Browsing Tag



Japanese Patterns

13 juli 2014

Japan – land of the rising sun – inspires me in so many ways. When I visited Kyoto and Tokyo I bought a lot of beautiful Japanese paper, with all kinds of patterns. These patterns can be found everywhere; as decoration in temples, at fabrics, pottery and porcelain, paper and a thousand other things. But where do these patterns come from? What do they mean?

Prien Japanese Patterns Seigaiha

Seigaiha or Seikaiha

A wave design made of the arches of concentric circles placed upon one another so that only the upper portion of each set of circles is visible.
The four arcs are meant to be the four oceans (north, south, east and west) surrounding Japans islands. The calm waves symbolize our days repeating calmly and peacefully forever.
It was used in China to depict the sea on ancient maps. In Japan this pattern was used to decorate temples, halls and gates from the 16th century.
Prien Japanese Patterns Shippo Tsunagi

Shippo Tsunagi

This pattern is an abastract shippo tsunagi. Shippo means ‘seven kinds of treasuries’ and tsunagi means ‘with interrelated objects’. The diamond shape can be associated with a sparkle, that is connected to a jewel or treasure.
The pattern comes originally from China.
Prien Japanese Patterns Same Komon

Same Kommon

Same Kommon means Shark Skin Pattern. Sharkskin-like semicircles are placed one of the top of another. Fabric with this pattern is believed as protecting from evil or illness. Traditionally, the bride will bring a new Same-komon Kimono with her.
In the Edo period, each feudal lord had his specific pattern of kamishimo (samurai cloth) and the Kishu family owned the Same Kommon pattern.
Prien Japanese Patterns Gyougi


Giyougi is a derivative of the Same Kommon pattern. It is also derived from the Edo period. Characteristic of this pattern is the diagonal allignment of the dots.
The komon patterns were made by forcing rice paste throught a stencil of tiny dots, then dying the surrounding fabric, so the dots stay white. In the early Edo period komon were commonly white on indigo.
Prien Japanese Patterns Matsuba


Matsuba means pine needles from the matsu, the evergreen pine. This tree is considered to be a symbol of longevity and principles.
Of course this is just a small selection of Japanese patterns, there are many more I’d like to show you! Coming weeks I will be working on some new booklets, using these fabulous papers I bought in Japan. Check out my blog every now and then for an update an sneak peek …
If you have any additions or corrections, please don’t hesitate to react!

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 🙂