Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Italianism: October 10th Rome, Italy: Moku hanga demo

I'm thrilled and  quite excited to have been invited to participate in Italianism http://www.italianism.it/en/  a one-day conference, investigation and display of the current state of the arts in Italy and abroad (by Italians). Set in the larger, month-long, OUTDOOR festival and housed in the mammoth ex-weapons factory and military base in the Flaminio neighborhood of Rome.  I'll be there as one of the participating artists demonstrating Japanese woodblock printing.

Italianism is the project of Renato Fontana and produced by Nu company and Outdoor Festival; There are more than 100 artists participating. There will be Illustrators, Designers, Musicians, Web Designers, Tattoo and Graffiti artists and the general focus is on modern and cutting-edge art and design and the emerging synergy and cross-pollination happening by artists working across media and geographic boundaries.  Housed in a large industrial complex that was once a military barracks and weapons factory the space is enormous with areas dedicated for the music and video stages and the large installation works that fill the many big rooms of the now abandoned factory. There is a section showing the works of 50 contemporary Italian illustrators and a photographic exhibit. 

Connecting two of the large hangars is a long, covered corridor housing the section the organizer has titled: ANALOG 2.0.  20 modern artists who have decided to work in fields that hark from another age and work in decidedly hands-on,  labor-intensive crafts. There is a pinhole and colloid photographer, a silkscreen artist, bookbinders and hand typesetters of artist books, tattoo artists, a  felt illustrator,  a cut-paper artist, a few independent small book publishers, and one, not-so-young, not-so Italian, moku hanga. Japanese woodblock printer (me).

I'll have a table set up with my work, both sample blocks and prints.   I will demonstrate the traditional technique of moku hanga printing, using dry pigment, rice paste and printing with a baren.  I plan on printing most of the day with frequent breaks to discuss the differences between Japanese and traditional western printing techniques and with a session in the afternoon on how how to make a simple but effective, home made baren and to man a printing station for those who'd like to try printing with a baren.
I'll also have some framed and unframed works on display (and on sale) but this will mostly be a chance for me to meet 100 amazing Italian artists and illustrators and to make myself known in this community.  Tickets are 20 Euro and allow entrance to the entire event including Outdoor Festival.
From 10 am to 4AM. See program at the above link.

I should have a more definite program for the day posted here in the next few days.
I hope to see lots of curious and friendly faces in Rome, October 10th at Italianism.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Show and Tell: 10 Years of Woodblock prints--Caffe` Petrarca Exhibit and Demo.

I'm exhibiting a good selection of my moku hanga wood block prints for the next three weeks in Florence.

The local bar and caffe`,  Caffe` Petrarca has two large rooms and hosts regular exhibits by local artists.  There is a brisk morning crowd. (Coffee and Pastries) and a very busy lunch crowd...it's popular with the businessmen and women from the local banks and offices as well as students from the Art School across the street.

Visitors are welcome.
Caffe` Petrarca is closed Saturdays, but open other days from 6am-8pm.

I opted in the end to hang prints by theme and subject rather than chronologically. The nudes and figures are in the far end, the botanical prints at the entrance and I put all the bugs, reptiles and odd creatures in a mosaic on the longest wall......and here and there are the prints that defied categorization.....hardware? (Toggle Bolt and Spring), Road signs and movement (Zig Zag and Right of Way) and poor little Scooter Kiss.....which is untranslatable without a fair amount of explanation:
"It's sort of like a Bacio Perugina, only without the hazelnut, and made with inferior chocolate, but it has a similar foil wrapper and the little paper poem or phrase.  They're very popular and often found in offices and school candy jars all over the US. The scooter? Well, no there is no real reason it's riding a scooter other than silly foolishness....." 
Try saying all that in a foreign language.......
Try explaining this to an Italian...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Home-made Honing Disc. Getting tools sharp enough for moku hanga.

I don't know if the WorkSharp (TM), an American-made, motorized, disc sharpener for woodblock tools comes in a 220V version, but I was worried that the size and bulk made buying and bringing one to Italy in a suitcase impractical (especially since I was already 20kg overweight with blocks and paper).

But since TWO of our neighbors design shoes and handbags (another odd perk of living in Italy), we get the occasional leather remnant and I have a few pieces lying around. AND one of the cardboard pastry discs I use for my barens was way too big to use for a baren. AND I have 8 sets of Powergrip tools that I need to sharpen after my last moku hanga class for a workshop I'm giving this weekend.
So the odd juxtaposition of need, on-hand supplies, a model to use as a starting point, and the imminent need for 8 sets of sharpened tools got me motivated to try something I'd been thinking about.

 I took the cardboard disc and drilled a 8mm hole dead-center.
Then I glued the thin leather to one side with PVA glue (thinned a bit with water). To the other side I glued a 1500 grit wet sandpaper and pressed them both beneath some books overnight to dry.

Today, I loaded the leather side with honing compound (from McClains) and then threaded a long, 8mm bolt through the hole with washers on either side, and nuts to hold the disc tightly when it spins. I placed it into a handheld portable drill that I clamped to my table and by sitting just right (with safety glasses), I could hold the drill power switch with one hand to control the speed while looking  down the edge of the spinning honing disc and carefully place my U-gouges against it at just the right angle, turning them as I did so to finely hone the outside edge of the tool. By looking down the edge of the spinning disc I can hone on the top side with the leather wheel or hold the tool on the underside to lightly grind with the 1500 grit. I used a tightly rolled up piece of 1000grit sandpaper to remove any burr from the inside of the curve and looked at it with a 10X loop. Nice and polished. It took the hairs off the back of my arm with just a light touch. 
And just to be sure, the leftover piece of Okoume plywood that was tearing with the same tool yesterday, now cut cleanly and smoothly with no shredding.
We're in business.
Next, I tried the 1500 grit side of the disc on the Hangi Toh, I have to be careful not to get the tool hot or I'll lose the temper of the steel so I never held it for more than a few seconds at a time on the wheel and even the 1500grit takes metal off faster than I'd like so I do have to be careful.  But I put a new bevel on the Toh in less than a minute (on/off, on/off) and then buffed it on the leather side.

I made another disc (this time with a pressed-wood disc that came pre-drilled with a 8mm hole) it was for a decoupage clock face (3 Euro at the craft shop) and I glued a 600 grit and 1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper sheet to either side.
These will be used only for changing bevels and really dull tools.
The drill is held in a vice so I can power it with one hand while I can gaze down the spinning wheel and hold the tool against it. There is leather and honing compound on the top, a 1500 grit paper on the bottom half.

The stiffer disc was definitely an improvement though as there is no wobble so it's easier to keep the bevels even and true.  (And I think I'll try to convert my leather one to the stiffer disc as it's a little easier to control). But first:
Tomorrow I'm going to hone the 8 sets of Powergrip tools for my class.
While I do this regularly by hand (using waters stones of 1000/6000 grit) on my good knives but with this many tools, I think the honing disc will get them all sharp enough for the students in about a 1/2 hour.
More importantly, they'll be sharp enough that they'll carve the plywoods easily, and that will make the work easier for beginners.