They are - as we expected - very old, and very worn, but not so much to be totally unusable. They are very dry, and will need a good refurbishment (and sterilization - as there is quite a lot of mold present), but once we have time for that, they'll take their place in the tool box.
The brushes are also very worn, and most of them are only useful to us as examples:
We've never seen any quite this small before, and already a couple of the ladies are pushing me to try and get some new ones of this type. A lot of the work we do here is pretty delicate, and brushes like this might indeed be useful.
And one of them is actually useable as it (although it too will need sterilization first):
Once everything was unwrapped and inspected, I phoned Goto-san the baren maker to bring him up-to-date. He has a pretty extensive knowledge of barens and collects data where he can on older ones, and their makers. Interestingly, the maker of this one - Kusayanagi Yoshibei - was completely unknown to him. It is also marked 'Uchida', the name of a one-time major publishing house down in Kyoto, so we suspect that this would have been a baren that they ordered for their in-house printers.
And it does seem to be a bit of a 'Kyoto-style' tool - it's very wide (14cm) and very light and flexible, just the type they typically use.
These are old tools, and I mean old. The brushes are visibly worn to the point of being ready to throw away. It looks like a woodblock printer was asked to provide a panel showing his common tools, and put this together.
But there are two barens here, presumably 'hon' barens. And one thing about a real baren - it never dies. It will get progressively weaker as it gets older, but that simply means you use it for a different job. A strong baren originally intended for use in printing deep backgrounds will end up being used for more delicate work.
So - of course - I want these!
The auction was set for a five day term, and priced to start at 1,000 yen ($10). If you read the post I made about that previous auction you will know that I had quite a battle on my hands, and ended up paying a very high price for the treasure. Well, this auction ended last night, and I can happily report that I had no competition, and the hammer thus fell at 1,000 yen.
Does that mean everybody else is too sensible to buy this 'junk', or simply that nobody else noticed it?
Posted by Dave Bull at 8:49 PM, April 22, 2013 [Permalink]
This is an update not many people will have been expecting just now, what with all the actual printmaking activity going on here these days, but if you saw the blog post on the Mokuhankan Conversations about the auction 'Treasure Box' a couple of weeks ago, you might remember that we found a whole bunch of beautiful woodblock prints tucked into one of the boxes.
What I didn't mention at that time was that the prints were all pasted down onto a stiff - and apparently acidic - paper for mounting in some kind of album. We had to do something about it, and the sooner the better. Printer-trainee Ishikawa-san was game to have a go at saving them, so I gave her a quick run-down on the procedure, and she got to work.
As she was working, I took a series of photos, and have just uploaded them to a new entry in our (very) slowly growing Encyclopedia.
Serge has built a vast website, with history on the famous old road, all kinds of background information, and of course plenty of woodblock print versions of all the stages. A particularly interesting feature of the site is the collection of photos he has dug up which compare each location in various eras - back in Edo time, then when photography came along, and of course in the present day.
Please make a visit to the site; you'll find plenty to keep you busy all day! (You'll need to brush up on your French to be able to understand all his commentary, but the images of course speak for themselves.)
Those of you who have been following the Mokuhankan Conversations blog know that I recently participated in an auction for a box of old tools. The lead-up to the auction - and its aftermath - are the content of my newest video, which features some 'Candid Camera' of two of our printer trainees as they discover the treasures we obtained ...
The Stars of the Show were young Ayumi Miyashita and Yoko Ishikawa, both doing excellent work here at our printing benches, and - as you heard - both very excited about our new tools!
Another good day of work on this print. Getting a very early start (before the other printers get here) helps a lot!
First today was the wide, faint gradation on the water ... dissolving to nothing over at the left side of the paper:
I wasn't sure how vivid to make the colour in the cartouche; too strong and it would draw the eye away from the main design. But with the bright flame right there in the center to attract attention, I think the cartouche won't interrupt:
And then the final - almost random in some places - splashes of black to highlight the birds' bodies:
That leaves us with four to go, and I think I should be able to get it done by (late) tomorrow evening ...
Well, look at that ... I did manage to get three colours done today too!
First was another grey tone - this one deepens various places, and transforms the colour of the main character's shirt:
The next two were quick and easy (which is why I managed to get three done today). First was a vermillion gradation to put fire in the basket:
And the next was a green tone on the two bamboo poles, one of which takes a different colour because it has the boat base tone underneath:
I'm not going to make any predictions about tomorrow's work, because there will be three girls here working on printing, and I have no idea how much time I'll have for my own stuff, or even if I'll have a bench to work at, once they all get here.
The main group of actors makes their entrance, although of course not in finished form yet:
Next up is a base tone for the boats:
And a tone for the areas of exposed skin:
There colors like this makes for a pretty full day of work. I have 120 sheets in the stack, so to get through it three times in a day I do have to keep at it pretty steadily. Not sure if I'll have the chance to get three more tomorrow ... two will be lucky.