Book Review – See/Saw: Connections Between Japanese Art Then and Now

See/Saw: Connections Between Japanese Art Then and Now
by Ivan Vartanian & Kyoko Wada
ISBN: 978-0811869577
Buy on Amazon | Buy on AbeBooks

If you’re like me and you appreciate both traditional and modern Japanese decorative arts, you need this book. It’s an incredibly well-researched and well-written exploration of how traditional motifs, styles, and techniques of Japanese traditional art have influenced modern popular art.

Whether you’re a fan of Kunisada or kawaii, temples or Transformers, this book will probably have something to show you. Often the antique and modern art are juxtaposed on the same page or facing pages, so you can see the influences and connections directly. Everything visual about this book feels deliberate and well thought-out, which is reassuring in a book about design and art. It’s a pleasure to look at, even the text-heavy pages. It’s relatively compact but densely filled with gorgeous pictures and fascinating information.

The writing is informative and clear without being overly dry or academic, which makes it an enjoyable read for people of all interest levels. It’s not a textbook and doesn’t feel like one, but I could easily see it being an excellent academic resource.

Here’s a small sampling of a few interior pages, to give you a feel for the comparisons I made above.

Also, this is a small thing but I want to thank the authors of this book for engaging in fun wordplay in the title but not going down the lazy/obvious route of calling this book Zen and Now.

I would recommend this book for:

  • Anyone interested in Japanese art
  • People studying the evolution of art styles
  • Art history students or fans

I would not recommend this book for:

  • People only looking for books about traditional art
  • Uh… people who don’t want to learn cool things, I guess?

 I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.This post contains affiliate link(s). If you choose to purchase, I receive a small rebate or commission which goes to the continued maintenance of this site. 

Big Bold Bamboo

My finger has healed enough for me to do kitsuke, and while I did say I was looking forward to coordinating my new shrimp obi, this big bold bamboo piece from Ichiroya was calling my name. It took me a while to find the right obi for it but this one feels perfect. It’s pale so it brings light and contrast to the outfit, but the reds and yellows tie them together nicely.

I went for more stripes with the haneri, and think it blends in well but still feels distinct. A few hits of pale blue and bold red in the obiage and obijime helped bring some more brightness into an otherwise very muted coordination. I also think this is probably the nicest tsunodashi musubi I’ve ever tied, but honestly that’s not saying much. For some reason it’s always given me difficulty! It definitely feels easier for me to tie using a hakata obi like this one, so now I want to try it again with another hakata obi soon.

Items used in this coordination

Aquatic Green Ikebana

It’s been way too long since I’ve worked with flowers! I did one little arrangement during the April A to Z challenge, and before that it was last autumn.

To say I’m out of practice would be an understatement. But I’d been itching to do some ikebana for a while now, so today while I was out running errands I dropped by my favourite florist to see if anything inspired me. These funky green bells-of-ireland caught my attention and then I found the green ball dianthus that made me immediately think of marimo. And thus this inadvertently aquatic green arrangement was born. With the water and the green ball, the hydrangea mimics sea foam or  bubbles, and the bells-of-ireland give height to the arrangement and evoke some sort of underwater plant, or possibly the tentacles of some mysterious sea creature!

As ikebana, I’m not sure how successful this was. It’s very free-form, but still evocative and sleek. Considering how rusty I am, I’m quite happy with the end result.

In other news, my finger is almost healed now, so be on the lookout for some kimono coordination in the near future!

Tea Time – “Matchai” Latte

Hello everyone! I was all set to change the mannequin today to feature my adorable new obi with shrimp on it and then I went and drove a utility knife into the base of my finger. Whoops! It hurts like the dickens, and I’m afraid of getting blood everywhere, so no kitsuke for a while!

Instead, I thought I would share this “recipe” for a matcha-based drink I make and enjoy when it’s hot and muggy out. I hope you try it out and like it too; it’s a nice twist on a typical matcha latte. It’s a delicious combination of earthy matcha and sweet, spicy chai. I present to you the matchai latte!

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp matcha of your choice (I’m using David’s Tea Matcha Matsu here)
  • 2 oz hot water
  • 2 cups chai (you can make your own, but I use Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Chai for this and it’s delicious and a lot easier)
  • Optional- If you’re not using a pre-mixed chai drink, a dash of honey or sugar can help balance out the earthiness of the matcha





Instructions

  • To make the matcha concentrate, whisk the tea and hot water vigorously or use a matcha shaker if you’re lazy like me (I like this one from David’s Teas) until your matcha and water are well-blended and form a thin paste. If you’re using a sweetener, add it here.
  • Pour your matcha concentrate into a tall glass, then add ice cubes if you like your drink really cold (personally I find the cold temperature of the chai enough to cool the drink down). If using ice, don’t pour the matcha concentrate over the ice, it tends to clump up and get stuck and not blend well.
  • Fill the glass with your chai beverage.
  • If you’re feeling fancy you can top the drink with a dollop of whipped cream or whipped coconut milk and a dusting of matcha. I think this adds a nice richness to the drink and makes it look elevated.

That’s it! You now have a delicious, refreshing, and unique drink that will rival the fanciest tea/coffee place.

(None of the links here are affiliate links, I just thought I’d share what I use!)

Tea Time – Tenmoku Tea Cup

Tenmoku (天目, also commonly referred to as Jian Zhan 建盏 in Chinese) is a stunning style of ceramic ware, created using high temperatures and glaze with a very high iron content. The end result is a variety of incredibly rich, deep, and iridescent finishes.

I received this beautiful “Jellyfish” teacup from Tenmokus.com, who provide a wide array of beautiful tenmoku cups and teapots. I was expecting it to be pretty, but nothing prepared me for how stunning it was in person. The glaze is so luxurious and layered, the shimmering rings peering through layers of translucent blues. This cup was undoubtedly named after the moon jelly, which just happens to be one of my favourite sea creatures ever.

It also feels perfect to hold. I have large hands (to go with the large rest of me, hah) and often small Asian tea cups are too small and I end up feeling clumsy and awkward holding them. This one is still delicate, but just large enough that it feels great to hold. It’s also a bit thick, which will also make it very comfortable when holding very hot tea, thicker walls mean less heat transfer.

Their cups are shipped in absolutely gorgeous presentation boxes that serve dual purpose; not only are they perfect for gifting but they’re so thick and well-padded that the cup was very well-protected during shipping.

My only “concern” with this cup, if you can even call it that, is that it’s so impossibly gorgeous that I almost don’t want to use it. But somehow just leaving it in the box or even on display feels disrespectful. This is a cup that cries out to be used and appreciated.

I highly recommend checking out Tenmokus.com if you’re in the market for a unique, stunning cup either for yourself or for a very special and unique gift.

 I purchased this item at a discounted price for honest review purposes.