Browsing Tag



Japanese Prints

26 mei 2014

Wow, so simple and sooo beautiful … Japanese prints, and I am not the only one who is impressed by this imagery, for centuries Japanese art inspired artists all over the world. The exhibition ‘Verstilde schoonheid op Japanse prenten’ (Tranquil Beauty on Japanese Prints) at Centre Céramique in Maastricht shows the influence of those wood prints on European artists.

In 1851 the Japanese borders were opened and Japan participated in the World Exhibition in London in 1862. Japanese products were exported all over the world, and Japan and its products and art became super fashionable. Japonism even became an art movement for a while. Especially impressionist artists were influenced by Japanese prints, such as Manet, Monet and Van Gogh. The American artist Bertha Lum made beautiful woodcut prints based on Japanese themes:

Woodblock Printing
Woodblock printing had been used in China for centuries, but was only widely adopted in Japan during the Edo-period (1603-1867) were it was used to create the ukiyo-e. The production was fairly simple, but also very precise. A number of persons was involved in the process, like the designer, the woodcut artist and the printer. First a sketch was drawn on Washi-paper. This sheet was put on the wooden block and everything outside the lines was cut away, so the image was mirrored. Every colour had it’s own wooden block, so colorful images were more expensive. The wooden blocks were pressed on damp paper and the printer used a ‘baren’ to rub the ink in the paper. An early form of mass production.

The Edo-period has been named after the city Edo (Tokyo). Because the entourage and the military top were required to live close to the Shogun, Edo became a very wealthy city, with a flourishing cultural live. Teahouses, restaurants, gambling houses, bathhouses, theaters and brothels were the symbols of this rich and fleeting (ukiyo) world. Artists were inspired by this new world, and a new art movement was born: Ukiyo-e, means image of the fleeting world.

Shin Hanga
Early twentieth century the ukiyo-e was restored by artists such as Goyo, Kotondo, Kiyoshi, Shinsui Ito and Shiro Kasamatsu. Characteristic is the reference to classic images, but with a modern twist. For example, the modern women (moga) don’t look down, the just look you in the eye … the courtesans at the antique ukiyo-e always looked down. Kasamatsu was one of the most respected of the Shin Hanga artists, his specialty was landscapes:

This was just a very very short resume of Japanese woodblock print art. Since I am extremely fascinated by the Japanese culture and Japanese art the coming weeks I will blog about Japanese patterns, artists and bookbinding. Hope to see you on my Japanese tour 🙂


Wooden Books

7 mei 2014

In the vast maze of information once in a while something stands out. Last week my eye was caught by a beautiful wooden book. In the monthly magazine of the National Library of Australia I read an item about ‘Old, Rare and Beautiful Books on Indonesia’, because my eyes were triggered by a colorful illustration of fish. Since I am taking an illustration class these days, illustrations have my special attention 🙂

But the next page contained even a bigger surprise; a book made of bark. The library owns two Batak bark books of uncertain age. The Batak people of northern Sumatra had their own script, which is seen in tree-bark manuscripts created by magicians and healers for their rituals, oracles and medical recipes.
The book is very simple, it is accordion shaped and it looks like only one side has been described. The picture is a bit grotesque, because the size of the booklet is actually very small; 8 x 6 x 1 cm (folded). A very handy, small notebook 🙂

Batak Bark Book - Sumatra

Bark is not the only thing used to write on in earlier times, Indonesians also used to write on palm-leaf. The examples in the Australian library are not of great age, as writings on such fragile material do not survive well in the tropics. The acquired manuscripts are copies, believed to date from the nineteenth or twentieth century.

These books reminded me of the birch bark I brought back home from Norway last summer. It is still somewhere deep down in my closet … time to make my own bark book 🙂 Perhaps to write down some modern oracles 🙂

Of course I also want to show the image that first triggered my attention, the beautiful illustration of fish.

illustration fish

Favorite Illustrators

28 april 2014

A few weeks ago Lisa from Elle Aime posted that she and Sarah Pronk would give an Illustration course. Since I really love her designs and since I was looking for something to relax from being a 24-hour entrepreneur, I registered for the course. Tomorrow I will join my third class, and I have homework to do…

First I have to bring a book wherefore I have to design a book cover. Each class we learn to work with a new illustration technique. This week we will make a collage by tearing pieces from books and magazines. Tearing pages from books … sounds very scary 🙁 … the only comfort I have is that the old books will be used to create a new cover …
I am still doubting about the book. Maybe I will take ‘Nooit meer slapen’ from W.F. Hermans, a famous Dutch writer. The book is about a geography student who gets lost in the North of Norway and is wandering around in the bush, losing his colleagues and himself. This book is also translated in English ‘Beyond Sleep’, I can strongly recommend it! But there is also IQ84 by Haruki Murakami and it’s two moons … also an interesting one for a book cover …the two moons in a Japanese environment … my fantasy is way far ahead of my hands 🙂

The other thing is that Sarah and Lisa keep on telling us that we have to draw every day … and I try … but it is so difficult on busy days! Yesterday I finally had a day off, and I actually draw some flowers … so relaxing and inspiring to do. My goal is to do it more often … just as going to yoga class 🙂

The third and last assignment for this week is to find three of your most favorite illustrators. I really love that one. It is good to think about it, although it is so difficult to pinpoint it to only three. I think each occasion requires a different illustrator. By the way, I have never noticed before that so many things are illustrated. Ok, at the moment it is very hip to illustrate your articles, adds or website, but it’s not only because it is a trend … illustrations are everywhere!
My favorite illustrators are:
Tadahiro Uesugi 
He is a Japanese illustrator who started as a fashion illustrator. He also worked a while as
an assistant Manga artist. At the moment he creates elegant illustrations with a jazzy and
classical sensibility. I recognize typical Japanese elements, combined with Paris with a
touch of Hopper.

tadahiro uesugi

She is a German teacher who combines every day things, such as flowers, food or rubber
bands with sketch lines. I follow her blog, and every new blog post makes me laugh …

Spielkkind illustratie

Denise Holly Hobby-Ulinskas
For old time sake I chose Holly Hobby, she is someone I grew up with. I might have drawn a
thousand holly hobbies … it is something from my youth I will never forget 🙂 When my aunt
passed away a few years ago we found a lot of small holly hobby drawing books … she
also loved her … and she made a lot of small holly hobby paintings for me …

Holly Hobby



Bogolan – nowadays

25 april 2014

A few weeks ago I attended a workshop Bogolan – painting with mud from the river Niger -. Bogolan is an ancient way to paint and decorate cloths or fabric. By the 1970s, the bogolan tradition had nearly died out, because of a combination of the advancing globalization and the Malian struggle for independence. In the 1980s, through the efforts of cultural administrators and activists, as well as fashion designer Chris Seydou, Malians rediscovered the ‘heritage’ of Bogolan. The craft of bogolan soon mutated into two strains; bogolan mass-produced fabrics and fine art. The mass-production of bogolan serves the tourist and fashion markets and has become an important branch of the craft economy in Mali.

Painter Ismaël Diabaté helped transform the bogolanfini from a distinctly Malian clothing style to an internationally recognized fine art. In 1981 Diabaté started working with bogolan in his paintings. He believed that colonialism had undermined the Malian aesthetic and considered the mud-dyed technique part of a cultural revival. He combined the traditional technique with contemporary media and styles.

Fashion Designer Chris Seydou embraced Malian mudcloth in the 1980s as part of his heritage and delighted in its graphic quality. He simplified the older patterns, creating designs that tailored into Western style mini-skirts and jackets. The success of Seydou inspired a lot of young designers to use the bogolan technique in a modern way.

Also artists group Groupe Kasobane played an important part in rediscovering Bogolan. Mudcloth had only been used for clothing and these artists moved the technique from craftsmanship to art. Their innovation lies in the compositions, the style, the color range and in the presentation of works.

I learned a lot about Bogolan and I liked painting with the mud. It is very interesting to see how an ancient technique can be used in so many ways and I think it is very special that graphics that have been used for centuries still are so powerful. What I also learned is that this technique isn’t a precise one, or one that is suitable for small delicate patterns. I don’t believe I can use it to design and create a book cover. However, the patterns can also be used with different media. So …. in the future there will be book cover with Bogolan patterns …


Events Inspiration

Boekbindbeurs Sint Niklaas

14 april 2014

The Boekbindbeurs in Sint Niklaas was already on my wishlist for a few years. Curious if this fair is different from the bookbindfair in Leiden I wanted to check out this one, hoping for some new participants with new surprising materials or methods.

Since Sint Niklaas is situated between Antwerpen and Gent, two amazing cities to visit for a weekend, we chose Gent for our weekendtrip. We did some nice sightseeing, some shopping in between and we had good drinks and dinners, even the weather cooperated, so we also enjoyed some of the many terraces on the Gent squares and streets. Some of the nicest shops I want to share with you, just in case you pay a visit to Gent in the coming period – which I can recommend – 🙂
Huiszwaluw                  interior and design products
Javana                            tea and coffee
A.Puur.A                         cloths, interior and design
Le Pain Quotidien        lunch
Vintage                          wine and dinner
Greenway                      veggie food

In short we had a great weekend and in this relaxed mood we arrived at the Bauhaus in Sint Niklaas at the end of the morning. Unfortunately we weren’t alone, we had to stand in line for more than half an hour to get in. We chose peak hour to arrive 🙁  Because it was so busy, we had a hard time trying to get a glimpse of the merchandise. Luckily the crowd decreased after a while and we were able to talk to some participants, such as the nice people of Louët. They are specialized in basic tools for bookbinding. Who needs big expensive machines if you can use the practical solutions of Louët. I bought myself a universal pricking gauge, so the pricking of the booklets will be so much easier and faster. Maybe in the future I will purchase the vertical plough as well. This stationery version of a plough makes really clean cuts for special editions.

Louet universal pricking gauge
There were not only participants selling bookbind stuff, but also some bookbinding and graphic design training institutes, such as TNA from Antwerpen, Syntra West from Brugge, the Academie from Genk and the Plantin Instituut from Antwerpen. The last one offers short courses and a longer curriculum for typography, its history and the practical use of it. Theoretical insights combined with the historical background, technical knowledge and practical skills of typography …. sounds amazing … if I only had the time … I would know !!
I also met some nice people from the 14 x 14 Boekbindproject (bookbinding project). This sympathetic bookbinding collective presents its project results in local libraries, on fairs and in a small inspiring 14 x 14 catalog.
In comparison with the fair in Leiden, Sint Niklaas is smaller and there is much emphasis on leather and leather processing. Each time I see this beautiful and colorful material it starts to itch a little … maybe I should learn how to process this material and give it a twist … but I still have so many things to discover and working with leather is very expensive and the booklets bound with leather will also cost a lot more than the booklets I am making now … so that means totally different customers … so maybe later 🙂
For now the Boekbindbeurs in Sint Niklaas was inspiring and worth to visit … but it is not necessary to visit both Leiden and Sint Niklaas … one is enough 🙂  … although the next one on the list is Keulen in October … who knows 🙂 …

Bogolan – the patterns

1 april 2014

Last Sunday I attended the workshop Bogolan from Rosalie van Deursen at the Vrije Academie in Amsterdam. I learned some interesting things about Mali and the history of Bogolan. For example, Rosalie told us the story of the genesis of Bogolan. Apparantly, a hunter with traditional yellow clothing colored with n’galama, had a deer with mud covered legs on his shoulders and this mud colored his cloths with permanent stains caused by the reaction between the mud and the n’galama cloth.

Bogolan is strongly connected to the social life in Mali. The symbolic imagery painted on clothing tells something about the situation of the owner: someone is married or marriageable, widower, pregnant or just became a father. Some examples of the traditional patterns and their meaning:

Tourousina: refers to jealousy between co-wives

N’gale: spinning tool

A wrapper or skirt for young women about to undergo Fourra, the Bamana coming of age ceremony for women.

Basic symbols:

– a straight line                                -> the right path in life
– two parallel lines                         -> don’t aim on two horses, you can’t follow two lines in life
– one zig-zag line                             -> bad conscience
– one line with one zig-zag line    -> setting boundaries
– a cross                                             -> carrefour roads = trade = money = luck=prosperity

– fish bone                                        -> the man is the stable factor in the family
Of course this is only a small selection of symbols that are used for Bogolan painting. Every tribe has traditionally it’s own symbols and nowadays a lot of symbols are adapted to modern style Bogolans. In my next blog I will show you some of these contemporary art works.


24 maart 2014

This weekend I will dip my hands in the African mud. Ok, perhaps it will be a little bit less exciting than it sounds, because I won’t go to Africa, but to Amsterdam… I will attend a workshop Bogolan, both cultural and practical. First we will learn somethings about the history of Bogolan and after this theoretical introduction we will dip our fingers in the mud.
Because I am really excited about taking this course, I am doing some research in advance. This blog is about the history and meaning of this special way to paint fabric, then there will be a blog about the meaning of the patterns and I will close this series with an overview of contemporary use of Bogolan.

Originally Bogolan is from Mali and the sub Saharan in West Africa. Bogolan, or bògòlanfini means made from mud in the Bambara language and has become the national symbol of Mali. This ancient way of painting on colored cotton is a longstanding tradition and a point of national pride. Bogolan and its patterns represent the culture of the Bamara, Dogon and Bobo people for generations. The Bogolan craftsmen are considered sacred or magical because of their material-altering nature, they complete the work ‘begun by God’. Traditionally the Bogolan painting is only performed by men, just like the weaving of the textile. Narrow strips of cotton (15 cm.) are woven on looms. The only thing women contributed to this process was the spinning of the yarn, it used to be -and sometimes still is – a task of the grandmothers.
Nowadays the Bogolan-industry is very important for Mali. There is a kind of mass-production that serves the tourist and fashion markets, thereby the Bogolan craftsmen are no longer the only people producing these beautiful traditional products.

The Bogolan process is a 4-step process:

  1. Mud from the river Niger or it’s tributaries contains iron, which makes it suitable for painting. The preparation of the mud/paint starts 2 to 4 weeks earlier. The mud is collected from the river, the best mud, which contains a lot of iron, is found in the middle of the river. In a big container the mud needs to be stirred from time to time, in this way the organic substances can degrade and the iron salts are released.
  2. After the cotton strips have been sewn together, they are first dyed, either a rich red from a dye obtained through boiling the bark of a n’peku, or in fresh yellow tones obtained through soaking the dried and pounded leaves of a n’galama. By mixing colors, or dipping the cotton several times a wide range of background colors can be created. The sun also plays a part in colouring the fabric. After each color-bad the cloths are unfurled in the sun to dry. The obtained colors represent the beautiful warm colors of the dessert, from dusk till dawn.
  3. Once the fabric is dyed it is ready to receive the mud. The patterns are drawn with charcoal, and the mud will be applied using a toothbrush, a bamboo stick or by using stencils. Through a process of oxidisation the salty mud reacts with the natural dyes of the dyed fabric. This chemical reaction produces a rich black when the mud has dried and been washed off. In order to reinforce the color of the mud, it can be applied several times, thereby the black will even be more intense.
  4. After the mud has dried, the cloth can be softly cleaned, eventually with some soft soap. For the last time the cotton is laid out to dry in the sun.

Book Art by Louisa Boyd

8 maart 2014

Scrolling around on the internet I found this amazing book art of Louisa Boyd. She is an UK based artist who makes amazing books, paintings and prints. She finds her inspiration in nature and especially in the connection between man and nature. She says that even in these days, when most of us live in cities, we are still able to understand the powerful symbolism that nature depicts. For example, a bird that flies through the air represents freedom. This connection with nature is very important and needs to be cherished by mankind. For Louisa Boyd this is the starting point for working with books sculpturally. Some of her books depict birds flying away, released from their binding, others use the edges of the pages to show a broken image of a landscape.

Materials and technique play an important role in all Boyd’s pieces, she dedicates a lot of time to experimenting with paper, paint and printmaking, pushing materials and understanding what they do. She sees paper as a material with fragile properties, and she enjoys identifying what it can and cannot do and the sometimes unpredictable nature of the material.

Boyd about bookbinding:’The process of bookbinding has become as important as the sculptures themselves and the concepts behind them. Recognising the beauty and skill involved in making books is just as much part of the work. It is a slow process, and requires patience, concentration and practise, but it is calming and rewarding. The hand bound book stands out in an age where we are used to fast results and machine-made objects.’



Book ‘Dit is meesterlijk’ – about craft

2 maart 2014

A few weeks ago I bought the beautiful book ‘Dit is meesterlijk‘ from Nicole Uniquole, about the unique qualities of craft. Everything about this well-designed book invites you to pick it up and actually read it. I think everyone recognizes the feeling that you browse through a book, take a good look at the images or pictures and you might do that two or three times and after that the book ends on a big pile of other books you never will read. This book is different, I actually read everything, and enjoyed every part of it.

Of course it is about my passion; craft – but these days everything is about craft. Craft is hip and happening. A lot has been written about this topic, but only few articles involve the past in their story. This books analyses craft over the years and link it at the dynasties in the 14th and 15th century. One of the conclusions is that craft is not only craftsmanship, but also art, originality and love. Contemporary craft mixes these old techniques and knowledge with new materials and productions methods. 

What makes craft so special according to this book? In response to mass production, pollution and uniformity people want transparency. Products and their raw materials should be traceable, so people get back their trust in products and manufacturers. This narrative power also provides craft with its distinctive value. Who knows and experienced the dedication with which crafts have been made, will never non-committal purchase such a product.

In November 2014 Nicole Uniquole will again organize the event ‘Meesterlijk’ in the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam … perhaps there will be a new book as well  … I hope so, because it’s well-designed, informative ans inspiring!


Dit is meesterlijk - Nicole Uniquole


Dit is meesterlijk - Nicole Uniquole


Dit is meesterlijk - Nicole Uniquole


Dit is meesterlijk - Nicole Uniquole



Photo Book Flamboya by Vivianne Sassen

22 februari 2014

Sometimes it is nice to visit your old friends in the bookcase, such as Vivianne Sassen’s photo book Flamboya. After visiting an exhibition you often buy a book, read it, it’s on your coffee table for a few weeks and after that it disappears in your bookcase, because there are so many other things to see, to explore, to read. But, after a few years, it is always nice to read and explore those books with fresh eyes.

I bought this book before starting as a bookbinder, just because I liked the photographs and the opening text by Moses Isegawa. What strikes me today, besides the photographs, which I still admire deeply, is the way this book has been bound. To do justice to the photographs, they are printed book height in the right proportion, which means that a picture is often wider than one page. The solution is that the quires consist of cut off pages. Besides a good platform for the wider photographs, it also offers an exciting view to the next page.

Vivianne Sassen - Flamboya - Menthe
Vivianne Sassen - Flamboya - Menthe


Vivianne Sassen - Flamboya - Dora