Friday, 15 October 2021

Learning as I go


Japanese woodblock print of acer leaf on Shiramine Select
by Teresa Newham

Was it a good idea, I wondered, to demonstrate Japanese woodblock printing during #HertsOpenStudios?  I'm still learning the technique and hadn't done any for ages, but what better way of getting to grips with it again?  I could set up outside - ideal for the Covid-secure experience we were trying to create - and the weather, for the first few sessions at least, was forecast to be fine and dry.

setting up the demo table outside
© Teresa Newham

Working outdoors presented the usual challenges; any items likely to blow away in the wind (virtually everything on the table) had to be weighted down.  I began to print proof copies to remind myself what I was supposed to do.  This took longer than one session, which forced me to reduce the size of the damp pack to fit it into the freezer until the next time, when I defrosted and completed the proof prints. It was so absorbing that I forgot to take any more photos.

printing the blue plate
© Teresa Newham

Oh, the joy of doing this outside! I was able wet the blocks and shake the excess water straight onto the patio; neither the prints nor the damp pack dried out too quickly; it was the perfect environment.  In fact I had to take care not to get everything too wet.  By the third session I was confident enough to try printing on two types of Japanese washi from the Awagami factory.

printing the yellow plate
© Teresa Newham

Keeping things as simple as possible, I only made four prints, which would fit easily into a small damp pack (in case it had to go into the freezer again). The beauty of Japanese woodblock is that you can re-use the blocks to make more prints, even years later.  I remembered not to use too much paint and nori and tried to describe the process to our visitors, who were completely fascinated by it.

trying out bokashi shading technique
© Teresa Newham

I then had a go at doing some bokashi shading, which was a little fiddly for a beginner like me, but produced some interesting effects.  It would probably have worked better on a larger piece - so I'm thinking of going larger next time.  

finished prints in the damp pack
© Teresa Newham

I dried the prints between layers of thick blotting paper under heavy books as usual, and moved indoors to demonstrate different techniques as the weather deteriorated for our final few days.  When I went back to the prints I found that the Shiramine Select had produced the best result, which is just as well; I have a stash of it in my studio waiting for the next print . . . 

Japanese woodblock print of Acer leaf on Okawara Select
© Teresa Newham

I'll be demonstrating what I've learned so far about Japanese woodblock on Friday 22nd October at The Workhouse Dunstable, 5 Ashton Gate LU6 3SN  from 10am - 12.30pm, so do come and take a look!

1 comment:

  1. Looks fascinating - no wonder the visitors were enthralled!