I am following a new path in my work: woodblock printmaking using the Japanese technique known as moku hanga. My experience with Katazome — its simple materials, tools, and its familiar rhythms of preparation and repetition has naturally led me to to explore this new direction.
One year ago I was in Fuji-Kawaguchiko, Japan participating in a five week long artist residency at the Mokuhanga Innovation Lab (MI-Lab). Each session invites, through a juried application process, six artists from around the world to learn Japanese woodblock printmaking from master printmakers. This was a transformative experience for me and I am so grateful to have participated!
Memories that linger: the beautiful and quiet town of Katsuyama near Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchiko; the awe-inspiring presence of the mountain (“Fuji-San”); the rhythms and tasks of the studio and daily life with this small group of diverse artists.
Our Sensei, Chihiro Taki , and two visiting Sensei (Ayao Shiokawa and Michiko Hamada) shared their expertise and demonstrated many intriguing possibilities for a contemporary approach to this ancient art form. I know that my work will continue to be transformed by this learning.
During this year I made three prints (images below), which are now available in my online shop.
Katazome is traditionally done on fabric, but can also be done on paper with good results. The trick is choosing a paper (and pigments) that can be soaked in water for about 30 minutes.
I tried this new stencil as a single image (rather than repeat design) on handmade Japanese kozo (mulberry fiber) paper. Because the paper must be soaked to wash off the rice paste resist, it must be a paper that can withstand that. I had done a few experiments with katazome on kozo in the past, so knew that kozo would be a good choice. I haven’t yet tried watercolor paper, but that is also a possibility. In addition, the pigments used must be able to stand a soaking in a water bath. I mixed my pigments with soybean juice (just as with cloth), and once the work is dry, the colors are locked into the paper because the soybean juice acts as a “protein polymer” when dry. (This is how John Marshall describes it in his book, Salvation Through Soy.
I rinsed my 2011 lunar calendar today. Not-hurrying gave the colors a chance to cure. Not hurrying is always a wise approach.
To rinse these, I floated them in shallow water in the bathtub, front-side down (just 2 at a time). After about an hour, I drained the water, and then gently placed them face-up in the tub. I poured water from a pitcher over the top surface to rinse all the rice paste residue away. I did not touch the paper with anything other than the water. Finally, I placed them face-up on a towel to air-dry. The operative word here is GENTLY.
Here are the results:
Below is a close-up of the bottom portion (a wee bit darker image). The ampersand in July is my way of calling attention to the extra NEW moon that month (formerly I said blue, I meant NEW.)
Paper: handmade Japanese Hosokawa kozo, from Wet Paint Art in St. Paul. Final size of print: approx. 9×22″
Rice paste for the letters, numbers and moon grid – one stencil.
Light blue for the background (e.g. behind the rabbit). Colors consist of watercolor paints thinned with soy milk, rolled on a gelatin plate and transferred to the paper by placing the paper on top of the plate, and gently rubbing with my hand to ensure contact.
Rice paste for the image of the rabbit.
Three more layers of dark blue.
Some hand painted highlights.
Layer of burnt sienna on rabbit, from a cutaway of the original gelatin plate.
Two gentle mistings of soy milk, drying in between (not sure this was necessary).
To enter the giveaway, please post a comment below, consisting of three words or phrases that best express your intentions for the new year. I will choose one winner at noon CST on Valentine’s Day and add a comment to congratulate the winner. The rest of the prints (9 of them) will be added to my shop over the weekend.
Here are my three for year of the rabbit: take notice, explore playfully, loosen my grip …