Japan so far…ūüćĪ

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 ūüôā

P.s. My apologies if I’ve spelled an or the Japanese words wrong!

Crowdfunder Campaign for Artist Residency in Japan!

This Spring I will be spending 5 weeks in Japan learning the traditional art of Japanese Woodblock Printing! I will be undertaking a five week residency in learning¬†‘Mokuhanga’¬†– the art of Japanese water-based woodblock Printing – at the Mokuhanga Innovation Laboratory (Mi-LAB), Lake Kawaguchi, Japan. The residency runs from 22nd April – 26th May 2018, and is designed to provide extensive knowledge of Mokuhanga and its techniques to international artists, printmakers and teachers of printmaking, as well as to enable them to make use of traditional tools and materials. I can’t wait!

I’ve set up a crowdfunder campaign (www.crowdfunder.co.uk/kathryn-desforges), and any money I raise will go towards the remainder of the residency fee and associated costs, including travel, accommodation, materials, and general subsistence costs.

There’s a range of rewards available if you pledge, including sets of cards, original art prints, demonstrations and 1-1 tuition. I’d be mega grateful for your support!


News and Exhibitions!


Join me at The Hepworth Print Fair

Fri 2nd – Sun 4th March 2018, 10 – 5
Private view Thursday 1st March, 6 Р8pm

The Hepworth Wakefield
Gallery Walk, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF1 5AW
T: +44 (0)1924 247360
E:¬†hello@hepworthwakefield.orgI’m really excited to have a stand at this year’s¬†Hepworth Print Fair.¬†I’ll be showing a selection of recent¬†prints and artist books, along with a new range of greeting cards, available exclusively at the print fair, and afterwards through my¬†Etsy shop. (Sneak Peak¬†HERE).¬†If you haven’t been before I highly recommend it, it’s a great atmosphere and an excellent place to buy original prints and gifts. Hope to see you there!


New Light Prize Exhibition at Huddersfield Art Gallery

Preview Saturday 10 March 2018 1pm – 3.30pm
Exhibition continues until 2 June 2018

Open Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 4pm
Princess Alexandra Walk, Huddersfield, HD1 2SU
Free EntryMy ‘Peak’ etching starts it’s tour around the UK with the New Light Prize Exhibition, first stop Huddersfield Art Gallery!

It is a chance to see some of the North’s finest artists in one of the North’s finest galleries. From the hyperreal to the purely abstract, from printmaking to sculpture, this high-profile open exhibition celebrates contemporary artists from all corners of the North of England, including the winner of the £10,000 Valeria Sykes Award.

All works will be for sale.
Click Here for Exhibition Catalogue



Coming Soon…

I will soon be setting up a crowdfunding campaign to raise some funds for my upcoming artist residency at¬†MI-LAB¬†in Japan to learn Japanese Woodblock Printing (Mokuhanga). I can’t wait! More details to come. In the meantime, any money I make from sales of work will be going straight into the pot for that.

Printing my first stone…

I’ve gone a bit off-track with my posts of late – excitement about artist books took over for a bit there! So back to lithography. I’ve got a backlog of posts about various processes I’ve been learning. So here’s the first – printing my very first litho stone. (This was actually over a month ago now – how time flies!).


The drawing on the stone was made using hard and soft litho crayons and rubbing block. Unfortunately I forgot to document the processing of the stone – I’ll have to do that with another one. When it came to taking the first prints, I was amazed by the amount of detail the stone retained – it was so true to the original drawing, but after a few more the image started to fill in in the non-image areas, and it was evident that the stone needed some more etching, (despite having had two gum etches already). This is in order to de-sensitise those areas to grease, so that when the oil-based ink is rolled on, it only adheres to the greasy image-areas.


Stone filling in – evident from the grey tone on the non-image areas. This is why it’s important to really look at and try to remember your image before processing and printing, so that you know which marks should and shouldn’t be there.


Applying a further gum etch to the stone with a paint brush. A strong mix of gum arabic and nitric acid is applied to the strong areas of the drawing and non-image areas to clear out any grease, and a weaker mix is used for delicate areas of tone, so as not to clear these areas out completely.


Stone etched back and ready to proof again.


The stone is printed with a 50/50 mix of ‘Noir a Monter’ (non-drying black ink) and Crayon black ink.


A leather nap roller is used to roll the ink. When using any black ink other than non-drying, the roller should be thoroughly scraped after use to avoid it drying out and ruining the roller.


Pulling a print from the stone – Ink is rolled on to the damp stone, damp paper is placed on top, and once run through the direct transfer press the paper is pulled from the stone to reveal the printed image.


My first run of lithographs! I was really happy with how they turned out – especially seeing as they were only a test.


So amazed by the fine detail – something unobtainable with any other print technique. The key is processing the stone so that all the subtleties of the drawing are retained.


Morris under his favourite lamp.

A Weekend of Artist Books

This weekend I had a table at the Leeds International Contemporary Artist Book Fair, along with my friend Aimee Day, a visual artist based in London. It was a great two days, with such a diverse range of work, and so many inspiring conversations with people who really took the time to look at and ask about our work.

I came home feeling thoroughly inspired and energised to make new work. Having set myself a small budget, I also made a few purchases to add to my small but growing collection of artist books. Here are my new purchases in all their loveliness, along with the rest of my collection. Photographing them actually gave me the idea to do a post about each one individually. I’m going to try to do one every couple of weeks, so keep a look out…


Thinking within boundaries, working within constraints.

So I’ve got a bit of news – in January 2013 I’m going to be starting an Internship at Leicester Print Workshop in Stone Lithography! It’s one of the only printmaking processes I’ve never had a go at before, and I’m really excited because it’s one which relates the most, in my mind, to drawing. One of the things which made me apply for it was doing a print swap recently with artist Lisa Hecht. I sent her one of my artists’ books – ‘Corners’, in return for her beautiful lithograph ‘Blue Damask Bed’, (above – sorry for the not-great photo). I think it’s actually a photo-lithograph, but it was the quality of the print which captured my attention – the way the ink sits on the paper is different to any other printmaking process, and the layering and colour really inspired me.

Over the past few days, as the news has had a chance to sink in, and as I’ve been in the process of editioning my print for this year’s 20:20 print exchange, I’ve been thinking about my last blog post, and what I said about choice of technique to suit the idea being a large factor in the success of a print. I still think this is very important, however, there is something to be said for working within the boundaries and constraints which a particular technique provides, whether it be drawing onto stone, carving into wood or lino, or etching a metal plate. This seemed particularly relevant as the print I was editioning was a very small, simple hard-ground etching which I made a while ago, as a tester for a series of small etchings of items of household fixtures and fittings. The drawing sits just within the boundaries of the metal plate, confined, almost restrained by it. But there is a certain domestic comfort in that.

The finished print, hard-ground etching on zinc, inked in yellow-brown with a colour roll-over and printed on off-white hahnemuhle paper.

It might be that an artist chooses a particular technique for the very reason that they want to be constrained – they want the process to determine the outcome of the work, to take them on a journey. The outcome may not be one which is expected or anticipated, but that’s what makes it so exciting! Printmaking for me is a constant process of inquiry, discovery and repetition, and the more I learn about it, the more ideas for new work I get, so I’m proper chuffed to have this opportunity to develop my skills further!

I’ll be posting regular updates on here from January detailing the progress of the internship, so keep checking back!

Thoughts on what makes a good print…

Working in a print workshop means that I inevitably spend my weeks having conversations about printmaking with a variety of different people. It’s interesting the way the same topics of conversation seem to arise again and again.

Recently it has been the question of what makes a good print. Of course there isn’t a definitive answer – it’s purely subjective – but for me a big part of the success of a fine print lies in the choice of technique. It’s a consideration which in my opinion is too often overlooked.

Perhaps it comes from having a reasonable knowledge of some of the main printmaking processes, but usually when a print really stands out at me, it is either because I can see a strong connection between the subject matter and the process used to create it, or because that particular image could not have been created in the same way using any other technique, thus adding to its unique quality. There is a huge contrast between prints where you can see the technique has been been employed and manipulated by the artist in a creative, thoughtful, individual way, and prints that have been made with a particular technique purely for ease of reproduction. (Although with this statement I seem to be heading towards the territory of ‘what is an original print’ which is a hot topic of debate among printmakers, and one which I may attempt to tackle in due course.)

When I start a new piece of work, it is usually because a particular image or idea has appeared in my head, and while spontaneous, sometimes frantic preliminary sketches are extremely important, I still try to find the time to stop and ask myself questions about my original idea. What is the most important thing I am trying to communicate? What process and materials are best used to communicate this idea and why? Is it the process of making the print, or the finished outcome which is more important? Is it important that it is a multiple at all? These are questions which need not always be answered, but if it is apparent from the print that the artist has considered these aspects, it is likely that the viewer will also ask these questions – and in my opinion that usually makes for a very interesting piece of work.