I was a very close friend of Richard during our tour of duty in Korea . Richard’s sharp wit had a lasting impact on me and his creativity was obvious back then. He opened my eyes to many esoteric concepts. His musical tastes were anything but mainstream. He gave me an appreciation of jazz and blues as well as art. I lost touch with him about ten years ago and recently found out he died. I was trying to get in contact with him and read he passed away last year. He visited me in California before he moved to Japan. He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him. Ron Zundell
Images from some of my first trips to Jionji studio in Ogawamachi. I spent the summer of 2004 taking the train out from Tokyo to work with Richard 3 times a week. I came with an open mind, sometimes we were beating kozo and pulling sheets, sometimes we were restoring antiques, printing sake labels, or doing yoga and making bread. There was always work to be done but never a rush about it so it could be done right and we could take pleasure in each task. This time was incredibly precious for me, I look back on it as a kind of formative chrysalis in my life.
I’ve been an admirer of Richard and his work forever. One year for Christmas Richard gave me this experimental picture of one of his ink drawings xeroxed onto washi. I have kept it safe over three continents of changing homes. Today when I read his moving obituary on this website, I knew I wanted to share this picture of his beloved home and temple with his other fans. Even though we hadn’t spoken in years, I always felt as if he were my friend and we were united in our love of Japanese papermaking. Rest in peace Richard. You live on in your work and in our hearts. Patricia
Richard and Fireflies
Insects were sometimes a feature in Richard’s work, as they were in traditional Japanese artwork. In January of 2020, only months before Richard’s death, at Paul Denhoed’s urging, I went to Japan to see old friends, but especially to spend time with Richard. Because of my interest in Japanese paper lanterns, Odawara chochin in particular, Richard and Ryoko took me to a shop that specialized in all manner of “Akari” or traditional lamps and lanterns. While there, the shop owner showed us an unusual standing lamp, basically a cylinder about 10 inches in diameter and 20 inches tall. It was old, but it had an original electric bulb on the inside. The shade or wall of the cylinder consisted of two layers. The outer layer was a dark nighttime image of bamboo leaves. Images of fireflies appeared here and there on the leaves. The inner wall was an angular zebra stripe like pattern in black on an otherwise clear material. I recall there was a small electric motor that slowly rotated the inner wall, but it may have been moved by the rising heat from the lamp. As it turned, it let light illuminate the lightning bug bodies every now and then in a surprisingly realistic way. The effect was magical. Richard and I were drawn to it, but Richard was enthralled. The lamp was in need of repair to make it fully functional and to avoid any future damage. Richard said nothing, but I could tell he was enchanted and that if his health had been better, he would have loved to take the lamp home and give it the attention it deserved. He stood staring at it for many long minutes. The trip to that shop was the highlight of my time with Richard and Ryoko.
Six months later, late in June I was in our kozo garden back here in Iowa, trimming the excess growth from our young Nasu kozo trees. My head was completely surrounded by very healthy green kozo leaves. As I looked down to pick up my clippers, I saw a firefly on a leaf. I smiled and thought to myself, “Perhaps it is Richard.” I gently moved the firefly to a safe location. The moment left me feeling calm, and somehow assured.
Tim Barrett, July, 2020