A brush full of precious calligraphy ink doesn’t combine too well with running an iconic Japanese shop and chasing around after a growing family, So when traditional Japanese calligraphy expert Miho Araki takes her two little ones to school she can then launch into her paintings and designs “It’s not something I can stop and start,” Miho says of her work.
“I need to be at it for a full day.”
After years of study at the calligraphy desk, which takes firm discipline to conquer, Miho gave it all away, until she moved to Australia in 1989, met her husband, Dean Leitch, and revealed to him her artistic skills.
“People first asked me to write their name in Japanese, then someone asked me to create business cards and create different designs for them,” Miho says.
The couple now runs Ebisu Design, in Elwood, selling Japanese artifacts, furniture and Miho’s art.
Calligraphy is an age-old art form taking years to master and is based on perfecting continuous strokes. It is all about balance and harmony, and many parents encourage their children to do it in Japan as a way of gaining focus and discipline.
Calligraphy ink is produced by mixing the ash of burnt wood with water. For her largest multi-panel canvases, Miho uses a horsehair brush with a tip “as big as my head”, because the strokes must be unbroken and of a certain thickness.
She places her thick black strokes on large white canvases, does calligraphy on rough edged mulberry paper wall hangings (the Japanese traditionally use rice paper, but Miho prefers the thickness of mulberry), and produces one off greeting cards. English translations of her work come with each piece to reveal a meaningful message or poem.
“when you practice calligraphy you spend a lot of time rewriting the sayings of ancient poets or masters of thousands of years ago, you don’t really write your own thoughts,” Miho says.
“But I write my own messages. My work is bought to go on the living room wall, not the art gallery, so I tap into normal life. I like to include a meaning that you can attach to your life. Most people see the canvases, like the look of them and then realize there is meaning attached.”
The size of her canvases is limited to what Miho can reach whilst perched and balanced at one end, because a stroke can loses its perfection if she changes position or lifts her brush at the wrong moment.
After all those years of practicing she has now created her own style of writing, design and sayings traditional calligraphers usual belong to some group ,society or master but Miho is on her own and is able to be unlimited in her imagination and activities.