Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Narcissus, 7.5"x10" moku hanga--woodblock print. 2015

When I was in college, I shared an apartment for some time with a young woman who was working to help pay for her education. She worked in the local florists after school and she would bring home some days bunches and bunches of flowers that were a little too old to sell.  It was a good time in my life and the flowers of New England sat on the windowed kitchen in a Main street walk up.
The shelves would fill with Mason Jars and water glasses full of iris and daisies, tuberose and narcissus and we would enjoy the waning color and scent as the flowers slowly faded from a little tired to past withered.  We were bright and full of promise and so it wasn't very long before we had to leave that place and moment for other places and other things.

Thirty years later, I plant bulbs in patio pots and outside under the trees.  In the fields around us are nearly-wild double daffodils, tulips and nodding onions, narcissus, jonquils and hyacinth that will usually start to bloom in late winter or early spring.  And when they bloom, flags of color against the cold-tired fields of grass and mud, I am reminded of the waning flowers, and the kitchen, books and tea, and the woman I knew, and the distant promises we made, and sometimes kept, when we were flowers too.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Home made Barens revisited (and now on sale on Etsy)

Baren#3; Hemp cord and matte medium. Now on my etsy site.

I've been using my home made barens for a little over a year now and I've had a chance to make some changes and tweaks. Mostly I've found a way to stiffen the cords--white glue and/or matte medium seems to work well.  I've also added paper and glue to the backing disk--this makes it stiffer and just looks cooler.
I just finished Baren #4--a heavy-weight baren made from a marine nylon cord that was hard to twist (I needed 3 tries and 2 helpers).
Baren #4 Nylon cord and Glue 12cm
I have also taken apart the hemp-twine baren that had softened over time (Baren #3) and refurbished it by adding a few paper discs (japanese washi and glue) to stiffen the back and then treated the cord with an white glue and matte medium to fill in the gaps and waterproof and stiffen it.
Now with a new takenokawa (leaf cover) and yellow varnish it's like new and ready for printing.

Hemp twine and matte medium. Baren #3- 11.5cm size
Again my goal is to figure out a way to make decent, inexpensive barens for student and new moku hanga printers...and since many of these are still working with western papers to economize I want to see how they'll print in those situations.
It turns out that these are pretty good as barens go. They are not as strong as my Murasaki professional or a ball-bearing baren.  I need to break both of them in a little bit as the knots are still a little too prominent--I'll be printing later this week and a few impressions of solid color areas will do the trick.  I specifically want to try out the heavy one on a beefy 100+ g/m2 Japanese paper as well as a smooth Italian etching I can try them side by side with my Murasaki. I'm still looking for the perfect cord....I hope to try waxed cotton twine (macrame cord) next.
New leaf cover.

 Pastry cardboard with glue and washi added to try to stiffen it.
I gave an earlier baren, covered with a shelf paper takenokawa, to a colleague in Milan--and she's been using it in her classes and it's holding up well--and since I've gotten several queries from her students about whether I would make these available, I've put one up on Etsy to see if there is indeed, any interest. now has Baren #3 freshly listed.

Cost: 35 Euro plus shipping-New backing paper (a couple of layers of paper and acrylic matte medium), waterproofing and strengthening of the cord with glue.  Freshly wrapped with a zero-km bamboo leaf cover (takenokawa) from my Italian garden--and that's not all; for new printers, I'll also guarantee the cover--I'll replace it for up to 6 months if it tears from normal wear or printing---(since that's a task that new printers seem to universally fear when they start moku hanga printing.  You have to get it to me but I'll rewrap it with a new leaf for free).

I think this is a great deal: it has several hours of labor, has been tested, you can return if it isn't what you want AND if it's still too expensive--you can make your own following the steps I outlined in an earlier post.  Check back as I'll be making a couple of these next month and posting them to Etsy too. And I'll be posting the results of my printing tests next week.