My Introduction to Ukiyo-e and the beginning of Kyoto Prints

June 13th, 2020BlogNo Comments »

My Introduction to Ukiyo-e and the beginning of Kyoto Prints

Way back in the early 1970s I met a very eccentric Englishman who had the most impressive moustache I had seen up to that point in my life, totally inspired by the British Raj. He was the father of a friend of mine, named Peter who made the most exquisite handmade leather bags who had his worship and outlet across the road from my first business, Hieronymous Handcrafts. I was yearning for inspiration and ideas.

Amongst other things the Englishman had mounted some little pictures of Japanese Ukiyo-e prints onto 5 ply board and planed the edges to a beautiful 45 degree angle, then he lacquered them by hand with several coats of shellac. I fell in love with these exotic images. His taste in Ukiyo-e tended more toward the landscapes of Hokusai and Hiroshige but I had no idea of their names or who they were back then. It took me several years to discover the huge influence the “artists of the floating world” had on the European art of the 20th century, especially on the Impressionists. Van Gogh had a huge personal collection of Japanese woodblock prints. Here is a link to peruse some of the Japanese Ukiyo-e artists who influenced Van Gogh.


A seed was planted, or should I say replanted because back about 5 years earlier when I was still a teenager working as a window dresser I decided that art was to play a big part in my life.

A few more years went by. 

Since leaving my cushy jog doing visual merchandising I had toyed with making wooden knitting needles, crochet hooks, hand spinning wool, selling trinkets from Rajasthan and Afghanistan, making candles, kid’s wooden cars and hand cut and sanded wooden pots. My life was all about the journey.


The picture below was taken in around 1973 when I was making wooden knitting needles in a small Victorian country town. Life was all about self sustaining and not relying on the status quo.

Gary Collier Blog Picture of me and Flora in 1973 after I had first seen the little block mounted Ukiyo-e prints that inspired me.

Around Christmas 1978 we were so broke that I decided to find some reproductions of Japanese prints and mount them down on board to give as Christmas gifts. If I remember correctly I had about $20 and this was enough to purchase a book of prints and enough board cut to size to create enough gifts for my family and close friends. They loved them and soon after our new business “Kyoto Prints” was born. These were not the original Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, they were reproductions but we made thousands of these wood blocks over the next few years. All made by hand and sprayed with lacquer.

Since then there have been many businesses from Picture Framing to Art Galleries. Now I have reached the age of retirement but for me there is no retiring just a continuation of the journey with a few stops to revisit the past and delve deeper into this amazingly influential period of art.

Once again the prints are reproductions but the range is huge and variables immense from prints on archival paper, canvas, framed and unframed, various sizes and all of this seasoned with a passion for the beauty of Ukiyo-e.

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