To begin our blogs, I thought I would
describe the actual process of Mokuhanga woodblock printing to give an overall
introduction to the technique.
Once I have designed and drawn the image I
want to reproduce I carefully trace and reverse the image – everything will
come out in reverse as I print.
From this final to scale reversed drawing I
can transfer my image onto the woodblock.
When I am happy with the transferred image
I carefully carve the kento registration marks into the woodblock. These are a
very simple, but extremely accurate way of registering the paper on top of the
image which I will write more about in another blog.
The kento will ensure I can place the
traced image and the final printed image in exactly the same place as I apply
different layers of colour and they allow me to know exactly where on the paper
the image will print.
Now I have prepared and transferred all the
details onto the woodblock I can begin the fun of carving! I use a set of
Japanese knives and gauges to carefully outline the image, taking care to cut
the wood at the correct angle to allow excess ink to slide off and ensure a
crisp edge to my design.
I outline the design with the hangi-to
(knife) and then clear away all the areas not to be printed. The design and the
areas to be printed are then left in relief on the wood.
Once I am content with my carved image I
can begin the printing. I use Japanese Tenjin paper, which is prepared and
dampened the night before to ensure it is at the correct moisture content to
accept the watercolour inks, too wet and the colours will run and too dry and the
paper won’t absorb the colour.
During the printing process everything is
kept at an even moisture level, the paper, the woodblock and this combined with
the ink being mixed in the appropriate consistency with nori paste (rice
starch) ensures that the ink is released from the woodblock and absorbed into
the middle layers of the Tenjin paper.
The absorption of the Tenjin paper allows
for repeated printing of layer upon layer of colour until the desired depth of
tone is achieved for the design. The ink isn’t sitting on the surface of the
paper, but being encouraged to settle into the fibres in the middle of the
paper. This process is helped by use of the bamboo baren, which is a tool used
to rub the back of the paper in the printing process in circular motions to
encourage the paper fibres to open up and accept the ink.
This process of inking up the woodblock,
registering the paper on the block and applying printing pressure with the
baren is repeated until all the colours and depth of tone are achieved, which
can take up to 15 layers depending on the design.
You can of course add multiple blocks to
the design to add more definition to the print or print separate areas of
colour, but I will explain this in another blog.
The grand reveal of the print is always
exciting. Pealing back the paper and deciding whether I need to add more ink is
a very painterly aspect, which is a particular element of control enjoyed in
this mokuhanga style of woodblock printing.
The finished print is ready to be dried
between sheets of birch ply to ensure even flat drying of the print with less
risk of mold due to the natural antibacterial properties in the wood.
It is then signed off and sent to Steve
Douglas and Laima Perliane to frame and backlight.
To learn more click here
You can contact us by clicking here or calling
Steve on 07977 907 113.
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