Woodcut Printing and Moku Hanga

There are many roads leading to Rome. That goes for wood block printing as well. I like to explore several types. Like western style mono block in just black and white and of course it doesn’t need to be black and white, it can be any combination you can think of. I tried to do it with beech plank as it was done during the middle ages. I have used priceless heart Kauri, Agathis australis, recovered from New Zealand swamps and carbon dated at 50.000 years old with a beautiful fine even texture and yet hard enough to stand some vigorous printing. When cutting blocks for the Japanese traditional style printing, Moku Hanga I used nice blocks of cherry, but not the priced mountain cherry as I just simply couldn’t lay my hands on that. Australian Hoop pine plywood made good blocks and sometimes if accuracy wasn’t that important cheap poplar timber ply did the job just nicely. Wood worm riddled pieces of wood also made for some interesting effect. In short you could go anywhere were your imagination will take you.

On the photos of this picture page you can see examples of blocks for the simple mono colour prints as well as a sequence of blocks and the gradual build up of an image when they are printed. When printing Moku Hanga style the only ingredients used are water, paste made of rice flour (nori) and dry pigment which is made into a paste with the help of a little bit of alcohol. For black, Sumi is used, an intense black sour smelling past made of burned fish. The paper used can only be Kozo or gampi. Long fibers of the bark of the mulberry tree or other shrubs for the gampi. The Kozo sometimes unbleached, buff coloured or bleached, Hosho. All important is the registration when doing multicolour prints. The actual printing is done by hand using a baren. The paper is prepared the night before printing by wetting it and it is kept moist throughout the printing process. Printing in this fashion is simply not possible using western cotton rag papers. This is really an extremely brief and crude description of the method, but if you want to find more about it follow these links (working on these and will have them there in the next couple of days)