We investigated the main styles used in Tenkoku seal engraving, such as tensho or inten, and ancient Chinese mysterious styles such as carved into animal bones or worked into metal, discovering how these were modified and cut into stone, or also brushed onto paper.
We then had time to work on our own designs and have guidance from Blair about particular kanji characters and the styles for those kanji.
Participants looked for ways to bring the characters together on paper, with differing amounts of spacing, in preparation for carving in stone, or cutting into eraser with a craft knife (which is the easier method and a great way to start), and had lots of fun on paper exploring many possibilities to work from!
At our recent seal engraving group we welcomed some new faces, helped them get started with their designs, and we also spent some extra time looking at 基本形 Kihonkei – the basic form.
We found many options in the possible forms for 2, 3 and 4 character stamps, and enjoyed the spacious balance of these. Blair explained how that could help in planning a design, and related it to some examples from inspiring Chinese and Japanese masters.
We had time to discuss what we were working on and chat about materials and fun process of both the Tenkoku stone carving and Keshigomu eraser cutting techniques.
We worked on bringing organic shapes and cuts into the stamp making so they don’t look artificially machine made, but have vitality and movement. Thanks to folks for sharing their images 🙂
We looked closely at the styles of in 印 stamps at the Tenkoku 篆刻 seal engraving group, particularly at Japanese Master Wakabayashi.
Wakabayashi Shūjō was like a grandfather to Blair who started studying shodō calligraphy with him in 2002. He kindly introduced Blair to Tenkoku seal engraving and the materials to use and Blair could discover the many stamps made by him, mostly of his creative name 舟城 Shūjō meaning boat castle. In his calligraphy on shikishi board, he stamps this with a rectangular red letter type stamp.
His stone stamp are full of character and dynamic beauty, with the textures of the engraved lines and marks varied and alive and always interacting with the spaces.
At the group we looked at and copied some of his inei stamp impressions, and participants had time to ask questions and to work on designs or carving at whatever stage they are at, some folk planning a new design.
Blair gave a detailed demo of how to stamp and work with, as well as care for, the lovely deep red indei ink. Also he gave tips and examples about where in an artwork to stamp harmonically.
Below is a lovely example of a stamp by one of the participants, with some of the texture and movement seen in Master Wakabayashi’s stamps.
At the November 篆刻 tenkoku (seal engraving) group meeting online by zoom, Blair gave an in depth demonstration of carving techniques to directly guide participants and give them tips on this exciting part of the process!
This covered how to handle and work with each of the traditional materials including the stones, clamp, and cutters of varied sizes.
We also looked at the layout of stamp compositions and tips on how to have enough breathing space and balance, depending on the style.
He also helped advise folk with their kanji or names and their designs for stamps. Lots of great ideas from folk (thanks for your photos) and very varied 印 stamps, including ookami wolf 🐺, a Zen name, and an English first and last name converted by Blair into four kanji for a white letter 白文stamp 🙂
Here is an example of stamped calligraphy (this is kokotsubun shell and bone style). You can stamp on your shodo calligraphy, artwork, poetry or sutra copying, or anything else you fancy 😊
This example is of stamped artwork by Blair was inspired by the dynamic skyline of Tokyo, using Japanese gansai pigments.
To join our stamp making online by zoom, you only need pencil and paper to get started. Enjoy and practice working with traditional tenkoku 篆刻 materials or the simpler keshigomu eraser to carve your very own hanko はんこ stamp.
In this video Blair has fun stamping a few papers, using the L shape to guide the alignment of stamps for shodo (very handy!), whilst going for a more squinty off angle approach on the artwork, and stamping in the middle of an enso circle.
Stamping is such fun, the physical pressing down and moment of suspense to see the stamp impression. After first designing the 印 – such as name or artist name, then carving or cutting into stone or eraser. It is enjoyable to work on each part of the process.
Blair is carving his zen name, using the insho clamp and into cutter. He can help you translate and choose suitable katakana Japanese or Chinese characters for your own name 😊
This picture is of some reisho 隷書 calligraphy Blair was stamping a few days ago✨
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.
On a blustery day with the March sun shining through the clouds into the garden and our cozy workspace, we enjoyed practicing Tenkoku 篆刻 seal carving to create our own stamps or inkan (more commonly known as hanko).
It is a captivating process and was wonderful to see everyone embracing it, from the design of their stamps on paper to the stone carving technique and the method of inking and pressing the stone onto Japanese paper.
We learned about the history of Japanese and Chinese stamp making and looked at varied examples and the ways of numerous of working with the tensho style of characters, and working with names or making natural designs.
In the quiet moments while everyone was working we could hear the echoes of the chipping sounds of the cutters on the stone and also of the participants enthusiastically blowing the dust off the face of their stones!
It was inspiring to be surrounded by the elemental trees and hills with all the textures and colours and breathing the fresh woodland air.