M. My husband convinced me to go to a sushi shop. So hard to convince me.
sashimi-japanesefood-lori-onoThe actual full moon was September 28 and I went to Marukobashi over the Tamagawa in Tokyo to try again. If you have time, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of O-Tsukimi photoshoot.

September 26, 2015 O-Tsukimi (MoonViewing) Report 1 

At Tateyama Castke in Chiba.
Moon to rise at 105 degrees NE but still cloudy on the horizon.

  
Hoping to get a view of the moon and the castle. The west side is under construction. 😦

Here is a view of east side.

  

Making up with Mochi. Gateway Foods in Foreign Lands.

My gateway mochi dish: Shiratama and shiruko at the Onishi Matsuri.
My gateway mochi dish: Shiratama and shiruko at the Onishi Matsuri.

If you live someplace long enough, you eventually develop craving foods you thought you once vowed never to eat. There’s one moment and one dish that becomes the gateway for appreciating that food in all its forms. This is true for me and mochi. This is sort of a tale about my journey to mochi appreciation. Plus a recipe!

Mochi is one of the foundation ingredients for countless Japanese desserts. It’s made from a different kind of rice than used at a meal. Mochi rice is more glutinous. You can pound the cooked rice into a sticky dough or mix up a special mochi rice flour and make a different type of sticky dough.

Sticky. Sticky is a key word when it comes to mochi. Sticky is the reason I was used to be scared to eat mochi. When I first moved to Japan, people delighted in telling me the number of people who died from choking on sticky mochi balls. Mostly the victims were elderly Japanese and kids. The cautionary tales of mochi tragedy are a kind of rite of passage for newbies to Japan but they really hit me hard.

I’m scared of choking on stuff because of two childhood events. The first was a Reader’s Digest story about a young man dying from a mysterious illness that turned out to be a fishbone lodged in his throat.** In my teens my sister choked on a huge gob of cheese from her French onion soup. She survived the incident  and endures the jokes that come up with every subsequent mention of mozerella and onion soup with pretty good humor.  So yeah. I had some issues.

Mochi’s pretty much flavorless. So why do people like it? Because of the texture. Just make sure you chew it carefully. Mochi also acts like an umami base to balance the sweeter parts of Japanese deserts like anko (a paste made from the sweet red bean, adzuki) or kuromitsu (a syrup made from Okinawan unrefined, dark sugar). If eaten with something a bit more bitter, like green tea or matcha, then you can taste the slight grain sweetness. You find mochi in variations of dango (usually mochi with adzuki bean paste centre), kagamai mochi at New Year’s  and sometimes in soups. You can even bake it in toaster.

I’m fascinated by Japanese desserts, mostly by how they look. I never craved mochi. I’ve ocassionally eaten dango, usually because someone gave it to me, but never really wanted to eat it until I recently discovered shiratama. Now I’m even making for myself at home. It’s that easy to make and pretty hard to get wrong.

Shiratama are exactly what the name says, balls of white dango. I learned how to make shiratama dango (literally white balls of dango) while helping out at the Matcha Café in the Kinuya Building ofo Shiro Oni Studio in Onishi., Gunma. Matcha Café is only open during the weekend of the Onishi Matsuri (festival). Fuyuko Kobori is a Sado (tea ceremony) practitioner and was runs the café.

During a break from the busy cafe, Fuyuko made me a cup of iced matcha and a bowl of the shiratama we made with chilled shiruko. I sat on a bench in front of the cafe and enjoyed my cool snack as the matsuri parade passed by. The sun was hot and many people stopped at the cafe after catching sight of my icy cold matcha. Others were interested in slightly salty shiruko blended well with the deep rice taste of the shiratama. The matcha was the perfect complement of bitter and slight sweet matcha aftertaste. And they were easy to eat. Not at all difficult to chew.

It wasn’t just the taste that hooked me. It was the experience. The sun, the matsuri, the camaraderie of working in the cafe and learning to make shiratama. It was something I wanted to continue by making at home. My husband loves this kind of dessert and I realized that I could share this by making it for him. Mochi is becoming something I tolerate, but something I enjoy making at home.

What food do you love now but it used to ick you out? What was your gateway food or moment?

Recipe Time! If you try this please post a picture and let me know how it turned out.

How to make Shiratama
Ingredients:
Powder
Water

happymochi-loriono
Increase the happy value by adding faces to shiratama before you boil it. My first attempt at shiratama on my home.

Instructions:
1. Mix one package with about 90 mL of water (double check the instructions on your package as it may be a different size).
2. Add the water bit by bit. The dough shouldn’t be crumbly and it shouldn’t be too wet. If it’s not just right you, breaks down when you boil it. Fuyuko gave this great analogy for the perfect dough texture: it should be about the same firmness as your earlobe.
4. Make balls about 2.5 cm in diameter and pinch them slightly. This allows the middle to cook. Smaller, flatter dango also reduce choking hazards!
5. Add the mochi balls to the boiling water.
6. Boil until they float on the surface.
7. Drain them and run under cold water.

Store unused shiratama in water otherwise it will stick together. Keeps for about 2 days in the fridge. It’s actually safe to eat it for a bit longer, but shiratama dissolves a bit when stored in water and after two days, the texture isn’t as nice to eat.

Some Suggestions on How to Serve Shiratama


Summer Style
Serve on top of green tea ice cream with anko.
Serve with cold shiruko (red bean soup) and green tea ice cream and a nice cup of matcha.
Serve with cold fruit, anko paste and an mitsu (agar jelly cubes)
Winter Style
Heat the shiruko and eat shiratama like a warm sweet soup.

**There is another rite of passage I had as a newbie to Japan, where I was directly confronted with this fear of fishbones.

Tokyo Art Book Fair 2014: Interview with Tanya Tanaka

The Art Book Fair starts today! I finish up my interview series of Art Byte Critique Members with Tanya Tanaka.

Tell us a bit about your background.
I’m half British and half American, but I have spent virtually all my adult life in Japan (Kansai and Kanto), with the exception of attending art school in London. I love colours, textiles, the sky, the sea, the cityscape, the wires in our environment. This is my first printed book.
tanya
How has Art Byte Critique Group helped you prepare for the fair?
ABC (Art Byte Critique) has been an invaluable help in making this book and in reaching out to others.

Can you tell us a bit about your the process of creating your book?
Although at first I thought I would make books by hand, as it turned out, it made more sense to print. I started the process by making a font with tape and scanning the letters. Next I painted colours and abstract forms, and scanned. After all the scanning, I used Photoshop to make words and then pages. All the words are heteronyms and homographs, words spelled the same with meanings that vary according to pronunciation. I find the word combinations amusing little bits of confusing poetry, somewhat similar to the strange English we often find in Japan. The artwork on the pages facing the words was done with Japanese ink and pigments.

Tokyo Art Book Fair 2014: Interview with Dai Oinuma

The sixth interview in the Art Byte Critique Group series for Tokyo Art Book Fair 2014 is with Dai Oinuma. Dai studied at Rhode Island School of Design.

grave
“Grave.” Photo courtesy of Dai Oinuma

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m from Japan. I usually work in photography and video – both analogue and digital. My work is an exploration of the persistence, growth, decay, and rebirth of the environment and all living creatures.

What kind of book/s will you have at the Tokyo Art Book Fair?
I will have middle-end photoboks and postcards. I’m trying to make my book as affordable as possible while maintaining a certain quality.

kate
“Kate”. Photo courtesy of Dai Oinuma

Are these books mass produced or is each one unique?
My books are mass-produced, but they are hand-made.

What kind of materials do you use?
Washi and cellophane.

What are two points you want people to know about your books?
In addition to photographs, the book includes a couple of poems and texts inspired by headstone inscriptions at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Dorchester, MA.

Is there a website where we can learn more about you and your work?
daioinuma.com

Tokyo Artbook Fair: Interview with Marie Wintzer

The fourth in the series of interviews from fellow Tokyo Artbyte Critique group, who are participating in the Tokyo Artbook Fair presents Marie Wintzer.

Marie Wintzer is a French artist who also works in the field of neurosciences. She currently lives in Tokyo. Each of the books she will have available at the Tokyo Art Book Fair 2014 are unique, one-of-a-kind constructions.

What kind of art do you do?
My work is based on mail art exchanges and consists of collages and books using Jjapanese magazines, newspapers, comics, books gathered from second-hand stores, along with altered pictures / photography of my own, and poems.

Book photo courtesy of Marie Wintzer
Book photo courtesy of Marie Wintzer

That sounds pretty complicated. What is your process?
In my work process I aim to find aesthetics through matching, pairing, comparing, contrasting. Aesthetics can arise from unexpected, apparently chaotic or incoherent structures, and I am particularly interested in the subjective notion of beauty, in unveiling the harmony in items / settings / contexts that are not obviously seen as pleasantly ordered and arranged.

This work process naturally leads me to the study of repetitions of patterns and the breaking of those patterns (asymmetry) by chance or choice, of the unique combinations that can be created from a single unit through repetition and modification. In relation to this, I am fascinated by the endless possibilities offered by layers and transparencies.

How does poetry fit into the visual aspect of your work?
Poems take an increasing importance in the making of my books, and are a layer in their own right. Very often they are the starting point or the basis for the creation of a new book.

Is there a website where we can learn more about you and your work?
http://thebookwormslunch.blogspot.jp/

In Pursuit of “Wabi Sabi”: Chiaki Horikoshi’s Exhibition

2021 NOTE: this article was posted in 2014 and reviews an event at that time

A multimedia artist and cantaor (flamenco singer), a flamenco dancer, and a tea ceremony practitioner all display their skills on the opening night of an art exhibition. Sounds incongruous, doesn’t it? How does fiery flamenco relate to the placid tea ceremony?

horikoshi-poster_webMultimedia artist Chiaki Horikoshi’s makes this connenction in his exhibition “Wabi Sabi Asobi” held in the lobby of the Park Hotel in Shiodome until May 18th. He paints, does installations, creates ceramics and sings flamenco. He divides his time between Japan and Spain. Horikoshi’s pursuit of the concept of wabi sabi isn’t some kind of cultural jumble sale but ties this eclectic mix together and in the process illuminates the concept of wabi sabi and its emotional range. Wabi sabi is one of the more difficult concepts of Japanese art. In a modern design context it roughly equates to Asian shabby chic. But it has deeper roots. It started as a religious concept in Zen. From that point of view it is about learning to live life as it happens, to engage life rather than passively observe it and avoid unnecessary stressors and distractions. To engage this as a practice, one embraces the imperfection of an object as beauty as opposed to fault, to appreciate the changes age brings. To that end, natural objects or materials have more value as they weather and exhibit change. So let’s examine the elements of this opening night and how they illuminate the concept of wabi sabi.

Sadou, The Tea Ceremony

Horikoshi took the wood door of this chashitsu off his own house.
Horikoshi took the wood door of this chashitsu off his own house.

Here we find the installation portion of the exhibition. Horikoshi constructed a cha-shitsu (a tea room) out of mountain trash—sasa branches, logs, rope and grasses. The idea of the installation was to create a respite from the urban world made from natural materials. Both the installation and the materials are impermanent, satisfying the essence of wabi sabi. Inside the cha-shitsu are the standard tatami mats, tea implements and a kakejiku (hanging scroll) painted by Horikoshi. He created the chawan (tea bowls) as well. The lighting at night was dim and relaxing but during the day, light could stream through the gaps in the leaves.

Fuyuko Kobori and Megumi Harada of the Kobori-Enshu school conducted the ceremony. Harada-san conducted the conversation element of the ceremony. During a tea ceremony one should avoid talking about daily hardships or stress. It’s not a place to talk about work. One talks about the seasons, the weather, art or good memories. Though I was unfamiliar with the few required responses and was unable to follow the topics as closely as I liked, I enjoyed the rhythm and flow of the conversation. Watching Kobori-san immerse herself in the motions of making tea was fascinating. The precision, grace and economy of movement while preparing the tea highlighted the experience of drinking bittersweet macha from exquisite bowls. The elegance of the ceremony complimented the oasis of the cha-shitsu.

Fuyuko Kobori performing sadou.
Fuyuko Kobori performing sadou.

The tea ceremony meets the ideals of wabi sabi through the natural materials, the creation of a room and an experience that allows one to focus on completely on the task at hand. Kobori-san and Harada-san will do many more tea ceremonies, but that moment, at that place will never happen again—wabi sabi. The Flamenco I admit, I was dubious about the flamenco, likely because I have a hard time relating to dance. I also thought flamenco was more about pageantry. I was so wrong.

As cantaor, Horikoshi sang two songs. The first was accompanied by guitar. The music was raw, emotional and seemed complete yet spontaneous. I could see how Horikoshi was immersed in his song and the moment. As the cante ricocheted throughout the central atrium of the hotel lobby, I felt keenly grateful that I was present for this moment, gifted with this song. http://instagram.com/p/m327wWuzJD/ The second cante was accompanied by a percussionist instead of a guitarist. This time, flamenco dancer, Yuri Matusmaru, performed. Her dance–no dress, no fan, just a pair of jeans and a long shirt–was flamenco pared down. This was no practiced routine. A friend of the artists told me the performance was improvised. With the song and the dance I was witnessing the artists’ immersion into their work, creating a singular moment never to be captured again. And so flamenco meets the wabi sabi ideals of transience and investment in the moment. We can see this in the final portion of Yuri Matsumaru’s dance in the video below. http://instagram.com/p/lY1376uzCo/

I’m fortunate to know a flamenco dancer, so I asked her if I was making the right connections. Did I see wabi sabi in flamenco? She explained to me that flamenco is at it’s best when an experienced dancer improvises, passionately engages in a moment never to be captured again. She led me to a concept in flamenco called duende. This is the moment where the “spirit of the dance takes over the dancer.” In Spanish folklore duende is a spirit (like Japanese kami I wonder?) that exists as an artist’s muse. Duende is an interesting concept that I’m just beginning to explore. Like wabi sabi, I may never understand “the” definition. But here is the part I find most interesting: with duende, one doesn’t simply surrender to the muse but battles it. I like this idea because that the artist remains in the equation. One surrenders but still retains control. Like the tea ceremony, you find a balance between owning the rules and following the rules. Duende seems to be on the same wavelength as wabi sabi, but on the other end of the spectrum. The concept of wabi sabi and duende exist on a continuum of artistic expression and immersion into the moment. Sadou exemplifies an immersion into the rhythm or rules and ritual to create a transitory moment of experience and flamenco has an immersion into emotion and self-expression through dance and song to create a different kind of transitory, a one-of-a-kind moment.

Note: Kobori Enshu will hold another tea ceremony on May 11th. There will be several sessions. Chiaki Horikoshi will participate in the evening ceremony and give an artist’s talk. The evening session costs a bit more but also includes sake! You can reserve a spot at http://fuyukokobori.com/category/upcoming-events/.

Day After Tokyo Snow 2014

All the snow that fell was well on its way to melting when I left the house today. My snow-sock monkey did not fare too well.

 

We decided to walk to Maison Keyser in Denenchofu for breakfast. Here are some photos from along the way.

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Really majime (=serious, hard working) dog. He took his guard duties seriously even though he’s the size of a coffee cup.

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This snow is about to fall any second.

20140209-130055.jpg The bus has chains!

Snowman collection from walking around:

 

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