registration

Japanese Woodblock Printing with Laura Boswell

A question I keep hearing recently is ‘Does this add value to my life?' It’s a question The Minimalists ask themselves throughout their daily lives. I recently saw their wonderful film Minimalism about how having less is definitely more.

What adds value to your life?

It’s a useful question and one that I’m beginning to look into a little deeper. For a few years now I’ve been exploring a few different printing methods. From rubber stamp printing to linocutting, to letterpress and more recently woodblock printing. Through the process of exploration I’ve come to find that the process of woodblock printing resonates with me the most. I am drawn to the process from beginning to end, from sketching an image, transferring the image onto the woodblock, then carving the image into the wood, dampening the paper and finally making a print with the baren. I love the materials used in the process and the way it helps me to slow down, focus and be more present. This process definitely adds value to my life. So I wonder why then I seem to be spending the least amount of time actually woodblock printing? 

Laura creating Kento registration marks

Laura creating Kento registration marks

Woodblock BLOCK!

One reason might be my slight phobia of multi-colour printing. I have continued to tell myself that I have woodblock BLOCK and a fear of creating a multi-colour print. It’s not as though I haven’t made a multi-colour print. I’ve been on a couple of group courses where I came away very happy with my colourful prints. But I also came away with that overwhelming feeling that the registration process was still somehow out of my reach. I had not asked enough questions. There was not always time or space in a group setting. When I had tried to make a multi-colour print back at my studio, each time the blocks wouldn’t line up but I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. It was as if I had been transported back to the school maths class but this time the tutor had vanished. The 'how to' books and online videos were not helping. So it remained a complicated puzzle that I just could not unravel and so I put all the mistakes back in the drawer and froze. 

What I really needed was a one-to-one session with a printmaker with a hefty plunger who could help remove this gigantic blockage. Someone at my side to show me the process, who I could directly ask questions at any point in the day without interruption and be able to extinguish those burning questions in a moment. That someone was indeed the wonderful printmaker extraordinaire, Laura Boswell.

Printing my woodblocks 

Printing my woodblocks 

Thank you Laura Boswell

Laura simplified the registration process for me, she made the whole woodblock printing process very accessible. She took measurements off the map, put my fears to rest and renewed my faith in my own ability to go forward with the process. Her down to earth approachable manner made the whole day a complete joy. 

So thank you Laura for helping to unblock the woodblock BLOCK and restoring my confidence. Your woodblock printing course has definitely added value to my life! 

Netsuke - Wood Bird II

Re-carving the wood bird

NewBirdWoodCarvingHefga.jpg

Today I make sure to take my time and carve closer to the original lines of the bird sketch.

Inking up the wood bird

 

The L shape sits up next to the woodblock to line up the paper. Paul Furneaux had given me some little markers to use for registration which I tape onto the wood. I place mine completely the opposite way round and slanting on the block and feel the frown of the ukiyo-e printers. But for me it's perfect as I want to bird to be at a slight angle and didn't accommodate for this in the initial carving.

The L shape sits up next to the woodblock to line up the paper. Paul Furneaux had given me some little markers to use for registration which I tape onto the wood. I place mine completely the opposite way round and slanting on the block and feel the frown of the ukiyo-e printers. But for me it's perfect as I want to bird to be at a slight angle and didn't accommodate for this in the initial carving.

Printing the wood bird

 

The slanted markers on a separate L Shape enable me to change the position of the printed bird. This experiment might go against the tradition of the ukiyo-e printers but exploring different methods of registration became quite common among the Sōsaku-hanga artists during the Creative Print movement.

The slanted markers on a separate L Shape enable me to change the position of the printed bird. This experiment might go against the tradition of the ukiyo-e printers but exploring different methods of registration became quite common among the Sōsaku-hanga artists during the Creative Print movement.

Many artists - Munakata, Morozumi, Kidokoro, Maki, Sasajima, to name a few - do not use registration per se because they work with monochrome prints, or they print all the colours at once, or they use colouring techniques such as resist dying after the basic monochrome image has been printed. For them it is only necessary to center the image on the paper - though the use of kentō still survives, contemporary Japanese print artists have steadily been developing their own individual approaches to to meet their particular needs.
— Evolving Techniques in Japanese Woodblock Prints by Gaston Petit
 
The technique...in modern prints became creative rather than technical.
— Japanese print-making: A handbook of traditional & modern techniques - Toshi Yoshida & Rei Yuki
 
Sōsaku-hanga (創作版画 “creative prints”?) was an art movement in early 20th-century Japan. It stressed the artist as the sole creator motivated by a desire for self-expression, and advocated principles of art that is “self-drawn” (自画 jiga), “self-carved” (自刻 jikoku) and “self-printed” (自刷 jizuri). As opposed to the shin-hanga (“new prints”) movement that maintained the traditional ukiyo-e collaborative system where the artist, carver, printer, and publisher engaged in division of labor, creative print artists distinguished themselves as artists creating art for art’s sake.
— Wikipedia - Sōsaku-hanga