Chinese Calligraphy

4Treasures

I have been interested in calligraphy for a long time and a trip to China in 2008 expanded that interest to include Chinese calligraphy. I was so fascinated that I purchased some calligraphy supplies while I was there.

One aspect of traditional Chinese calligraphy that I really love is the respect shown for calligraphy tools. They even call them the Four Treasures. These treasures are the brush, ink, paper and ink stone.

Brushes:  Calligraphy brushes are traditionally made with animal hair. As with paint brushes, different kinds of hair have different properties that affect the brush stroke. White hair in brushes is usually goat hair and are a bit softer so are good for large characters. I didn’t know anything about brushes when I bought mine in China and I actually like the slightly stiffer, brown haired brush (the one on the far right of the photo) I got when I took a Chinese calligraphy course from the Confucius Institute the following year. The course was advertised as being for all ages so I was a bit dismayed to discover most of the students were Chinese children. As I sat on my tiny chair I reassured myself that even though I may not understand Chinese like the kids did, I can sit still and listen like a pro so I had that going for me.

Brushes2

Ink: Ink sticks are generally made of soot that is mixed with glue and then pressed into a mold. The type of soot (pine, oil, charcoal, etc.) and other additives create different inks. Ink sticks are often decorated, as mine is, on both sides. Liquid sumi ink works well too.

Inkstick Inkstick reverse Ink

Inkstone: The inkstone is a shallow dish (with lid) used to grind the ink stick in a small amount of water to make the ink. This process takes about 15 minutes (depending on how dark you want your ink) and is considered an important meditative step to prepare yourself for creating calligraphy or to paint. Not all inkstones are made of stone, mine is ceramic, and many are beautifully decorated although I like the simplicity of mine.

Inkstone1

Paper: For calligraphy, the best paper is slightly absorbent. I have some rice paper that was bought locally but made in Japan. For practice purposes my calligraphy instructor suggested using paper towels like the type found in public washrooms or newsprint. We were given thin paper with guide lines printed on them for learning the characters in class.

Paper2 Practice2

There are other treasures too, like the seal and the seal ink. Seals (sometimes called a chop) are used like signatures. Typically made of stone, they are used with a thick paste-like red ink. I bought mine from a street vendor in Xian, China. It is supposed to be a translation of my name but I am not sure how well she understood me. There is something very aesthetically pleasing to me to have that small addition of red to the black and white of the ink and paper.

Chop1

If the Four Treasures were people, I image them as four ancient Chinese sages with long beards and silk robes that will impart their wisdom to anyone who will take the time to listen.

Rhodia Memo Book

Front Back

I recently won a little Rhodia Memo Book from https://www.rhodiadrive.com/. At 7.5 cm by 12 cm, this notebook is truly pocket sized. While I am not crazy about the orange cover, it does stand out in the clutter of my desk and I know these notebooks do come with white and black covers as well. I have previously reviewed the Rhodia graph paper so can vouch for the quality.

Centre

I plan to use my notebook during my next trip. Usually when I am travelling my days are packed so when it comes time to write a journal entry before bed, I am so tired that I just list all the things that I did. There is nothing wrong with this but I find my entries are much richer with detail if I jot down things I notice and am thinking about during the day in a little notebook. I generally just throw away these notes once I have recorded my journal entry but I  just may keep this little book with my travel journal.

If this notebook were a person, they would be definitely size small, neat and efficient with a love for being on the go.

Coming up next week:  a book review of The Perfection of the Paper Clip

Travel Journals

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Right now I am away on holiday in Oaxaca, Mexico so I prepared a couple of blogs ahead of time so I could keep up with my weekly schedule. My mind has been on packing lists and one thing I was sure to bring along was a journal. I like having a separate journal for special journeys and for this trip I am trying something different. I love the idea of scrap-booking but never get around to actually doing  it after I get back from a vacation. I still haven’t completed the one I started for our first trip to the Yukon in 2005. I have been back there three times since and still haven’t finished that scrapbook.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA For the last trip I took (to Iceland about six months ago) I attempted making an altered book based on my trip journal, but there again I have only managed to do a few pages.

So this time I am going to try more of a smash book approach. Last year I participated in a workshop at Whitemud Crossing library led by a woman volunteering for Edmonton ReUse Centre. We took old calendars, made covers for them and folded the pages for what she suggested would make good greeting card organizers. I don’t really have a need for a greeting card organizer but I saw some journaling potential. I am going to use the blank pages for writing my daily journal and then glue in maps, pamphlets, and other ephemera into the fold out pages. If I don’t end up collecting much of that  (unlikely as I have a packrat’s eye for that type of thing) I’ll just print some photos when I get home and fill the journal up that way. I tried putting some gesso and paint on a couple of the printed pages but I don’t like the look so will find other ways to cover up distracting elements of the design. I am looking forward to seeing how this works out.

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If this journal was a person it would be a wearing a Tilley hat and funky upcycled jewelry.

Coming next week: Clairefontaine multi-subject notebook