Woodblock Printmaking 'House Calls'
"Hey Mom! Look what I made!"
Yes, this printmaker makes house calls! Although my working method of issuing prints to subscribers on a strict schedule means that I must stick very close to my workbenches day by day, I do try to squeeze in space for a couple of 'special events' every year.
While I don't teach printmaking classes - it's just impossible to get involved with that when I am so busy making the things - I do love to get out there and do a 'Show & Tell' featuring my work. The art/craft of woodblock printmaking is quite unique in that an extremely beautiful result comes from an astonishingly simple process. It is actually possible to create a woodblock print from a sheet of blank paper right in front of an audience, and the reaction is always the same ... "How did you do that! I can't believe it!"
Here are descriptions of possible 'House Call' events. If none of these seem exactly suitable for your requirements, please drop me a line, and let's see what we can work out. Remember though, that I live in Tokyo ...
Demo/Talk for your group
This is the simplest level of presentation I can do for you. Give me around an hour and a half (for example), a table at the front of the room that I can work on, and a bunch of people to watch, and I can give them a nice introduction to what my work is all about. My presentation methods are not 'formal' at all, and I have not the slightest interest in 'lecturing'; you won't hear any list of artists' birth/death dates, blah, blah, blah. What you will hear/see, is a straight-forward survey of what traditional Japanese printmaking is about, illustrated with samples I bring with me, and of course - with the print that I will make while everybody watches. And you can gather around as closely as you wish; the process is completely non-toxic and safe, and all I need is a table top ...
This is a 'step up' from the basic presentation. When my own children were young, I did this kind of workshop every year at the local 'Culture Festival' held every fall in towns across Japan. But it's not just for kids! Everybody likes this one, even 'serious' corporate warriors ...
It's impossible for everybody to carve their own print during a quick event like this, so I always prepare a set of blocks in advance, choosing a subject that 'everybody' would enjoy. I then set up an 'assembly line' with the blocks laid out along tables, each one paired with the necessary brushes, pigments and rubbing tools. A few minutes before we start, I take aside a few of the participants and quickly 'train' them in what to do - how to guide people in rubbing the pigment on each block, how to place the paper, etc. etc. We then get it started - participants pick up a sheet of paper at the starting line, and then move along from station to station printing each colour in turn. By the time they get to the last step (usually four stages works well), they've got a finished print! (see photo above)
This of course can be combined with the Demo/Talk mentioned above ... I do my part first, including the demo, we then take a short break, and then everybody comes back to it and makes their own print ...
Entertainment/Gift for your special guests
Here's the scenario: you have some special guests coming for a dinner party this evening. As you offer them their before-dinner drinks, you suggest that while they are mixing with the other guests, they also step over to the corner of the room where 'tonight's printmaker' is quietly working, to see what he is up to.
What he is 'up to', is the first stages of printing work on a delicate small-scale woodblock print. As they watch, he chats with them and explains a bit of the process, of course answering their questions. A short time later, they move off into the dining room, but he stays put and keeps busy. A couple of hours later, as they come back for an after-dinner drink, he is just finishing up the final colour. As each sheet comes off his blocks, it is slipped into a presentation envelope, and passed to the host, who gives one to each guest as they leave, as a memento of the evening ...
'Printmaker in Residence' at your organization
This I have not done yet, but is something that I think would work very well, given the right environment. You give me a few days - 3~5 would work well - and an accessible spot somewhere in your offices/institution. I don't need a lot of space, just a few square metres. I'll ship over my portable workbench package, and set it up ready to go (or your people could knock one up quickly to my specifications). During the few days that I am there, I work through a stack of printing paper creating - start to finish - one of the prints from my catalogue. Printing is not the most 'exciting' thing to watch for a long time, but that's not the idea; your people just 'drop in' now and then during the time that I am there working, follow along with the process as their interests dictate, and of course ask about anything that interests them (I can easily chat while working ...).
During the time, I could 'break' from the printing work to give the sort of presentations mentioned above, as required. As I get to the end of the job, the finished prints can be distributed as you see fit; one to each employee, etc. etc.
This sort of event would obviously need a bit more investment on your part; I'm here in Tokyo, so you would have to fly me to your place, put me up somewhere (I'm easy-going), and then buy those prints ... But I like to have fun too, so you've got nothing to lose by making me an offer! :-)
I have mixed feelings about publicizing these possibilities. As I mentioned, I really need to 'stick to it' with my daily carving and printing work, and can't allow myself to be side-tracked by too many events such as these, as enjoyable as they are to do. If I don't produce, I don't eat! But anyway, feel free to write and ask about the schedule ... If your proposal lines up with a slot on my calendar, let's get something organized!