A Little Bling

November 24, 2014

Ever since at least the Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century, Japanese aesthetics have been a strong influence on the art and architecture of Northern California. For many of us, our houses and lifestyles all seem to reflect that subdued, not-too-flashy, modest approach.  As one small part of this, the appreciation of Viewing Stones was introduced to our area and taught exclusively by immigrants from Japan or their students, and focuses almost entirely on the Japanese Suiseki tradition.

So most of us are naturally attracted to the dark, subdued, introspective stones favored as suiseki.  But, into every life a bit of flash must come!  Even if you strongly love one particular aesthetic movement, there is nothing that stops you from also enjoying other views of the world.  Just for example, anyone who has spent more than a day in Japan is aware of the contrasts between the wabi-sabi of the countryside and the expensive Western-style bling of Ginza.  Both are very real expressions of modern Japanese taste and aesthetics – and happily exist side-by-side.

Most of the stones in this gallery were found in rockshops, where it is always fun to do a bit of “tanseki” –  most of them would never be considered “suiseki”, but that does not detract from their beauty and the pleasure they give us.  They fit comfortably next to our classic views of Mt. Fuji.

Click on the image to see the entire gallery.

2014 11 23 006 - final resize

Ancient Treasure

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When to cut a stone

November 16, 2014
Sunrise - Natural View, Front

Sunrise – Natural View, Front

Some years ago we wrote about whether or not it is “permissible” to cut stones for suiseki (see To Cut or Not to Cut).

As we talked about in the first article, there is a lot of debate within the suiseki world on this subject.  In Japan there are a large number of suiseki enthusiasts and clubs.  Some of the groups concentrate only on natural stones, while others do accept cut stones.  San Francisco Suiseki Kai teaches that a natural stone is always preferred.  However, the club’s teachers, from the founding of the club in 1982, have allowed stone cutting when, and only when, it improves the presentation.

Mas himself loves the natural stones, but he also appreciates the great cut-stone suiseki.  He brought several stones to the club meeting this November to illustrate the decision making process.

There are several important points he made:

  • Take your time.  Once you’ve cut the stone you can’t change your mind!  And even if you are sure, there is always the chance that the stone will break during the cutting.  Cutting a stone should always be the last option.
  • A natural stone may not meet all the “rules” of suiseki, that is part of their beauty.  Like a human, each stone is an individual, with good points and bad.
  • A cut stone, however, should meet the basic rules of suiseki.  It should follow the so-called Rule of Three Dimensions (三面の方 San Men No Hō) and have good balance and proportions in all three directions.  It should have a good seat or posture (構え Kamae), with the ends and peak leaning slightly towards the viewer.
  • Daiza for natural stones are difficult to make well.  For beginners, start with your cut stones and keep your natural stones until you have developed your skills.

A gallery of photos that walks through the lecture is here: When to Cut – Gallery.

To my long-time readers – my apologies for such a very long absence.  Life intervened, and I haven’t been able to write anything for so long – but I hope now that I can now return to posting articles about Mas’ suiseki, and our life and travels!


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