I recently took a two day class at the Schack Art Center in moku hanga, Japanese woodblock printing using water-based pigments rather than inks. Betsy Best-Spadaro was the instructor. I've taken classes from Betsy before and I always have a great time. She's an excellent teacher, organized and logical in her instruction, and she is also very encouraging. Betsy studied moku hanga in Japan and while she claims she in not an expert, to my eyes, she most certainly is.
Each color in the print, except for the white of the paper, requires its own woodblock. Each color is printed individually.
I did a simple design of an old-fashioned bathing costume which required only two blocks as I only needed to print the suit itself and the background. In the photo above you can see the block I used to print the red of the suit. The carved out stripes at the bottom used the white of the printing paper to add another 'color.'
This block, for the background, shows how the water-based pigment has been dabbed on. If you look closely you'll see small white blobs. That's the nori paste that is used to mix with the pigment. The nori helps the pigment to stick and actually bind with the fiber in the paper. You scrub the two (the pigment and the nori) together with a brush to create the printing medium.
Here is my first test print. I was pleased with how the print turned out, although there are areas on the block that need more carving to make for a cleaner print.
The nori is in the small plastic container at the top of the photo above and the round object in the foreground is the baren used to rub, or print, the design. The brown paper is placed over the print paper (that has been placed on the woodblock using the registration (kento). This sort of baren is a Japanese style and is made of bamboo. It works really well for printing the blocks, with firm but not excessive pressure. For those of us without a big printing press, this is a wonderfully useful tool.
Here are the finished (most of them are finished) prints from all the printers in the class. I enjoyed the group as they were all very focused and asked great questions of Betsy. I always learn so much from questions others ask that I don't think of asking myself.
I loved this class and have plans to do more bathing costume prints so I'll have a series. Lots more woodblock carving in my future!