Rikumo Workshops: Setsuhi Shiraishi's Neo-Calligraphy


On September 17th our concept store had the honor of hosting Setsuhi Shiraishi, a Japanese master calligraphist and performance artist. Accompanied by jazz music, Setsushi created two large-scale works of calligraphy on paper before a live audience: one on the floor between the crowd, and another against a flat wall. The beauty of her brushstrokes was only heightened by the music- much like jazz, the true artistry of calligraphy emerges when it's improvised. To keep the spirit of artistry going, we're assembled a few choice quotes from Setsuhi herself. Read on to see why calligraphy and music pair so well, and how calligraphy can sometimes show a person's true character. 



A jazz pianist, the late Bill Evans wrote about calligraphy and jazz improvisation in the liner notes of the album, “Kind of Blue” the groundbreaking Miles Davis’ album made in 1959.



“There is a Japanese visual art in which the artist is forced to be spontaneous. He must paint on a thin stretched parchment with a spacial brush and black water in such a way that an unnatural or interrupted stroke will destroy the line or break through the parchment. Erasures or changes are impossible. These artists must practice a particular discipline, that of allowing the idea to express itself in communication with their hands in such a direct way that deliberation cannot interfere.”   - Bill Evans, "Improvisation in Jazz"




Shodo was imported from China in the sixth or seventh century and has been developed in its own way in Japan until now. In those days, Shodo was an essential part of the education of members of the ruling noble families.  

We say Shodo represents his or her personality and reflects the person. Therefore you can not write beautiful calligraphy by only improving technique- you must also grow as a person. Like we say, shodo is personality. Shodo reflects not only technique but also a person's character. 


Works of calligraphy are admired for the accurate composition of their characters, of course, but also for the way the brush is handled in their creation, the shading of the ink, and the balanced placement of the characters on the paper. We always look for beauty in balance by writing each letter; Long or short, large or small and line angle.

Shodo is not just written letters. It has artistry, strengthens mental, makes you create artwork that moves someone’s heart. It’s not good and bad. You can convey your thoughts to others with you own calligraphy.





線には発声と同じように、音色、リズム、ボリュームがあります。 線質、筆勢、墨量と言い換えましょうか。歌にこころがあるように、書道作品にも心があります。



Let me speak about calligraphy and music. I belong to the wind instrument orchestra and play french horn myself. There are actually many similarities between the two. For example, the way of learning, it’s unfixable, the moments you feel good..

The lines in calligraphy have sound, rhythm and volume just like vocalization. In other words, the lines of the characters, speed of brushing and density of ink. If singing has a heart, so does calligraphy. 

We never rewrite in Shodo. Although layering with colors to create artwork is very common in the painting world, Shodo is one-time art and can never be reproduced.