Friday, April 4, 2014


Onto the tour bus for a hour and a half ride to Kurotani Village in the city of Ayabe.  Along the way we saw such beauty in the mountains, miles of huge pine trees.....the  forrest interspersed with Cherry trees (of course!) and white Magnolias.  The Wachi River ran parallel to the road and it was exquisite to see the fast moving water as it cascaded over rocks in its path.

Amy, our wonderful guide, told us the terms for the process of making 'washi' (Japanese paper).

Cultivate Kozo ( mulberry), fell the Kozo, cut into small strips and steam.  Strip the bark and knead, knead, knead.  Be sure the Kozo is uniform and boil, obtaining/removing the fibers....add glue.  Got it?  O.K., time to see and do

Gathering around Master Paper Maker Tomonobu Yamamoto to hear why Kurotani is one of the few paper making centers left in the Kyoto area.  During the Edo Period, paper making was encouraged and greatly developed.  A very special use of the fine paper was wrapping the delicate silk kimono's. Along the way, paper making techniques of Tosa were gained as well as the ability to handle 'Kozo' (paper mulberry), Mitsumata (Edgeworthia papyrifera) and 'Gampi (Wikstroemia gampi) as materials for paper.  (Too much information?)

The Kurotani River provides excellent water for the process and you could see it stream past......

Wilbur and Pam are 'bird watchers' par excellence and wasted no time in 'sightings'!


I did some 'watching' of my own.... a bug on Bonnie's shoulder!

Isn't he magnificent?  A perfect Brush painting subject!

We see the tubs for 'soaking' the raw material (mulberry).

Next, time for a good 'soak' and then..... stir, stir, stir!

The pulp is then drained and pounded into submission!

Here we go......The pulp is finally ready and a large 'screen' is dipped into it several times and moved about in an elegant ballet by this young woman.

The screen is then transferred to the stack of already completed sheets behind her.

Our turn!

Good going Charlie!

Yea Pam!
Oh my gosh….I love this!

Next step.....coloring the paper with Blue, Yellow & Red.  Bonnie was quite creative.

I tried to make green with the yellow & blue.......but it didn't quite work......however, the blue combined with the red  & made a pleasant mauve.

Our individual washi cards were stacked with name tags and will take days to dry.  They will be delivered to us in Osaka.

I spotted this handsome fellow and am sure it's a Japanese Akita but was told it's a Shiba Enu  (Both spitz).  I don't looked too large for a Shiba but who knows.  It didn't matter as we had a lovely time together, chatting under the budding Cherry trees.  (Well, I was chatting & I did think he understood).

Up close & personal......

We definitely worked up an appetite so time for a stop at 'Wachi Station on the Road'.....(a rough translation!)

This was the most delicious Black Bean ice cream!

Soooo happy!

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There is no avoiding the pull of the internet, the blogs, the YouTube imaginings. It's as if we're all 'On the Road' with Jack Kerouac each in our own world of meanderings. When we tell someone to 'get a life' it might be a bit difficult when you're dragged into other people's 24/7.

I've come to realize two foundational principals, there are no accidents and everyone has a purpose. More and more I'm desiring everyone to come into a full realization of their purpose as we all find our way on this little jewel of a planet.

For me, as a professional 'Western style artist', I stumbled into Chinese Brush Painting after a trip in 1980 to Monet's home/garden. Seeing all of his collection of Japanese woodblock prints was an ahh haa moment for me and when I returned to the States I started painting in the Chinese manner and never looked back. The first year was extremely painful for me as I felt that I should be able to master the technique since I was a 'trained' artist. Not a chance ... that just gets in your way.

Now, after teaching close to 3,000 students and having my book 'The Ch'i of the Brush' published by Watson Guptill, I can say that every one of my students does better their first day than I did my first year! Why? Because I insist that they leave their critical parent outside and just enjoy the journey, respecting the work that they do. I never let anyone throw anything away because that just ingrains frustration and defeat.

We really only begin to learn when we stop and figure out how to 'save' a painting. It works every time.I am so proud of my students, their receptivity and eagerness to express themselves is a continuing blessing for me.So, back to finding your purpose. Perhaps it starts with realizing 'it's not about me'. It so easy to want our needs met and to filter everything thru this attitude. When we realize that we're here to be of benefit to every life that we touch the universe really provides the ways and means.

The best part is that it's really exciting to not have yourself on your mind all the time!I'm re-reading a wonderful book about authenticity and in my next meandering I'll tell you about it. In the meantime I'd love to hear about your journey and am here to answer any and all questions about Chinese Brush Painting.