Mokuhanga in Tokyo!

I (Shirley) have been on a trip to Tokyo to attend a five day Mokuhanga course (Japanese Woodblock) and to meet with a few of our suppliers. I have never
been anywhere like Tokyo before so it was an experience on lots of different levels. I have been lucky enough to attend a couple of Laura Boswell’s courses (her courses with us are full for 2017 but her 2018 courses will be on the website soon!) 

My first print was Sycamore Seeds. It was a three block print. I wanted a bit of Bokashi printing (graduation of colour). Mokuhanga printmaking uses water
colour or gouache paints and Nori (rice paste). You apply the paints to the ply with printing brushes.


The cutting is the bit that seems to take the most time but the printing is the bit that is the hardest to get right. Our teacher only spoke Japanese (we
were lucky as we did have a translator). One word he said more than any other sounded like ‘squashy’ which means less! – I always seemed to be using
too much Nori paste which caused me lots of problems. 

You register each print using Kento marks (registration marks) that you carve into the blocks. These have to be in exactly the same place for each layer
or the elements will not register successfully. 

The finished print. 

For my second print I wanted to try something a little more complicated and use the layering of the blocks to create extra colours. 

This was another three layer print. Using three colours of paint and the colour of the paper to create six different colours.


Working out colours in my sketchbook and yet again I was using too much Nori. ‘Squashy’ the instructor said once more!

One other thing that I learnt whilst in Japan is that Kit Kat can come in many different flavours – this one is Matcha. Not one of my favourites!

After the course finished I had a few days meeting with suppliers and a couple of Mokuhanga artists. 

I loved seeing the work of Katsutoshi Yuasa  – his website can be viewed here

He works using photography but cutting the images all by hand in the traditional way. His prints are so alive that you felt that they were three dimensional.
He used the traditional artform of Mokuhanga in such a modern way. His latest work is mostly printed using CMYK. 


He has two pieces in this years Summer Exhibition at the Royal College of Art which runs till the 20th August – so if you are in London it is a must see.

I spent a lot of time looking for new suppliers and going to beautiful art shops. Brushes are very valued in Japan and are made from a few different animals
Summer Deer, Goat and Horse tend to be used for different purposes for Mokuhanga. 

One of my favourite shops was Pigment – can you guess what it sells? Unbelievably beautiful rows and rows of pigments in every shade you could imagine. 

We will be increasing the supplies we stock from Japan – hopefully they will start appearing on the site in the next few weeks. 

Sayonara Tokyo I hope to come back soon!