Woodblock Printing Process - A Japan Journey

what bachmann may carry david ball here

again in her socks a workshop in tokyo

but not in my usual place for these

videos i'm here tonight

up on the third floor at one of the

printing benches this is not my printing

reports I don't have one of those

these days this belongs to nuts kasuga

and as you just saw in a cold open this

is the place where she made her version

of the most recent print in our Japan

journey series the one representing

summer G fields this will be a processed

video we're going to watch along from

start to finish from the blank sheet of

paper up to the finished print as she

reached each block in the sequence she

called Cameron set to come up from

downstairs where his offices bring his

camera up and take a video of each step

he did that and he also took back the

print from her in each stage and scanned

it so at the end of this video we'll

have one of those slideshows where you

can see the colors magically appearing

step-by-step they've asked me to provide

a commentary for this video and that'll

be my job tonight I'm gonna be taking a

look at their finished rough cut getting

my headphones and microphone ready and

providing a play-by-play as it were of

what you're about to see let's get right

to it

do you see the bright orange color of

the pigment that she splashed onto the

wood right away here with this first

block we are gonna see a demonstration

of one of the most fundamental aspects

to the traditional Japanese method that

pigment was quite a vivid color but

these pigments are transparent which

means that they always allow everything

below to show through and in the case of

this initial color that will mean the

tone of the paper just wait a moment

until she's done here and you will then

see what I mean

here we go off it comes our vivid orange

has been diluted and mixed as it were

with the white tone of the paper

those of you who have seen many of our

other process videos might be a bit

surprised at the order here zu Bassam

did the light background color before

the key block surely the key has to come

first doesn't it well it certainly has

to come before any of the detailed

coloring in order that we can confirm

that everything is lining up but if she

had done this key first the quite heavy

pressure she used on that background

color might have caused these dark lines

to bleed a little bit as you can see

there are very few places here where

registration is tight so she was able to

do these two impressions in the wrong




can you understand the carved shapes on

the wood here this impression is going

to be one that kills two birds as it


the upper part of the image the part

furthest from Tsubasa will be an aerial

of open sky in the picture but the carve

patterns on the lower part will turn out

to be printing shadows shadows on the

tea bushes and the human figures just

wait a moment down there you'll see the


and presto the two color blocks now have

given us three colors and this is all

possible because of the transparency of

the pigments

that clear liquid you saw her splashing

onto the wood which will be mixed

together with the pigment is starch

paste it's not there to act as a glue we

simply needed to thicken out the pigment

mix which would be too watery if left by


it's the combination of the two that

gives us a creamy substance that gets

pressed deeply into the fibers of the

paper by our printing tool and as you

can see sometimes almost coming right

through to the reverse side of the paper

and it starts to come alive look at this

remember this green that you are seeing

here is a combination of that latest

impression but it's on top of the

initial one that toned the paper

building color up in layers like this is

a fundamental part of this Shin hunga



the metal object she is using is there

to help keep the wood clean in the area

of the registration marks if she was a

bit careless here the corner of the

finished print would be stained with

this pigment can you see the result of

this one the main purpose of this block

is the shadow tones in the clouds but it

also added a slight touch to the figures

in the pathways



we've seen this screen before but we are

getting it this time on only part of the

tea fields in order to help us

differentiate the closer and farther

areas the little white slip of paper is

simply there to ensure that even if the

paper sags slightly washes printing it

won't pick up any stains from the

pigment I think if we asked sue Kazan

about this she would politely suggest

that the block could have been carved a

little bit deeper at that point

this one is a mistake not a mistake here

in the printing but it was a

miscalculation in the color separation

stages this shadow on these trees

appeared back at stage 3 when it looked

fine now but it turned out to be just

too light and we weren't able to dial it

out back on the original block because

it would have made the sky too deep so

after our test printing we discovered

this problem I just used the blank area

of one of the blocks that cut the same

shape again it adds one extra printing

impressionist pseudo science work but

you do what you have to do to get the

job done


so what do you think looks finished no

that could be I guess but we have one

more to do

it's a kind of a bridge to a more

traditional Yukio a style


that's it for the actual printing part

but there are still a couple of other

steps for this series we are using

polymer plates to do embossing on the

paper the first one here done with no

pigment or paste impresses the title of

the print ear reading summer tea fields

and the second one is a plate that she

repeats for every print in this series

with the name of the Carver in this case

young Johnson and the printers name

herself sugah Natsuki



so there you have it the finished print

we're pretty happy here at Mohawk on

with the way that this year series is

turning out you know it's been just

about a year last summer well we were

starting the planning for this and Jed

and I honestly speaking we were a bit

concerned about it we weren't really

sure if something like this would fly

for years now we've been making prints

based on of course famous videogame

characters without their power would

people be interested in our work as it

turns out we needn't have worried within

I think it was within two weeks of

making the initial announcement last

December we were fully subscribed to 200

people and since then we've been

building a large waiting list now that's

actually not a problem because as it

turns out these wood blocks that cherry

blocks are really really very hard and

they're capable of making many many more

prints over the years we're full up

right now but as soon as the printers

get caught up they will be getting these

blocks out again making another edition

and we'll be calling people on the

waiting list to come and join us so

there we are I think that's it for


I'm already at work on my next David's

choice video and I know

Cameron is at work he's not just

planning a new video he's planning a new

video series and he's terrified and he

won't want me to talk about this just

yet because it's really not well

established but trust me it'll be

something that is going to be a ton of

fun both for the people watching and for

us who are making it that's enough for

now thanks very much for watching I'll

get back to my bench

downstairs goodnight for now