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A Japanese Experience

A two day experimental workshop with Elspeth Lamb

Saturday 28th September at 10:00am Sunday 29th September at 4:00pm

What is Mokuhanga, and what are Ukiyo-e prints?

Both terms refer to Japanese woodblock prints : those images one associates with artists such as Hiroshige,Kuniyoshi ,Utamaro and Hokusai, who produced beautiful prints of luminous colour around150-200 years ago during the Japanese Edo (present- day Tokyo) period. This form of printmaking was known as ‘Ukiyo-e’, or ‘prints from the floating world’. Birds and flowers were extremely popular themes at that time, as were landscapes, women, actors and historical figures. The method we will use to carve the block will not differ that much from the original way of working. The class will cover the use and maintenance of Japanese tools, the kento registration system, asian papers, printing with a baren and the use of waterbased pigments.

Unlike the original way of carving (whereby a hard end-grain wood, usually cherry or similar fruit wood would be used in order to achieve the finest detail using tools which resemble wood engraving tools), we will be cutting sheets of plywood faced with bass wood using basic wood cutting tools. The basswood cuts very easily and is a good ‘starter’ wood for learning this process. It is also inexpensive compared to the end grain woods eg cherry, pear which can be costly.

What makes this process so accessible? The materials required are not expensive and are readily available and if you develop a liking for this process you can eventually invest in a set of very good tools. Water-based paint or inks are used to print the blocks, rendering the technique both safe and clean (no turps anywhere in sight) and the fact that a printing press is not required means that one can safely make prints at home or in the classroom. Contemporary Japanese printmakers often produce prints of an impressive scale at home using this technique.

Course content: On this course we are going to work within an image size of 17 x 24 cms. For this course we will produce prints using the reductive method. You will start by removing any areas you wish to be kept white , then remove areas for the lightest colour overprinting as you go , working from light to dark. I will guide you along the way for every step.There will also be a blank block available, for printing an all over colour.

Considerations. Keep your image simple. Fine detail will not be that easy to achieve, as we will be working with beginner’s sets of woodcut tools as opposed to wood engraving tools which produce very fine lines. This will be a learning experience, so please don’t worry about making mistakes – just relax, have fun and enjoy the experiences

Please ask advice about the technique as we go along, if you are unsure about anything. Suitable for all levels of experience.

Fee for the two day workshop- £160 all specialist materials included. To book a place please contact Elspeth click here

Elspeth Lamb was taught the mokuhanga process in Japan where she worked closely with master carver /printers.She has revisited Japan on many occasions and her book Papermaking for Printmakers was published by A&C Black London in 2006.