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Small Print Collection: Print #7


David's New Year card for 1996

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The previous couple of prints established a pattern that would continue until the end of the Hyakunin Isshu poetry series - they would provide a chance for me to 'escape' the restrictive requirements of my daily work and try producing something 'special'. I wanted to try ever more delicate carving, to experiment with printing with metallics, to try using the karazuri (embossing) technique ... the list was endless. But what image to use for the theme?

Sometime in late 1995 I came across a tattered book on the discount trolley outside a used bookshop in Tokyo. It was a collection of loose monochrome prints bound together with string. When I inspected it closely, I found that the sheets were dated at two-week intervals through 1908~1910, and carried the name of a newspaper in the Kansai region. It seemed to be a collection of furoku, the small presents given to newspaper readers each time they paid their subscription fee. (Some newspapers in Japan still do this, using offset reproductions of famous woodblock prints.)

The collection of images represented a historical overview of Japanese prints, and included this little design by Kobayashi Eitaku, of a young woman playing with a temari, a ball made of embroidered threads. There was nothing but a simple outline on the print, no colours at all, but as soon as I saw it I felt "This is it! I can put karazuri on that obi; the pattern on the kimono can be done in silver; for the delicate carving of the keyblock I can use a beautiful piece of boxwood I have been saving ..."

I paid the asking price of 500 yen, took the book home to add to my collection, and then followed that plan to create my next new year card.

Ten years have passed, but when I pulled out my blocks to inspect them for this reprinting, found that the boxwood looks as though it was carved just yesterday, all the lines perfectly sharp and clear. And carved so wonderfully - have I really made any improvement in these ten years? I'm not sure!