Ink has been an essential part of human civilization for thousands of years, used for everything from writing and drawing to printing and calligraphy. For centuries, ink was produced using ink sticks – solid blocks of ink that were ground with water to create ink paste. However, with the advancement of technology and changing consumer preferences, ink production has evolved, and readymade ink has become the norm.
In Japan, inksticks, known as sumi, were invented and have been used for centuries by artists, calligraphers, and poets. Sumi ink sticks are made by combining soot from burned vegetable oil or pine wood with animal glue and then molding and drying the mixture into blocks. The ink produced by rubbing a sumi ink stick on an inkstone with water is highly prized for its rich, deep color and subtle variations in tone. Like in China, sumi ink sticks were easy to transport and had a long shelf life, making them a popular choice for artists and calligraphers in Japan and throughout East Asia.
The production process for ink sticks remained largely unchanged for centuries, even as printing technology advanced in the West. In the 19th century, however, the demand for ink began to outpace the supply of ink sticks. Ink manufacturers began experimenting with new methods of ink production, leading to the development of liquid ink and eventually readymade ink.
Today, readymade ink is the standard for most printing and writing applications. It is made by mixing pigments or dyes with a liquid carrier, such as water or oil, and then packaging the ink in bottles or cartridges. This allows for more consistent color and quality, as well as greater convenience for consumers.
Despite the prevalence of readymade ink, inksticks are still used by some traditional artists and calligraphers who value the unique texture and characteristics of handmade ink. In recent years, there has even been a resurgence of interest in ink sticks among hobbyists and artists seeking to explore traditional techniques and materials.
In conclusion, the evolution of ink production from ink sticks to readymade ink reflects the changing needs and preferences of consumers, as well as the advancement of technology. While ink sticks may no longer be the most practical option for most applications, they continue to hold a special place in the world of traditional art and calligraphy