Woodblock Dreams ... concluded

I have talked and talked far too much about this block. Here is a small gallery of photographs of it, along with an image of the original print by Hashiguchi Goyo of which it is a reproduction. I hope that they convey to you some small sense of what this magnificent object is like, and of the skill of Mr. Mokurei Nakagawa, the craftsman who carved it as the final step of his life's journey.

(all images can be clicked to pop-up an enlargement)


'Kessho no Onna' (Woman Applying Makeup)
Hashiguchi Goyo, 1918
(514 x 366 mm)


The block itself is 500mm high and 368 wide. To this wood 'hashibame' - horizontal pieces that help stop warping - have been attached at the top and bottom.

An additional piece of cherry 24mm wide has been attached at the left side, in order to allow extra room for the registration marks.

A light film of grey sumi ink shows that a few test impressions have been printed from the block, probably by the carver himself to check his work. No colour blocks have ever been made to accompany this key block.

The lips are 'muda-bori' (wasted carving). They only appear to indicate the proper location for the lips to appear on the appropriate colour block. Once the colour blocks had been carved, they would then be removed from this block.

The grain of the block runs from top to bottom, so many of these fine hairlines are actually carved across the grain ...

Each of the divisions on the scale at the lower edge of this image represents 0.5 mm.


It's difficult enough to carve delicate hair lines when there is room for the knife to 'run off' the end of each hair, but when they are doubled-back like this ...

Note how the lines cross each other ..

Again, the divisions are 0.5mm.

These wisps of hair fade away into invisibility - and not a single scratch remains on the surface of the wood to show where the knife finished each stroke ...

Thank you for spending time with this story and photographs. I would appreciate hearing your comments and thoughts about this block, and will pass on such feedback to Mr. Saeki ...

David Bull

Note: The JPEG photos were taken with the Sony Digital Mavica (MVC-FD71),
under ambient light, and with no special close-up lens ...