Sven Kraus is a renowned calligrapher and artisan craftsman in the “toji” Japanese bookbinding style. He has designed and fully hand-crafted a Japan-themed notebook dedicated to making tea tasting notes, which is perhaps the most appealing notebook dedicated to tea available on the market today.
It includes appealing calligraphies and illustrations, a tasting how-to introduction, about 60 dedicated pages for your tea tasting notes, and additional 40 ruled pages for more notes.
This book is the best companion for your tastings and a great place to keep your notes on the teas I will be sending you. I asked the craftsman about his dedication to his art, and how he approaches his work. Read the interview below.
– WHEN AND WHERE DID YOU START LEARNING JAPANESE ‘TOJI’ STYLE BOOKBINDING?
It was in the early 2000s when I was visiting my calligraphy master in the UK, where I met one of her Japanese friends who was also visiting then who happened to be a master bookbinder.
– AS A DESIGNER AND CALLIGRAPHER, WHAT INSPIRES YOU IN EASTERN ART, AND HOW DOES THIS REFLECT IN YOUR DESIGN WORK?
The most appealing aspects of Far Eastern art for me are sincerity, neatness and attention for detail. I do humbly hope even a slight portion of those three may be retrieved from my works.
– WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH EASTERN ART, AND WHAT INTRIGUED YOU TO PURSUE THE PATH OF JAPANESE CRAFTS?
One of my grandfathers was an antique collector; the other one was a painter and ardent book lover. I was very much attracted to art and oriental aesthetics prior to even learning the alphabet in school. My fondness for things as natural materials and textures; deep emotions and mysticism found in classical poetry; the solidarity with every living creature as represented in haiku poetry and zen stories, etc. all made me become aware that that was how I wanted to live my life.
– WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A CALLIGRAPHER?
It’s not just about only the calligraphy. By my heartfelt desire I managed to organize my life in such a way that I can create my works in a simple and peaceful environment surrounded by nature, while living and working in a room that is made out of just clay, wood and straw, and scattered with sheets of paper, brushes and the smell of kyara (incense) and calligraphy ink. I am not trying to ridiculously mimic any particular culture, nor do I consider myself this or that. I am merely aware that other people may consider this as an eastern calligrapher’s style of living.
– MOST OF YOUR WORKS REVOLVE AROUND POETRY, CALLIGRAPHY, TYPESETTING AND DESIGN. WHAT ARE THE OVERLAPPING ASPECTS OF THESE AREAS OF YOUR WORK, AND HOW DO THEY ALL COME TOGETHER IN YOUR CREATIONS?
To keep it simple I would say there is still the same person behind it all, so this should be the overlapping aspect. As I said before, I like things to be straightforward through simplification and omitting the use of unnecessary objects. No matter whether I write a scroll, bind a family album or carve a wooden tea-scoop, I strive to create stylish, useful things that can bring nice moments into the lives of people who will use them or look at them day by day.
– WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPLES YOU FOLLOW WHEN WORKING ON YOUR CREATIONS?
First of all there are the aspects I discussed above. After the aesthetic and functional part of the story I am very attentive to the ethic side of the resulting work. First of all I try to minimize involvement of any animal sourced materials and maximize the use of recycled attributes. Furthermore, I am very cautious about what happens to the potential waste and leftovers that my art creates, and avoid use of any synthetic substances as much as possible, even for the packaging materials for shipping.