Ferns and Hellebores, with Poem by Masaoka Shiki

Against a saphron yellow backdrop, green ferns grow amid five white hellebore blossoms. To the left of the image, a series of vertically written Kanji spell out a corresponding Haiku poem.
Ferns and Hellebores (2024)

Ferns and Hellebores, with Poem by Masaoka Shiki

Among Japan’s traditional woodblock prints, the customary inclusion of nature became one of their recognisable hallmarks. Depictions of landscapes, coastlines, plant life and flowers beautified the hand-crafted prints, and lent themselves to being hung on the walls of people’s homes. 

Japan‘s woodblock printing enabled mass production of Ukiyo-e; pictures of the pleasure districts of Edo. The heyday of this workshop printing approach has long past (17–19c.), mainly due to the arrival of western printing technology. Nonetheless, the woodblock tradition was preserved by the latter Shin-hanga movement (early 20c.). Many of the subjects seen in Ukiyo-e were revisited, and as before there was an unmissable connection with nature. Where they differed was the incorporation of Western techniques, such as realism in lighting, the absence of contour lines, and the eschewal of large areas of flat colour. 

Unlike the local market for Ukiyo-e prints, Shin-hanga were exported to satisfy western demand. This would likely have continued, were it not for the the Second World War. There was only a marginal post-war revival of Shin-hanga, with some renewed interest in the genre since the early 21c.

The Haikus of Shiki

Masaoka Shiki was a poet of the Meiji era and is considered among the great masters of Haiku. After moving to Tokyo he worked with Nippon Newspaper and edited a Haiku magazine called Hototogisu (Cuckoo). He particularly favoured realistic observations of nature, and advocated for innovations that would revitalise the writing of haiku. His efforts likely helped ensure the genre’s continuation while Japanese society was being exposed to western artistic culture.

Ferns and Hellebores (2024) is part of an ongoing exploration of Japanese visual culture. The featured poem is by Shiki:

小庭にも
蕨生ひたる
植込みかな

In the small garden,
ferns have grown
among the plants.

Screen printed onto archival quality 308gsm Hahnemule paper, this limited edition art-print has been made by the artist’s hand. The square format is equal to a 12 inch record sleeve, and can be easily framed. Available to order via the online shop.

Four White Chrysanthemums, with Poem by Masaoka Shiki

Four round chrysanthemum blossoms stand against a backdrop of green. To the left of the image, a series of vertically written Kanji spell out a corresponding Haiku poem.
Four White Chrysanthemums (2024)

Four White Chrysanthemums, with Poem by Masaoka Shiki

Of Japan’s printed flowers, the chrysanthemum is perhaps its most recognisable. The country’s economy expanded during the Edo period, which brought about market growth for mass-produced woodblock prints. This affordable artwork was permeated by Japan’s cultural reverence of nature.

Among the pictorial subgenres that emerged, flowers were regularly incorporated. Particularly within Shiki-e (seasonal prints) and Kachō-e (bird and flower prints). Of the many flowers, the blossom of the chrysanthemum became an oft-seen motif. Their cultivation in Japan led to a multitude of colours and petal formations, many of which appeared in the artwork. Not only decorative; to this day they are considered a symbol of honour and nobility, and still used for Japan’s Imperial Seal. When trade with the west was resumed in the mid 19c., this and other flowers adorned the crafted objects and prints that informed European Japonisme.

Many schools emerged within ukiyo-e, enriching the pictorial subjects, and the techniques with which they were depicted. These schools extended the lineage of accomplished artists, fostering a market that delighted in small printed artwork that could be hung in the home.

The Haikus of Shiki

Masaoka Shiki was a poet of the Meiji era and is considered among the great masters of Haiku. After moving to Tokyo he worked with Nippon Newspaper and edited a Haiku magazine called Hototogisu (Cuckoo). He particularly favoured realistic observations of nature, and advocated for innovations that would revitalise the writing of haiku. His efforts likely helped ensure the genre’s continuation while Japanese society was being exposed to western artistic culture.

Four White Chrysanthemums (2024) is part of an ongoing exploration of Japanese visual culture. The featured poem is by Shiki:
菊の香や
白き紙の
刷毛ふる

The fragrance of chrysanthemums
on white paper,
the brush strokes fall.

Giclée printed onto archival quality 308gsm Hahnemule paper, this unique art-print is available framed. Drop an email if interested.

Camellias in Snow, with Corresponding Poem by Masaoka Shiki

Amid green leaves are six snow covered camellia flowers. To the right of the image, a series of vertically written Kanji spell out a corresponding Haiku poem.
Camellias in Snow (2024)

Camellias in Snow, with Corresponding Poem by Masaoka Shiki

Native to most parts of Japan, the camellia (tsubaki) is among the more popular Japanese flowers. An evergreen which usually begins to flower in January, it is known to some as the rose of winter. When they fall from the trees, known as ochitsubaki (落ち椿), they do so intact rather than shedding petals, thus carpeting the ground in blossoms. It is of little surprise that fallen camellias have long been portrayed in Japanese poetry and literature.

As nature was typically incorporated into poems, it also featured in the corresponding artwork. The poets of Japan would often have their work appear in privately commissioned woodblock prints, known as Surimono (printed thing). These were routinely commissioned by poetry societies and produced in small numbers to be given as personal gifts. This afforded a way for nascent techniques and artistic ideas to be tested. The absence of commercial considerations also encouraged the use of high end printing materials, resulting in what might now be called deluxe editions.

Though Woodblock printing continued, its role in mass printing and publishing declined after the Meiji Restoration (1868). This reestablished practical imperial governance, which in turn precipitated increased trade and rapid industrialisation. What is more, this ended Japan’s policy of sakoku (locked country), during which Japanese commoners were not permitted to leave, and foreigners were almost entirely prohibited.

The Haikus of Shiki

Masaoka Shiki was a poet of the Meiji era and is considered among the great masters of Haiku. After moving to Tokyo he worked with Nippon Newspaper and edited a Haiku magazine called Hototogisu (Cuckoo). In his poems he particularly favoured realistic observations of nature, and advocated for innovations that would revitalise the writing of haiku. One might argue that his efforts helped to ensure the genre’s continuation at a time when Japanese society was being exposed to western artistic culture.

Camellias in Snow (2024) is part of an ongoing exploration of Japanese visual culture. The featured poem is by Shiki:
椿かな見れば散るものかな

Looking at camellias,
one sees they must fall.

Giclée printed onto archival quality 308gsm Hahnemule paper, this unique art-print is available framed. Drop an email if interested.

Peonies at Twilight, with Corresponding Poem by Takahama Kyoshi

Amid green leaves are three windswept peony flowers. In the upper right, a series of vertically written Kanji spell out a corresponding Haiku poem.
Peonies at Twilight (2024)

Peonies at Twilight, with Corresponding Poem by Takahama Kyoshi

Traditional Japanese woodblock prints were usually created through collaboration between the artist, carver, printer, and publisher. And though motifs did recur, these works were not homogenous. There has been a longstanding typology which acknowledges different pictorial subjects, formal treatment, and the mode of production.

For this way of printing, each colour used would need its own block to be carved. Though early prints typically used up to three inks, the number later grew for artwork comprised of multiple colours. These ‘Nishiki-e’ would set the stage for the rising popularity of prints. One designer of woodblock artwork who contributed greatly toward this was Suzuki Harunobu (1725 – 1770). Many of his prints have a solid single-colour background, a technique called ‘tsubushi’.

The inclusion of poetry was not uncommon among privately commissioned ‘surimono’ works. With these woodblocks the carving of kanji characters was especially challenging. As standard, seasonal themes were referenced in haiku, foregrounding the connection between poetry and nature.

Artwork with Poetry

The poetry of Takahama Kyoshi is exemplary in connecting haiku with the seasons, which extended to his editorial role at Hototogisu haiku magazine.

Peonies at Twilight (2024) is part of an ongoing exploration of Japanese visual culture. The featured poem is one of summer:
夏の蝶  眼鋭く  駆けり来し

The clear day in the rainy season.
The madder red of evening twilight
And instantly fades.

Giclée printed onto archival quality 308gsm Hahnemule paper, this unique art-print is available framed. Drop an email if interested.

Ginkgo Under Autumn Rain, with Featured Poem by Natsume Sôseki

Against a dark blue backdrop, the Autumn Rain falls on the yellow Ginko leaves. In the upper right, a series of vertically written Japanese characters spells out an accompanying Haiku poem.
Ginko Under Autumn Rain (2023)

Ginkgo Under Autumn Rain, with Featured Poem by Natsume Sôseki

In bygone Japan it was not uncommon for privately commissioned woodblock prints, known as surimono (摺物), to incorporate poetry. The one here is by the acclaimed writer Natsume Sôseki (夏目 漱石 1867-1916) whose works are considered to have an enduring influence on Japanese literature in the modern era. Here he writes of the colour blue, how it sets in with Autumn, not unlike  the dying of woven pattern fabric;

Autumn begins,
The deep blue settles —
Iyo kasuri

Around this time is when the Autumn rain appears (Akisame 秋雨). In woodblock printing the indication of rain was no easy feat, and placed particular demand on the carver tasked with etching countless parallel streams. As the season takes hold, the leaves of the indigenous ginkgo tree turn from green to golden yellow.

Tradition in the Making

As with Western wood engraving, woodblock printing was the accepted technology of its day. And similarly it required the collective intentionality among the contributors: artist 浮世絵師, carver 刀師, printer 摺師, and a publisher 版元. In the case of surimono, a poet might also be sought out by the commissioner. Printing this way has long been surpassed by photomechanical engraving and lithography. Nonetheless, it is a tradition that has been preserved remarkably well.

Ginko Under Autumn Rain is part of an ongoing exploration of eastern visual culture. Giclée printed onto archival quality 308gsm Hahnemule paper, this unique art-print comes framed. Drop an email if interested.

What Meaning can be Found Within the Peony Print

Amid a bed of green leaves, two red peonies rest at the opposite corners of a vertical sign with Japanese characters.
Peony Print (2023)

What Meaning can be Found Within the Peony Print

The Peony Print acknowledges the ongoing global influence of traditional and contemporary Japanese artwork. Known as 花言葉 (Hanakotoba), meanings are assigned to different flowers. In this language, peonies denote prosperity, bravery, and prestige. The decorative print also features the Kanji of a commonly recognised idiom, 見ぬが花 (Minu Ga Hana). Translated as ‘not seeing is a flower’, the underlying meaning is that reality is dwarfed by imagination, and it is best when the two are reconciled.

The Historical and Cultural Context of Japanese Artwork

When trade routes were reopened in the mid 19c., Japan’s visual culture began to resonate with European sensibilities. While Western painters had been preoccupied with realism, the Eastern tradition sought to depict the essence of pictorial subjects. Flora and landscapes were particularly common subjects in the Japanese art tradition, with overarching harmony expressed through the painter. The woodblock printed ukiyo-e, made in collaboration with a carver and publisher, were of particular interest to European painters and collectors of objets d’art.

Japanese painters, rather than pursue volumatic perspective, arranged compositions with flattened shapes counterposed by negative space. The calligraphic line-work emerged from writing character scripts, in which black ink is brushed from above onto thin absorbent paper, affording little way to overwork the surface.

Throughout contemporary history, Japanese popular culture has evolved to become one of the eminent global forms of media entertainment. Since the late 2010s Manga has been greatly outselling American comics, with record sales in 2022. There are over 400 Anime production companies throughout Japan, with 60% of revenue expected to come from overseas in 2025. Japanese media franchises are among the world’s highest grossing, Pokémon being the global-leader since 2016. Like 19c. Japonism, global interest is being driven through cultural products. However much influence later came from America’s post-war occupation, it is ultimately Japanese tradition which has emerged through its cultural exports, and remain a hallmark of its culture industry.

Giclée printed onto archival quality 308gsm Hahnemule paper, this unique art-print comes framed and is available to buy from the online shop.

Posterboy Mixtapes: Sixty Minutes of Instrumental Cuts and Headnod Jazz

Horizontal J-card design for the Posterboy Mixtapes

Posterboy Mixtapes: Sixty Minutes of Instrumental Cuts and Headnod Jazz

While the audio cassette has enjoyed a niche revival, it simply can not recreate the culture that it once engendered. The act of lending, tape swapping, and recording duplicates was standard for countless informal peer groups. Mixtapes were a part of this broader cassette culture, and often enjoyed particular appreciation among enthusiasts. The playback of adjacent tracks gave listeners a way to consume a curated selection outside of demos, eps, and lps. Irrespective of one’s approach, most would likely agree that when either side of a cassette reaches the end, its final track ought to be a neat fit, and not abruptly cut or split.

Being that cassette culture flourished before the internet, the tracklist was not insignificant. For a listener interested in hearing more, knowing the artist and track title might be the only tangible lead. Usually visible through the transparent plastic case, the tracklist was typically written on the j-card. Beyond its practical function, this folded card is where many would attempt to make every cassette recognisable at a glance. Like amateur musicians who recorded live sessions to cassette, mixtapes embodied a DIY ethic, and personalised the sharing of music.

Posterboy Mixtape Spring 2024

J-card design for the Posterboy Mixtape
Posterboy Mixtape Spring 2024 J-card
ArtistTrackTime
OhblivSet Your Own Rules00:00
SamiyamKit Kat02:13
Free The RobotsWelcome to Los Angeles03:33
Sparkle DivisionSlappin Yo’ ‘ Face05:52
ShigetoMCW7:19
KieferCrybaby13:19
Yesterdays New QuintetPapa17:48
AmmonContactChord (Parts 1-2)21:17
Four TetParallel25:02
San GendelPure Imagination (Lofi)27:53
MndsgnRespawn33:53
DabryeAir (Instrumental)35:51
OddiseeAlarmed38:52
Badbadnotgood feat. Arthur Verocai (Macroblank Remix)Love Proceeding42:24
Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed MuhammadLet’s Get to Work47:01
Prefuse 73Twin Statues47:57
TeebsAutumn Antique51:03
Karriem RigginsOther Side of the Track52:54
Flying LotusAndromeda55:20

Posterboy Mixtape Autumn 2023

J-card design for the Posterboy Mixtape
Posterboy Mixtape Autumn 2023 J-card
ArtistTrackTime
Yesterdays New QuintetLittle Girl (Dakota’s Song)00:00
TeebsEstara (Yellow Bits Redo)02:06
MndsgnSamosa04:56
Yussef Dayes feat. Tom MischRust08:13
BadbadnotgoodStepping Through Stars11:58
RobohandsFuture Engineering16:12
Karriem Riggins, Derrick Hodge, James PoyserSuite Outro18:37
Greg FoatSymphonie Pacifique20:11
Flying LotusEnchanted24:39
OhblivAmethyst25:30
ShigetoIn Case You Forgot27:46
KieferMiss U30:29
Prefuse 73Love You Bring35:01
Third Coast Percussion, George HurdWhat Stories We Tell (V: Reminiscence)39:39
SamiyamPier 440:33
MadlibAll Love (The Movement)42:12
DabryeFirst Law of Nature Rock Day43:30
Fred FerreiraDistant Land46:45
Sparkle DivisionFor Gato50:18
OddiseeSilver Lining53:01

Posterboy Mixtape Spring 2023

J-card design for the Posterboy Mixtape
Posterboy Mixtape Spring 2023 J-card
ArtistTrackTime
DJ MuggsLiquid Diamonds00:00
TeebsShells03:14
OhblivRaw Zeta05:42
Rejoicer feat. Sefi ZislingYesterday’s Forest Magic07:33
MedlineLa Planète Sauvage10:56
Prefuse 73Vikings Invade the Mediterranean But Don’t Leave15:50
Jahari Massamba UnitHommage À La Vielle Garde (Pour Lafarge Et Rinaldi)16:47
Stimulator JonesLa Mano21:22
Free The RobotsKaduwa25:43
Hidden OrchestraFirst Light (Nostalgia 77 Remix)28:29
AmmoncontactGood Life to Groove Merchant31:41
Karriem RigginsCia35:35
DabryeNova38:42
ShigetoField Day41:50
Flying LotusBlack Balloons Reprise (Instrumental)45:40
MadlibGat Damn (Instrumental)48:15
KnxwledgeMakeitliveforever50:58
Perched on the number 23, a lapwing bird holds a compact cassette tape in its beak.
Posterboy Mixtape 2023

Editorial for Now Then MCR: Fresh Servings at Kim’s Kitchen

An array of herbs and vegetables are sent flying from the colander of a headless chef.
Fresh Servings. Editorial Artwork for Now Then Manchester (2021)

Editorial for Now Then MCR: Fresh Servings at Kim’s Kitchen

One of Manchester’s longstanding cafe restaurants, Kim’s Kitchen, is revived with a kitchen refurb and new menu. The following excerpt comes from an article written for Now Then Manchester.

To help realise its full potential the premises has been refurbished with a new kitchen, drinks counter, and at the time of writing is being redecorated. The refurbishment also includes a new sound system, laying the groundwork for future DJ sets and video streaming. The ethos of local cooperation informs which suppliers are chosen, and extends to fundraising initiatives for select charities. A phased relaunch began in early 2021, offering an updated menu for takeaway and local deliveries, and includes plant-based and gluten-free options.

The people involved in the plan have lived and worked in the building and local area and have a true recognition of what the space and surrounding area means to the community.”

Bevon Manville (Kim’s Kitchen Co-owner).

As Manchester looks toward the easing of COVID restrictions, Kim’s Kitchen is poised to offer a community-orientated revival in Hulme’s increasingly gentrified landscape and, by doing so, serve a reminder of what has been achieved so far in this part of the city.

Read the full article at Now Then Manchester