Where to buy Chinese Calligraphy and Sumi-e supplies
I am based in Toronto, Canada where Chinese calligraphy and painting supplies are available but not the best nor the cheapest. I have been asked by my art followers where I get my supplies and if I can recommend some place where they can buy them too.
Here’s a small corner of my art studio. The antique chest has been with my family for a long time, and we brought it with us when we moved from Hong Kong decades ago. I bought a lot of supplies when I was travelling in China and Taiwan. I did buy some brushes here in Toronto, but they are almost double the price. I love seals, and I had them custom carved in China as well as here in Toronto.
When I have time, I design my own seals and carve them myself. This little fish seal is the first one I tried my hands at:
The one in the following photo is also carved by me, and instead of the usual seal script, I used my own calligraphy for the name seal.
I find that a good seal paste is very important in stamping a perfect seal onto the painting. When I visited China last year, I made a special trip to Xiling Seal Art Society 西泠印社 on Lonely Hill Island in the middle of West Lake in Hangzhou to buy the original 西泠印泥 (Xiling Vermillion Seal Mud in a Ceramic Pot ). Got some brushes there too. They also displayed the seals of famous painters like Qi Baishi, Pan Tianshou etc.
Then while visiting Taiwan, I bought calligraphy brushes and painting supplies at the 100 year old Lam Sam Yik shop. They made the largest brush in Taiwan seen in the photo below, but to my surprise, they also sell makeup brushes now…I guess fewer people buy calligraphy and painting brushes nowadays so they have to branch into a new business…people not only are not interested in calligraphy now, with the widespread use of smart phones and computers, they can’t even spell or write : (
Shown in the above photo is the brush and the wood water container I bought from that shop in Taiwan. The ink stone was from China, and I ordered it online.
Since my art followers cannot travel to Hong Kong, Taiwan, China or Japan to get them, I have now compiled a list here of some reasonably priced supplies you can get at Amazon. They are good enough for beginners to give it a try and not waste a lot of money if you end up not pursuing it. Actually the quality is not bad, just not ultra-professional, so even intermediate users will find them satisfactory.
I will update this list as I see more suitable supplies. I have bought suminigashi inks on this list from Amazon. If you can read Chinese, you can also try buying direct from China via Taobao where I bought my seal carving supplies. The supplies are cheaper but the shipping is more expensive. But if you can’t read Chinese, it gets confusing.
If you are not sure what the painting supplies are comprised of, you can read my article about The Four Treasures of Chinese Ink Wash Painting (文房四寶)