Japanese Woodblock Printing


Unlike the Western style of woodblock printing, which is done with opaque pigment and rollers, traditional Japanese printers use watercolour and brushes. A master drawing is broken down into separate colours, which are traced on to blocks of wood, usually one or two colours per block. After the design is transferred to the wood, each block is carved so that the parts to be printed are in relief. Then the carved blocks are printed one block, one colour, at a time. Watercolour pigment is applied to the block with a brush, then paper is placed on the block and the back of the paper is hand rubbed with a baren ('rubbing tool'). This is repeated--pigment reapplied, another sheet of paper placed and rubbed--until every piece of paper has the first colour printed on it. Then the whole process starts again with the second colour, then the third, etc.


All work is printed on handmade Japanese washi from Fukui Prefecture, an area famous for it's high quality paper. It is 100% mulberry bark (kozo). In Japanese it is called Echizen Kizuki Hoshi Shi (highest grade mulberry bark paper from Echizen, Fukui Prefecture).


The prints are made using sumi (Japanese ink), and mineral pigments mixed with water, with rice paste added while printing.


The blocks are carved from Japanese basswood ply, manufactured for woodblock and imported from Japan. It is not a hard wood so very fine carving detail is not possible, but the smooth surface and beautiful grain work well with these designs.