Archive for May, 2009

Back to drawing



Shodo Iwagaki


Design by Shodo Iwagaki.


This exhibition card took Shodo two days to carve.

Yesterday I spent a lovely afternoon in the sunny yard of Tortoise, a lovely Japanese store on Abbott Kinney. I was attending a two hour woodblock printing workshop with Shodo Iwagaki, a Soto-Zen Buddhist monk visiting from Japan. I felt very privileged to be attending the class, as it was limited to only eight people. Shodo Iwagaki lives at the Mairai-ji zen temple in Okayama, Japan, where he has worked on his woodblock printing for many years. I wish I could show some of the photographs taken by Keiko Shinomoto (founder of Tortoise) of the inside of his temple – huge, minimalist, geometric woodblock prints on the panels of the sliding doors, alongside Noguchi lamps. It looked so striking.

For the workshop we were supplied with a Japanese woodcarving set, two small panels of wood and a postcard sized piece of handmade paper produced by a friend of Shodo. Also plenty of paper to sketch and test print on. Shodo suggested we work on a design using three shapes – a circle, triangle and square. These are apparently very zen shapes and can be interpreted in endless ways. And it was a simple enough brief to achieve a design within the two hours we had! It was interesting to see how varied the designs ended up. Everyone’s image was very unique. Some were abstract, and some were arranged to form a representation of something else. The actual process of carving the wood was so peaceful and enjoyable. I feel totally inspired to continue doing some printing in this way … and hopefully applying it to fabric as well as paper.

Shodo Iwagaki currently has an exhibition of some of his works at Tortoise, 1342 1/2 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291 – until the 7th June 2009.








Charley Harper




Top: Bear In The Birches. Below: details from Unzipped, Beetle Battle, Diving Pelican, Woodthrush, Pfwhooooo!, Serengheti Spaghetti, & Skimmerscape.

Yesterday I was having the car washed and while trying to keep Aya & I entertained for 20 mins, we browsed the bookshelves of the car-wash shop. There were some Charley Harper children’s books, which I’ve flicked through before and always thought his work looked striking, however these kind of books don’t seem to do his work justice – I realised I had previously been put off those books because of the quality of reproduction and the seemingly slapped together selection (maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found this to be a bit of a trend with publishers of children’s books, who seem to want to make a quick buck by putting an easy kids ‘ABC’ book together). This time I decided to look past what was bugging me and studied Harper’s images more carefully, paying more attention to how he worked with detail and composition. And so I decided to do a little more research into Charley Harper, beyond the world of the 3yr old’s board book!

Not all of his work appeals to me I have to admit, but Harper does have a wonderful sense of geometry and line, and some of the most fascinating parts of his images are in the smaller details – the little shapes that create a leg, the lines that create movement, the layering of information, background merging with foreground, the intense combination of pattern. Some of the images and elements become almost completely abstract, until you look again.

In describing his unique style, Harper said, “When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don’t see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures. I regard the picture as an ecosystem in which all the elements are interrelated, interdependent, perfectly balanced, without trimming or unutilized parts; and herein lies the lure of painting; in a world of chaos, the picture is one small rectangle in which the artist can create an ordered universe”.

He is making me look around a little differently today.

You can see more of his prints at

Collections of Charles Harpers illustrations in various forms can be found at this flickr pool, including his beautiful mosaic at The John Weld Peck Federal Building in Cincinnati OH.

Salaryman 6


Salaryman 6 is one of my favourite short films. Brilliantly shot and directed by Jake Knight, this is a story about a Japanese Salaryman who looses track of his life through it’s mundanity and predictability.

Unfortunately I can’t find a decent quality version of it online and you need to see it in high quality for best impact. You can view it here, but make sure you have a magnifying glass at hand!



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The Hungry Cyclist


Image from The Independent.

Today is the booklaunch of The Hungry Cyclist, by Tom Kevill Davies, published by Harper Collins.

Tom is a cousin of mine and I’m sad to be missing his book launch in London this evening. This book is the result of Tom’s cycling journey through North and South America over a period of more than two years, in search of the perfect meal. I really can’t wait to read the book!

There is an article about The Hungry Cyclist in todays Independent:

‘Americans looked at me in horror when I told them of my plans to ride through Mexico. “You’re not packing a piece?” they asked, astounded that I didn’t want to carry a gun with me. The Mexicans recoiled in shock when I revealed my plans to ride to Guatemala. “It’s full of bandits and machetes,” they would warn. (The machete part is true – all Guatemalan men do carry them – it’s an agricultural country and I soon learnt that machetes were the multi-tools of Central America). In Guatemela, I was urged to be wary of the gangs in El Salvador – and so on.

So, after 752 days on the road, did I find the perfect meal? Well, yes, I found plenty of them. From smoky tripe tacos to moose burgers and Olympia oysters to cold beers and spit-roasted guinea pig, I enjoyed some truly flawless meals.’

Eames house




One of my favorite places in L.A. without a doubt is the Eames ‘Case Study House #8’.

The design of the house began in 1945 to fit in with the surrounding meadow and eucalyptus trees, building with only post-war off-the-shelf materials. The Eames moved in in 1949 and lived and worked there for the rest of their lives. The house has been kept pretty much as they left it.

You’re not allowed inside the house, just allowed to peer in as much as you can through the windows … and photos of the interior are forbidden. It was built as half house and half work studio, with a small courtyard in between. It’s very simple in design but incorporates a beautiful movable system inside that enables the interior to be rearranged, allowing for the optimum display of certain objects. Of course it contains plenty of furniture and objects designed by Charles and Ray Eames, which inevitably makes us hungry for a bit of shopping!

I always come away from this house feeling inspired. It is such a peaceful place and the details are so simple yet fantastic. It really makes me want to build my own home. Now.

In-house inspiration





So, today I have to mention my in-house source of inspiration. My daughter.

Always on the move, making, collecting, doing something, anything, with those fiddly little 4 yr old hands. She has such a fresh and easy approach. Not too much thinking, just doing … then thinking afterwards! I have to admit I’ve started giving her things to play with that could feed into my work. Some paper cut outs for her to arrange (her compositions are more organic and un-contrived than mine). Buying a set of rhombus mosaic pieces, that I bought for myself as much as for her (luckily its become apparent that she loves them too!). And then some things seemingly just come out of nowhere, like wrapping rubber bands around a stone, or arranging all my pins from my pin cushion along the ironing board. And tons of drawing and colouring. I love those little surprises that appear after a period of intense, quiet concentration and lots of heavy breathing! So inventive and sweet. I can learn a lot from her.


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