Interdisciplinary sabbatical 2021 > 2022
Updated: Feb 26
Following the exciting exhibition 'On the road of sea stars'held by Madi Acharya-Baskerville and I at Zuzushii, Hastings in June 2021, my life as an artist went a little tangential, and turning Japanese I really think so. I found training and work in July 2021 with Yuka Yoshii and her St Leonards-based canteen Arigato. Pitched into a world of food preparation, I learned how to make dashi and teriyaki and onigiri and sashimi, and also gained a Level 2 Food Hygiene qualification.
Onigiri ni mekyabetsu - Ben Browton 2021
Suzuki, ebi & tamagoyaki zushi - Ben Browton 2021
Concurrent with this, I spent time researching Japanese kitchen knives, and familiarised myself with the arcane world of Yanagibas & Santokus & Gyutos & Nakiris and others. I purchased a small collection and 1000/3000 King whetstones and taught myself how to hone my knives to 15˚ degree angles for super sharp cutting edges. I went to my studio and made saya (sheaths) for my knives using Tulip wood, which I painted black and finished with Renaissance wax. I made orange saya pins, which hold the knives secure in the saya.
Sakai Takayuki Nakiri, Seisuke Hamono Santoku,
Seki Kanetsugu Gyuto, Kai Magoroku Hekiju left-handed Yanagiba.
Sakai Takayuki Nakiri with saya.
During this period I came into contact with two excellent books > 'monk: light and shadow on the philosophers path' by Yoshihiro Imai (Phaidon) and 'Sharp' by Josh Donald (Chronicle), both of which deepened my understanding and appreciation of food preparation, and of the history of kitchen knives in the West and in Japan.
Sadly on 3rd of October 2021, my dear sister Jan Rothwell finally died of cancer. Sod's law this came about during the C*********s pandemic, and so visiting her was difficult as she was shielding due to her condition. Following an excellent Humanist ceremony for family and friends held for her within the grounds of the beautiful Reading Crematorium, peace descended and I came off the adrenaline alert I had been on for some months.
In November, I travelled to Brighton to collect a lovely sparkly red left-handed £￡70 pre-strummed Westfield bass guitar, that I found advertised on Gumtree. I decided that I needed a musical instrument in my life once more, and further that I would, being profoundly left-handed, learn to play the (right) way around this time, after a lifetime of erroneously trying to play guitars right-handed.
I had a yen also to play eventually with other musicians. And I felt that if I could learn to play some half-decent bass runnings, that I might be good enough for some sort of hard & urgent punk band. I came up with a name for that potential band, being 'The SHOCK'.
I also, over this time, added to my collection of everyday Japanese ceramics with the purchase of several examples.
Came and went Halloween and my Bonfire Night birthday in November (including a visit to the amazing Battle Bonfire celebrations)...
Battel Magic Bonfire Organ (Vendor unknown)
Came and went Christmas and New Year. Now marching on into February.
I made a tentative return to my studio during the month of January, and straight away rediscovered the pleasure I gain from the making process. I officially left off this process, having completed Inkling #9 back in June 2021 which I entered into the On the road of sea stars exhibition. My first exploratory work of 2022 has been 'Spoon-fed', which is somewhat autobiographical, but then after the past six months or so and a great deal of self-reflection on life, the universe and death, it is probably unsurprising...
Spoon-fed in stages of progress January to February 2022
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgZJDYicv1E (interview with Yoshihiro Imai)