A couple months before New Year my sister brought Bella into her home. A new member of the family. Part bat, part monkey, part gremlin, part human. A magical creature from Planet Pug. She instantly reminded me of a drawing of a similar creature I sketched at Bristol Museum back in November 2015. I had thought it was a Japanese netsuke but found out later it is an okimono (置物), an ornament purely for decoration. The absolute joy of meeting Bella, gave me the inspiration to make a woodblock print from this little dog snuggled up on broken roof-tiles.
"Okimono - dog nestling down on 2 broken roof-tiles - signed Gyokuyosa"
Not long after making the decision to print this little dog, I overhear a conversation about wood in MAKERS shop and gallery while working upstairs in my studio. It's Alan from Alan Hosegood Restorations whose workshop is just around the corner from my studio. I lean over the bannister and introduce myself. I'm interested to find out if he has any off-cuts of wood to test out on this little dog. Although I enjoy working on the magnolia, I fancy exploring some different woods for carving. I also remember master carver, Motoharu Asaka, at Spike Print's Japanese Woodblock Printing Demo Workshop, who mostly uses mountain cherry wood as it is much better for carving due to its fine grain and sticky consistency. Alan is very happy to have a look for some off-cuts so I pop over a bit later and he kindly gives me some lemon, lime and cherry wood.
Test Carvings on Cherry and Lime wood
I carve the lemon wood but don't get on with it at all so give up and concentrate on the cherry wood. It a hard wood, quite nice to carve and and the print shows up a nice grain. The lime wood is extremely soft almost like carving a rubber stamp. I wish it had made a good print but it's rough, lacking definition. I make quite a few prints just incase I have over inked the block but it doesn’t matter how many times I print the image, it’s never as good as the block from the cherry wood. I re-carve the image on the other side of the block and try printing again.
Dog on the Roof - Final Print
After not much success with the lime wood and three and a half attempts later I try out my trusty magnolia woodblock. It all feels so familiar and I feel more at ease carving the image. This time the magnolia produces the best print. I find the perfect frame for this little print and write in capital letters "FOR BELLA" to my new pal, part bat, part monkey, part gremlin, part human, part okimono.