julia mejnertsen

how to flatten a mountain

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copenhagen, denmark

the project 'how to flatten a mountain' came about during the 10-day artist residency 'how to flatten a mountain' in enniscorthy, ireland (may 2016). 11 emerging photographers were invited by cowhouse studios and photoireland to investigate the irish countryside and the blackstairs mountain.

in my world, only God (or whatever you choose to call this force) can flatten a mountain, but in today's world, no doubt, man thinks he can. thus, the pictures take a humorist view on man's attempt to control nature. i use a mix of snapshots and still life photography, incorporating razzle dazzle camouflage, a kind of camouflage known from the battle ships in the first world war. this type of camouflage is not one of integrating with the surroundings but rather one of confusion.

my part of the project took form as a book, which will be exhibited at rathfarnham castle in dublin in july during photoireland festival. 

my participation in this residency was kindly supported by the danish arts foundation (statens kunstfond).

finishing up and shipping out

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copenhagen, denmark

the last month my life has revolved around finishing the 24 copies of my book 'tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?' it's been a lot of work, but fun, oh so much fun, at the same time. 

well, now they are finished and i've started shipping them out to all corners of the world - tokyo, melbourne, new york, brussels, siena, london and beyond. it's pretty cool to see my babies go find a new home. i hope they will be enjoyed out there.

a couple of facts about the materials used - all of which have come directly from japan. the book is inkjet printed on OK adonis rafu, 75 gram, color white from oji paper, the silver paper comes from takeo paper and the title page has been silk screened in japan by natsuki-san. the cover is made from 2 mm thick black card board. every book is hand glued with a spine that has its book binders spine mesh exposed, so that the pages behind the mesh are visible.

24 signed and numbered copies ladies and gentlemen. i'm keeping copy 24/24 for myself, as i expect it will be valuable one day :)

copies still available at the Tipi Photobook Shop

 

 

SOLD OUT preorder of Tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?

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copenhagen, denmark

dear all,

finally the day has come, where i can start taking pre-orders on my hand made photo book 'tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?' the book is sold through reminders photography stronghold in tokyo, japan, but i will hand make the books to order and ship them from denmark. 

the edition is limited to 24 copies only and i have been told that half have already been reserved, so if you're interested in getting a copy, please go ahead and visit this page. you can see a video of the book here.

Tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?
every copy will be stamped with place, year and edition number and signed by the author.

specifications:
photography: © Julia Mejnertsen 2016
art direction and editorial coordination: Jan Rosseel and Yumi Goto (In cooperation with Reminders Photography Stronghold)

card board cover with 3D hyphen, exposed hand-glued spine
weight: app. 350 g
size: 15.5 x 21 cm (w x h)
81 pages / 91 photos
french fold pages
edition of 24 hand made copies
price: 7,000 JPY

your order will be shipped from denmark
shipping within denmark: 1,400 JPY
europe: 3,000 JPY
rest of the world: 3,300 JPY


NB. A number of pages stick out from under the protection of the cover, which means the pages may become slightly damaged and/or will bend over time. The paper clip and rubber band that are used to keep the book closed may scratch the surface of the cover over time. All is intentional ­ wear and tear is just as beautiful on a book, as it is in life. Please bear in mind that the book is hand-glued and delicate, just like the human soul, handle with care.

 

charlottenborg spring exhibition 2016

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copenhagen, denmark

super happy to announce that my photograph 'search for me in plain sight (rabu)', which was part of the series 'search for me in plain sight' photographed during my stay at 3331 Arts Chiyoda last year, has been selected to be shown at this year's Spring Exhibition at charlottenborg in copenhagen, denmark. the spring exhibition is one of the four yearly state supported censured exhibitions in denmark and will be my 3rd appearance at one of these having previously exhibited in aarhus at the artists' easter exhibition and in copenhagen at the artists' fall exhibition.

the exhibition will run from 10th of march to the 17th of april 2016 at charlottenborg, nyhavn 2, copenhagen. opening is on the 10th.

when the rains come (we will fear no more)

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copenhagen, denmark

dear all,

i've been neglecting you. i'm sorry!

after my last post in mid-october (!) i've returned to life in denmark. been busy with trying to figure out what to do next, but i have at the same time been working on a new project. well, new is perhaps an overstatement seeing that i've been working on it for 3-4 years, but it wasn't until recently that i realized that i needed to make it into a photobook.

hence, i signed up for an intensive 4.5 day bookmaking workshop with toscana photographic workshops (or tpw for short) taught by teun van der heijden and sandra van doelen of heijdens karwei. the workshop was limited to 4 participants, and seeing that there were two teachers and two assistents, it was pretty much a 1:1 situation. happy camper i was. the workshop took place in bologna in a room located in a private museum of sorts in the center of the city. we were surrounded by old italian paintings, which made for a beautiful bookmaking backdrop.

my project started off with the working title while we're waiting for the rain, but the book's final title is when the rains come (we will fear no more). first thing's first though, and the whole process started out with finding out exactly what is the story that i want to tell. i already knew that my story had the possibility to go in many directions, but i am not a photo journalist nor am i a reportage photographer, so going into the workshop i had a distinct feeling that i was looking towards a more poetic style (thanks to mette frandsen for helping me realize this). am i getting ahead of myself? - i think i am.

the story: my mother is a big game hunter; a passion that has evolved in later years, and the project “when the rains come (we will fear no more)” began, without being aware of it at the time, when she back in 2012 one day asked me, ‘do you want to go with me to zimbabwe to hunt?”

but what then is the focus of the story? - hunting, killing, my mum, girl power, poaching, animals, nature, africa? you see, many possibilities - and following all of them would make for a rather confused book. the project is not a project about big game hunting as such. it is above all a project about my mother and about finding oneself, about strong women challenging themselves and their boundaries, and about never stopping to grow as a person. i have seen my mother grow into a woman of tremendous format and courage, a person I can admire and see myself in. a real inspiration to me, being somebody, who still can’t figure out who I am or where I belong. i know that hunting is a sensitive subject, but my motive and story is not one of provocation, but one of love and admiration for strong women and role models. my point being, my mum is a strong woman, who has taught me to follow my passion. the second thing i wanted to make a point of with my story is the, from my point of view, misunderstood nature of hunting. people, who do not hunt, seem to think it is all about the kill. but it is so much more. it is just as much about becoming one with nature, understanding nature. what's the name of this plant? what's the name of this flower? what animal leaves this track? do you think those clouds indicate the rains will come soon? it is about passion, it's about challenging yourself, and it's about getting to know yourself, because when all material things are stripped away and your mental and physical boundaries are tested, you get to know yourself really well. and how do you put all of this love into a book of pictures? that's what teun helped me clarify during the workshop. a couple of pointers from teun on editing:

  • your editing depends on what your outcome is going to be - is it magazine, newspaper, exhibition, book?
  • a photobook is like a slow film (visual novel) - sequence, tension building, screen play
  • senses / form / feeling - 3d photobooks play with the senses
  • build narrative layers (this was an eye opener for me) - when you build layers into your book, you often get an extra layer for free. meaning that readers will deduce their own narrative layer, which you had not necessarily intended or thought of at the time your book was made. this for me is key, because i myself love the feeling of getting it, when reading a photobook. whether i actually get it or not doesn't matter in the end, as long as a book can conjure that feeling.
"the speed and rhythm of a photobook is faster than a textbook but slower than a film" - teun van der heijden

the process: first selection of images was made, sequencing. second selection of images was made, sequencing. indesign set up - size of book was decided (which can depend on publishing - see below). diary text was scanned and added as a graphic element, diary text was added in the back of the book. handwritten text with names of plants and flowers were added to pictures. french title page, title page, spine text (this is probably the most time consuming, complicated thing to do!!), and then of course one has to consider the number of signatures (=sections) the books needs. the size of the book and the number of signatures is where the maths come in. let's see:

a printing sheet in offset printing is normally 70x100 cm. that means you get 16 pages of 24x34cm (8 pages on recto, 8 pages on verso). then if you make your pages smaller within the size of 17x24cm), you can get 32 pages on one printing sheet. if your pages are even smaller than that, you get more pages on one printing sheet. hence, if you are to publish your book, it may be a good thing to keep in mind, as the price increases every time you have more printing sheets.

click on the image to see full size

however, i was not at this point going to a publisher to have it printed, but when you set up your files in indesign, you still have to be aware of your signatures, as they should be dividable with 8 for booklet printing purposes.

in the end, i came away with a first dummy of my book that i am very satisfied with. i love that it has a handmade, sort of rough feel to it. i hand-stitched the 7 signatures together (took me 2 hours) and then it was glued to make it more stable. lastly, the cover was added and the book was cut. you will understand the cover, when you look at the last picture in the book. i give all credit of this fantastic cover idea to teun :)

i hope you like it!

last of the best

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back in tokyo, japan

hi y'all.

it's been a while and i apologize. what has happened since last post over a month ago? many things. let's see...

  1. i had my exhibition 'highway 202 to karatsu' at studio kura.
  2. i left studio kura after a 2 month stay. what an amazing place, which i can highly recommend to anyone who need to get away from the hustle and bustle and stress of it all. i din't know i needed it, but i did. it was so relaxed that i managed to practice my headstand everyday... let's just say, i've gotten really good at standing on my head.
  3. my first ever attempt at a photobook 'tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?' was shortlisted for guatephoto 2015
  4. i travelled around japan for 2 weeks doing app. 3000 kms in train and visited nagasaki, kyoto, i had the biggest artistic experience in the chichu museum in naoshima, got drunk in takamatsu, hiked the ancient pilgrimage route kumano kodo through the kii mountains, sang karaoke in tokyo and rode the train 2.5 hours to kanazawa to see an art museum, which didn't live up to expectations (then went 2.5 hours back to tokyo on the same day). oh, i also had my second oyster ever in kanazawa - it was the biggest thing i ever saw, had to eat it in 3 bites and i didn't throw it up afterwards.. 

i have a hard time getting my head around having to leave japan in less than 2 weeks.. when i came back this summer for the second time this year, i didn't really have any expectations. actually, the whole thing didn't start out too well. it was scorching hot, and i was left to my own devices most of the time, but it just kept picking up and getting better and better. and poof, i'm head over heels in love with japan again. the high points of the last 2.5 months being the music festival sunset live in keya beach in itoshima, the harvest festival in a field close to the studio kura, riding my bike through the rice fields in the sun wind in hair in itoshima, being buried in hot sand in beppu, the kumano kodo hike, where we walked from takijiri-oji and 2 days later ended up in hongu after an 8 hour hike with no place to stay and finding the most amazing small vegan minshuku (called yamamizuki), which was just absolutely perfection, and lastly the amazing naoshima (the ferry ride and the chichu art museum in particular).

some pictures to illustrate the whole thing.


a little bit about the work - highway 202 to karatsu

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itoshima, fukuoka, japan

impressions of the middle of nowhere.

i came to itoshima after having been working in tokyo on the project search for me in plain sight. i thought i would continue that work here, but with a rural spin. the people out in itoshima surely must also experience loneliness. maybe they do, but the fact is that i haven't seen it. i haven't seen the lonesome pensive moments undisturbed by nothing or no one. when i came here a month ago, it was so hot and humid that by the time it was 10 o'clock in the morning nobody was to be seen anywhere. come night time it got so dark that i guess nobody ventured outside either (unless they were in a car). hence, the setting didn't really invite a continuation of the project from tokyo, which i had originally thought it would. from my own point of view however, the loneliness, silence and melancholy was ever present.

the days went by. i didn't move outside the aircon during the day, and while still HOT at night, it had cooled down slightly. so come nighttime i went to the street. i live right next to the highway 202 that runs to karatsu - it's a fairly busy road and it's the only thing that divides me from the kilometers of rice fields that stretch out on the opposite side. in the back of my house is where the mountain and forrest begin and beyond there is the ocean. while there is not a lot of artificial light sources out here at night, besides a few street lights on the road, the cars and truck continually running through on the 202 create quite a good light source that i thought i might be able to use. also i hadn't quite found the courage to venture too far into the darkness, and thus the hunt for motives around the 202 began. the project of portraying the area around highway 202 to karatsu was born.  

since then i have taken loads of pictures, but the premise remains the same. i shoot at night time, not any longer out of necessity, as it has cooled down since then, but rather to get that uncanny, sort of lonesome feeling that i love, and that i felt when i just arrived. and still feel at times. further i have included the farmers as characters in the series. they are to me mysterious creatures, because i see them in the middle of their fields completely covered in hats, gloves and what not to avoid the sun. i never see a face, because of the big shaded hats and because they are always bent over rummaging through the dirt. to me they are anonymous creatures, but so ever present in the vast landscape, even when they are not in it physically. 


note to self

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itoshima, fukuoka, japan

just a short update on life in the country side, where this week i've been so lucky as to have my series dark ops shortlisted for the prestigious black and white limited edition book publication by gomma called MONO vol. 2 (the series dark ops is also the visual foundation of my photobook tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?). MONO is a trilogy of photography books with contributions by the best of the best b/w photographers along side emerging photographers. vol. 1 came out in 2013 and vol. 2 is expected later this year. alas, i was not among the winning artists, but considering i've only been out of photography school for 7 months, i feel very proud and honored to be among the shortlisted. it is a nice acknowledgement to get, when you constantly feel like you're fumbling along trying your best to do something that is true to yourself and it then also resonates with other people. it is small things like this that assures me that i was not wrong in leaving my job in marketing to pursue my dreams. 

next, this week the fall issue of the danish fashion magazine note came out. in it i am featured with a personal essay on tokyo, my best city tips, as well as five pages with some of the photography from my search for me in plain sight series, which i shot earlier this year in tokyo. you can read my essay and see the photos here (in danish only).

over and out.

 

UPDATE on Tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?

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itoshima, fukuoka, japan

i'm included in an exhibition in tokyo in september at Reminders Photography Stronghold (RPS) along with the other participants, who joined the hand-made photobook workshop there in may. for that reason today i took some photographs of my latest - and best - dummy for the pr for the exhibition. 

if you're in tokyo, please find your way by RPS between september 5th-23rd and have a look, or follow RPS on facebook for updates. it is also through RPS that my finished hand-made photobook tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen? will be sold, when it is (eventually) finished (expected early 2016). 

Tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?

  • Author and bookbinding: ©Julia Mejnertsen
  • Editorial coordination and Art direction: Jan Rosseel and Yumi Goto (in collaboration with Reminders Photography Stronghold 2015)
  • 83 pages
  • 65 pictures
  • app. A5 size 

welcome to studio kura in itoshima, japan

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itoshima, fukuoka, japan

i've landed in itoshima - 45 minutes on the local train outside of fukuoka on the island of kyushu in japan. itoshima is not an island (despite the name - shima in japanese means island), but rather a peninsula with ocean/beach on one side, mountains on the other and some rice fields in between. this is where studio kura resides. in a quaint village looking out over the rice fields with the mountains as a back drop. as pretty as can be, but it is rural folks! there's a 15 minute bike ride to the nearest shops. between my house and the rice fields runs the 202 highway to karatsu providing me with some feeling of life at night time, but otherwise it is pitch black after the sun sets at 7-ish. 

out here speakers are installed along the roads (i think actually this is the case most places in japan). in case of earthquakes, tsunamis etc. the alarm can sound so everyone can hear. but these speakers do more than sound alarms - they also play music. i wake up at 7 o'clock in the morning, when the street speakers play a tune. at 12 pm they play again another tune and at 6 pm a third. no need to keep track of the time here - just pay attention to the music coming on... i am waaaaaay down in gear! the days just come and go while i go to the beach, or go for coffee/lunch or ride around in the rice fields and mountains on my bike exploring this beautiful place. i buy local produce from the produce stand - eggs, passion fruits, tomatoes, even sausages from the local pig farm and salt from the local salt works. it's pretty great despite the unavoidable loneliness that comes from being so far away from everything and everybody. it's been unbearably warm here for the first 10 days i've been here, and there has literally been no people around, but it's cooling down a little bit now (only 29 degrees celcius today), so maybe i'll start seeing some more faces.. 

i do realize that i'm here on an artist residency, but i have not yet decided what kind of project i want to do. i've started doing some stuff already, but i want to try out some more things before settling on a project. i'm sure i'll come up with something, since i still have 1.5 months to go. i'll keep you updated.

for now, some pictures of the place i'll call home for the next few months.

 

culmination of artist residency at 3331 ARTS CHIYODA

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tokyo, japan

it's been a couple of weeks since my last post and obviously many things have happened since. time flies here, and i just cannot quite keep up.

yesterday was the opening of my photography exhibition 'search for me in plain sight' at the 3331 nishikicho studio in jinbocho. there was quite a good turn-out of people that i have gotten to know during my last 2 months in tokyo, as well as old friends, so i was very happy about that. it was fun to have them come by for a chat and a drink. i always feel very humbled, when people want to show up to support me. so thank you all very much! (if you want to read more about the exhibition straight away, you should scroll down a little.)

it is weird with this culmination of a 4 weeks residency, i feel happy and excited at what i have managed to produce, but at the same time it feels sad that it is over. on sunday the 5th, when the exhibition closes, i'll move to harajuku to stay at my friend's house for a week before heading back to denmark for a couple of weeks. after that a new chapter begins in itoshima, fukuoka at studio kura (read more about itoshima here). 

now let me tell you a little bit about the last 2 weeks. since the last post i managed to have a couple of more photo shoots, and although it almost started raining a couple of times, i never really managed to time it with a photo shoot. hence, no rain pictures. that's okay though. it's also fun, when things don't go exactly as planned and you have to think and produce on the spot (which, yes, did happen a few times).

open studio - on friday the 26th, we had an open studio night at the 3331 nishikicho studio. since the 3331 nishikicho studio is quite a new part of Arts Chiyoda, it was like a house warming party, where 3331 had invited many people to see the studio and the residency (where i'm living) on the floor above it. at the open studio night, i showed my works in progress and portfolio, as part of the event. it was a great night with many people showing up as well. afterwards we - some of the 3331 staff and the other residents - went out for dinner and drinks. great bunch of people, the other residents who included hakan topal, jying tan, gustavo giacosa, jean-maxime dufrensne & virginie laganiere and of course our 3331 contact lana tran, who is just a star! 

note magazine - while i've been doing my photography project, i have also been writing a personal essay on tokyo for the danish fashion magazine note. the essay will be printed in the august issue and along with it, i'm happy to announce, will be some of the photographs i've been doing while at the residency. more to come on this. 

Tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen? - i'm still working on my hand made book!!! i'm producing more dummies before i leave tokyo, so that i can participate in more dummy competitions. and hopefully as i do it more and more, the dummies will improve in quality. i've found a japanese silk screen printer, who can do my title pages on the silver paper (if you remember, i've had some issues with printing on the silver mirror like paper, but hopefully it will be resolved now).  it is still a lot of fun to do things with your hands, and book making is just an absolute joy. again, i need to underline this, the options are endless, so give those 'normal' books a rest :) 

printing - since i've been editing the pictures for the current exhibition continuously since the shooting started, once i had a the majority of the picture that i wanted to exhibit, i sent them off to be printed. i copenhagen, like probably most other places, having A1 and A0 size art prints made costs quite the fortune, as does it take time to get them produced. well, yumi from reminders photography stronghold showed me a printing company in akita prefecture (zoomland - in japanese only) that will print and you'll receive to your door the following business day. naturally, you give away your possibility to color check, and if something is not okay, you'll have to start over, but the service is fast, reliable, and the quality is actually pretty genuine. moreover, it is cheap. all in all, i had 9 A1s and 2 A0s printed at the total cost of 13,000 yen (700 dkk equivalent). that is including 'to the door'-delivery people! and as i said the quality is not bad! i'm impressed anyway. 

exhibition - 'search for me in plain sight'  is my reaction to tokyo and the massive population living and working in the city. i've always been interested in the moments of quietness you have, when you think that nobody is looking at you. while you can take these pictures as a street photographer, i think it is also interesting to remake these moments in staged photography, so that is what i set out to do in tokyo during the residency.

in tokyo, the intime sphere needs to be very tight due to the population size. what i mean by that, is that standing close together side by side, face to armpit in the trains during rushhour doesn't leave a lot of personal space. hence, in tokyo there seems to be a special ability to find a mental space, where you are completely alone and do not register people around you. and in tokyo that boundary is drawn much later than any other place i've experienced. i have seen this on the trains and in the streets, when people are by themselves they do not register the world around them unless the world comes straight into their faces. it is a very interesting phenomenon to witness, and this is one of the themes i have been working with in my images. moreover, i like to work with the state of being alone, because being alone does not always equal loneliness. rather being alone can be a choice and seeing a person that looks lonely doesn't mean that s/he is. that is a subjective interpretation of the viewer. however, on the other side, in tokyo there is a serious problem with lonely people, and the exhibition 'search for me in plain sight' is also a comment to not ignore the people, who are right in front of your eyes. 

the exhibition is up from july 1st to july 5th (opening hours 2nd-3rd 11:00-17:00, 4th-5th 11:00-15:00) at 3331 nishikicho studio in jinbocho - 2nd floor.




tokyo series 'search for me in plain sight'

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tokyo, japan

a little more than one week into my residency and it is going great so far. i went location hunting last week in the middle of the night to find the best lit spots in tokyo. this week, i have my first round of shoots set up. just to recap i was anticipating several issue or potential problems i could experience with my photoshoots. however, there really has not been any so far.

  • no problem getting models - 3331 arts chiyoda sent out an open call for models on facebook and other social media, and it was answered. so many replied that they had to close it again within 10 minutes. what a wonderful surprise!
  • we've had no language problems - lana from 3331 is accompanying me on the shoots and translates for me, when needed.
  • no weather problems (yet) - i've been shooting monday and tuesday night this week, and there has been no rain. and now comes the tricky bit, because i wouldn't mind a rainy shot. so where's the bloody rain..

now i'm just hoping that the printing goes well, when the time comes. i still have a couple of shoots this week, but i think a have some good material thus far. 

on a personal note, i'm still floating on a cloud here. 

since my location scouting and shooting has been at night, i've had most days to do everyday things of course, but also just to hang out, read, drink coffee and do touristy things. i'm still in love with my new favorite coffee shop 'glitch', where they know me now, and we have a little chat, when i get my coffee. also i've taken up a habit of going to the family mart (convenience store), when i return home at dusk, before heading out to shoot later, hot and sweaty from the heat, getting a cold beer and sitting outside the store reading. it's a nice little square with green plants and cafés around, so jazz music is in the air. 

last week i went to the danish embassy to cast my vote for today's election. exciting although i'm not really a political person, the fact that danish women received the right to vote 100 years ago this year, convinced me to go. i've also been writing an article/guide to tokyo for the danish fashion magazine 'note', which i think will be featured in their august edition (if it is good enough). i'm still working on my book dummy on the side as well, so all in all time is still flying pretty fast. i really cannot believe that i go home in less than a month.

vote well now denmark, and talk soon.

p.s. please feel free to give me some feedback on my work below.

my corner coffee shop 'glitch'

my corner coffee shop 'glitch'

my new neighborhood jinbocho

my new neighborhood jinbocho

new neighborhood

new neighborhood

meiji jingu iris garden in bloom

meiji jingu iris garden in bloom

3331 ARTS CHIYODA residency start

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tokyo, japan

on monday i moved into my new digs at 3331 Arts Chiyodas Nishikicho studio, effectively starting my 4 weeks residency. i have a lot of work to do, and 4 weeks are going to fly by very quickly. i've moved into the very centre of tokyo. i'm close to the imperial palace, i'm close to tokyo station, i'm close to most things actually. a huge change from my stay out in sumida, where there was a wonderful quietness (the real japan). my room is big, almost as big as the first apartment i ever lived in in tokyo, i have aircon. AND the very best thing... wait for it.. it is literally around the corner from my favorite papershop!!! and an excellent coffee place (glitch coffee).

here is how i've planned my stay:

  1. week: research and location scouting - securing models
  2. week: shooting and attending open studio
  3. week: shooting and editing
  4. week: printing and exhibiting - my exhibition will hopefully hang from july 1st to 5th

should be a breeze right? i hope, but obviously we know, that things never go as planned. i anticipate problems with finding models (although 3331 arts chiyoda is helping out), possibly printing problems, possibly weather problems (we're anticipating rain) and possible language problems. 

i'll keep you posted on the work.

 

it's all in a name - choosing the title for my book

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tokyo, japan

i mentioned in a prior blog entry that i wanted to talk a little bit about my thoughts, as well as jan and yumi's input, on choosing a title for my book. back when the initial bookmaking discussion sessions started via skype with jan, before coming to japan, my book project had the working title 'gaijin' (which means foreigner in japanese). the reason being that i often feel like a foreigner in denmark in the sense of not really belonging. also, i thought the japanese characters for gaijin (外人) looked nifty. i was quickly told however that i should reconsider the title. i agreed to do that, although i didn't understand why initially. i still thought it was pretty catchy and would frame the story well.

when i came to tokyo however, i already had another title in mind. my new title came from the research i was told to do on the subject of expatriation / existential migration etc. i discovered another theoretical field called migratory aesthetics, where i took the new title from. the initial title 'gaijin', a word that has different meanings to foreigners and japanese people, and is japanese, thus incomprehensible to a lot of people in general, was thrown out.  the new title being 'Tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?'. On the first dummy i made, it was actually a little longer (Please tell me, how does one pronounce a hyphen anyway?). As you probably know a hyphen is a form of dash that is used to hold two words together, but also separate a word into two, when a line ends and a new begins. In danish the word is 'bindestreg', which more or less means a line that ties something together. i thought that that title worked well for my book, because it for one is symbolic of something being either held together or separated - if separated, it is done in order for a word to fit in on a line. it is a character merely used for appearances sake. so while you might think that the title is a little cryptic, you should really just take 2 minutes and carefully read and try to answer the question. think about what a hyphen is and what its usage is, and i think you have the answer and understand a little bit, what the book is about.

tell me or don't tell me

after having narrowed in on the title, we tried to hone in on the perfect form for the title. should it be one sentence, two sentences of even three? should i include the question mark or was it superfluous? should i take out the 'Tell me,'-part and just call it, 'How do you pronounce a hyphen?'

1) Tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?

2) Tell me,

    how do you pronounce a hyphen?

3) Tell me,

    how do you pronounce

    a hyphen? 

i decided on the second option. i think that 'Tell me,' is an important part of the title, as it makes it personal and more relatable - like a call out to the reader to help me find out. i also think that visually the second option looks best, and I could not think of any arguments for making three lines. So far, i have also decided on keeping the question mark, as leaving it out, would call for major questions as to why it is not there. At this stage i don't feel there are any good reasons to not include it. but i might not have thought it through all the way to the end yet, so it might change (but i don't think it will ;)).

these were just some of the thought-processes and discussions i've been through in the course of forming this book. as you might have noticed, every detail is thought through and nothing is left up to coincidence or chance. all of this contemplating about all the little details, have surprised me a little, but excited me at the same time. it is fun to do something wholeheartedly, where everything is considered, and you understand, why you choose one thing over the other. i am very happy that i now have a better understanding of the bookmaking process, it really appeals to the perfectionistic / detail-oriented side of me, and for once i have time to consider all the details and not rush, just because other things are demanding my attention. also, id i hadn't done this workshop, i would have made a photobook called 'gaijin', i am pretty happy that didn't happen.

finishing the workshop and my 6th, 7th AND 8th dummy

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before the last weekend of the workshop began, reminders photography stronghold were visited by the small french independent publishing house, chose commune. they were presenting their next project about the indian tale of ramayna, and it sounded tremendously exciting and was a very inspiring talk. i also got a chance to show them one of my earlier dummies during the evening, and while they didn't jump at the chance to publish it (but why?), they did have some valid feedback. they thought the black and white photographs worked well, there was a good flow, but the color images confused them a bit. they thought i should reconsider where and which color images to use, as it at times seemed a bit random, where they were placed. i noted their feedback and when jan came back for the last weekend's workshop, we also ended of throwing out more of the color images, as well as rearranging them slightly.

that was a couple of weeks ago, when we had the last weekend of the handmade photobook-making workshop. we were to finish up our dummies. that means more or less making as good a dummy as possible, before sunday evening. once again we had a very productive weekend, working from morning to night on our photobooks. the atmosphere in the gallery was fantastic and people worked long hours, getting coffee and icecream from the nearest 7-11 and going out for dinner. people were setting up their books in indesign, doing the last editing of images to include, and many of the participants at the workshop had also reached a stage, where their dummy needed binding. jan took us through a variation of binding methods - showing us some of the techniques explicitly, while others were presented in power point and through books already made. the techniques we were taught included saddle stitch binding, japanese stitch binding, and glue binding

as my book has japanese folded pages, it would be very complicated to do a stitch binding, so glue is really the best option for it. basically it comes down to keeping your pages very straight (you don't want to miss a page when putting on the glue), fasten the book, so the pages don't move and then apply the glue thinly - not a glue stick, but a cold glue. after the first layer of glue has been applied, you take some mesh fabric and apply it on the spine of the book, and put on another layer of glue. then you wait for it to dry and hope you've done well. the whole thing is not overly complicated, but it is difficult to get the pages 100% straight i have learned. although i tried my best the spine came out a little cooked, but i guess, like in any other field, practice makes perfect. my bound book dummy no. 7 is for instance already much better than no. 6 and no. 8 is better than no. 7. i have decided to leave the spine of my book exposed, hence the glued mesh is visible. you could also cover the spine with fabric or bookbinding tape, but i think that the naked spine speaks to the theme of the book. jan says that a meshed spine like that is unconventional, and that he likes it and so do i.

for the cover of my book, i decided on black thick 2 mm cardboard. this is attached to the book after the spine has been glued. the best way to do that is by glueing or using double-sided tape to stick the card board onto min. 200 g paper and then attach that thick paper - again with glue or double-sided tape - to the first page of the glued book. my book is app. A5 in size, but because some of the pages can unfold into A4-sized spreads, some of the pages stick out compared with the traditional japanese folded pages. with guidance from yumi, i have so far decided to let the pages that spread out into A4s not be covered by the black cardboard cover, so they essentially stick out from under the cover. this also makes sense for the story in the book, which is about not fitting in. again, nothing is done without reason. lastly, i want the cover to have a debossed hyphen on the front with glossy black finish. for now, i have settled with cutting out the hyphen in the cardboard, removing some of the layers of the cardboard to get the sunken effect and then inserting some black tape. i looks okay for the dummies. 

the 6th dummy i made during the final stretch of the workshop. it was my first manual glue binding, cover attachment and overall finish of the book, but the printing inside was not good, the paper was wrong and some of the images were even printed on copy paper, not the right sizes or placed wrong on the page. after the workshop finished i decided to do two more dummies that would be as close to the final version (for now) as possible. the title page of the book is a silver pager, which sort of has a mirror effect. i first tried to stamp the title and my name on the page. it almost worked. as long as i had the right ink (not all ink dries), but even the non drying ink was solved with spraying the page with hairspray, which makes it stick. all of this took a little bit of time, but while i was working on this, i decided to try and print the title page. that turned out to look even better than the stamp, so now all i had to do was print the title page. easy. no, not really. because the silver paper is coated with something to give it a shiny effect, it seems very few printers can print on it. the coating sort of melts and messes up the paper. i tried printing on different kinds of silver paper, i tried printing on different kinds of printers. different printing shops, but it only worked once. i got one decent looking title page. i still haven't solved this printing issue, but have been suggested to silk screen it. apparently it is really easy to do on your own..... perhaps, but when you've never done it before, everything is challenging. i'll get back to you on how that turns out.

last week i spent doing my latest two dummies, which have turned out okay. well enough to enter into competitions at least, so that's what's next for the photobook dummies for now. for the entire project i still need to figure out how to: deboss the hyphen on the cover as well as silk screen print the silver title page.

all in all the book making process so far has been phenomenal, but tiring at the same time. it is taking one step forward and two backwards with a lot of the creation. so far i'm (almost) satisfied with what i have, but it can get even better. and that is my aim.

over and out for now.



choosing paper, test printing and binding

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tokyo, japan

i guess it's time for another update. although i can hardly find time to sit down and write it. so many things have happened since the last post, and right now i should be back at the gallery test printing. well, i needed a coffee and so i've ended up at starbucks in the skytree (not due to the quality coffee, but rather the free wifi).

paper and test printing

i have been incredibly busy the last week. while i was not expecting handmade book-making to be easy, i seem to continuously run into new challenges that need to be overcome. while printing in denmark leaves you with little choice of paper to choose from, this is not the case in japan... in fact i find myself rather overwhelmed. last week i went back to takeo paper shop to look for paper. i posted earlier all the multitudes of great paper they have in that shop, but after spending the better part of an hour i finally departed the store with 10 different kinds i wanted to test. all within the white/eggshell color scale, from thick to very thin. all in a4 size and with two sheets of each. i think it cost me around 1500 yen (10 euro) - very reasonable i think. but come on, 10 sheets of paper doesn't even begin to cut it..

thus, i ventured off to ginza, where i had been told that another japanese paper maker, oji, has a store. the rumors go that you can actually take all the sample paper you want for free (they have printed facts and test prints on one of the sides, but the opposite side is free to test print your own stuff). anyway, who gets anything for free these days, so i thought it was definitely worth a visit. as it turns out, the store wasn't a store, rather it was oji's administrative HQs in a fully owned oji high rise. although a little intimidating to enter, i quickly found myself in the reception of this pretty awesome looking office building. here all of oji's 100s of different types of papers were available in drawers. please go ahead and take as many as you like. i think i snatched around 50 different types, as i thought it could also make good referencing in the future. out of these 50 sheets of paper, i couldn't really tell you the difference of many of them, but there are some that are glossy, some are matte, some are glossy on verso and matte on recto and vice versa. some weigh 40 grams and some 90 grams, so you see, the options truly are endless.

i thought that now i had spent a day securing all my test paper, all i needed to do was a couple of test prints to see which looked the best, and then just go and buy that kind. no no no no, think again. today i went to kinko's printing services to do so. firstly they screwed up my double sided prints, so that two images were printed on top of each other rather than recto/verso. remember i only have two sheets of each kind of takeo paper, so one sheet was lost. their fault. i gave them sheet number two. they print them, it looks horrible. why? they are using laser jet printers obviously (read about the difference between laser and inkjet printing here), and it doesn't penetrate the paper properly. my own fault. so now i have no paper left and no useable prints to judge from. after that experience i needed a coffee and that is why i am currently sitting at starbucks. 

what will you do then? you might ask. well, here is my game plan. i am going back to the gallery to use the gallery's inkjet printer to print the recto pages on the pages kinko's screwed up and see how it works out. then, i'll probably rely on my gut to take me the rest of the way. i'll get back to you on that.

update! i printed on the back pages and it looks much better than kinko's - so now i've managed to cut down on paper and will choose between my 4 favorites for the b/w printing.

binding

another thing i have been trying to figure out is which kind of binding i want on the book. here's the tricky part, my book doesn't give a shit about what i want. instead it is about what is feasible and doable. yumi-san of reminders photography stronghold has been a great advisor, spending amble time with me discussing what can be done and what will work the best. to start with i really wanted some kind of stitch binding, but because my pages are japanese folded (fold a piece of a4 into an a5 and have the binding of the book be in the end of the opening - really it's the opposite of normal pages and you kind of get two hidden pages. however, it is not possible to stitch them traditionally. since there is no reason for my book to be japanese stitched and a japanese stitching would result in the margin eating about 1 cm of the book, which i'm not interested in, i won't do that either. eventually yumi-san and i ended with glue binding probably being the best option, and we decided to try it on one of my dummies. however, yes there is a however, because my book consists of different types of pages i.e. japanese folded pages in a5, a4 pages as well as normal a5 pages, the glue binder told us that the result may not be satisfactory and thus was reluctant to do it. we were invited out to his small factory (douchi-do, murayama book binding) to see the process, so we could better understand why he was hesitant. sunday morning, yumi-san and i biked through eastern-tokyo to get to the small factory, where we should try to glue my dummy. it was a simple process, but with a lot of steps. one would normally cut all four sides of the pages of the book at the same time to get them even and completely straight for gluing. because of the many page formats in my book this cannot be done, and only the side where the glue was to be put was cut. the end result looks pretty good anyway, and i'm sure that when it is the final copy and not just a dummy made with copy paper, it will look even better. one thing to keep in mind though, is that the glue might work differently depending on the paper type I use. that means that while the copy paper works fine, it might not end up working as well on my chosen paper. yes i know, it is a continous battle to get this right.

i just have to mention though that this guy, who did the glue binding was absolutely amazing. not only did he glue my dummies for free, he also made two notebooks for me while we waited for my glue to dry and gave us samples of both glue, mesh and tape to take home, so we could experiment with the glue binding ourselves at the gallery. totally worth spending sunday morning this way, and once more i am humbled by the warmth and service level of the japanese!! plus as you can see from the pictures below, a lot of the glue binding process is still made by hand at his factory. pretty cool! 

all the other stuff 

the past week i also visited a printer that can make blueprints from drawings and copies. it looks pretty awesome, so i got my architectural drawings made as a blueprint, as well as my 'blondes in denim shirts' grid (that doesn't look as awesome as the architecture drawings though). i also visited my next stop in tokyo - 3331 arts chiyoda - to have my first meeting with the staff, who will help me out during my residency. this i do not doubt will be an equally amazing experience as the bookmaking workshop has been so far. i am learning a bunch and feeling very inspired. the area i live in (sumida) is old tokyo, cultural and historical - apparently i'm right in the middle of an old red light district - many old, traditional japanese houses and small shops, restaurants and factories. 

i haven't been anything but happy for the past 3.5 weeks, while i've been in tokyo. just when I think that an experience cannot get any better, it gets a little better. miki hasegawa has taught me japanese stitch-binding and hajime kimura has spent a day teaching indesign. the weather is great, the food is great, the beer is fantastic and the company is pretty cool also. 



getting to the point of creating a dummy

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tokyo, japan

last weekend the handmade photo book workshop began full speed. 3 days of intensive book-making from morning to late night. the aim: to create one or two book dummies (if you don't know what a book dummy is, please refer to this previous blog post) that can be used as a starting point for our photo book creation. the next 2 weeks i'll fine-tune the result of the first weekend of workshop before the workshop concludes with one more weekend of intensive creativity on may 29th - 31st. 

just to recap, the workshop is run by belgian photographer jan rosseel and gallery owner yumi goto of reminders stronghold photography in tokyo. we are 10 participants in the workshop; 8 japanese, 1 new york-based spanish woman and then me. it is a bilingual workshop conducted in both japanese and english, and as confusing as that may sound, it actually works quite well. people come from diverse backgrounds working with photography, but also film-production, translation, dark room printing and so on. the projects accepted into the workshop contain subjects of great diversity, such as the tokyo rockabillies, dealing with the suicide of one's parents, the dutch japanese children of the 2nd world war and the development of williamsburg, brooklyn over the past 2 decades. before coming to tokyo and starting the workshop, all the participants have had two skype consultations with jan to discuss our projects and clarify the main story, its points and the feelings that we want our books to convey. this proactivity and preliminary research ensured that last friday, when the workshop began, we were all clear on the direction in which to take our books. 

ALERT, the next paragraph contains little information on dummy-making and more information on the research process leading up to the dummy creation. 

i don't believe i have shared with you exactly what my photo book is about. it is my personal story of 'existential migration' (a term coined by greg madison). i didn't know this term before i started my research for the book - all i had to go on then, was this feeling i had of being misplaced and not really belonging. this is a feeling that has hunted me for a good while, but it really reared its ugly head once i moved back to copenhagen a year and a half ago. the theory of existential migration hit the nail right on the head and aided me in putting that feeling into words. further research let me to 'migratory aesthetics' and lily markiewicz, which is from whom i borrow the working title of the book 'tell me, how do you pronounce a hyphen?'. the title of the book and how to decide on that, is a whole other subject that i think can be covered in a later post. anyway, i don't mean to bore you with this stuff, i just wish to highlight the fact that clarifying my subject, researching it, putting words and sentences on a feeling, visualizing it through mind maps and doing the leg work in general, helped me a great deal with moving from a hazy, introverted feeling towards a story that others can relate to as well. and in the end, it makes the dummy-work so much easier.

and now, back to the topic at hand: dummy-making. the workshop began with editing down the photos that were brought to the workshop. with the help of jan, we reduced my images from five distinct photographic series to two. archival material was discarded along with the series of blondes in denim shirts (see picture in grid below). all my digital images were taken out, leaving me with two series of images - a series of analog photos of static places around denmark and the black/white dynamic images from my dark ops series, which were to be combined in the book. the idea of combining these to series is to create a dialectic feeling of my world. i also brought to the workshop architect drawings of my childhood home, which i thought might underline the idea of home and help ask the question whether home always comes in the form of a physical structure. these drawings were piled in with the selected images.

next, i was left to do the sequencing on my own. along with the editing process of choosing images, this is probably the most difficult task. but after spending a couple of hours of consideration by laying out my test prints in sequence on a big table (this is the best way to get an overview and adapt the sequence easily), i felt that i had something viable. again this is absolutely the beauty of dummies - a dummy is just a dummy, nothing is final. so you just try things out. the first dummy was really nothing but a trial. i changed the sequence a little, after having put it into book shape, and when i felt it worked as a book, my first dummy was done. i wrapped the dummy in architectural drawings and tried to imagine that as the cover for the book. for the second dummy, i printed the images on different kinds of paper and in general tried a little harder. i included a lot of the architectural drawings (even more than in the first dummy). i tried using the drawings as back drops for the pictures and as inner liner for the japanese folded pages. i have pages in different sizes and pages that fold out. many things are happening in the second dummy.. when day 3 of the workshop concluded, i had finished two dummies. with the help of jan, the design and images were revisited and a few changes were made - among others the architectural drawings might have to go or at least be reduced quite a lot.

if we look back at my considerations regarding my book before the workshop started, it was, among other things, to have more smaller books in one. that idea was discarded quickly. the different sized pages and the fold-outs still live, as do the different paper types. but let's see, things change quickly, when making dummies, i've found out. the most important thing i've learned in this first part of the workshop is that you can make as many dummies as you want - better to try out your ideas than not. another thing i've learned is that the decisions you make for your book should be made for a reason, not just because they look good. everything needs to be considered and be in accordance with your story.

i got some assignments before next part of the workshop. before part two of the workshop, which is in 2 weeks, i need to:

  1. do a third dummy - start all over! use all the same images as in dummy 1 and 2, but change the sequence and layout completely.
  2. use white dummies (basic white copy paper folded into a book) to help decide on the binding of the book - try different binding methods on the white dummies. bindings i'm considering are hand stitched japanese binding or stud or screw binding.
  3. test print images on different kinds of paper to check, which kind to use. whoop whoop, this means i get to go paper hunting at my new favorite paper store.
  4. take the series of images 'blondes in denim shirts' and make a second book. glad to get this assignment. would have been sad not to use these at all..
  5. have an architectural drawing printed, as a building blueprint or in indigo coloring.  

so you see, i really have enough to do. besides all of this, this week's schedule goes something like this: tomorrow i'll be indesigning the layout of the book, on wednesday i'll go material hunting for paper, card board and different binding accessories, and on thursday i'll visit 3331 arts chiyoda to talk about my residency, which is coming up after the workshop is done.

life is good, i'm very happy, and i don't want to be anywhere else in the world, but here!



i didn't know research could be this much fun

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tokyo, japan

i have not really had a chance to consider how i want my own photo book to look until now. my favorite photo books are like diaries in some way - they are often very personal in nature, and the design and form of those books are very important in conveying and underlining the feelings that the book contains. however, when looking at which photo books i have in my own library most of them are traditional, pretty minimalistic and a decent size that can easily be held and flipped through. i guess i'm not the coffee table book kind of a person.

now i'm thinking for my own book i can go traditional and rely on my pictures to speak for themselves. but then again, traditional publishing is not why i'm doing a handmade photo book workshop in tokyo for (then i might as well "make it on a mac"). rather i have the last couple of days gone on a small research tour around tokyo to look at what's trending in photo books. i have done a fair share of research in my life, albeit academic research, but i never knew it could be this much fun. in my opinion japan has some of the most innovative photo book publishers in the world - super labo, ima photobooks/amana, art beat publishers to just name the ones i've come across during my research, and they're getting me highly motivated to create my own book.

as i am writing this i'm sitting at the café at the ima concept store (japanese photo book heaven with nice coffee and free wifi) and contemplating which of the thousands of photo books i should claim, buy and make mine. yesterday, i went to tsutaya books in daikanyama t-site (also a very decent photo book selection), where i bought "tokyo parrots" by yoshinori mizutani. i was proud that i exited the store with only one book (remember i have to transport them all home at some point..), but i think that one book will not suffice this time. too many books take my breath away and i cannot afford them all - yoshinori mizutani's  "colors", rinko kawauchi and terri weifenbach's "gift", rinko kawauchi's "sheets"  and risaku suzuki's "white", i really want them all, and they all have some interesting feature i wouldn't mind adopting into my own book.

for my own book however, after my initial research, my thoughts are:

  • A4 or smaller
  • japanese binding (special hand stitched back)
  • neutral colors / see through papers / splash of color
  • pages within the book that are bigger (opens up) or smaller than the book format
  • portfolio-type, where one book opens into 2 or 3 smaller books

these are all design elements that my research has inspired me to think about. i would sincerely recommend going photo book hunting, if you need inspiration for photo book making. really, the sky's the limit and it is very inspiring and motivating to see how many options you have.

below i've included some pictures of the books, i found most inspiring in terms of design and formats.



fifty shades of whatever color you want

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tokyo, japan

i've been trying to figure out what my blog should be about. should it have a topic? a certain theme? should i be blogging about photography and culture or just about the things i love in tokyo? i guess it will be a little bit of both, but i'll try to keep the coffee pictures to a minimum. i want my blog to be inspiring and help people, who like myself, want to be creative, but don't always know how to.. 

first i want to just clarify what i'll be up to the next 6 months, as it is not just a matter of hanging out in tokyo for the fun of it. i'll be in tokyo for a little over 2 months to begin with. here the first thing i'll do is join a handmade photobook workshop held by reminders photographers stronghold and taught by the belgian photographer jan rosseel. the workshop will run through may, after which i'll join 3331 arts chiyoda, as a artist in residence. that means i'll get to work on a new photography project in tokyo, and i'm very excited about that as well. next i'll move to itoshima in fukuoka to join studio kura, as an artist in residence. i'll be there for 2 months before collecting my gear and travel through japan. in itoshima i'll get to explore the more rural side of japan, and in my head that means my über-urban tokyo project that i'll do at arts chiyoda can be counterweighted by a more rural side. could be an interesting juxtaposition. but let's not get ahead of ourselves, as i know all to well, things change all the time. 

i'll start by telling you a bit more about the "staples and stitches" handmade photobook workshop i'm attending this month. i have for the last couple of months been working on new material that'll go into this book. i've been shooting film (portra 400) on an old minolta autocord, which is a completely new experience for me. these color film images will be set against some of my b/w pictures from my dark ops series - the story is one of inner frustration and doubt regarding my life direction. although this is a story personal to me, i think that most people can relate. anyway, that's what i hope will come across in the pictures and the book. the purpose of the workshop is to create a dummy - a dummy is a first proposal for your book, which can then be pitched to publishers, entered into competitions or be self published. i'm very excited to get started, as i have never ventured into making photo books previously. i have a feeling that the craftsmanship that goes into it, is right up my alley.  

i'm currently living in a room above the gallery, where the workshop is held. very bohemian. the couple, yumi and masaru, who own the gallery live there too, and today masaru took me to a paper shop/book binding shop in jimbocho called misuzudo, so i could get all the tools for book binding and making. OMG! this shop was heaven - the amount of paper available there... i honestly haven't seen anything like that. ever! there were rows and rows of paper samples in any imaginable color and then 50 shades of that color. i could spend hours in there, and i am absolutely certain that i will, when the time comes for me to choose the paper i want to use in my book. i knew japan was good with paper and speciality shops, but this went beyond my wildest imagination.