woodblock prints

North Art Summer Show Exhibition

Thanks to my wonderful friend Patrick who helped me hang my woodblock prints for the North Art Gallery Summer Show. Thanks also to Adrian for curating the event. The preview was fab and the show will be up for 4 week so do pop in and say hello! 

Hanging the Woodblock prints

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Netsuke Miniature Prints

Save The Elephants

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£5 from the sale of each print will be donated to Save The Elephants

Through my interest in Japanese antique netsuke, I have become more aware of the ivory trade that is still in operation today. 

Save The Elephants are a founding partner of the Wildlife Conservation Network in the US which transmits 100% of donated funds to the field. 

"Our mission: to secure a future for elephants and to sustain the beauty and ecological integrity of the places they live; to promote man’s delight in their intelligence and the diversity of their world, and to develop a tolerant relationship between the two species."

Save The Elephants continue their research to find solutions to reduce conflict, end poaching, trafficking and the demand for ivory. They raise awareness and provide internships and scholarships in conservation education. 

Inspiration for the Project

The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal

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This book was the inspiration for my journey into the wood. Each woodblock is hand printed with a baren using Japanese carbon ink on white hosho paper. The description 'NETSUKE’ is debossed with 10pt New Clarendon metal type printed on the adana 8 x 5 printing press.

The space invites you to take a quiet moment and sit on the cushion provided and read from the book if you wish. There are also hand printed bookmarks for you to take away.  

Other Artists exhibiting at North Summer Show 2018 include:

Show Miche Watkins, Tina Altwegg, Gareth Pitt, Sarah V Penrose, Ian Pillidge, Jane Warring, Jess Stevenson, David Brown, Tony Eastman, Victoria Fox, Ian Usher, Caroline McGlone, Lenny, Andrew Wilson and Luz Gallardo-Franco.

North Art

Gallery Opening Hours

Thursday 2pm - 6pm

Friday 2pm - 6pm

Saturday 10am - 4pm

Sunday 10am - 2pm

...and by appointment; please email contact@northart135.com

Netsuke Frog - Breaking The Silence

Mini woodblock print from my sketch of an antique Japanese netsuke frog (unsgd) at Bristol Museum.

Mini woodblock print from my sketch of an antique Japanese netsuke frog (unsgd) at Bristol Museum.

“Breaking the silence

Of an ancient pond,

A frog jumped into water -

A deep resonance.

This poem was written by our master on a spring day. He was sitting in his riverside house in Edo, bending his ears to the soft cooing of a pigeon in the quiet rain. There was a mild wind in the air, and one or two petals of cherry blossom were falling gently to the ground. It was the kind of day you often have in late March - so perfect that you want it to last for ever. Now and then in the garden was heard the sound of frogs jumping into the water.”

From Matsuo Bashō - The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches. Translated from the Japanese by Nobuyuki Yuasa.

It has been a little quiet over here at Into The Wood so it’s lovely to be woken by the sound of Bashō’s frog and see this beautiful blossom on my journey home. 

Close to home and heart. Cherry plum blossoming in late March.

Close to home and heart. Cherry plum blossoming in late March.

Books

The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches by Matsuo Bashō - Translated from the Japanese by Nobuyuki Yuasa

 

A Miniature Woodblock Print from Mokuhankan

Mokuhankan Patreon - Miniature woodblock print from the Mokuhankan studio - design by John Amoss. 

Mokuhankan Patreon - Miniature woodblock print from the Mokuhankan studio - design by John Amoss. 

Woodblock Printmaker David Bull

I’ve been following David Bull’s woodblock printing website for a few years now and what I love about David is his absolute passion and dedication to woodblock printing and generosity of sharing his process. He has built an online extensive encylopedia dedicated to woodblock printing. This wealth of information includes advice on tools for carving, sharpening stones, tools for printing, wood for carving, printmaking papers, sizing recipes, pigment and paste recipes. Whatever you’re looking for this is definitely a fantastic place to explore.  

http://www.woodblock.com/encyclopedia/index.html

Mokuhankan

David is based in Tokyo at his studio Mokuhankan where he has a number of carvers and printers working with him in the studio to create exquisite original woodblock prints and reproductions of some well known prints including those of Hiroshige and Hokusai.

David also produces videos which give a real insight into his world of woodblock printing. (Almost 100 videos to choose from on Youtube!) He has created a series of Ukiyo-e Heroes with illustrator Jed Henry, a Hiroshige reproduction of ‘Heron and Irises’ - edition printed by Ayumi Ohashi, a reproduction of Hokusai’s ‘Great Wave’. His latest video shows the whole process, in real time, from start to finish, carving and printing the well known Japanese woodblock print ’Female Nude Seated in Water’. Original design by Ichijô Narumi (1877~1910).

I recommend anyone with an interest in woodblock printing to check out David’s amazing world of woodblock printing at woodblock.commokuhankan.com and his YouTube Channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/seseragistudio/videos

Mokuhankan Patreon - To our fans and supporters - a miniature woodblock print - design by John Amoss.

Mokuhankan Patreon - To our fans and supporters - a miniature woodblock print - design by John Amoss.

Patreon

By becoming a patron ‘Patreon Chibi’ I am now a patron of David’s work and just before the New Year I received my first miniature woodblock print from the Mokuhankan studio - design by John Amoss. 

Beautiful Japanese postage stamps too : ))

"Mokuhankan is my attempt to see if traditional woodblock printmaking can perhaps find a place in contemporary society. I am going to publish some prints - on a very small scale at first - and see if I can find the combination of image, quality, price, and presentation, that will achieve that goal." David Bull

Thank you David and John and all the production crew at Mokuhankan. I think traditional woodblock printmaking certainly can find a place in contemporary society. Your print is a joy to behold. 

 

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! 

Andy Warhol, Woodblock Prints & Netsuke - Ashmolean Museum Oxford

A few months ago a friend invited us to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford to see the Andy Warhol's private collection: 'Works from the Hall Collection’ to be shown to the public for the first time. I love Andy Warhol's prolific and revolutionary work, and not long before the invitation, I had made a note of another exhibition that was showing at the Ashmolean. 'Scenes of Last Tokyo' - A collection of Japanese Creative Prints (Sosaku Hanga) from 1945. We booked a date and made the trip to the museum.

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Andy Warhol

We enter the Ashmolean Museum and head for Andy Warhol. Bright vibrant pop splashed screen prints of flowers and well known celebrities adorn the walls, and in another darkened room, black and white cutting edge films in their time play on continuous loop (Empire (1964) Sleep (1963) Eat (1963), Kiss (1963) and Screen Tests (1964-65). We continue into a room of line drawings followed by a room dedicated to silk screen paintings in black and white with a religious and existential theme. And near the exit, a wall of abstract Oxidation prints made from the chemical reaction of urine and copper based paints.

Scenes of Last Tokyo

I head to the exit, down the stairs to the Asian Crossroads Orientation Gallery. Photography is not permitted here so I am unable to show these beautiful colour prints in my journal. I slowly follow the line of fifteen nostalgic views from the 'Akamon' Gate of Imperial University by Maido Masao, 'Asakusa Kwanmon' temple by Saito Kiyoshi, 'Zōjō-ji' by Yamaguchi Gen, to the 'Benkei-bashi' bridge by Senkino Jun’ichiro.

Sosaku Hanga (Creative Prints)

All fifteen woodblock prints were created by nine artists from the Japan Print Association (Nihon Hanga Kiyokai). These prints are not as precise and intricate as woodblock prints from 'Ukiyo-e Pictures of The Floating World'. The lines are loose and expressive. Perfect registration is not essential as one colour bleeds over the edge of the next. These artists would have designed, carved, and printed the blocks themselves allowing more room for exploration and creative freedom. Only twenty years later and Andy Warhol is following Ukiyo-e's traditional system of mass production, employing assistants to print his designs.

Artist's Books

Behind a glass cabinet opposite the woodblock prints lie a collection of ten print albums published by Aoi Shobō. Each book contains ten prints accompanied by poems or essays by the artists. It's a privilege to see this work and I wonder if or where it will travel to next. I make a note of the contact details for Jameel Centre for Islamic and Eastern Art study room and leave the gallery.

'Scenes of Last Tokyo' exhibition continues until 5 Jun 2016.

Tea House & Netsuke

I find my way to West meets East Orientation Gallery. As I enter the room, I encounter a similar experience when I made my first visit to the British Museum's Japanese Galleries. A spacious and serene tea house with tatami mats and paper walls welcomes me into the gallery. I continue into the gallery and find myself in Japan between 1600-1870. Japanese woodblock prints are dotted along the walls and glass cabinets display lacquer boxes. A folded screen is painted with soft yellow flowers in lush green landscape on blue sea. A carp is painted on a silk scroll. There are stoneware and earthenware ceramics, Kakiemon porcelain and a cabinet of netsuke.

Netsuke - Mouse Signed Kanō Tomokazu

A small wooden mouse with its tail curled under its grasping paws looks up at a monkey, a tiger and a bird of prey all hanging from their own seal baskets (inrō).

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Inrō

Since the traditional Japanese garment (Kimono) did not include pockets, other means were carried around to carry around items of daily use. This varied from using the often-capacious sleeves of the kimono, to tucking articles into breast folds. It was the sash (obi), however, which was secured around the waist and used to hold the kimono together, that became the focal point for carrying objects - various pouches, containers,or miscellaneous items , known collectively as sagemono (‘hanging things’) were suspended from the sash - most notable of these were the money pouch - smoking accessories - tobacco box, pipe and pipecase and in particular, the inrō (‘seal basket’).
— Japanese Netsuke by Julia Hutt
Netsuke - Monkey Grooming Unsigned

Netsuke - Monkey Grooming Unsigned

Netsuke - Tiger Signed Kajikawa Saku

Netsuke - Tiger Signed Kajikawa Saku

Netsuke - Bird of Prey Signed Moei (Nakaōji Moei)

Netsuke - Bird of Prey Signed Moei (Nakaōji Moei)

Netsuke donated to Ashmolean by Sir Herbert and Lady Ingram

Do What You Love

I think about the time, dedication and discipline needed to the make these tiny objects and am reminded of Motoharu Asaka's precise and intricate carvings for traditional Japanese woodblock prints. There is no doubt that spending so many years full time as an apprentice to any craft produces absolute mastery of one's discipline but what resonates for me even more is the passion and dedication to doing what you love. This is so evident in the work of Andy Warhol and the Sosaku Hanga artists who immersed themselves deeply into their passion creating such a prolific and exciting body of work.

The seeds of tomorrow’s brilliance are planted in the soil of today’s activity. If you want to do great work in five years, that begins today. As Gretchen Rubin put it, “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.
— Todd Henry

We leave the museum and follow a path to the river lined with narrow boats and ducklings. The sun is still shining. We sit on a bench and watch the rowers race by.

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