Hatano Wataru, new horizons for Kurotani washi

Japanese traditional paper “washi” (wa meaning Japanese and shi paper) is appreciated by artists and individuals worldwide. WASAKU artist Hatano Wataru came to Kurotani (Japan’s heart of washi production) back in 1996 and started his training to become a washi manufacturer.

Today, he is a recognised washi craftsman and runs his own washi production company with an innovative and future oriented approach. Hatano aims to take the great quality of the washi paper to new grounds adding innovation to the traditional techniques : “The tradition has been passed down thus far, and it is our responsibility to bring it to the next level. I used to think that tradition preservation just need hard work, but after having been engaged in this business for 10 years, I realize that there is more to it. We have to be passionate about what washi is, and how we can bring innovations to it, and that is what I am doing now.”


Using the beauty of washi, Hatano and his team experiment blending washi material with furniture (e.g. tabletops), wallpaper, flooring etc. and has held exhibitions in Japan and overseas.

Making washi is a process with many steps as you can see in Hatano’s image below. Kozo (Mulberry) is used in most of the washi made today. The kozo stalks are cut and bundled. Next they are steamed in wooden barrels to be able to remove the dark bark. The white, inner fibers are washed to take away any impurities, left to dry and thereafter they are boiled. Now comes the important phase of beating the kozo fibers turning them in to paper pulp.


Next, “neri” (glutinous vegetable material) and water are added and using a bamboo screen and wooden frame, the mixture is moved back and fort across the mold to form the desired sheet. The sheets are then dried, pressed and finally bundled up ready to use.

Hatano Wataru’s washi is made in the traditional size (490 mm x 390 mm), but he is also experimenting with big sizes and with mixing small amounts of soil into the washi, changing its colour and making it more resistant. And, in this way also making washi a desirable construction material. Wasaku is looking forward to seeing and promoting innovative collaborations by washi craftsmen like Hatano with interior designers, carpenters, stage designers, etc. Please, find samples of Hatano’s products in here on Wasaku and don’t hesitate to contact us for more information about Hatano’s work.


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The World of Japanese Woodblock Print…

Woodblock printing (in Japanese “mokuhanga”  ???) in Japan was originally used for printing and disseminating texts, especially Buddhist scriptures.  Japanese woodblock prints, as we enjoy them today, flourished primarily between the 17th and 19th centuries under the name of ukiyo-e.

Ukiyo-e can be translated as “pictures of the floating world” and the typical motifs for the prints were beautiful women, scenes from history and folk tales, landscapes etc.  During this period various masters formed schools and movements developing into our modern time.

WASAKU artist Masao IDO belongs to the top group of established contemporary Japanese woodblock print artists and has 40 years of experience as an artist. As you can see in his bio at WASAKU artists, IDO combines the old and traditional Japanese woodblock technique with beautiful subjects such as Japanese gardens, romantic views of famous Japanese landmarks etc.  We believe it is important to explain the amount of work behind each woodblock print and thanks to Mr IDO, we are here able to explain also in pictures the woodblock technique process.

The delicate colours and shades of a woodblock print is the result of many procedures. Behind each image there are many phases of work such as design, engraving, and printing and the artist/designer often depends on the skill and cooperation of engravers and printers to assist in the creation of the final print.

The creation starts with the artist designing the image on paper and then transferring it to a thin paper.

IDOsketch copy

 Photo credit: Gado Gallery

The design is then retraced in reverse (using carbon paper) on a woodblock and the different coloured areas are indicated.


Photo credit: Gado Gallery

In general, there will be one carved block for each colour.


 Photo credit: Gado Gallery

The print used as an example here (“Yougure” – Sunset) required 14 blocks but needed 23 printings as one block can be used several times for different techniques and effects.


Photo credit: Gado Gallery

Above, samples of blocks. When all the blocks have been carved, the printing starts. Mr IDO is proud to use only Japanese handmade paper (washi) for printing his images. The paper is placed over the painted block and rubbed with a “baren”. Baren (see photo below) is a very important tool; a flat hard disc covered with bamboo bark, which is used to press the paper against the inked woodblock to apply the ink to the paper.

Ido-baren c

Photo credit: Gado Gallery

The usual process begins with the lightest colour and proceeds to the thickest and darkest ones.


Photo credit: Gado Gallery

Step after step the image is built up with colours, but also with layers from blocks carved to give effects creating depth or a pattern…

IDO7-8blocks copy

Photo credit: Gado Gallery

The final block prints the black details using “sumi” black ink. And, here is the final result;

IDOfinal c

Photo credit: Gado Gallery

This image depicts an old tea shop in the Saga district in Kyoto. The light coming through the split shop curtain induces a feeling of tranquility.

Should you be in Kyoto, you can visit Mr. Ido in his GADO gallery directly. Knowing the process behind each print, we invite you to enjoy the beautiful images designed and created by Masao IDO.

First Spanish WASAKU artist presents his “Plates for Sushi”

With a fondness for Japanese culture and aesthetics, Paco Orti decided to design his own plate for sushi. His work “Plates for Sushi” was ArtFad Award Finalist (Annual Art and Contemporary Craft), 2013.


Here, he explains his thoughts around this work:

The Japanese gastronomy really should be understood as a complete experience involving all the senses, not just taste. The aesthetic component is essential in it and the presentation of the dishes is as important as the quality of the food.

So, when developing these dishes the main characteristics of Japanese cuisine have been taken into account such as simplicity, delicacy , refinement, etc. And, in designing the plate he has sought to express the relevant values of the culture of the rising sun. The materiality and finish of the plates invite to caress their surface, as the touch of the white baked clay is particularly soft and pleasant. The rounded, smooth design adapts to the palm of the hand. These forms are reminiscent of rounded stones (or boulders) from the beach, eroded over time.


Each dish is different from the other, no two are alike. But, all respond and follow the same rules: almost flat plates with curved and rounded shapes, eroded. Each piece has been glazed with a single spot in the area where it is absolutely essential, i.e. only in those areas in which there is contact with the food (piece of sushi).

Thus, the brightness of the glaze contrasts with the matte finish and the natural touch of the baked clay. Each course is designed to serve a few units of sushi. Therefore, it becomes necessary to use several plates simultaneously. In this way the table can be prepared with interesting compositions by combining the dishes.


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WASAKU SUMMA International Contemporary Art Fair

SUMMA Art Fair is an international contemporary art fair focused on new media, technology and photography. The fair was, just like Apertura, held September 19-22 and had different programs: The “General Program” dedicated to established artists from international galleries, “Up” – devoted to young emerging art galleries with pioneer contemporary artists, “MadridFoto – a photo section, “Uneasy Pleasure” with video creations, and “Transversal” and “Emerging Transversal”.


During the fair, various activities were held such as workshops, presentations, performances, children’s workshops and cooking sessions conducted by renowned Spanish chefs.

Among the artists who we found very interesting were Chilean artist Francisca Valdivieso (http://www.franciscavaldivieso.com) represented by the Gallery Cecilia Brunson, whose porcelain work of extraordinary quality and with great themes stood out and also the Portuguese artist Catarina Saravia (http://catarinasaraiva.com) with textile works from her project “reflection (im) possíves”.

Next to SUMMA in the space called Abierto x obras en Matadero (Matadero is the venue for SUMMA) we enjoyed the installation called “Cenotes” by the artists Magdalena Atria creating fascinating artwork using play dough.


WASAKU visited SUMMA in our quest for artistic discoveries and promotion of our artists.



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Madrid celebrated the art event Apertura from 19 to 22 September. This event is held annually to coincide with the start of the art season. 50 contemporary art galleries simultaneously inaugurated their exhibitions and expanded their schedules for the public to enjoy contemporary art.

Organized by the Association Arte_Madrid, Apertura is an event in which artists, curators, and art market professionals gather in the capital of Spain.

There were different guided “art walks” available to visit the galleries and on Saturday morning many galleries were serving brunch, allowing the general public and professionals to share the same space for mutual understanding and to enjoy the art exhibited.


WASAKU did not miss this opportunity and participated in various Apertura activities, joining gallery walks and discovering interesting exhibitions. For example, the artist Alicia Framis in the gallery Juana de Aizpuru surprised us with her “Screaming Room” (2012 – 2013 ), a room where you walk in, scream and your recorded scream is printed by a 3D printer taking the shape of a tea cup. As each person has a unique scream, therefore each cup is unique and could be taken home by the visitor. This work , according to Framis herself, “was created for an office of an important bank in Holland. The workers of this bank could go in to this room to let off some steam.”

In the gallery Astarté, thanks to its director Marisa Fernández-Cid, we had the opportunity to see the work of Maria Oriza, ceramics linking architecture, sculpture and painting. The complexity and simplicity of Oriza’s works reminded us of the essence of Japanese art .

Our visit to the Roman Ondak exhibition in the Crystal Palace and Cildo Meireles at the Palacio de Velázquez was guided in a fantastic way by Joao Fernandes, deputy director of the Reina Sofia Museum. His comments were full of details, anecdotes and explanations of the artistic perspective of the exhibitions and we spent an unforgettable time, especially with the discovery of the conceptual universe of Meireles Cildo, whose critical attitude made us reflect before each of his works.


Finally we attended the interesting happening “Every word is a form of time” organized by Kreëmart + Absolut Vodka and held in the Fundación Lázaro Galdiano with Cuban artist Glenda Léon and chef Paco Roncero, a perfect marriage between art, food and fun where we could literally eat part of the artwork and take works home.

WASAKU experienced firsthand all the artistic offers and was able to network with artists and gallery owners, and we highly recommend Apertura as an essential event in Madrid at the beginning of the art season.



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The event DecorAccion 2013 was held in the Barrio de las Letras in Madrid from 19 to September 23 and WASAKU visited to talk about our project and meet artisans, interior designers and landscape artists.

The event consisted of various activities such as; antique market, Pop up Deco, design canton, streets and storefront installations and the creation of the seven micro restaurants in the space DECOMER, decorated by renowned interior designers.


We enjoyed the Deco Pop up with companies like L’atelier mosaicist offering beautiful hydraulic floor tiles with designs from the past, so fashionable today. We also enjoyed Decologie with Manuel Calderón, who explained his work on paper with his “Lolita is Dead”, a reinvented Lolita icon with heart shaped glasses (that looked like the protagonist in the film by Stanley Kubrick) and with a very much alive skeleton hiding under the kimono.


Our most appreciated discovery was Paco Orti – architect, ceramist, and photographer, whose pieces caught our particular attention both for his use of materials, combination of colours, shapes and textures as well as the presentation.  We were reminded of the sea, the beach, shells. We are very happy to have met Orti with whom, with his sense of aesthetics and Japanese feeling, we hope to be able to collaborate.

WASAKU understands art as a global concept in which the works of our artists move in different territories, adapting in line with the concepts of utility, everyday beauty and creative expression. Here lies our great appreciation for Japanese art and our wish to blend within the territories of art, design, interior design, landscape design and gastronomy.



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WASAKU visiting DecorAccion 2013

WASAKU will be visiting DecorAccion 2013 this weekend. WASAKU DESIGN as designer brand will connect with Product Design Madrid.

We look for designers who wish to collaborate with our artists and be promoted in Japan. We want to share and create stories and will tell you our experiences.




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This weekend WASAKU will be visiting APERTURA 2013 in Madrid. Organised by ARTE_MADRID Association of Art Galleries, APERTURA is a great event connecting around 50 contemporary art galleries around Madrid and offering a range of activies at museums and art centres.

APERTURA broadens Madrid’s cultural offer along the lines of the Berlin or New York Gallery Weekends. We look forward to reporting on our experiences in promoting our established and emerging artists!



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WASAKU Front Row – Keiko Tateishi

WASAKU Front Row artist Keiko Tateishi just came back from South Korea where she participated in an art exhange exhibition between Japan’s Shiga prefecture and Gangwon Michie Ling City in South Korea. From Japan, 11 artists – representing glass, ceramics, textile, stencil dyeing, jewelry and photography – travelled to participate and from South Korea 27 artists joined.

Tateishi gave the opening speech and expressed her feeling for the beauty of artistic expression and how meaningful exchanges through art can be for cultural understanding. WASAKU is working to build similar bridges between Japanese and Spanish/European artists. We congratulate Tateishi on her successful trip! Here we share with you some photos from the venue.



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WASAKU thanks…

WASAKU wants to thank the enthusiasm, support and energy provided by a number of friends, professionals, and family, without whom it would not have been possible to realize this project. We hope we are not forgetting anyone and apologize if that should be the case. Thank you very much to all of you who have joined and believed in WASAKU.

Juan Antonio Gómez Cardiel, for his amazing photographs illustrating our messages, and for sharing with us your vision and experiences of Japan through your camera lens.

Ines Alcaide, for her translations (English-Spanish), always looking for the most suitable description to understand the creativity of our artists.

Innan and Immi Sasaki, for their translations (English – Japanese). Your help has been essential in order to connect with our beloved Japan, thanks for your advice and kindness.

Thanks also to all our friends and professionals from Japan for their advice and interest in our project: Mineko Hara, Hisashi Katsuya (Katchaman), Tsutomu Kodama (Kodaman), Carla, and Yukari Hirata Keiko Mutoh (Namikawa Cloisonne Museum of Kyoto), Masami Tokudome,Moroyama Masanori (MOMAT),  Takako Tonkin,  Miki Katayama and Takeshi Yamamoto.

We look forward to continuing our collaboration!


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WASAKU goes live!

WASAKU goes live!

We have been thinking about how we should start our first post here on WASAKU and as we have so many things to say, what could be better than starting from the beginning. 

The beginning is to share with you what is the the heart and origin of WASAKU. The answer is our passion for Japan and for all which we consider special and unique in a culture so far away, but yet feeling so close.

We are linked to Japan through personal and professional ties, and our studies of – and experience with – the Japanese language, culture, Japanese arts and crafts have made us want to share what we have learnt – and what we like – with a wider audience.

We want to tell stories; stories about our artists, their work, their inspiration, the places where they live and ultimately everything that surrounds the artistic creation. We explore what our artists want to express in their works, getting to know them little by little in order to understand their art, and then share it with our audience, you.

In our understanding that art is a global concept, we also want to share with you our preferences in Japanese design, cuisine and tourism.

Our vision is authenticity, where you feel the connection with the artist, designer or producer and his/her works.

In WASAKU Front Row, we highlight two artists during a period of two months, focusing our news and posts on their works, techniques and on getting to know their art space.

All WASAKU artists will have their time in WASAKU Front Row and we look forward to sharing their stories and works with you, offering you to bring to your home an authentic piece of Japan.

Welcome to WASAKU!


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