Yatate madness.

A yatate is a portable brush and ink container, brought to you by the same culture that invented the bento box and Mobile Suit Gundam. A random encounter with yatates on Russ Stutler’s online sketchbook led me to eBay, where I stalked not only yatates but maki-e suzuri bakos, or writing boxes. I have one yatate with me, and two more on the way. I imagine a lady of some standing owned this one, or perhaps a merchant who liked flowers. It is made of (most likely) a copper alloy.


One lid, two receptacles: a beautiful economy of design. The hinged lid exposes both the ink basin and the opening of the hollow handle meant for a bamboo brush.

Yatate ink basin

Here it is open, with a bamboo brush from National Bookstore. I cut off almost half of the brush handle so it could fit.

Yatate with bamboo brush

I hope one day to find a bamboo brush with the right diameter handle and the right thickness and springiness of brush. Until then, it’s either this or a Rembrandt #2 sable brush whose handle I also shortened. The ink basin isn’t meant for liquid ink. Traditionally, cotton or silk soaked in sumi ink is stuffed into the ink basin. That ensures no ink spills during travel.

And this yatate is certainly traveling.

Yatate on the beach

I don’t think I’m taking travel doodling to a new level. Still, there’s something to be said for maximizing the tools at one’s disposal, no matter if one is far from home. Condensation on a cold glass of Coke Light on a sun-drenched beach makes the perfect brush wetter.

Yatate, Coke Light, brush

Even fine white sand can be used to add texture to a gray wash.

Sand on ink

After I tap the paper to remove the sand, a grainy texture appears. I’ve tried this with watercolor too, and it works. Of course I could also use salt, but I don’t need to be in a bikini on the beach for that.

Sand texture

The ink is Noodler’s Eel Black, and the journal is the Derwent Safari I recently reviewed.