2017 Tokyo Art Book Fair Interview Series of Art Byte Critique Artists: Louise Rouse

This is the fifth in a series of interviews with Art Byte Critique members participating in the Tokyo Art Book Fair which runs from October 5 to October 8th. This is Art Byte Critique’s fourth appearance at TABF and we are all really excited.  Louise kindly too time to do a Q&A series and provides some images of her projects.

Name: Louise Rouse
From: UK
Time in Japan: 9 years 336 days as of today. Plus 4 months before that in 2006. Plus 2 weeks before that in 2003. Plus 3 weeks before that in 1998.

Education/ Occupation: MFA / Adjunct Professor for Printmaking & Drawing, Art Program, Temple University Japan Campus

How long have you been making books?
I don’t think I could pinpoint when I started organising ideas into bound paper objects of some kind. I can remember doing that forever.

When I was in middle school I even made my maths coursework which was a large part of the final grade into a ringbound zine with elaborately designed pages printed out on our home inkjet printer. I cannot speak for the quality of the maths though…

My middle school social studies teacher liked my zine assignment submission on the subject of local church history and paintings so much he wouldn’t give it back and was still showing it to other classes the last I heard… I’m still a little mad he didn’t give it back.

At age 15 I went on a work experience placement to a teen girl magazine in London and told my class I wanted to be a magazine designer as an adult.

I think I have always used something like graphic design (even before I knew what that was) to organise my thoughts and to actually understand the world.

I instinctively tidy disparate thoughts into sequential sections that are visually easy to look at and somehow the information gets traction where otherwise it would get lost and unprocessed in the sea of un-designed chaos out there in the world.

There is almost nothing that consistently pleases me as much as beautiful images and lettering on paper that I can hold in my hands and flip back and forth through my fingers.

What is the biggest challenge for you when you make a book?
The biggest dilemma is to counter any and all inclinations to complicate an already large engineering challenge. In other words, making the book the simplest form of the idea you want to achieve because once you start editioning books you really discover the limits of one human’s time and labour.

This year I’m making a set of more elaborate books than I have in a while so we’ll see if I can actually adhere to my own hard-learned principle.

Do you have any art book heroes?
I’m indebted to Jonathan Ward who taught at my undergrad in Bristol. He told me romantic stories of his youth, carrying a suitcase of artist books around on the trains of Europe and selling them for a living. This seemed totally normal at the time, like “oh yeah, make money from artist books while traveling on trains, I dig it”.

He owns a small fine-art silkscreen press on the Isle of Weight now so it must be possible.

Also at the same university is Sarah Bodman, a dedicated book arts researcher and champion of this artform based in the Centre for Fine Print Research. Her passion and dedication to the community is inspiring. You can subscribe to her newsletter here: http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/newsletters.html

How did working with Art Byte Critique help you prepare your work?
Art Byte Critique consistently supports all members and everyone seems to really feel it at the end of each meeting. Normally as an artist, it’s very easy to feel like your work is an island of no relevance to any living being but I feel the exact opposite of that in the company of these incredible people. The combined output of our collective is like a living organism. Maybe like a wild wisteria… A bit invasive…. and sprawling…. but hella pretty.

What would you like people to know about your books?
This year I am presenting a book series of four titles, Kinjo, Tsukin, Tocho and Kabukicho (Neighborhood, Commute to work, Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the red light district of Kabukicho) Each book is made with wooden casings which are carved with the title. The wood used is all native to Japan and reflects the character of the area, the paper is also hand made paper from Japan with connotations about those locations. Inside are frottage rubbings taken by using the streets and surfaces of the city as “wild printing plates”. Creating the work itself is a very public performance and a lot of interactions occurred between me and fellow Tokyoites who caught me doing this unusual thing in public space. It has been a very engaging project to work on and given me a lot of new thoughts and ideas each day working on it and I’m looking forward to presenting the works and the diary of making it to people at the book fair.

Do you have any advice for people coming to the book fair?
Last year I found a Japanese-run stall that imported a range of small edition linocut illustration magazines from a specialist German publisher, that was a great find. Around 40 pages of full color or 2-color linocuts, carved by artists and printed by this publisher, maybe ¥9000 or so which is a steal considering. Also some unexpected finds from totally unknown young artists who should be charging a lot more for intensively loved and crafted art books and fine-printed zines.

In between all of this magic, take lots of breaks for refreshments.

You can find out more about Louise and her work at the following:



louiserouse.com (empty at the moment though but for posterity… when i get it back up)

Tokyo Art Book Fair is at Warehouse TERRADA
2-6-10 Higashishinagawa Shinagawa-ku Tokyo

Preview/Reception and Hours and Admission
October 5th (Thu) 15:00-21:00(Tentative)
Admission: 1,000 yen

Free Admission and Hours:
October 6th (Fri) 12:00-20:00
October 7th (Sat) 12:00-20:00
October 8th (Sun) 11:00-19:00


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!


Louise Rouse Exhibition: Solo at 30

Today I talked with Louise Rouse who is having an exhibition at Sendagi Kukan. Louise and I collaborated on photos I wrote about in Yukatas in the Park. I was fascinated with her prints. Her prints remind me of modern-day version of one of my favorite printmakers, Aubrey Beardsley, with their hint of art nouveau scrolling, and the black and white styling. And like Beardsley, there is a clear Japanese influence. I had a chance to talk to her about her background, her work and her show, Solo at 30.

yukatainpark-louise-rouse-lori-ono-5Nationality: British (from Plumpton Green near Brighton)
Job: illustrator, printmaker, adjunct professor at Temple University
Time in Japan: 8 years

What brought you to Japan?
My mom was a translator so [Japan] was part of my upbringing. I came here as a child and then came back at seventeen as an exchange student for four months. I came back and did a master’s at Tamabidaigaku.

What was your idea behind the show Solo at 30?
The planning started last November but in March and April I really focused on it. The first idea just stuck in my mind but it didn’t make it [into the show]. It was just too raw. I had to leave it behind.

So you made more prints then you’re showing? How many prints did you make and how many are in the show?
I made eleven images and chose eight to exhibit. [plus there are some older digitally made prints in the back as well as an one of her woodblocks in the process of being carved.]

[After reading the notes from her show catalogue] So your work is about the inaccuracy of memory?
I kept having the same idea but doing different compositions, different versions. Each time we think of a memory we change it. You imbue it with what you feel at the time, your current personality in life, the degree of empathy you garner.

Conversation diverged into a discussion about how our memories of childhood events and parental actions change as we get older and understand the world better led to an interesting observation from Louise which relates back to her work:
Being so far away we mess with those memories [of family] because we don’t have daily contact.

How long does it take to make the prints? I know artists hate this question, sorry, but super curious.
I did black and white because I wanted to do a series. If they were colorful I could spend a whole year just doing one.

It took a months to do the line work for everything. Then a month doing the kogatana (fine edges around lines). Then it took another six weeks with a big chisel and small chisel to bash it out. Then you use a flat chisel to finish. Then about ten days to print for all of them.

Do you use Japanese paper?
The paper is western print-making paper (cotton rag) because I used a press.

You have a recurring female figure in many of the prints. Is there a story behind that? Is she like an avatar?
She said that there was no particular reason behind the recurring figure, it’s not an avatar, she just kept popping up in ideas. She likes that the woman’s nationality is ambiguous but adds that it wasn’t consciously designed that way.

It took me ages to remember the name Aubrey Beardsley, so I had to email Louise to ask if he was an inspiration for her. This is her reply:
For this series in particular I was looking at a lot of English Victorian illustrations and wood engravings for a sense of balance between black and white and of course Beardsley is the most famous. The village where I went to primary school was host to an artist’s commune around the turn of the century. Eric Gill is most known for his lettering but he was another among a number of artists who made somewhat art nouveau styled black and white work.

The borders on my prints are actually a traditional Japanese ukiyoe border but interesting that it looks seemless with the Western influence.

More than anything it was the black and white balance achieved by those artists that I liked

IMG_2362Sendagi Ku-kan is a 7 minute walk from Sendagi station on the Chiyoda Line. The gallery has chairs and a great atmosphere for hanging out. There are lots of cute small shops tucked away on the back streets on the way to the gallery. Note: navi will lead you to Kingyo Gallery. Sendagi KuKan is on the street on the behind Kingyo Gallery. The two buildings face back to back.

Hours are 10:00-7:00. Sunday August 16th is the last day of the show and the gallery closes at 6:00 on Sunday.

Yukata in the Park

I recently shot a great collaboration project with Louise Rouse and Michelle Zacharias. We worked on direct mail images for Louise’s print show, Solo at 30, at Sendagi Kukan and for invites for her birthday party.

Louise did the concept and styling of the shoot and Michelle was an amazing assistant director. The idea was yukata in Yoyogi Koen with (hopefully) a few of the rockabilly guys and gals that perform near the entrance, or beating the heat with a nice kakigori (shaved ice with sweet syrup). We got a couple of shots with a great rockabilly couple.

It was super hot but it was worth the effort. Lots of compliments on the amazing yukata Louise bought that’s made by Hiroko Takahashi and many people admired the hair by Hikaru Terada.

If you have time, check out the print show Solo at 30.  Discover more of Louise’s work at her web page..

Shoot Accreditation
Styling: Louise Rouse
Assistant Director: Michelle Zacharias
Photography: Lori Ono
Makeup: uncredited
Hair: Hikaru Terada at Warren Tricomi
Yukata by Hiroko Takahashi

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