Learning Japanese Woodblock Printmaking

Two weeks ago I attended a Japanese Woodblock intensive at Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis taught by master printer Keiji Shinohara. The week-long intensive was so satisfying–taught by a wonderful artist and encouraging instructor, with just enough time enough to design, carve and print an image.

Some of the unique features of this method of printmaking as compared with Western techniques is that it uses water-based pigments rather than oil-based, a baren (flat, hand-held disc) rather than a press, and that each block of a multiple color print contains the registration marks within it. In developing ideas for a pictorial work, for example, using katazome, it can be frustrating to design and make a layered image, that is, one with more than one stencil. You don’t know are getting you have until you wash the paste off. This is fine when a design for an image or a repeated pattern requires only one stencil, but frustrating for me when I want to layer images and align or register components on top of one another, and then create multiple instances of the image, like prints.

Here are a few sketches of my subject (my old cat, Lester) and two versions of the print I made in class. Lester is a sweet animal companion; a joy, a constant source of entertainment.

 

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More natural dye learning

I took a wonderful one-day workshop at Minnetonka Center for the Arts with Karen Rognsvoog, who has been dyeing with plants and teaching others how to collect, grow, and dye with plants locally for over 3 decades. Check her website for upcoming classes if you are in the Minnesota or Wisconsin area.
We each dyed 8 oz of natural wool yarn and 2 silk scarves, using a selection of plants grown and/or gathered locally by Karen as well as a few extracts and dyestuffs purchased from other sources. Here are my results, followed by a list of plants we used. Karen really has her teaching process down – with 3 hot plates going and many buckets of soaking plants. I was really impressed with how much we could dye in one 7 hour day!

dyeclasswoolsilk

Plants used, starting with the palest yellow include:

  • bracken fern
  • sunflower
  • sunflower with a bit of tin added to the dye bath for a second dip (to brighten the color)
  • osage orange (not a local plant, but with wood shavings from a piece of wood on sale from a hobby woodworking shop)
  • madder root (pale peach)
    * madder root along with iron added to sadden/darken the color
  • white yarrow (the pale green) with copper added to modify the color
  • buckthorn – brighter green (an invasive here – good use for it!)
  • buckthorn with copper (the avocado shade)
  • indigo
  • logwood purple (from extract powder)

The silk scarves were dyed first in sunflower, manipulated with shibori techniques, and then over dyed in logwood purple (left scarf) and indigo (right scarf).

I may just knit a pair of multicolored socks in time for next winter…

I’m interested in applying this new plant dye knowledge along with katazome materials and techniques in creating more layered works.

Starting tomorrow I will be attending the International Surface Design Association Conference – Confluence, which Minneapolis is hosting for the first time! I’ve never attended before so am really looking forward to taking it all in!