Awagami Factory

Awagami International Miniature Print Exhibition 2017

Year of the Cockerel 酉

In May I applied to the Awagami International Miniature Print Exhibition 2017. I submitted two prints. 'Monkey Wearing Short Gown' celebrating the year of the Monkey, 2016. To celebrate the year 2017, I carved a cockerel of a netsuke from The British Museum. I usually make a visit to a museum or gallery to make a sketch of the original netsuke but as I was eager to get the prints to Awagami Factory. I searched The British Museum’s online collection and found a photograph of a netsuke cockerel carved by Yoshinaga around the late 18th C. The original netsuke is made from wood with eyes inlaid in dark horn. 

Carving the block and printing the cockerel

酉     とり     tori



I carved the cockerel from Japanese magnolia wood to print an edition of 75. Both prints, the cockerel and the monkey, were posted to Awagami Factory. The prints were received and will be on display at the Awagami’s Hall of Awa Japanese Handmade Paper Museum for their 2017 exhibition - October 7th - 29th October. 

"The exhibition will feature a total of 1,347 miniprints submitted from 1,010 artists hailing from 54 countries.” A.I.M.P.E

"In Japan, since the Edo Period, the Tori no ichi, a market fair  has been held on the Days of the Rooster in November (to welcome the New Year) at various Otori-jinja shrines found in all parts of Japan. This fair is sometimes called by the familiar name of Otori-sama. The patron deity of good fortune and successful business is enshrined at Otori-jinja shrines. Open-air stalls are set up selling among other things, kumade rakes (symbolic of the rooster’s feet)  for ‘raking in wealth and good fortune.’This good-luck rake is made of bamboo and is decorated with masks and koban (old gold coins)."

Find out more about cockerel / rooster symbolism at: Japanese Mythology and Folklore

Paper Gifts - Awagami Washi

Last month I registered and posted my mini woodblock prints to Awagami International Miniature Print Exhibition in Japan. This morning I receive an email from AIMPE to let me know they have arrived safely. 

Not long after receiving the email from Awagami, the postman knocks on the door and presents a beautiful envelope made from Awagami’s washi paper. Inside is a pack of Awagami Editioning Papers - a gift from Awagami paper factory as one of first 500 hundred artists to register to AIMPE. These gorgeous washi papers include a selection of Kitakata, Hosho, Bamboo, Kozo, Shiramine, Okawara, Hakuho and Bunkoshi. 

"Awagami Editioning Papers are crafted at our mill with the artistry and knowledge of 300 years of wash paper-making. The papers are made using traditional Japanese fibers such as kozo and gampi as well as other non-tree fibers; bamboo and cotton. Fibers are often skillfully combined yielding washi with highly unique textures amd expressive characteristics.” Awagami Factory


From my trip to London I have come home with some new woodblock printing materials. The outer layer of bamboo leaf on my baren had shredded and on reflection, if I had known about keeping it well oiled I am sure it would have lasted a lot longer. I made a special trip to Intaglio Printmakers, about 15 minutes walk south from the Tate Modern.

Intagio Printmakers sits at the bottom of wooden staircase. In this basement full of art materials filling shelves to the ceiling it feels more like a warehouse than a shop.

Choosing a Baren

I have found the Barens. There's more than one kind of Baren in the cabinet. The natural bamboo one like the one I've managed to shred, a black plastic one, a makeshift DIY looking one with a big handle and a large sleek cream disk Baren. I like the materials to be as natural as possible so I am not sure about the plastic ones. They are 4 times the price but I am swayed by the shop assistant's enthusiasm for the cream baren which is made from hard wearing plastic. The bamboo barens wear out much more quickly and I'm told the black ones tend to warp out of shape for some unknown reason and the DIY one doesn't create even pressure. The cream disk baren is by far the best design, being stronger than the others, has a larger flat surface area with with raised circular bumps to distribute the weight evenly when pressure is applied. It's the most popular with printmakers today. I guess it will probably be more economical to buy this one as it sounds like it's going to last a long time. I also add a some 'Flexicut SlipStrop' to my purchase. This will help maintain my new wood carving tools to keep them in good condition. The SlipStrop is recommended for new tools rather than a sharpening stone which would be best if the tool is chipped or worn out of shape.


Awagami Call for Entries

On my way back up the wooden staircase is a board full of leaflets, adverts for all kinds of printmaking courses and events. On the window sill is a an A4 'Call for Entries.

I like the sound of this and check out the suggested url address for Awagami's submissions.