Good & Bad News from the Printing Studio. . .

Posted on July 19, 2017 by Yoshiko Yamamoto

As you might know, we use various antique letterpress printing presses made between the 1890s and the 1960s for making our note cards and prints. We pamper them daily, cleaning and oiling to ensure smooth and long-term operation. 

Sadly one of our workhorses, Heidelberg Cylinder printing press has been making random noises that are getting louder and louder. Our press mechanic hasn’t been able to find the root of problem. And so the press is sitting idly now. That’s the bad news. 
But the good news is that we’re getting another old Heidelberg Cylinder letterpress and a platen press, Windmill from our framer friend, Dard Hunter. In two weeks these marvelous presses will arrive on our doorstep, ready to print for us the artwork-quality greeting cards and calendars. 
I’m truly grateful for all the talents and expertise of those who make our unique operation possible, from Ralph Reed (our press mechanic), John Lacky, Lance Kanski and Andre Chaves (printer colleagues), to many friends. Thank you to all of you for putting up with my frantic emails and phone calls!! 
I can say that it surely takes a whole village to keep the letterpress printing alive!

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Japan Trip: Baren Studio

Posted on April 06, 2017 by Yoshiko Yamamoto

"Baren-making" session with Mr. Goto in Tokyo today. The traditional Japanese burnishing tool for ukiyo-e prints is called "baren" and Mr. Goto is the only professional baren-maker alive today in Japan who makes the authentic baren. I learned to replace the outer bamboo covering from Mr. Goto who owns his own mountain to cultivate this particular type of bamboo used for this tool. Now I know how to replace the tattered bamboo coverings on my "baren"!!! I also enjoyed my visit with Mr. Matsumura at Woodlike Matsumura shop and learned more about various woodblock printing tools. . . So much to learn as always!!!

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Japan Trip: Shirakawago

Posted on April 05, 2017 by Yoshiko Yamamoto

A glorious day in Shirakawago, an old village designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. We stayed at one of the old Gassho-zukuri" farmhouse and explored the small village all day. I snuck in 1/2 hour sketch sessions here and there... so happy!

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Japan Trip: Kenrokuen Garden

Posted on April 04, 2017 by Yoshiko Yamamoto

A beautiful day at Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa. Flowers in bloom everywhere. A group of ladies in blue uniforms picking weeds at the moss garden. So picturesque that I had to sketch these lovely ladies working quietly...

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Japan Trip: Paper Making with Mr. Iwano Ichibei

Posted on April 03, 2017 by Yoshiko Yamamoto

Today we visited Mr. Iwano Ichibei, a paper maker who was awarded the rank of Intangible Cultural Property, the highest honor in Japan for the arts. He lives in the quiet hamlet of Echizen, a village that has been making paper for over 1200 years. Frank and brisk, Mr. Iwano showed us his paper-making, the process that his ancestors developed over the centuries. Now 83 years old and ninth generation paper-maker with this name, he is working with his son. His motto that he learned from his father: "Never cut corners". Gathering courage I showed him my work and hesitantly asked him if he could make paper for me. He looked and nodded. So I think I'll be working with him in a near future!!!

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Japan Trip: Day 1

Posted on April 01, 2017 by Yoshiko Yamamoto

Day 1 of my Japan trip. Guided by my stepson, Sosha Smith, we're exploring the Tohoku region that was devastated by the 2011 tsunami. Here are the view of the Matsushima Bay today and the image of my blockprint. Six years ago, I carved and printed 1500 blockprints (sold out) of this incredible bay with 260 islands. Our 100% donation was used to aid with the recovery effort in Tohoku region. (Thankfully these small picturesque islands protected the area of Matsushima from the tsunami disasters). Today the rebuilding efforts continue slowly, from building new roads and creating higher embankments against a future tsunami, to remaking the small coastal communities that had lost too many lives. Heartbreakingly beautiful and sad . . . beyond words.

Here is our Sosha, who first came to the Tohoku tsunami area with his sister Tamara, immediately after the disaster. Here he's showing us the lower beach area where once there was a thriving fishing community before the 15-meter tsunami engulfed it. Now it's just dirt, half-built roads, and a bunch of construction trucks there. Since the initial recovery efforts, Sosha has continued to travel to the area from his Tokyo home and to help with the reconstruction efforts. Now living in Minamisanriku in Tohoku-region, he has been working closely with the communities in the region and is actively operating a Nature-Education program called Earth Camp. I have to admit I'm a very proud step-mom of these amazing individuals! 

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Roycroft Renaissance: Recent Visit to Elbert Hubbard’s Utopian Community

Posted on October 05, 2016 by Yoshiko Yamamoto

“This is the personal printing press that belonged to Elbert Hubbard,” explained Curt Maranto, as he toured me through the printing room at Roycroft Campus in the village of East Aurora, half-an-hour outside of Buffalo, New York.  The old iron-hand press stood there, covered in dust. It seemed ready to be cleaned and oiled, to be put to a good use once again. Curt is a member of the Roycroft Campus Corporation ( that has been instrumental in bringing back the Roycroft campus to its original glory. 

The Campus was originally created by Elbert Hubbard, to realize his vision to create a community of handicrafts that encompassed printing, woodworking and metal-work. The colorful self-made soap salesman, Elbert Hubbard claimed to have met William Morris, the father of the Arts & Crafts Movement, during his trip to England in 1894. Whether he really met Morris or not, the impact was immense. A year later he began publishing books and journals in the style of Morris’s Kelmscott Press. A great writer of his day, Hubbard penned many popular pieces for Roycroft publications. His most popular Message to Garcia sold over 40 million copies and was translated into 37 languages. 
After the tragic deaths of Hubbard and his wife with the sinking of Lusitania in 1915, the campus fell apart.
When my husband, Bruce Smith, visited Roycroft in 1996 for his research, he says “it was still pretty bare and skeletal. The Inn was operating, but was still in the process of restoration. Bob and Kitty (Robert Rust & Kitty Turgeon) hosted me and I had such a wonderful time with those two who kept the flame alive. The print shop was closed."
Now twenty years later the Roycoft Campus is thriving once again.  The entire campus was designated as National Historic Landmark in 1986. The charming Roycroft Inn has been beautifully restored and I enjoyed my lovely lunch there in the sunny veranda. The Print Shop is getting filled with many old letterpress printing presses and type cabinets.  The Chapel (not a religious chapel, but is a guild hall for printers in Medieval times) is undergoing a restoration. The Power House that supplied electricity and heating for the community now is a visitor center and a gallery. The Furniture Shop & Bindery building now houses Roycroft Antique Center, Norberg’s Frame Shop, and Floyd East ( where Jim Cordes is daily creating beautiful craftsman furniture. 
And Copper Shop is filled with quality handcrafted items and gifts. The Shop carries our letterpress note cards and block prints also.  If you’re in the area, please stop by and browse their excellent selection of our prints. (As a matter of fact, the shop still has one matted and one framed “When Poppies Bloom” print. This print has been sold out on our website.)
East Aurora is only half-hour from Buffalo, New York. If you’re ever in the area — whether you’re sightseeing Niagara Falls or touring through another Arts & Crafts gem in the area, Darwin E. Martin House by Frank Lloyd Wright (which by the way is undergoing a 60-million-dollars restoration and is absolutely stunning!) — I highly recommend a nice visit to the Roycroft Campus and enjoy an overnight stay or a delightful lunch at the historic Inn. 

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