My workshops are suitable for both beginners and professional printmakers. I aim to provide practical experience of woodblock printmaking which covers the basic techniques. The focus is on the use on non-toxic materials and simple equipment, while recognising the value of high quality tools and materials. The group is kept to a maximum of 6 people to enable me to respond to the individual needs of participants, and I aim to prepare you to work independently. You will create a print, either of one colour, a reduction print with one block and more than one colour, or a print made with multiple blocks and more colours, depending on the length of the course and your own level of expertise.
On these courses we will usually work within an image size of 17cm x 24cm (you can, of course, work on different images within this area). Stages involve designing and developing an image for your print in b&w (or a colour) ; transferring the image to the block; carving the block; preparing the paper; application of paint; printing and drying your print. You can re use the block(s) that you carve on this course - you could reprint using the same block, continue carving them later, or use them to make a print using more blocks, if you like. It is just a starting point and an opportunity to start learning about the methods used in mokuhanga. It’s often helpful to keep your image simple as it takes time to learn how to handle the chisels, which are beginners tools, so not very good for intricate details. If you make it very complicated you will be rushing (a few hours is a very short time in terms of learning this technique!) and may feel frustrated with your progress. As you will see from the examples I will show you, simple images can be very powerful. It’s a learning experience, to be enjoyed. Don’t worry about ‘mistakes’!
The methods used to carve a block and print it are very similar to the original way of working: classes will cover the use and maintenance of Japanese tools (brushes, barens, blocks, chisels), how to carve an image onto the block and experimentation with mark making techniques, the unique kento registration system (on the one day course we will only have time to print in one colour, so won’t need to register the paper for multiple blocks: on the two day courses we will use the kento system to make a reduction print, or carve multiple blocks), Japanese papers and how to prepare them for printing, hand printing with a baren, and the use of water based pigments. These materials are all compatible, and it is the particular combination of materials and processes that result in the unique quality of a mokuhanga print.
On my courses I use plywood veneer, which is cheaper and easier to work than the traditional harder woods (blockboard, katsura, shina- and lauan- faced plywoods are often used now), using basic wood carving chisels. It’s a good starter wood for learning the process.
Water based paints are used to print the blocks, a process which is done by hand using dampened paper and a baren (a pressure pad faced with a bamboo sheath, which is rubbed on the back of the paper as it lies on the printing block, in order to fix the impression on the paper). Single colour images can be very strong, and we will look at examples of these – usually made with black paint, or sumi. The kento marks on the corners of the block itself also hold the paper in position. When making multiple impressions, the paper aligns correctly when it is placed in the correct position on the kento marks. Layers of colour can be built up to create an intense and luminous quality to the print.
The technique is low tech, safe, clean and accessible. The materials are non-toxic, natural, inexpensive and readily available, making this an ideal printing technique for home and studio.
What to bring
Ideas/designs max size 17cm x 24cm (they can be smaller) and sketchbooks
Water based paints if you have them – gouache or watercolour (NOT acrylics)
Packed lunch (we provide tea and coffee)
I will provide chisels, blocks, specialist Japanese printing brushes, barens, test papers and
kozo paper, paints etc.
Stockist of Mokuhanga supplies
Intaglio Printmakers - www.intaglioprintmakers.com
Relief Printmaking Ann Westley
Japanese Woodblock Printing Rebecca Salter
Making Woodblock Prints Merlyn Chesterman & Rod Nelson
Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop April Vollmer
The Great Wave: the influence of Japanese Woodcuts on French Prints Colta Feller Ives