Ink stone, ink, brush, and paper
In Chinese and other East Asian calligraphic traditions, these four are called “The Four Treasures of the Study”. Unlike the other three, ink stone can be used permanently with proper care, and is loved by many writers as an antique. Ink stone is a stone mortar for the grinding and containment of ink and many Japanese has an experience in using them, for calligraphy is included in the Japanese school curriculum.
Picking up where we left off in the last article, we had a chance to interview Mr. Takashi Aoyagi, who calls himself the “Seikenshi” or the “Ink stone Artisan”. Being the fourth generation of HoukenDou, which is a calligraphy store and ink stone workshop in Asakusa, he researches and produces wide variety of ink stones.
You’ve probably seen or used ink stones if you grew up in the Japanese school curriculum. But in the modern days where computers and smartphones has taken control of our lives, we rarely see handwritten letters, which leads us to feel pressure when we finally grab a brush and try to write something. But Mr. Aoyagi, the ink stones meister tells us there are two thing he wants us to know when doing so. He wants the people to know the “core value” of writing.
Why was ink stone born in the first place? It was one of the oldest writing utensils in the world. Writing letters with a brush and telling people how you feel or what you are doing. It’s the oldest communication tool we have.
When we think about that, you don’t need to have experience in calligraphy or write with beautiful handwriting. I want everybody to use these ink stones and brushes just like how everybody uses a ballpoint pen. If you still think you want to write more beautifully, you can attend classes and learn how about calligraphy. The letters you learn and the letters you have naturally is different, so I want you to love your own handwriting as a successor of the oldest communication tool us humans have.
He stated that our handwriting doesn’t have to be beautiful, and that he wants us to use ink stones just like how we would use a ballpoint pen in our everyday lives. Giving a gift with a short handwritten letter can bring a bigger joy and become a precious present also.
As the second core value of ink stones, he told us about the art-side of ink stones.
Ink stones became a big part of culture and art. There are many politicians and art collectors that love ink stones not only in China, but also in Japan. I want people to know about the art-side of ink stones also. It served as one of the oldest writing utensils, but ink stone itself is a piece of art.
Not only are ink stones a writing utensil, it is also an art piece itself. You can love it’s usage and also love it’s appearance as an art piece. We felt Mr. Aoyagi’s love for the calligraphy culture by the way he touches his ink stones when checking for it’s quality, which made us think about writing a letter or two to our family or friends.