Conjure, if you will, the twang and deep throated rumble of a four-stringed biwa lute, accompanied by the tense voice of a blind storyteller who sits in the shadows. His song, the "Heike Monogatari," is ageless, having survived for thousands of years in the form of narrative poetry, although it has also found life in classic paintings, books, plays, films, and musical scores and is considered to be the greatest of the Japanese war stories.
My newest letterpress/linoleum block book, "Mimi-nashi Hoichi," recounts the story of a sightless biwa player named Hoichi, whose ears are sheared off following a score of nights performing the "Heike Monogatari" song cycles in a cemetery off the shores of Shiminoseki, Yamaguchi-ken.
The first step required me to draw and hand carve the many linoleum block illustrations to accompany the text which was printed entirely on letterpresses.
The text was printed from polymer plates created by local printing powerhouse, Logos Graphics, which took a fair amount of wiggling around to make sure that everything registered correctly since the pages were printed six pages up per run. No room for errors!
And then there was the binding. I gathered up a group of my most awesome book arts friends in the SF Bay Area, plied them with food (thank you for cooking, Thy Tran!) and had many, many hands at the table to pierce, clamp, trim, collate, glue, fold, sew, and put the books to bed.
Twenty pages printed on natural and jade handmade Loksa Nepalese papers with a Japanese stab binding. Wheeee!