Preparing paper for printing - (entry by David Bull)
The hosho paper arrives from Misawa-san the sizer in the same crate in which he received it from Iwano-san the papermaker. A 'standard' order for paper of this type is 500 sheets.
This is the 'O-bosho' paper, which will make two of the typical 'ukiyo-e' size prints when cut in half. Using a knife and ruler to cut the sheets one at a time like I am doing here is most definitely not the usual way that printers here in Japan do it. They use a specialized knife known as a kami kiri bo-cho (paper cutting chopper). Why don't I? Because I've been waiting over three years at present for the blacksmith to make me a left handed model!
I like to keep as much of the mimi (deckle edge) as possible, but the paper in that form does not fit cleanly into the kagi registration mark. It is thus necessary to cut a tiny notch in one corner, to provide a clean right angle to fit the mark. The straight side of the freshly cut edge of the paper will fit against the hikitsuke mark.
The next step is very important. Iwano san and his family do go to extreme lengths to make sure that the paper is clean and free from errant shreds of dark bark, but in each batch of 500 sheets it is inevitable that a few such tiny defects remain. And of course, you know where they always end up - right in the most important part of the design - the face.
So each sheet is checked by placing it over the original photograph on the light table ...
... to ensure that all important areas are clear and clean. Rejected sheets are set aside to use with a different design, one in which the defect will presumably fall in a less important location.
Then it is on to the most important part of the process, moistening the sheets ...
... which is described more thoroughly on another page.
Photographs by Fumi Bull