I’ve been in Japan now for 3 weeks, and so far it’s been fantastic! I started my trip with a couple of days in Tokyo being a tourist, then made my way to the Mi-Lab residence in Fujikawaguchiko to start the artist residency learning ‘Mokuhanga’ (Japanese woodblock printing).
The residence is in a really beautiful spot – near Lake Kawaguchi, overlooked by Mount Fuji (Fujisan!). It’s been cloudy for the last couple of days so he’s been hiding, but when he does pop up it’s as if out of nowhere…turn a corner and suddenly there he is!
The first week was very intensive, being taught all the basics of the Mokuhanga technique by Chihiro Taki – a Japanese printmaker who makes the most beautiful woodblock prints. (I recommend checking out her website: http://www.chihirotaki.com)
To start off we all did a little presentation about ourselves and our work, which was an opportunity to get an insight into each other’s art practice, and an understanding of why we were all there. Taki San then presented some of her work, and seeing her prints in the flesh really blew us all away – such subtle colours and textures. She then gave us a brief history of woodblock printing, and we got straight on with the technical stuff – covering ‘Iruwake’ (colour separation), the ‘kento’ registration system (the best, simplest and easiest way the register prints!), and introducing us to the tools we would be using to carve the plywood blocks – the ‘Hangi-toh’ knife, the ‘Maru-toh’ gouge, and the ‘Kento-nomi’ knife.
Taki San then went on to demonstrate the printing process. The block is inked up with watercolour or guache paints, using ‘Maru-bake’ and ‘Te-bake’ brushes, along with ‘Nori’ (rice paste- very important in the process). The damp paper is placed on the block, (prepared the day before), and a ‘baren’ is used to apply pressure on the back to transfer the ink to the paper. (This mainly happens through absorption – the fibres of the kozo paper ‘drinking’ up the ink from the block.) She also showed us the different effects you can get if you alter the amount of ink, water, nori and pressure used – including ‘gomazuri’ (sesame effect), ‘mokumizuri’ (wood grain effect), and ‘bokashi’ (gradient).
Phew! It’s a lot to take in, but so much fun and a it’s so exciting to be learning something which is so different from the kind of printmaking I am used to. Being here has made me realise that I haven’t had this much time dedicated to learning and creating work since university – 13 years ago!
This is the first post I’ve managed to write since being here, as I’ve been trying to spend as much of my time as possible just sitting at my desk and making….but I will try to post again soon, as It’s a good way of reviewing what I’ve learned.
I’ll leave you with a few images from the last few weeks. Thanks for reading 🙂
P.s. My apologies if I’ve spelled an or the Japanese words wrong!