Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a holiday designated for the remembrance of those lost in time of war. But on this day, Jessica and I can’t help but extend our thoughts to others as well, in the spirit of peace. Today our eyes and hearts are trained on the far shores of the Pacific, where the people of Japan are still reeling from the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. So for our twelfth Dead Feminist broadside, we remember them by giving wings to the words of our youngest-ever feminist:
I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world. — Sadako Sasaki
As you can probably tell, this piece is a bit of a departure from our usual way of doing things. This time it just didn’t feel right to let the typography run amok, or to fill every inch of real estate with illustrated goodies. So instead, we simply opened the door and let our imaginations take flight. The quote stands quietly apart, running parallel to a flock of origami cranes rising upward from a persimmon sun. As they follow Sadako’s words and wishes, they transform into red-crowned tancho cranes, disappearing off the page.
Since the traditions and history of Japanese printmaking are a veritable goldmine, the sky was literally the limit when it came to inspiration. But I had something particular in mind:
On the left is is Cranes and New Year Sun by Utagawa Hiroshige; on the right is Katsushika Hokusai’s famous Great Wave Off Kanagawa. You can see a reference to Great Wave at the bottom of Cranes—making references to both other artists and one’s own older work is a common convention in Japanese art.
I had the good fortune of seeing Cranes and New Year Sun in person earlier this year at the Tacoma Art Museum. Not only is it a beautiful image, it has an interesting quirk that sort of stuck in my craw. See that line running halfway through the composition on the left? The piece is made up of two sheets of paper; it was originally designed to function as the front and rear endsheets of a book. As far as I know, the original viewer never would have seen the image as a whole—and maybe never would have given it a second thought. But together, the two halves of the image form a stunning vertical composition that I wanted to reference for our piece.
There’s also a bit of a practical homage for us here: just as Hiroshige’s illustration is made up of two parts, each one of our Dead Feminist broadsides is also comprised of two halves. For us it’s purely a technical limitation—Jessica’s platemaker can only make plates that are about 8 x 10 inches in size. So since each of our prints is 10 x 18 inches, we have to break the illustration up and print it in two sections: one set of plates for the top, and another for the bottom. So that means that somewhere in every one of our broadsides, there’s a little break running horizontally through the composition. We usually try to hide it as cleverly as possible, or at least blend it in with the overall design, but it’s always there. Take a look at some of our previous prints and see if you can find it. (Mind the gap!)
Anyway, Hiroshige is not the only person we have to thank for all of this. I’d also like to send out a special, winged bit of gratitude to Hiroshi Oki for providing us with his exquisite kanji (Japanese calligraphy) rendition of Sadako’s name—and to his daughter Shiori for introducing us.
The thing that has just enchanted us both about this project is the very idea of imbuing paper with a wish—of creating something so labor-intensive and time consuming, and then sending it out into the world for a greater purpose. Sadako wasn’t the only person to fold cranes for a wish, but she might be the most well-known. Every year, on the anniversary of the atomic bombing, Sadako’s monument in Hiroshima is festooned with thousands upon thousands of cranes—so many that permanent shelters have been erected there to house and protect them. And even in Western countries, it’s become somewhat of a tradition to give senbazuru (a set of 1000 paper cranes) as a gift to cancer patients. Talk about a ripple becoming a tidal wave.
In that spirit, we’ll be donating a portion of our proceeds to Peace Winds America, a non-profit organization based in Seattle and dedicated to disaster response worldwide. The donation will be directed to the Japan Relief & Recovery Fund, used to rebuild local infrastructure and restore the livelihoods and communities of those affected by the earthquake and tsunami. We’d like to think of this as a little senbazuru of our own.
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Peace Unfolds: No. 12 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 166
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches
Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.
According to Japanese legend, one who folds 1000 origami cranes will be granted a wish. After being diagnosed with leukemia—a result of her proximity to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima—Sadako Sasaki (1943 – 1955) began folding paper, hoping to live. With her best friend Chizuko, she finished 644 cranes before her death at age 12. Sadako was buried with a wreath of 1000 cranes completed by her schoolmates, and is honored with the Children’s Peace Monument in the center of Hiroshima.
Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, with kanji by Hiroshi Oki, in memory of those lost and suffering in Japan—and with a wish for hope, peace and life, once again.
UPDATE: poster is sold out. Reproduction postcards available in the Dead Feminists shop!