For details about my work have a look at my website,

I am currently working on large prints combining water based woodblock techniques with oil based linocut: nothing if not a challenge! I'm also doing some teaching and go back to school myself in the spring to qualify as an adult education tutor

Monday, 7 December 2009

Pipes and Quiet

I’m not very big on shopping which is an unfortunate character flaw for anyone visiting Tokyo. Shopping there is a serious business: department stores have their own stations on the underground while Japan Railways own department stores in return; full size roller coasters twist through the high rise malls, illuminations flash, people throng and the noise is beyond imagining. Throw in a couple of replicants and you get the picture. Raised in central London, I suddenly found I was a village child in the big city for the first time.

I blame the subsequent feelings of confusion and deep longing for some quiet for my hiding in the Tobacco and Salt museum in Shibuya district. I’m even less of a fan of cigarettes than I am of retail therapy having spent years in the dense fug of my stepfather’s sixty-a-day habit, but this is a surprisingly charming museum. Miraculously it has a fabulous collection of Edo period woodblock prints along with a worrying encyclopaedic collection of fag packets.

The museum also revealed* that the washi paper I’ve been using and the same sort that I watched being made at the paper mill is largely responsible for Japan’s excellent record for preserving documents. Washi is phenomenally strong when wet: when fire threatened, documents were thrown into the nearest water to be rescued later. The damp paper printing technique (the cause of so much angst on my part) means the pigment dyes the paper rather than sitting on the surface and so remains legible after the dunking, the paperwork restored perfect nick when dried. Neat eh? And just as well with all those smokers around…

* bizarrely this was the only information available in English so I was unhampered by any serious consideration of the history of Japan’s tobacco production (last visited while in Mrs Smith’s upper fifth geography class.)