Bamboo Leaf Studio is an independent art enterprise by poet Pat Nolan featuring his linoleum block prints, handmade limited edition poetry books, and other limited edition studio-based ephemera.
Pat Nolan came to printmaking through an avid interest in Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, amassing in the process a large collection of monographs, museum catalogs, and anthology representations of floating world artists who were popular in Japan in the 18th to the late 19th century. The subdued palette of basic colors reminded him of the Sunday funny papers and comic books that were his consuming interest as a youngster. Japanese prints of the Edo era, in their design and presentation, were the epitome of the illustrator’s art, sophisticated and quite modern for their time and culture. As Nolan learned more about the art of Japanese printmaking he began to appreciate 20th Century Japanese print artists and the powerful simplicity of their black and white images. Print artists such as Munakata Shikō, Un’ichi Hiratsuka, and Okuyama Gihachiro seemed to embody the modern élan while maintaining their deep connection with tradition. Nolan’s obsession with the Japanese prints was kicked up a notch when he began collecting affordable reproductions of the Edo masters as well as original work by contemporary artists.
Inevitably, the next level for Nolan was to try his hand at making prints of his own. He had better luck carving linoleum blocks than he did wood, and chose the path of least resistance. He decided to work with and/or adapt the Japanese motifs with which he had become so familiar, applying the history and techniques he had studied.
“I had the idea of making Buddhist inspired prints featuring what I call faux koans (“Kicked a clump of dirt—my return address” or “The more you know the more you know”) since historically some of the earliest Japanese prints were devotional depictions of Buddhist saints or precepts sold to pilgrims traveling to shrines and temples. They are faux koans in the sense that they imply an ironic intent and emphasize mystification rather than clarification. I was particularly impressed by the seemingly effortless and spontaneous prints produced by contemporary artist Kan Kozaki working in the spirit of Munakata, and whose techniques I sought to appropriate. Many of Kozaki’s prints feature a haiku by the 20th Century haiku poet Santoka which also encouraged me to feature texts with my images.” The Smoking Poets prints are his take on Kabuki actor portrait prints.
Nolan’s prints emphasize the contrast of black and white, and are printed with water soluble ink on unbleached mulberry washi as well as found and non traditional materials allowing the uncarved portions of the block to define the picture plane. The blocks are printed by hand using a variety of barens and multiple inkings. Water color is sometimes added to the verso of some prints while stencils and stamp inks are used to achieve subtle effects on others.
A museum exhibit of colorful 18th and 19th Century Japanese books inspired Nolan to learn the methods of Asian side binding styles and create his own handmade books. These limited editions were published under various whimsical imprints beginning in early 2000 as a way of emulating the Japanese book arts as well as presenting selections of Nolan’s poetry and that of Gail King. Editions never number more than 36, often as few as 12. The letterpress broadsides were printed at North Bay Letterpress Arts in Sebastopol, CA.
“I had the idea of making Buddhist inspired prints featuring what I call faux koans since historically some of the earliest Japanese prints were devotional depictions of Buddhist saints or precepts sold to pilgrims traveling to shrines and temples. They are faux koans in the sense that they imply an ironic intent and emphasize mystification rather than clarification.” –Pat Nolan
The Smoking Poets series came about in an attempt at replicating a photograph of a poet (Samuel Beckett at the left) through the medium of a carved linoleum block. Soon other photos of poets smoking surfaced or were suggested by those who viewed the first successful attempt. Most were of men smoking cigarettes or pipes. Unfortunately the number of women smoking and who were poets were not near as plentiful. The search continues.
Women Poets Postcards
This limited edition series of three sets of three poets each was printed on repurposed cardboard separators using a combination of linoleum key blocks and original hand fashioned stencils. Set 1 features Sappho, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Kathy Acker. Set 2 consists of Lorine Niedecker, Barbara Guest, and Murasaki Shikibu. Set 3 is comprised of Lucille Clifton, Emily Dickinson, and Denise Levertov.
Handmade Books & Surimono
These limited edition books were published under various whimsical imprints using found, recycled, and synthetic/commercial materials and innovative methods including lino cut, stencil, mylar, rubber stamp, tee shirt transfer, and chine collé. The books are bound in assorted Chinese/Japanese side style bindings including Yamato ribbon binding. Binding strips and endpapers on some editions are imported Japanese silkscreen paper or a natural dyed momogami. Included are also a few fan fold items in the surimono style of literary ephemera. Editions never number more than 36, often as few as 12. The letterpress broadsides were printed at North Bay Letterpress Arts in Sebastopol, CA.