I have an exceptional bond with one of my sister in laws and I've always been very thankful for her dear friendship and incredible support. Recently she was at her dentist's office where apparently a little corner of the office is set aside for Artisans and others who have unique or specialty items for sale. She is always on the lookout for anything Oriental for me and she has bought me so many incredible finds that it simply astounds me that she takes such an effort to present me with things she is positive I will love.
Her last gift to me is one of the more precious that I now treasure because at the time she purchased this she was dealing with a lot of difficulties, pressures and worries and I was certainly the last person she should have been thinking about at the time but she spied a beautiful Oriental Watercolor brush set that she knew I would adore and she tells me she simply couldn't just leave it there knowing that I would fall in love with it.
The set comes with 3 authentic watercolor bamboo handled paintbrushes equipped with little handles, a pad of authentic rice paper, a beautifully illustrated guide and instructional book, a practice sheet which is meant to be used with only plain water, which absorbs the strokes after a few minutes and allows you to practice without fear or need to mix watercolors, a grid sheet which is designed to be used when creating Chinese calligraphy, a porcelain brush holder, a grinding stone, three ink sticks and several tubes of water colors. The case itself wraps everything into a neat, beautiful book display that I choose to keep prominently in our main floor family room where a number of other cherished Oriental pieces also sit. The case when in use, can be propped up to create its own little easel which is extremely handy.
To say that I am afraid to use this gift though would be an understatement, but it is one that was purchased with the expectations that I would get much use and much joy from it and eventually I am sure that I will, but just not right now. I really just can't bring myself to place even a slight blemish to it and am happy to enjoy it just as it sits. I have used just the slightest sheet of paper from it though and did put together a small piece just so I wouldn't have to lie and tell her I had used it when indeed I hadn't yet!
I have many artistic interests and I became enthralled with the art of chinese watercolor work many years ago when I worked downtown. At the time there was a Chinese artist who use to paint your name in Chinese calligraphy resplendent with the symbolism that was your birth date. My Chinese birth symbol is that of a Fire Monkey. I had purchased both my name and birth symbol as well as a banner with a beautiful dragon on it at the time and cherished them. When we'd moved into another house for a few years, we experienced a flood in the basement and these two beautiful, cherished pieces were destroyed. I decided at that time that I would try to teach myself this incredible art at some point and try to revive those two beautiful pieces with my own hand. I've not gotten there yet but I continue to work with the tools similar to what that artist worked with right there on the streets, and hopefully I'll get the two banners replaced again eventually. Since that time I've collected a vast array of products that will help me work in this particular medium and so for now I'm choosing to work with those products I've purchased previously so that I can keep this particular kit in good condition for awhile. My sister in law has requested a piece be made using this kit though and so I will have to break it in eventually...I did use the brushes and one sheet of paper from the kit though and I even set it up with the little attached easel...mind you I covered the easel with felt to absorb any wayward droplets that might pass through the paper...the brushes are quality brushes and work very nicely, allowing for the flow of watercolor to be applied with smooth, almost effortless strokes. I've not yet used the ink sticks (another problem I have given that Chinese ink sticks normally come with very beautifully designed markings...these particular ones have gold raised dragons on them and another set I have hold beautifully detailed oriental sayings in Hanku writing. The purpose of the ink sticks is to allow one to slowly, methodically and in a circular motion, move the ink sticks against the grinding stone that has had a slight amount of water added. As the ink breaks down and becomes watery in consistency, the painter is meant to medidate about the image they will eventually create using the ink.
Chinese watercolor painting has a long and beautiful history and for me, the fact that there is so much zen like preparation and peaceful, very methodical application to completing each piece, is what attracts me most to the this beautiful and delicate art.
The Rice paper is of a very high quality, as a matter of fact I've found nothing about this set that would make me even believe that the very economical price of $25 is what she paid for it. This kit is worth many times more than the price tag and when she first presented it to me, I was shocked, expecting that she would have laid out well over $100 for it. The quality, the workmanship and the contents are every bit as rich and expressive as any expensive art product I have ever purchased. Although I have come across kits that are very similar in outward appearance, I've never come across any that are as detailed or quality oriented or that hold everything you could possibly need to create beautiful works.
Sometimes we receive gifts that are so special to us not just because of what they are but of what they represent, that we want to keep them just as perfect and as cherished as the bond we share with the person who bestowed them upon us. Some gifts are worth holding on to with pristine love and adoration and this is one of mine.