japonisme: 6/29/08 - 7/6/08

05 July 2008

guilding the lily

dorothy markert is a roycroft printmaker. the arts and crafts movement with its various names: mackintosh-style, liberty-style, and werkstatte-style among them, needs to have roycroft-style added to it.

to look at a clock designed by archibald knox, or mackintosh, or josef hoffmann, is to immediately recognize the single river running through the artisan guilds of the world; it is also to recognize the influence of japan on them all.

"Roycroft was a reformist community of craft workers and artists which formed part of the Arts and Crafts movement in the USA. Elbert Hubbard founded the community in 1895 in the village of East Aurora, Erie County, New York, near Buffalo. Participants were known as Roycrofters. The work and philosophy of the group, often referred to as the Roycroft movement, had a strong influence on the development of American architecture and design in the early 20th century.

The name Roycroft was chosen after the printers, Samuel and Thomas Roycroft, who made books in London from about 1650-1690. And beyond this, the word roycroft had a special significance to Elbert Hubbard, meaning King's Craft. King's craftsmen being a term used in the Guilds of the olden times for men who had achieved a high degree of skill -- men who made things for the King.

Elbert Hubbard's championing of the Arts and Crafts approach attracted a number of visiting craftspeople to East Aurora, and they formed a community of printers, furniture makers, metalsmiths, leathersmiths, and bookbinders."1

wonderfully for us all, guilds are reforming all over the world, including at roycroft. over the last several decades, the original roycroft buildings have been restored, and well, if you build it they will come. a community of craftspeople, artisans, have come together again, with a commitment to quality -- a commitment backed up with a peer review before one may use the roycroft mark on their work, and teach master classes on the campus.

and this is where we find dorothy markert. to browse her work, one instantly recalls margaret jordan patterson, edna boies hopkins, mable royds... but these are dorothy's alone. she brings what any artist brings: work that speaks from that place where hand and eye and heart meet.

there are many "craftspeople" in these days when we again appreciate the work of human hands over machines, but there are many of them from whom little original emerges. when they produce direct copies of the work of others and try to pass it off as their own, and a surprising number of people actually do this, the work may be charming, but is somehow hollow and leaden at the same time. perhaps dorothy took a master class of her own from the great legacy of the last century, but what she creates now, along with the other artisans on the roycroft campus, is art.

04 July 2008

a happy interdependence day to us all

  Stars, still pond —
all night the white geese cry out
in your hand.

Coming, my eyes open.
How suddenly black
the tree trunks look in the rain.
Night quiets, cools.
Even now,
two boats on a single mooring,

we rise and fall on one breath, going on.

Because Tokugawa-period Japanese tended to regard the overall body shapes of men and women as nearly the same, the only significant physical marker of difference were the organs themselves.

By the 1660s, the first mass- produced woodblock prints began to appear, often in the form of pages illustrating of handbooks on .... We should bear in mind that these illustrated manuals were perfectly legitimate books in their day.

As has been pointed out, "these spring painting must be regarded in the light of seventeenth-century Japanese life and mores. --was considered a very natural function, and ways of increasing enjoyment of this function were felt to be more commendable than censurable."

Unlike the case in Europe, Japanese artists did not celebrate the figure in their work in any medium until the late Meiji period. Japanese popular art of the eighteenth century, detailed polychrome prints of famous beautiful women -- usually courtesans -- were much in demand. These prints emphasized the subtle, often elaborate facial features, gestures, long hair, and richly decorated clothing of these women to convey a sense of  beauty and power.

Its beak caught firmly
in the clam's shell

The snipe cannot fly away
On an autumn eveningUNKNOWN JAPANESE POET
"Few peoples," says Lane, "have ever pursued the cult of artistic spring painting as assiduously as the Japanese." (Images from the Floating World)

Tokugawa-period woodblock prints are generally called ukiyo-e 浮世絵, meaning "images of the floating world." Many people incorrectly think that the term ukiyo-e means spring painting images, probably because so many ukiyo-e were spring painting. But ukiyo-e encompass landscape scenes and a wide variety of non-spring painting themes.

Spring painting woodblock prints were most commonly known as spring painting春画, meaning "spring pictures." The word "spring" often means "youthful beauty" or "youthful vigor" in Japanese usage then or now. The sale of services, for example, is baishun 売春, "selling spring," which has a different emotive sense than the English term "prostitution." Similarly, the word "color" (iro 色 by itself, -shoku -色 in many compound words) often means spring painting or spring painting. (more)

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