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A printmaker's progress

Tuesday Tales – Tsukubai

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A tsukubai is a small basin usually set at the entrance to Buddhist temples and gardens in Japan. They are meant for a ritual washing of the hands as an act of purification, often before entering into the tea ceremony room. The use of natural materials, such as stone for the basin and bamboo for the cups and cup rests reflect the Buddhist appreciation for nature. The low height of the basin requires the visitor to crouch thereby encouraging humility and reverence. In fact the word tsukubai means “to crouch”. Sometimes the water for a tsukubai will be piped in through a bamboo reed, the shishi-odoshi, which falls onto another levered piece of bamboo that, when filled drops down and then rebounds with a clack onto the stone. The repetition of this sound of water falling and the sharp clap has a meditative effect. It’s power is shown famously in the beautifully filmed fight scene from the movie, Kill Bill, below. You can hear the shishi-odoshi at the start of the scene and it gains prominence around the 5 minute mark.

The tsukubai in my piece was shot in Japan when I lived there. The photograph was very dark but I loved the composition with the criss-crossing lines and reflections. The darkness of the image allowed me to bring up lots of texture which was enhanced by the single exposure technique I used in creating the photo etching plate. Inking the plate had its own challenges for both lights and darks were washed out and I had to paint some of the lines and color back in. This resulted in a more painterly and abstracted image in the final print which I am quite happy with.

Tsukubai is a 9″x12″ mixed-media monoprint wrapped around an 8″x10″x1.5″ board, so the edges of the image are on the sides of the board, as shown below.



It is offered this week for $100. Please contact me at to purchase or for further info.


Author: chiaink

World travelled yet never weary, eloquent and evocative, Chiarina's artworks sing with a sensitive and sensuous spirit.

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