Monday, November 14, 2011

Teaching Japanese Calligraphy to the Blind.

I have a deep respect for Asian culture and a passion for calligraphy from China and Japan. I am teacher of students with blindness and visual impairments. In order to share my interest in Japanese and Chinese calligraphy I have started a collection of tactile kanji. I photocopied calligraphy pieces onto a special piece of paper. After exposing it to heat, any part of the paper that is black puffs up and becomes different from the background. It looks neat too.

I started the project by showing the students s variety of pieces I found on the internet or wrote myself. I gave a brief background on Chinese writing. We took some time looking at and feeling the brushes, ink and ink stone. It got a tad messy.

After showing the students how to use a brush we traced the tactile calligraphy with a brush with no ink on it so they could feel how the bristles and brush moves on the paper.

I had some visitors from Japan, who were in to visit my art program. I had the Japanese teachers work with the students and help them write their names. The problem when doing art like this with a student with no vision is they cannot appreciate the end result. (I cut off the student's faces from the picture to protect their privacy.)

So we brought our calligraphy names to the library at our school. I had the students photocopy their name calligraphy onto the puff (piaf) paper. I also added black dots in braille onto the sheet with the students names. Then they lined up and fed their calligraphy through the machine. They all shouted Abracadabra as we did it, because this is where the magic happened.

Puff Paper Machine

Instantly after running the paper through the machine the black parts puff right up. They could now feel the calligraphy and the braille dots now.

Is it perfect? Will a blind student really understand the beauty and finesse of calligraphy? I don't know. Despite the difficulties I will try exposing my students to as much of the beauty that is in the world as I can. I just have to think outside the box and try showing them in different ways.

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