The Sumi-e Inkstone — Suzuri

The Suzuri – From Ancient Quarries

The suzuri (inkstone) is sculpted from the slate of ancient quarries or riverbeds. Master Suzuri artisans look for slate with a rich luster, close grain, natural pattern, and a smooth, hard impermeable surface. Carved animals, plants, and natural scenes harmonize with the natural shape of the inkstone and frame the houbou. This flat surface where the ink is ground slopes into the reservoir for the ground ink.

The Suzuri – As Meditative Instrument

The suzuri is at the heart of the meditative process of Sumi-e. Alone with the inkstone, the Sumi-e artist takes the suiteki (water dropper) and drops a few precious drops of spring water on the suzuri. Before the ink stick touches the suzuri, as the water glistens on its curved black surfaces, the Sumi-e artist’s descent into quiet meditation begins. Empty of all intrusions from the outside world, the mind of the Sumi-e artist becomes at one with the inkstone. Bringing the sumi stick to the suzuri is an intimate act, a re-enactment of the same creative encounter so many times before and so many yet to come. Ink stick and inkstone touch. The first scent of fragrant ink is released freeing the mind. The art of grinding ink requires a refined technique. Sliding the ink stick across the suzuri in subtle rhythms, the Sumi-e artist establishes a groove. Much like jazz musicians vamping until ready, the Sumi-e artist knows when the moment is right.