At our first regular 篆刻 tenkoku (seal engraving) group on zoom we had fun pioneering Japanese and Chinese stamp making online! This time we mainly worked on designs for our in 印 stamps.
After a short intro by Blair to the practice, his experience of it in Japan, and the history of it in China, we learned how to take our initial ideas and then work with kanji characters, and combine in certain ways using the old styles.
He showed some of his stamps he has made over the years, ones with his name in Katakana, Bu-re-a, others with artist name or his zen dharma name.
The designing is such an enjoyable and fascinating part of the process when you can engage with kanji Chinese characters that are thousands of years old, and discover their varied styles and choose which ones, adjusting the sizes and shapes to suit your personal design. And some stamps can use simpler Japanese script, or English, or images, so the options are really boundless.
It was fascinating to see how different each person’s designs were – with characters for mountain, sky/ emptiness, fish, crow, and hand there was a lot of images coming through the tensho style of characters and the other stamp styles.
So we swam together through deep waters and soared over peaceful fields towards distant hills 🙂
Towards the end Blair gave a short demo about how to use traditional materials – stones and cutter – as well as the alternative and popular ‘Keshigomu hanko’ method cutting an eraser with craft knife.
At this group participants work at their own pace and Blair guides them, so each person will design or carve or press their stamps – the ‘try not to hold your breath’ moment 🙂 – at different times. It is an easygoing and supportive group.
We gently traced and copied the famous and inspiring Mahayana Buddhist Heart Sutra, or to use the full title, the Great Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra.
After Blair and the group discussed about the Shakyo practice and some of the meanings and structure of the sutra, which can often seem very mysterious and baffling, and the fun history bit, he gave a short demo of how to practice, whether tracing or copying using a brush and solid ink, or simply a pen or pencil freehand.
Blair lit the incense, rang the bell and some of us read or chanted the Kaikyoge verse for opening the sutras. Then we practiced meditatively, taking time and talking here and there about how to copy certain kanji characters or strokes, or about some meanings.
Here are some pictures from some of the participants. It was a lovely group, many thanks to all who wholeheartedly took part 🙂
Also here is a delightful short haiku by Andy Kokuu inspired by ink and brush:
At Zen Brush we worked with the graceful eight strokes of eternal eijihappoh 永字八法, also known as the eight principles of yong – getting a feel for them and having some fun with the flow of the brush.
Inspired by some Japanese haiku and old waka poetry we brushed 永平 eihei – meaning eternal peace – also the name of Master Dogen and his Zen temple Eiheiji- which is such a lovely combination of kanji characters.
It was great to see the participants on zoom enjoying the shodo calligraphy practice, and embracing the two styles this month – kaisho and the fun reisho which comes from the cliff faces of China. Many thanks to some of the participants for sharing images of their calligraphy below.
With a buzzing cry A bee shifts on the bloom sought By a butterfly Taigi
At the last Zen Brush calligraphy group on zoom we were inspired by the two well known characters dou 道 (Way/ road/path) and shin or kokoro 心 (heart/mind/spirit).
Brushing them in the kaisho as well as the sousho ‘grass writing’ styles, we explored their meanings, as well as their combined poetic meaning when written together – inspired by poet, calligrapher and Zen master Dogen who wrote about Doushin 道心 as the spirit of the way.
His waka poem (translated by Heine) conveys this mood beautifully:
Seeking the Way Amid the deepest mountain paths The retreat I find None other than My primordial home: satori!
It was great to see the group enjoying the flow of the brush, particularly with the movement of the sousho calligraphy, and finding balance in their own way.
Folk worked with different sized brushes, ink and papers but were all absorbed by the strokes, shapes and feeling of the kanji 🙂
At our recent Zen Brush shodo group – our first online 🙂 – we enjoyed brushing the character 禅 Zen in four very different styles, which were developed over centuries. It was really intriguing to explore the meanings of the different parts of the kanji character and how this can be understood with the reading of it as zen and the connections with awareness, coming partly from the translation of dhyana.
After some loose marks and practice of horizontal and vertical strokes, we worked with kaisho style first, before going on to the sosho. We were inspired by the Chinese calligrapher Chiei with both these styles. He wrote these in his 千字文 Senjimon or Qiānzì Wén- Thousand Character Classic – a beautiful work.
Then we had some fun with the wider reisho and the taller more linear tensho , both fascinating styles to brush, which use a different technique from the previous two styles.
Some of us had large fude brushes and liquid ink, and some of us used smaller brushes or fudepen or brushpens, or solid ink, but we all had enough materials and time to appreciate the kanji and each stroke.
We talked a bit about how to practice shodo calligraphy to get a feel for the kanji zen, and also how to work on it more meditatively. Also we discussed how and where to write our name on the paper. So we covered a fair bit in this group, and had some fun too!
Inspiring video by participant AlanBlair writing Zen in the old Tensho, which was originally carvedBlair showing the fun contrast of method of two styles
At our Zen Brush 🖌 calligraphy group coming up on Monday the group will be working from the varied styles and strokes of the mysterious and graceful character 禅 for Zen. And we will explore the multi layered meanings within the kanji character itself. It can be brushed as a meditation too! 🙂
Our first online Shakyo 写経 practice event saw us come together from Scotland, and elsewhere such as the rest of the UK and Canada, forming a lovely group of sutra tracing and copying practitioners.
Beginning with an introduction about the history of shakyo and the development of it from Tang dynasty China to modern day Japan, with descriptions of experiences and process in Japanese Buddhist temples such as Zen and Hossou schools, and then we discussed the meditative as well as practical techniques, demos and tips to prepare us.
We also talked about the Boundless Life Ten Phrase Kannon Sutra 延命十句観音経 and its connections to other sutras, looked at particular kanji characters and phrases, and how the sutra has been popular and cherished over the centuries as one that aids wellbeing in times of sickness or difficulty.
After our tea, we lit the incense, rang the bell, chanted and began quietly tracing or copying, working from the short but meaningful and energetic sutra, assisted by worksheets with the kanji and meanings. Some people simply used pens with plain paper whilst others had brush pens or shakyo brush with suzuri inkwell and Japanese paper. It was great to see the the sutras of everyone, here are some examples.
It was a peaceful and meditative atmosphere and one where we could practice with care, feeling and attentiveness working on each stroke bringing each character and letter to life. We connected with our senses, felt grounded and connected with the sutra.
We wrote our wish in the traditional manner (in Japanese and English) in the allotted space as well as the date and our name, passing the merits beyond our group, and then we completed our practice with a short chant and some time to briefly chat together about our experience.
Thanks to all the participants for their wholehearted practice.
Last week at Clydebank art group we enjoyed a carefree evening of painting. We’re sorry to say that this night marked the end of the project for the adults group for the time being (please note for updates on the Wednesday afterschool art group for young people please contact Centre81).
Many thanks to the funders West Dunbartonshire Council and Flightpath fund (Glasgow Airport) and to the fabulous Centre81. This has been a wonderful group with so much creativity and very relaxing and inspiring to be part of 😄 It is a lively and close community.
Recently we were inspired by the textures of stones from hills and seashore, as well as the spaciousness of clouds and water, and we developed this with by exploring sea shells too. In this group there was always lots of freedom to go your in different creative directions, and lots of help and encouragement when needed 🤗 and help to make participants feel settled and enjoy a sense of wellbeing. Thanks to Centre81 Steering Group for all their support co-organising this group.
Exploring the fun world of painting whilst relaxing at Clydebank art group, inspired by nature and the soothing sounds and flowing rhythms of the sea.
Recently we were inspired by the textures of stones from hills and seashore, peering into their worlds, as well as the spaciousness of clouds and water.
We’re sorry to say that we’ve reached the end of the Clydebank Art Group project so this is our last evening for the adults group for the time being (please note the Wednesday afterschool art group for young people will continue weekly, for updates contact Centre81).
Many thanks to the funders West Dunbartonshire Council and Flightpath fund and to the fabulous Centre81. This has been a wonderful group with so much creativity.