Friday, July 7, 2017

Tying the baren cover-takenogawa.

video
I tied a new baren cover recently on one of my home-made barens during a visit from fellow artist Monique Wales, who also filmed most of it. You can see me pleating the leaf edges along the curved rim of the baren and then twisting and holding down the surplus ends that will become the cords to tie the part that will become the handle.  She recently shared the video so I add it here. These are bamboo leaf culms from our garden and are big enough (some of them) to cover a 12cm baren.
I don't think my fingers are quite this pudgy in real life. I think it has  to do with the focal length of the lens or the dpi or something. Someday, I'll add the how to prepare the bamboo leaf for tying to this video so you can have the whole process to watch before trying to tie your own.
This is a finished baren with a fresh new cord and cover:

Friday, June 30, 2017

Present


Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
 "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."--Wm. Morris.
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html

I work in the San Frediano neighborhood of Florence and it's still known as a center for the small workshops and studios of the craftsmen and women that once applied to most of city. I regularly stop in on the local carpenters, antique restorers, jewelers and luthiers, metalsmiths and bookstores. Around the corner and two blocks away on Via Borgo San Frediano is the AtelierGK run by the young and talented couple Lapo Giannini and Michiko Kuwata. He's a 6th-generation bookbinder and she's a Tokyo-born conservator and restorer of books and paper and they've done some work for me restoring some old illustrations and ephemera. Their small shop and workshop is full of handmade books and boxes, colorful hand-marbled papers and printed endpapers, shoes and jewelry boxes and the odd and curious tools of the bookbinder and their neat and orderly shop is a measure of their attention to detail and aesthetic of doing things as they should be done. On days that they're working, I like to pop in to watch what they're doing and other times just to see what they're up to or to discuss Japanese paper, books, boxes, or future projects. It's not unusual that the conversation turns to the importance of trying to reawaken in the public an appreciation for craftmanship and quality and hand-made things in a world of mass production and consumption.
A few days ago, however, they surprised me by asking if they could come by my little studio.  I'm tucked away on a little-traveled side street so I don't get many visitors.  They didn't know it's almost my birthday, but still, they left a remarkable gift.   





Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. William Morris
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williammor158643.html

Sunday, June 25, 2017

More Sizing experiments: "Flash" sizing with a summer recipe of nikawa and alum.

 
I did manage to sneak into the studio long enough to set up and size a dozen sheets of paper.  Now they're hung out to dry and will need to "settle" for a week or two before I can test the paper to see if this ratio was suitable for these papers, in this weather.  It wasn't perfect. The big brush works, but it tends to dump a lot of size at the beginning of the stroke across the paper, and much less at the end, and getting that right takes practice and changes with the papers. Since I was trialing a few sheets of several different papers, when I sort of got the hang of it for one paper, I had to switch to a new paper. In a couple, I had to go back over the sheet a second time--where the brush had skipped or left a puddle and on the heavy cellulose paper--I got some wrinkles that will be permanent (and those sheets will have to be cut down to smaller sizes to get rid of the damaged parts).  After a couple of weeks, I'll have a trial printing of a simple image on small pieces of each paper to see how much the absorb or resist the color.  The fish-poacher and small hot-plate worked well for warming the size, I'm still not sure if I did a better job with the bigger brush.  As I mentioned above, ideally, each paper will have a "best" recipe for size for moku hanga, and this ratio of glue and alum will change with the season (more glue in the summer/less in the winter) and the less alum added the better. I tried this recipe a few years ago (a total disaster) as it was on cheap, locally available, mostly pulp papers with just a small amount of kozo fiber and I ended up just gluing all the sheets together.  With nearly the same recipe, on good almost 100% kozo papers, the size goes on smoothly (mostly) and I could see it got absorbed into the paper almost immediately. I'm curious to see how much my inept handling of the brush will affect the final paper, and try to tease out how much is my glue/alum ration and how much is just my inexperience with the sizing brush (dosa bake).
All hung up to dry: Torinoko  Kozo, Kozo thick natural, Hosho Professional, Kochi white.



Here's a buckle/kink that won't go away.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Painting (sizing) with a Broad Brush


Sometimes, even without overly generalizing, you really do need a broader brush; especially if you want to size Japanese washi.

Those who have followed my occasional posts about my attempts to home-size Japanese paper to make it suitable for printing know that the biggest problem up to now has been finding suitable papers but that's slowly working itself out now that better papers are getting easier (a little) to find either outside Japan, or within it thanks to e-commerce or reliable paper sellers of quality papers in the US, Canada, and abroad (Hiromi Paper, The Japanese Paper Place, The Paper Connection, McClain's (although they sell high quality pre-sized papers for moku hanga), Intaglio Printmakers (UK) and Les Papiers de Lucas (France),  and probably others I haven't found yet. 
But the biggest practical problem remains actually sizing the paper; figuring out suitable glue and alum ratios and recipes for my climate and the paper I'm trying to treat. (Size, or dosa in Japanese, is the mixture of alum and animal glue that is added to the paper to make it less absorbant).
In Japan, the paper was traditionally sized on one or both sides of the paper and IDEALLY, the warm glue was applied with one quick pass over the sheet of the paper with a fully loaded brush. With a small brush it's hard to cover the entire surface without overlapping the edges from the previous pass and where the brush passes twice (or misses entirely) will leave paper unevenly sized that will show up when the paper is printed.  Getting the mixture onto the paper evenly without buckling or crinkling the paper or leaving gobs of size that will act as a resist isn't that simple a task but it's made easier by a bigger brush that holds enough glue to make it across the entire sheet in one go.
The only brushes I've been able to find actually made for applying size are pretty small at 2 to 4 inches across, water brushes for dampening paper are a little easier to find and I purchased a couple of 6" brushes a few years ago with the intent to try to put them together with a jig to allow me to create economically a brush sizing brush. These are two "economical" Chinese sheep wool "water" brushes (mizu bake) that I'm going to be using for adding  the glue and alum (dosa) to unsized paper to render it a little bit resistant to absorption and hence suitable for moku hanga, watercolor woodblock printing.
A real Dosa Bake or sizing brush--of this width, even if they were available-- would cost a few hundred dollars. This will end up costing about $50; since I got the two 6" brushes on sale from McClains Printmaking Supplies some time ago.




David Bull posted photos of an Artist (in France?) who had actually already done so and the photo was just like what I had imagined trying to do--and he was home-sizing his paper with a large brush with two smaller ones glued onto it and with good results.  David also confirmed that he too has made several and that they work well enough if one shaves back the wood to allow the brush parts to line up closely--so I decided to go ahead and try to put one together from the brushes I'd previously purchased.

These two brushes are the same size and from the same manufacturer but they're not identical so I had to adjust them a bit so the brush ends would line up and remain flush. The two edges of the wooden handles were shaved down with a sharp chisel so the brush portions pushed against each other and with care to make sure the sheep's wool lined up as well as was possible they were glued and clamped one at a time with water-resistent PVA glue.  

I'll let this thing dry for a bit and have a go at sizing some 100% Kozo paper that I bought earlier this year. My new brush is 14" across, so I can size in one pass a sheet of about 15" X 30".  A trip to the basement revealed an old aluminum fish poacher and armed with my food warming, hot plate (1970's), Aluminum Poacher (60s?), and "new" 14" dosa bake I'm ready to try another round of sizing Japanese paper for moku hanga printing.  I'll let you know how it goes.


Various water and sizing brushes that I've accumulated over time.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

More Whales/Ancora le Balene.



I printed a small run of the 3-block whale prints on good paper but I can't say I'm thrilled.
I didn't keep to my test prints and the colors wandered way too far afield (offshore?) towards the turquoise and teals and there's too much variability within the small number of prints I made.
I never did get to use Block #4--I had hoped to print a white spray with gofun; white crushed powder ground from seashells to mimic the foam and spray of the whale's breath but even on the beige and off-white papers, the dark sea and sky makes the paper already seem "white".
Tomorrow after they're dry I'll cull the rejects of weak or too strong colored ones and see what I'm left with.
In addition to this batch, there's another 20 copies of the simpler one block/2-color version I may try to have another go at the color version to get closer to my original vision.
These were all small samples of the Okoume' plywood I got recently and cut down to use as a grain-printing block for my workshops. This print was a "test" to make sure these blocks were easy to carve and print from.


Block 4 that didn't get used.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

La Bottega del Cigno//workshop photos

Here are some of the sample works from this weekend's Mokuhanga workshop near Padua:
Giuseppe's Typewriter keys

Pietro's Volcano (waiting for a photo of finished work).

Sofia's waves/leaves/undulations

Sylvia's Wolf "Haku" (proof stage) The final had two gradation printings/bokashis.

Paola's Daisies

Rosita's Gladiolas

Anna's Rabbit in Snow


I just finished putting away the materials from my weekend class just outside Padua, in Noventa Padovana.  I was a guest instructor at the Bottega del Cigno ("the Swan Studio"), a artistic and cultural association that has an illustration school and art programs for children and adults. Run by the able and seemingly indefatigable, Daniela Veronese, the space houses two huge rooms with large tables, great lighting--both natural and color-corrected fluorescent--air conditioning and lots of supplies suitable to a functioning art education facility.

We had a small group of just 7 participants although one was the son of one of the students from my last Florence class--and father and son worked together on one set of blocks.

As always, to try to cover enough in just 2 days the history, technique, challenges, tricks, and try to get across both the possibilities and nuances inherent in this fascinating process is a challenge and while I think I touched on most of the bases, I know that there are things that got left out or not emphasized enough.....

Here are some photos of the group hard at work.







+As usual, I brought too much stuff--but I always think that having actual prints--Ukiyo-e and contemporary--as well as things to look at makes for an interesting class.  And we had lots of barens, brushes, catalogs and art books, papers, sample prints and a few gems from my collection of prints.

My next class in in Florence, July 1,2 at Il Bisonte, now just 1 month away.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A simple approach-FIN/BALENA


I'm trying to encourage the students and artists that take my 2-day class to keep things really simple.
This year I'll also be bringing a couple of simple prints for those that didn't bring drawings or who want to focus on the cutting and printing rather than creating (during the class) a personal image.

I usually recommend that they avoid line drawings--except sparingly or with particularly thick lines--to avoid having critical parts of a drawing fall off or to watch them spend too much time carving too few blocks and losing out on exploring the printing aspect of Japanese woodblock when having a guide is very useful.


I've been doodling these Fin Whales for a good bit.  I hope to try a fairly big, semi-abstract version based on simple shapes and blocks of color--and for this small test print I took the same approach--working from a simple cut-out paper collage to decide on the shapes and placement.

This is the hasty proof I took today.
One block of Okoume plywood selectively inked to allow two colors.
I'll carve another 2 blocks to make this a simple, 3 block print to use as a demo for my next workshop. While simple in concept, there's a lot of room for experimentation.