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July Newsletter - Calligraphy and Sumi-e
Mrs Lin's Kitchen - January 2009 Newsletter - The Magnificent of Mount Fuji


Using only a few basic tools that include a brush, ink and paper, the ancient art form of Chinese calligraphy and Japanese sumi-e can be practiced and enjoyed by both masters and novices.  The ink brush body is typically made of bamboo, but for those who want top quality they have also been formed out of special wood and other rare products such as ivory, gold and crystal.  The heads of the brushes are usually formed from the hair of animals such as horse, rabbit, deer or other varieties of natural hair.  Although in modern times there are also quantities of calligraphy pens available for ease of use, but the product of these all in one pens is not highly regarded as an art form.

The paper that is used for calligraphy is carefully selected for its natural fibers and density.  Mulberry paper is popular in both China and Japan, it is commonly known as “washi paper”.  Of course, the use of this more expensive type of paper is used for the final product that you feel is worthy of the cost; your first attempts and practice pieces should be done on regular paper for cost savings. 

Another integral part of creating a piece with a steady hand is the placement of the paperweight at the top of the page to prevent slipping of the paper.  Of course, this paperweight is an opportunity to showcase the talents of the paper weight artisans, some are simple blocks of wood that are carved decoratively, while others can be so detailed and expensive that they are collectibles in their own right.  

A desk pad made of felt is placed between the desk and paper to absorb any excess ink and to protect the surface of the table.  For novices, there are pads that are marked with grids to help guide the placement of the correct strokes. 

And finally, the ink and ink stone are key ingredients to making the perfect consistency of ink for the calligraphy or water color art creations.  The ink stick is made of ink black, or soot and mixed with a small amount of water to produce the right color and consistency.  The most prevalent color of ink is black, teachers will use red to make corrections of their students work.  Part of the ritual and skill of good  calligraphers is the 
making the perfect blend of ink and water with which to make their creations.  One of the most beautiful pieces of calligraphy tools is the ink stone, usually made of stone or ceramic.  It is essentially a rectangular stone that is carved with decorative designs and includes a slope where the ink stick is rubbed and a slight well, which hold the water and the final ink product.  Many calligraphy students and artists collect these fine pieces for decoration and prestige and will break out their favorites for inspiration as they settle down to paint and draw. 

As you may already know, the ancient art of calligraphy originated in China, and some look at it as a discipline and some see it as art.  Because there is no “perfect” results, both masters and novices continually practice to get better.  The combination of brush thickness, ink consistency and the pressure applied by the writer makes every attempt different looking. The person who wields the brush soon comes to realize that the intensity of their emotions and focus of their concentration will all be reflected in their final product.  

In the beginning, most calligraphy students will observe the work of the masters, and try to imitate the strokes.  Constant repetition and experimentation is needed to make the calligrapher comfortable with their medium, and start to learn and practice techniques that advance their skills to the next level.  There is no end to the levels of mastery that a student can aim for, as an ancient art form , the discipline and practice involved in achieving greatness has been carefully developed for thousands of years.

At Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen, we have gathered the materials needed for practiced calligraphers or beginners in the art so that you may try these techniques at home.  “The Brush Writing Calligraphy Techniques for Beginners is  the perfect book to get started, and it is now on sale.   There is also the a fantastic all in one kit we offer;  the Large Rectangular Chinese Calligraphy Set which includes the brushes, inks and accessories and lesson book which is also on sale at an unbelievable price. 

If you are interested in the history of the ancient art of calligraphy, please read our Newsletter from the archives of 2002 which goes in depth about the history of this ancient art form.

In Japan, of course calligraphy was one of the main imports from China.  The Japanese took it one step further and developed the art of Sumie.  Sumie is the painting of nature and natural scenes, using the same materials used in calligraphy, but creating paintings in ink.  Basic sumie is typically black and shadows, but the addition of spots of color brings beauty and life to the paintings of flowers, birds, bamboo and other natural scenery.  Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen has found a fantastic book called the Art and Techniques of Sumiethat contains vivid images of beautiful creations to inspire any artist. 

As with calligraphy, there are no “do overs” when working with the medium of water color and paper.  Once you apply a stroke, the artist is committed to completing their  work, and what you see is what you get.  The challenge is to maintain your inner vision and apply the strokes needed with just the right amount of ink and pressure, to create balance and beauty.  Although this type of art is challenging, it is easy to keep trying your hand at it as the supplies that are needed are simple, and relatively inexpensive.  Many who try this art form find it to be relaxing and very rewarding.  With a little practice, you will soon be creating beautiful works of art with an oriental and philosophical touch. 


Calligraphy & Sumi-e

The Bento Box

Japanese Woodblock Printing

Magical Meaning of Cranes

Chinese Chop Seal & Ink

Japanese Furoshiki and Noren

The Magnificent of Mount Fuji















Rectangular Calligraphy Set w/ Imprint Note Book (5300)

Engraved Dragon Ink Pad (5959)

Small Calligraphy Ink Stone (5833)

Sumi-e Just For You Traditional One Brush Ink Painting (10321)


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