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Mystique Series - first batch of the Hasui print is done ...

Posted by Dave Bull at 3:57 AM, August 16, 2010 [Permalink]

There certainly hasn't been much time this past week to sit around posting to this RoundTable; with 130 sheets of paper in the stack, nearly 20 impressions on the design, and the thermometer rarely going below 30C, even at night, it has been a question of 'every minute counts'.

But last night saw the final (embossing) impression, and the stack is now dried, trimmed, and ready for inspection and signing. And yes, it is still a kick - even after all these years - to have them all in a stack like this ... before they fly off around the world to their new homes!

I should perhaps mention something about the sizing - after all, this is the first time I have ever made a batch of prints on paper that I sized myself. The results were mixed. One the one hand, the experience was very positive - the paper printed very nicely, was completely stable through the entire process, and was very receptive to the pigments. But there were a couple of negatives: one was that the lack of sizing on the back side of the sheets (this was my choice) meant that I constantly had to use a protective sheet under the baren, and this is big nuisance when doing a lot of printing. The second problem was the inconsistency from sheet to sheet, due completely to my inexperience at brushing the sizing onto the paper.

So next time I'll have a go at doing 'both sides' sizing, and hopefully my brushing technique will steadily improve, so these negatives should at some point be a thing of the past!

Next job at hand will be to finish up the tracing of the sumizuri image (#6), and get going on the carving. (Again, these first batch of these two prints are being made separately; the second batch will be done together, as planned ...) Before that though, I have to get the summer newsletter written and produced, and catch up with all the waiting office work (invoicing, back issue shipping, etc.)

And there will be a bit of an interruption tomorrow, as some people are coming for an interview and photos for a magazine story. I mentioned in the comments the other day that when their request came in I had to laugh. "You want me? Really?"

Yep. People from Playboy (Japanese edition) are coming over tomorrow ...


Following comment posted by: Lana on August 17, 2010 1:24 AM

Wow! You could always roll out some Shunga for the occasion. Congrats, Dave!

Following comment posted by: Gary on August 17, 2010 9:16 AM

Perhaps copies of that interview could be your next 'best seller'! :)

Following comment posted by: Dave on August 17, 2010 10:13 AM

Well, you know this isn't the first time that I have been involved with a magazine that contains non-family content. A few years back, I agreed to a proposal from a quite well-known manga artist to do a manga-style feature on my work. The interview went well, and when they faxed me samples of the story, I had no objections at all.

But when I received copies of the finished magazine, and saw all the other stories and photos, I realized that this would be one that I wouldn't be sending to my mother! It's actually not so bad by Japanese standards (normal train ride material), but if I had seen this magazine when I was around 15 or so, it would have immediately cleared up quite a number of things that I was pretty curious about back then!

Following comment posted by: Gerrit Slembrouck on August 27, 2010 11:26 PM

Hi Dave,

Receiving the new print of Mt. Unzen was indeed as you said in the introductory message of August 2010 a time to have something more filling than the restrained elegance of the previous two images in this series. In fact, your observations comparing it with Hiroshe's designs need a lot more time to explore for me to evaluate it. Meanwhile I cannot agree with you more that I as most viewers of Japanese woodblock prints know nothing about the intensive work it takes to produce art work like yours, not to forget the story that comes along with every print; I immensily admire it all!


Following comment posted by: Marc Kahn on September 1, 2010 3:40 AM

I was hoping that you would have a story about meeting with the people from Playboy. I keep thinking that a block printed centerfold would be an interesting project for you. Effective usage of karazuri to accentuate three-dimensionality could be very interesting. ;-)

Following comment posted by: Dave on September 1, 2010 4:09 AM

...you would have a story about meeting with the people from Playboy ...

I'll be updating I think tomorrow, or the day after, but if you can't wait, here is the page (all in Japanese) from the magazine. (But don't get excited, there is absolutely no interesting content at all ...)

Following comment posted by: Gary on September 6, 2010 6:53 AM

Certainly not the Playboy we know and love! :)

I thought I would make an observation here, as this seems as good a place as any, and it pertains to the Mystique of the Woodblock Print series. You have a nice embossed border around these prints, all of them embossed from the same block I presume. The images within those margins attracts most of our attention, but in glancing more carefully at the embossed design, I find an interesting feature slipped in there, indeed almost camouflaged in there, like a secret code kind of thing. Going around the margin, I notice designs of flowers, a modern clock striking 4 o'clock, a little soccer ball stitch, or honeycomb-like design, and then in the lower right corner, low and behold, a baren! Of course it is the usual embossment of your logo, but I have to smile at the way you neatly slipped that in there! :)

I'm sure these other designs are representative of more traditional 'Japanese' design elements, not in fact soccer balls and modern clocks, I just don't know what the origins are, nor how else to describe them. But the baren, we all know!

Following comment posted by: Dave on September 6, 2010 7:09 AM

You know, I figured there would be questions about that pattern right back at the beginning ... but it has taken months before it came up.

The patterns are indeed all printed from the same block, and it's a testament to the strength of cherrywood that this is possible. 200 copies of each print, with 18 prints in the series, means a lot of work for one block to do, but - as you will see as we progress - there will be next to no visible degradation in the pattern as we go along.

As for the components, the makeup is not complicated, and I followed a 'type' set by many of the old surimono prints. The main element is the flower blossom, a traditional pattern that I have seen described as both cherry and plum. I'll go with plum, as I live in 青梅, which means literally 'Green Plum'. Our area is blanketed with these trees, the fruit of which becomes the well-known 'umeboshi' condiment.

The other circular component is a stylized 玉, the character 'tama' - the 'treasure' of the title, warped into an oval shape. No clocks here, sorry!

Filling the space between those two elements is the traditional 'cracked ice' pattern, also common on the old surimono prints.

The baren mark in the bottom corner is not printed from the karazuri block, but is applied separately. Here is a shot of my embosser in use on one of the My Solitudes prints:

It is the same 'studio mark' that has been applied to all my prints (the ones I make myself) since the beginning of the Surimono Albums back in 1999. Every print with that mark (and my signature) has been carved and printed in its entirety completely by me. This is to distinguish it from prints from my Mokuhankan publishing venture, which use the services (sometimes) of other craftsmen.

Following comment posted by: Gary on September 6, 2010 8:38 AM

I assume then that the karazuri block is blank in the area that you put your baren logo embossment in. It sure fits right in there as if it were carved on the block. Nice touch! No offense meant by the 'clock' and soccer stitch, just didn't know what those symbols were of or from.

Following comment posted by: Dave on September 6, 2010 8:44 AM

Well, this was of course all planned up front. Back when I first showed the karazuri block, on this page, the empty space was visible ...

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