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The Episcopal School in North Philadelphia

St. James School was honored with a special visit from Japanese artist and dignitary Shu Kubo. Kubo-san has shown his artwork world-wide and at a recent cultural exchange program at Drexel University. Kubo was accompanied Yorie (his wife and translator) and Shushi Yakanoshi, Drexel University professor and artist who, herself, recently displayed her work at St. Mark’s Church and generously shared the proceeds of her art sales with St. James School.

Kubo is a renowned Kiri-e artist and special advisor for cultural exchange of the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs. He spent the morning with our students demonstrating the art of Kiri-e—a unique and lively form of Japanese paper cutting—and teaching the children to make their own creations.

The technique involves paper cutouts using handmade Japanese washi paper, which Kubo hand paints in a variety of colors. He manipulates the paper sheet by sheet, creating a piece of art by precisely cutting fine lines with a blade. He recently improved and expanded his technique by combining washi with Western paper materials, resulting in remarkable three dimensional pieces. By layering multiple layers of ultra-thin washi, he is able to change the depth and values of his colors and add texture and flair to the subject.

The highlight of the morning was the sumo-cutout wars that took place right on the art room table tops. Students cut and colored their sumo wrestlers and played paper sumo battles. The sumo that did not fall to the tapping of the table-tops was crowned the winner of the match!

After the visit, the children presented Mr. Kubo with a token gift to remind him of his visit to St. James and Philadelphia. Art Teacher Ms. Ball and Lead Teacher Mr. Martino had reviewed some of the cultural nuances and differences

to prepare the children for our special visit. They even greeted and thanked our visitors in Japanese!

In the latter part of the lesson, children were encouraged to employ and improvise (using only scissors!) the techniques taught by Kubo.  In addition to the photos of the workshop, here shown are the works of Jaleika and Anjae.

Arigatou gozimasu, Kubo-san!