|Baren-suji is the
newsletter of [Baren], The International Forum for Woodblock Printmaking.
The official internet site of [Baren] is http://www.woodblock.com
Baren-suji are the marks left by the baren when printing. Similarly, this newsletter assumes the role of recording the marks left by the woodblock printmakers that constitute [Baren].
Comments and contributions are welcomed. Please contact:
Baren and The Encyclopedia of Woodblock Printmaking were created by David Bull in 1997 to promote the art of and share information about woodblock printmaking.
Baren activities include an international discussion forum, a network of woodblock printmakers, workshops and get-togethers, and the very successful Exchange and Exhibition Programs.
To join [Baren], simply point your browser to:
|ISSUE 3: OCTOBER 2000
NOTE! To return to thisTable of Contents from anywhere in the Newsletter, just click on the barens scattered about.
The Unofficial Kampala Exhibit Report by Gregory Robison
Worthwhile Books on Printmaking reviewed by Barbara Mason
A Ghostly Exhibition and Lecture contributed by Sharen Linder
Paper Bits I by Maria Arango
Quiz Time! by David Bull
The Printmaker's World: Ruth Leaf and a Lovely Opening
Opportunities for Printmakers compiled by Maria Arango
A WORD FROM THE LEADERSHIP
Here we are again, time for [Baren-Suji] to drop into your 'mailbox', bringing you news, reports and information on the world of woodblock printmaking! Maria Arango - who single-handedly handles the production and distribution of this newsletter - reports that she soon expects to encounter a major problem with it ... the subscriber list is growing so large that when she does the mailing to the readers the server might consider it to be 'spam', and shut everything down!
But as you all know, 'spam' it most definitely isn't ... This issue, just like those before it, is packed with interesting and useful information. As you are reading through, I hope you will give some thought to how you might make a contribution of your knowledge to the next issue. Enjoy!
Founder, [Baren] forum for woodblock printmaking
This summer was a busy one for [Baren] members! We exhibited in Kampala Uganda, thanks to the efforts of Gregory Robison; we learned all about woodblock printmaking in Graham Scholes celebrated Boot Camp II; we exchanged prints, swapped small prints, and had a silly season contest. What's next for our active crew?
"We must, indeed, all hang together,
-Printmaker Benjamin Franklin
A special thank YOU! to the contributors this issue:
And finally, a huge thank you to our friendly Baren graphic designer, John Amoss, for the Baren-suji masthead design and the many logos that keep popping up in the Baren web site.
Maria Arango, Editor of Baren-Suji
Please direct letters to the editor and comments to: Editor@mariarango.com
Remember that your contributions will continue to make this newsletter interesting and palatable for all. To contribute a feature article or an item of interest, please contact: Contribute@mariarango.com
Please send your comments for this section anytime to BarenSujicomments@mariarango.com
General information and links to all exchanges can always be found here.
Exchange #6 is now online and on our eager hands. It can be seen here.
Thank you Captain Gayle Wohlken for coordinating and for your inspiring and humorous leadership.
Exchange #7 is a theme exchange: The Comedy of Life. Coordinators for this exchange are the Florida teammates: Daniel Dew and Jeanne Norman-Chase. Prints should be sent to them by November 1st. It is now October 1st so get your barens working and send the prints on time.
Exchange #8 (is it possible?) is a non-theme exchange in the larger o-ban size. Sign-up for those who did not participate in Exchange #7 starts October 1st, that would be today! Sign-up for the rest of the eager [Baren] Exchange addicts will begin October 8th. Here we go again ...
The Baren International SwapShop is officially working, James Mundie presiding. The first batch of prints has been received by the participants and can be seen here. For those of you who wish to participate in a smaller and less pressuring exchange, go to the woodblock.com site and read all about this new program. We hope that you will also encourage non-members to participate so that we can promote the traditional exchange of prints among printmakers throughout the world.
Member Arye Saar is in the process of organizing an exhibition at Beit-Gavriel, on the Banks of Jordan, Israel. Arye has obtained support from local companies to fund this exhibition, which will include prints in Exchanges #4 and #5. More information after the exhibit!
Many Baren members are also participating in the Sacred Tree Exchange organized by Josephine Severn, an Australian crusader for printmaking. This exchange welcomed other media as well as woodcuts and will be a guest exhibit in Josephine's upcoming solo exhibition at project centre for contemporary art in Wollongong NSW Australia in November 2000. Thank you Josephine for setting this up on your web site, Print Australia, and organizing the exhibit. It looks like another productive member, Arafat Al-Naim, has organized and arranged for the Sacred Tree Exchange prints to be shown in Sofia, Bulgaria. See Members in the Spotlight below.
Yet another source for exchanging prints with Baren and non-Baren members is The Printmaker's Web Site and List, started by Baren member Brad Schwartz. So far we have exchanged self-portraits and money in a slightly larger format than the Baren exchanges. You can view previous exchanges and sign-up for upcoming ones in Brad's web site. For those who enjoy informal exchanges, we are currently engaged in a post-card swap. Deadline to sign up is November 1st.If you are missing out on the exchanges and exhibitions, be sure to tune into the Baren forum and take a gander through the Encyclopedia. Opportunities abound and await!
I had the immense pleasure of once more traveling the fast road to Los Angeles, California from Las Vegas, Nevada. This used to be a 7 hour drive in the days of 55 MPH speed limit, but now the gates are open and the Freeway is wider so in close to 4 hours and a rest stop break I can be with my L.A. friends.
The opening was in a small church somewhere in the vast expanse of the L.A. area. Well lit and well 'spaced,' (by this I mean that there was plenty of viewing space so visitors could back off the art and enjoy the overall display) the opening was friendly and enjoyable.
Before I forget, shown in the first picture above are, from left to right, Georga Garside and her mystery sharpening stone, Ruth Leaf holding up a key block carved by Georga, and Bea Gold to the right with the California tan.
Ruth Leaf is a fascinating person, an entertaining mix of fun, energy and wisdom. Author of Etching, Engraving, and Other Intaglio Printmaking Techniques (Dover), she is now working almost exclusively on woodcuts. Often she starts by working out her design on the computer and, as she calls it, "playing around" with colors and shapes. Her abstract imagery, based on Japanese characters, windows of color, and African masks is full of color and life. Ruth's web site also has prints from the Coney Island series, beautiful classic studies in black and white, and etchings portraying vibrant plant life and landscapes. Visit the web site at: http://www.ruthleaf.com
Jjust briefly, here are some pointers and details that I subliminally picked up from Ruth's opening (I bet she didn't know she was teaching me a lesson!):
Pick a friendly place and have a friendly atmosphere. Ruth and daughter Anita mingled with the crowd, explained the art to visitors, greeted nearly everyone that came in, and generally were the perfect hostesses. I have been in other openings where the artist is not there! or an agent pushes everyone to the price list, or nobody seems to know anything about the art.
available, by all means. Good thing because all I had that day were two energy
bars, one to drive up and one to drive back! There was quite a healthy looking
spread and there were munchies in the "visiting" area tables.
This one is debatable, but in smaller shows, show a cohesive body of work. Ruth exhibited her mask collection, all reduction woodcuts, some with multiple blocks, and a series of colorful larger abstract prints based on Japanese characters. The collection of work exuded energy and color.
Frame well and
consistently. Even cheaper frames can be elegant if they are newer but this
is where you must know your audience. An opening is not an art fair, and usually
art will sell at a good price to art collectors. They want good frames!
Check the lighting before the day when you hang your work. Ruth and Anita chose to dim the lights in the "hanging out" part of the room and just light the art with directional track lighting. Very nice.
Posting a price list or even having a price list for folks to take is a must and avoids many uncomfortable conversations about that terrible taboo: money.
Have business cards for all to take with them and hand them out to everyone that asks: "where are you from?" or "so you are based in...?"
I guess that about covers it! Have fun and be friendly and talk about your art to everyone, they will appreciate more what you do if they get to know you a bit...call it human nature.
Click on image to appreciate Greg's effort in creating a beautiful invitation piece
The Hungarian born American printmaker and educator, Gabor Peterdi, once said that he would make prints even if he were only able to produce a single copy from his printing plates. Most printmakers would forgive the hyperbole. We persevere in this art form not primarily because of the benefits of reproduction in series, but because of the graphic effects unobtainable by other means.
In the same way, there are printmakers who have never seen their work exhibited, and a no doubt much larger number who have never sold a print. Many of them might similarly declare that they would continue making prints even if their works were never exhibited or bought.
I suspect that most serious printmakers would agree, nevertheless, that there is something of the essence in producing an edition of identical copies from the original carved plate or block; in displaying the final product before the public; and in receiving the financial support and mark of appreciation that comes from cash sales. These three considerations editions, exhibitions and sales surely bulk large for any artist who wishes to claim credibly the title of 'printmaker' and not simply 'hobbyist.'
Of the three, the dynamics of exhibitions in a public place are probably the hardest for most artists to grasp immediately. After all, printing an edition and making a sale are things that most printmakers do (or attempt to do) for themselves. We therefore know or think we know what these are all about. But few artists organize their own shows, and most would be surprised to learn the nature and extent of the effort required to make a successful exhibition.
The following description may therefore be helpful for Baren members who may wish to organize an exhibition in their own localities. Narratives in Baren-Suji describing other shows will highlight the complexity and variety of exhibitions occurring under different circumstances in other venues. Taken together, these experiences may lead to more and better exhibitions especially shows that are to some extent controlled and initiated by our own membership. That, at least, is my hope.
* * *
The proud winners of awards
Kampala, Uganda, seems at first glance to be an unlikely venue for an international exhibition of woodblock prints. The market for original, non-traditional artwork of any type is very small. A total of only four commercial art galleries, not all of which appear to be prospering, serve this capital of about a million people. Nearly all sales are to foreigners, of whom there are few mostly diplomats, aid workers, contractors and missionaries. Many foreigners, when they do buy art, want something that looks traditionally 'African,' as a souvenir or gift.
There is hardly any noticeable foreign investment in the country. Well over half of the local population lives on a dollar a day or less, and is quite understandably more concerned with securing basic necessities than with viewing and owning visual art. The entire economic activity of this East African country of twenty million is worth about three percent of the annual sales of General Motors. (If Uganda were a subsidiary of GM, it might not even merit a footnote in the annual report.)
There are, nevertheless, some fine artists at work in the country, and a few of them are making a good living at it. Most of them, and a number of Ugandan artists active in Kenya and elsewhere, were trained at the fine arts school at Kampala's Makerere University. Once reputedly the best institution of higher learning in East Africa, Makerere University is one of the few places in the region where it is possible to obtain a degree in fine arts. Printmaking has been taught there since the 1950's, when the school received the gift of an etching press from England. Today, however, nearly all printmaking in the country is oil based relief printing, using the cheapest 'door skin' plywood for plates and employing the reduction method. (So established is the reduction method that many local printmakers, when seeing multicolor work of Baren Forum artists for the first time, could not believe that a black key block was printed first, before the colors. Some were not even sure how this could be done.) After graduation from university, artists invariably print by hand burnishing. Editions are small (usually under ten copies and sometimes only one or two) on non-archival paper or board. Appropriate tools, inks and additives are difficult to obtain. Water based printmaking is, of course, completely unknown.
Despite these unpromising conditions, I had seen excellent work by local artists and had actively sought a way to collaborate with them. Unfortunately, collaboration and cooperation are rare in poorer societies compared to more developed ones. There is generally an unspoken fear often not without foundation that to share or be open is to invite competition in an already meager marketplace. Artists would visit my studio or invite me to visit theirs but only once. Talk of working together to produce or exhibit or exchange information was warm and friendly at the time, but never seemed to lead anywhere. With less than a year to go before my departure from Africa, I was ready to give up on anything more than an exhibition of a few of my own works.
It was only after I had signed up in December 1999 for Exchange #5 on the [Baren] Forum that I realized that the exchange itself could be a vehicle for doing something more interesting on the local arts scene than a one-person show. I approached the Nommo Gallery about the possibility of exhibiting the exchange, and they were enthusiastic. However, as the Nommo Gallery is technically the National Art Gallery of Uganda, the director did not want simply to show-case the work of foreigners. We decided to invite all local printmakers to contribute to the show, provided that their work met the same requirements as the international participants. In other words, the show was restricted to relief prints, on oban size paper, on the theme of ju nin, to iro ('ten people, ten colours'), with submissions to be received no later than the middle of April.
The Gallery Director, Emmanuel Mutungi, asked me to curate the show, and assigned a Makerere University graduate student, Juliet Namukwaya, who was interning at the Gallery, to assist me. Through Juli, I distributed an invitation to the other galleries in town, to universities with arts programs in Kampala, Entebbe and beyond, and directly to individual artists that we knew. The response from local printmakers was enthusiastic, in part, I'm convinced, because of the allure of exhibiting with a group of international artists.
In spite of being the country's national gallery, Nommo receives no support from the national budget. It has no endowment, no major private benefactors, and negligible income from membership. It must therefore generate its own funding for each exhibition. This comes from sales of works and especially from subsidies of particular shows by foreign embassies.
Since the woodblock show centered on [Baren] Exchange #5 was not sponsored by any embassy, we had to find a way to fund it. I did this, first, by requesting a reasonable participation fee ($20) from the Baren exhibitors. (I am happy to say that everyone in Exchange #5 cooperated in this, including some quid-pro-quo arrangements in lieu of cash. I even received cash from some [Baren] members not in the exchange.) Twenty U.S. dollars goes a long way in Kampala but also represents a lot of money to local artists. I therefore waived the participation fee for Ugandan exhibitors (of which there were sixteen, compared to thirty from [Baren]).
Second, a number of [Baren] participants indicated that all or some of the proceeds of any sale of their prints could be used to defray costs of the show. This generosity was essential in balancing the books.
Third, I obtained a commitment from a framer to lend us the necessary number of properly sized frames (which turned out to be eighty, for reasons explained below). All frames were custom made for us, in mvule, a teak-like local hardwood. The framer charged us only for the mats, however, provided that we remit to her the proceeds of the sale of any framed prints, and that we sell them at her rate. Since framing was to be the largest single expense item, this arrangement was crucial to successfully financing the show.
Finally, I volunteered to write a development plan for the Nommo Gallery, in which we agreed to highlight the woodblock show as the centerpiece of this year's international exhibitions. The Nommo Gallery was therefore disposed to fund certain items (advertising banners, food for the opening reception, etc.) to ensure the show was highly visible and well attended.
If there is a lesson in all this, it is that artists in a place like this are more likely to wish to participate in something international, that brings them wide exposure and a measure of prestige by association, than in merely exhibiting with some of their local colleagues. Secondly, it is helpful to link ones objectives with the needs and plans of the institution upon which you depend for space. If you deal with them only on arm's-length basis, they are an expense rather than an asset. In this case, the Nommo Gallery was as motivated to promote the show as I was, because it was taken by them to be evidence of their own seriousness about mounting international exhibitions at a certain level of professionalism. Other evidence of Nommo's commitment to the show was their willingness to dedicate all commission earnings from sales of prints to refurbishing a room at the Gallery for use as a printmaking studio. In addition, Nommo was so pleased at the end of the show that the director expressed the hope that the Gallery could host a exhibition of [Baren] Forum and local woodblock prints as an annual event.
Other features and facts about the show, some of which might serve as an example to others planning exhibitions, are the following:
- Two [Baren] Forum members (and show participants), Wanda Robertson and Barbara Mason, funded a purchase award and asked me to select a winning print among the Ugandan participants (to whom it was restricted). This generous and creative offer generated a lot of interest and was considered news by the local media. I liked the idea so much I supplemented the Mason-Robertson Purchase Award with my own Curator's Award, for the best treatment of the show's theme by a young Ugandan artist. Both winning prints were festooned with a red ribbon and an explanation of the award.
- I wrote six or seven press releases for the show, each highlighting different aspects or for different media. We had excellent coverage on prime-time television and radio for our opening, and had page length treatment in two local newspapers. Our media coverage could have been much better if I had started sooner, provided better visuals, and identified individual reporters to work with.
- As I had participated in [Baren] Exchange #4, I had the self-portraits of about half of the international participants in the show, and decided to display these along with the exhibition prints from Exchange #5. (Half the Ugandan exhibitors also provided woodblock self-portraits.) The self-portraits, together with the biographical sketches and reflections on the theme of the show by participants, were highly appreciated by the viewing public. Many visitors returned more than once to the show or remained for several hours, and I received a number of comments about how much this personalized the experience for them.
- Two display cases were fitted out with explanations of how prints are produced using both oil based and water based methods. One case explained the genesis of my Exchange 2 print from field sketch through color proofs and state proofs to the final product. This also was appreciated by visitors to the Gallery. I have found that even artists, unless they are printmakers, are often ignorant of the steps involved in making prints. Everyone seemed hungry for this kind of information, and some asked for even more blocks and plates to be displayed.
- The exhibition was visited by Mme. Meng Xiaosi, Vice Minister of Culture of the People's Republic of China, heading a Chinese Government cultural delegation on a diplomatic visit to Uganda. Besides the opening, this was the only time the Gallery was crowded with people, which included two Ugandan government ministers and officials from the Foreign Ministry. The Vice Minister was pleased when I told her that woodblock printing was an art form originally developed in China, and she returned the compliment by telling me, through her interpreter, that I looked much younger in person than in my self-portrait! (If you cannot arrange for a foreign cabinet minister to visit your show, I recommend inventing some event to draw media attention and traffic before taking down the exhibition; half of our sales occurred at the opening, with none at all for the two weeks following... This visit was a major boost.)
- Twenty-seven pages in the Gallery's guest book were filled with comments and praise of the show. Most were of the "excellent!" or "lovely show!" sort, but there were also "the zenith is the limit" and "spiritually great." One Englishman wrote, "some excellent and fascinating art, especially the wood-cuts." (It was gratifying that he did get the general drift, since all eighty of the works on display were wood-cuts.) This was better than the one who wrote "nice paintings." (I consider the confusion evidenced in this last comment to be my fault. If you leave a show without knowing what form of art you've seen, then the documentation and explanations were inadequate.) Most of those who commented were native speakers of other languages, and it was sometimes hard to tell if their words were intended to be as luke-warm as they could be read: "pretty good!"; "very O.K."; and even "a good exhibition, but not a satisfactory one." And then there were the obscure but touching ones, such as "adversity has a way of eliciting talent!" and even "my heart bleeds as I leave." The cumulative effect of this, and of the many verbal comments I heard over the course of the exhibition, were overwhelmingly positive and gratifying.
- Forty-four artists had exhibition pieces on display and for sale. (I also displayed works by David Bull and Graham Scholes, which were not for sale, as well as twelve additional self-portraits from Exchange #4 out of my private collection, which were not associated with any exhibition prints). Of these, 28 were[ Baren] members in Exchange #5, two were [Baren] members who participated directly, without being in the exchange, and sixteen were Ugandan printmakers. We sold the work of fifteen artists, more than a third of those exhibiting. Seven of the selling artists sold more than one print and I am convinced I could have sold more if I had had multiples of some of the works. In total, twenty-eight prints were sold for a total of about $2,000.
- Only two buyers were Ugandans. The rest were expatriates living in Uganda or visitors to the country. (One expatriate buyer was a West African.) This confirms the weak indigenous demand for visual arts, but confounds the notion that it is folly to organize an exhibition in a remote location where the few buyers are only thought to want souvenirs and traditional art. The buyers were diplomats, including several ambassadors, civil engineers working on road projects in the country, a US doctor doing AIDS research, a visiting US professor, the retired IMF representative for the country, the head of a local UN agency, and a UN official passing through from Geneva.
- I obtained a small grant from a US-based charitable trust for the purpose of supplementing the Gallery's funding of a printmaking studio at Nommo. I consider this the 'leave behind’' of the show. The Ugandan printmakers were so energized by the experience that they have formed the Uganda Printmakers Association, whose home will be the refurbished space at the Nommo Gallery. Fifteen of the sixteen Ugandan exhibitors plus several new printmakers showed up for the organizational meeting, at which they elected officers and began planning activities. They hope that those activities will include a show with Baren next year. The formation of this Association may be considered another impact of the show.
Viewed from Kampala, the exhibition was a great success. Once again, it is a success that would have been impossible without the generosity of the Baren Forum members who participated and financially supported the effort. Perhaps it will not be long before one benefit of active participation in Baren will be the possibility to exhibit and sell prints at exhibitions that we organize in many far-flung corners of the world. If so, the Kampala experience may illuminate the advantages of linking with local arts institutions and printmakers groups or even helping such groups to form.
The Art Gallery of Camden County College presents
Recent Works by ALYSE C. BERNSTEIN, ALEX MINOTT and JAMES G. MUNDIE
3 to 27 October 2000
Opening reception: Tuesday, 3 October, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
For gallery hours, please call 856.227.7200 ext. 4201
The Art Gallery at Camden County College
Blackwood NJ 08012
Lezle Williams, April Vollmer and Kat Pulkas
(I think Lezle and Kat were standing on boxes.)
April Vollmer writes from the 'Print and Paper Workshop' held this summer in Vermillion, South Dakota:
"Karla Hackenmiller and the Frog himself, Lloyd Menard, organized a wonderful print workshop where students from across the U.S. converge to learn a new technique, share ideas, and network. Great teachers and dedicated students (plus the almost superhuman energy of our hosts) combined to make an intense and productive summer workshop.
"I did NOT participate in any foolish karaoke evenings, and though I admit I did bowl, I don't think my score could possibly have been that low. Really I was working very hard most of the time!
"I would like to scan the prints we made, but will take a few days to find them in this mess....They both made great ones. Nice people, and great students."
Sacred Tree Print Exchange: "From Myth to Interpretation"
Contributed and organized by member Arafat Al-Naim
In the city of Veliko Turnovo Municipality Art Gallery, Bulgaria and as a part of The International Ecofestival Veliko Turnovo 2000 The Sacred Tree Print Exchange Exhibition will take place from the 6th to 29th of October.
The Australian artist printmaker Josephine Severn was the initiator of this idea. The exhibition will showcase the print works of 26 artists from 4 continents that shared with each other different myths and interpretations of this theme. The exhibited works explore the richness of printmaking in different countries. This exhibition comes to emphasize print exchanging forms and to expand traditional means of creativity, exchanging experience, information, and art works between printmaking artists from different parts of the world. Diana Draganova, art critic, historian and expert of contemporary art from the National Art Gallery Sofia, is going to introduce the exhibition. Draganova said that transmitting myths from one culture to another and artists meeting in this exhibition is a kind of dialogue and varied personal interpretation in spite of differences. A catalogue including the exhibited print works is going to be printed and sent to cultural institutions around the world.
The announcement of this lecture is from the News and Events Member's Magazine, Art Institute, Chicago. I think that it sounds like fun! Perhaps members in other locations might like to at least think about this theme in October!
"Prepare to be frightened by skeletons from early Japanese literature, such as the murdered actor Kohada Koheiji, and other creepy apparitions in the Clarence Buckingham Collection of Japanese Prints [in the Art Institute of Chicago]. The spooky stories start at 12:15 on October 31, at "Witches, Goblins, and Ghouls: Ghost Stories in Japan."
The article is accompanied by a reproduction of Katsushika Hokusai's print, "The Ghost of Kohada Koheiji", c. 1831. It appears to be amazingly contemporary, almost looking like a well illustrated comic book illustration!
The following introduction is from the web site "One Hundred Stories, Ghosts, Demons and Spirits in Japanese Lore." by Norman A. Rubin, P.O.B. 1020, Afula 18550, Israel
[Editor's Note: For those of us who cannot make the lecture and exhibition, this web site article has a fascinating history of the Japanese 'ghost-world' and is profusely illustrated with examples.]
"Belief in ghosts, demons and spirits has been deep-rooted in Japanese folklore throughout history. It is entwined with mythology and superstition derived from Japanese Shinto, as well as Buddhism and Taoism brought to Japan from China and India. Stories and legends, combined with mythology, have been collected over the years by various cultures of the world, both past and present. Folklore has evolved in order to explain or rationalize various natural events. Inexplicable phenomena arouse a fear in humankind, because there is no way for us to anticipate them or to understand their origins.
"The mystery of death is a phenomena that does not offer a rational explanation to various cultures. Death is an intruder. Death is the change from one state to another, the reunion of body with earth, of soul with spirit. Humans, throughout the ages, have seldom been able to believe or to understand the finality of death. For this reason fables and legends have evolved around the spirits of the dead.
"The Japanese believe that they are surrounded by spirits all the time. According to the Japanese Shinto faith, after death a human being becomes a spirit, sometimes a deity. It is believed that eight million deities inhabit the heavens and the earth - the mountains, the forests, the seas, and the very air that is breathed. Traditions tell us that these deities have two souls: one gentle (nigi-mi-tama), and the other violent (ara-mi-tama).
"Buddhism, which was introduced into Japan in the sixth century CE, added a new dimension to the belief in spirits and other supernatural forces. The Buddhist belief in the world of the living, the world of the dead, and the 'Pure Land of Buddha' (Jodo) achieved a new meaning. The way a man behaved during his lifetime determined whether he would go to the world of the dead or the ‘Pure Land’. Those driven to the nether world found it to be a hell in all its vileness.
"The Japanese believe that after death a spirit is angry and impure. Many rituals are performed for seven years to purify and pacify the soul. In this way the person becomes a spirit. According to belief, a spirit wanders between the land of the living and the world of shadows. For this reason, prayers are offered to insure passage to the Land of the Dead."
Carved Paper, the Art of the Japanese Stencil by Susan Campbell Kuo
Published by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Weatherhill, Inc. NYC
and Tokyo, 1998 ($60 at Powell's Books)
Carved paper stencils used in the process of resist-dying textiles are collected today by several museums. Santa Barbara Museum of Art has a unique collection of 200, a small amount to be sure, but one that represents all the major forms of the stencils.
The lacquered paper patterns represented in this book and the way they were made, using human hairs to hold them together, will fascinate you. If you love pattern, this is a must see for you.
One of the most interesting I have read for my book "reviews", this history of Japanese textile printing is the history of the culture itself. The textiles are long gone, but there are wonderful examples of them in old Wood block prints. This lovely book is full of wonderful examples of stencils, tracing the history of Japan and the Japanese pattern back over one thousand years.
Fortunately for the textile enthusiast, woodblock printers documented many hundreds of textile patterns with their prints and this book is full of fine examples. For a concise and very interesting history of Japan from a unique point of view, I highly recommend this book. Plus it will look fabulous on your coffee table!
EDITOR'S NOTE: An outstanding growing collection of resources for woodblock printmaking can be found in the Woodblock Encyclopedia Library, where you can download books, print them and learn at your leisure.
"To be classed as true paper, the thin sheets must be made from fiber that has been macerated until each individual filament is a separate unit; the fibers are then intermixed with water, and, by the use of a sieve like screen, are lifted from the water in the form of a thin stratum, the water draining through the small openings of the screen leaving a sheet of matted fiber upon the screen's surface. This thin layer of intertwined fiber is paper."-Dard Hunter, Papermaking
Paper is truly a fascinating material often taken for granted by common folk, but an object of reverence to the artist, and much more so, the printmaker. I confess I am in love with paper, with every paper! I like to buy paper samplers, try different types, and incorporate the paper into the design and creation of a print. Paper is a beautiful material in itself and oftentimes gets obliterated in printmaking by the images. Paper can be light itself, as wood engravers know, and can change the mood of a print. The exploration of paper, as a material and as an art form itself, has been the subject of many.
Following are some bits and pieces about paper, mostly from Jules Heller, Papermaking, paraphrased and edited.
Let's start with the first papermaker, having prevailed on this earth for 300 million years or so, since the middle Coal Age. She belongs to the order Hymenoptera of the family of Vespidae; she is one of more than four million species of insects that buzz, whir, sting, dig, glow, bite, do unusual things, or go bump in the night. She is a paper wasp who has been engaged in the art of making paper for millions of years. A winged queen of a complex social order who macerates dry wood in her mouth and employs the pulpy result to create a habitat of paper for her empire. Her paper structure, or nest, strikes envy in the hearts of contemporary architects and fear in the limbs of small boys and girls. In essence, the paper wasp makes paper in the same manner the modern mill employs.
But before we get into the "how" paper is made, let's first have a very brief history of this material, from the beginning (of man, no offense to the paper wasp). A journey of handmade paper from China to the New World.
A. Ts'ai Lun credited with the invention of paper in Lei-yang, China, 105 A.D., although many authorities track the invention of paper to, at least, the second century B.C. The art is practiced in Tun-Huang in 150 A.D., in Loulan by 200 and in Niya about 250-300 A.D.
B. The invention reaches Japan via Korea in 610 A.D.
C. Empress Shotoku commissions "The Million Prayers," the first text printing on paper, in 770 A.D.
D. chinese prisoners of war reveal secrets of paper manufacture to their Arab captors in Samarkand in 751.
E. The "secret" is carried to Baghdad, where Haroun-al-Rashid has paper manufactured in 793.
F. Egyptians make paper a la Chinois in 900.
G. Handmade paper appears in Morocco via Egypt in 1100.
H. Moors first introduce paper to Europe in Xativa, Spain (the present San Felipe near Valencia) c. 1151.
I. Oldest, uninterrupted paper mill built at Fabriano, Italy, in the marquisate of Ancona in 1276.
J. First paper mill established at Troyes, France, c. 1390.
K. Ulman Stromer of Nuremberg sets up first mill in Germany with the assistance of Italian craftsmen in 1390.
L. Hollander machine invented in 1680, superseding all earlier devices including stamping mills and other primitive beating devices.
M. John Tate sets up a paper mill in Hertfordshire, England in the early sixteenth century, although the first mill established in England dates from about 1494. All paper, up to this time, was laid; John Baskerville, wanting a smoother wove paper for his printing in 1754, commissioned the Turkey Mill to produce a quantity for him.
N. Willem Ruddinghuysen van Mulheim (William Rittenhouse) creates the first paper mill in American on the banks of a small stream called Paper Mill Run, which flowed into Wissahickon Creek near Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1690.
Paper making is a very simple process and ought to be attempted at least once by every printmaker, in my humble opinion. The steps are much the same for paper mills and paper makers across the world, although, as we know, the variety of papers obtained by the simple method is nearly infinite.
First, raw materials are needed, be it traditional fibers such as kozo and gampi, cotton in the West, or recycled paper of any kind, including such exotic ingredients as junk mail and old jeans. Whatever raw materials are used, they must be beaten, blended, or macerated by any of a hundred means and separated into fibers. Plants make the stronger papers because the fibers are longer and bind with each other in tighter embrace, thus Japanese hand-made papers can be so thin and beautiful yet so strong at the same time. Chopping the raw material in a blender produces weaker paper because the fibers are cut in much smaller lengths.
The next raw material and some claim the most important, is water, the purer the better. Water is mixed with the mashed fiber until a thin "cloudy" pulp is obtained. Sounds simple so far and it indeed is fairly easy to prepare paper pulp with as little as a kitchen blender or even a mallet. How thick or thin the pulp is determines the thickness of the paper.
This pulp is poured into a mould, again, with as many variations as there are nations and perhaps more. The mould is simply a frame that will hold the pulp in a square shape, allowing the water to drain out through open sieve of the screen material that forms the bottom of the mould. In another method, the mould itself is dipped into a vat of pulp, scooping out an even layer of pulp onto the mould, a skill that takes some practice to perfect.
Once the pulp is draining on the mould, the basic sheet of paper is formed and needs only to drain and dry. This can be accomplished by leaving the paper on the mould until dry, removing the wet pulp onto a felt or blotter, or even transferring the sheet of pulp onto a window!
The above paragraphs hardly describe the process, but in a very basic form, that is how a sheet of paper is made.
*****************As woodblock and woodcut printmakers, we inevitably get to know that Japanese paper is superior to other papers for this method of printmaking. There is a reason for that, the paper in Japan has been modified for hundreds of years to specifically accommodate the needs of the woodblock printmaker. Let's not forget that this form of printmaking was once the only publishing medium available to disseminate knowledge and communicate news.
A bit on the history of Washi, this time from Hiromi Paper International, a must visit web site and paper maker.
"Papermaking was introduced to Japan over 1,300 years ago. The Chronicles of Japan, Nohon Shoki, written in the year 720, state that the Chinese methods of making ink and paper were introduced to Japan by the Korean Buddhist priest, Doncho, in 610. The Prince Regent Shotoku found the Chinese style paper too fragile and encouraged the use of kozo (mulberry) and hemp fibers, which were already cultivated for use in making textiles.
"The techniques of making paper spread throughout the country and under his patronage, the original process slowly evolved into the nagashizuki method of making paper using kozo and neri (a viscous formation aid.) These skills that have been passed down from generation to generation produced a paper that was not only functional but reflected the soul and spirit of the maker. This close relationship between papermaker and paper user resulted in washi becoming an integral part of the Japanese culture.
"Traditionally, the making of washi was very seasonal. Most of the papermakers were farmers who planted kozo and hemp in addition to their regular crops. The best washi was made during the cold winter months. This coincided with the season when the farmers could not work in their fields and the icy cold water was free of impurities that could discolor the fibers. The fibers were often spread out on the white snow banks to lighten naturally. Thus, production was limited and unable to keep up with the changing demands.
"During the Meiji period (mid-19th Century) the demand for paper greatly increased. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the shift from washi to western paper and from handmade to machine-made papers. In spite of this change, the strong yet flexible washi is still firmly rooted in the Japanese culture and is still used for special religious purposes (both Buddhist and Shinto), in the production of daily items like toys, fans, and garments, for conservation purposes, and in its most universally recognized function, traditional architecture.
"The following three fibers are the primary fibers used in Japanese papermaking.
Kozo (Mulberry) bark is used in approximately 90% of the washi made today. Kozo was originally found in the mountain wilderness of Shikoku and Kyusu Islands. It became a cultivated plant used especially for paper and cloth making. It is a deciduous shrub that grows to a height of 3 - 5 meters with the stem measuring up to 10 cm across.
A bush found in the mountainous, warm areas of Japan. Gampi grows to 1.0 - 1.5 meters in height. It has been used as a washi-making material for many years due to the high quality of the fiber taken from the bark. The finished paper is somewhat translucent and has a shiny texture. Gampi cannot be cultivated and is therefore rare and the most expensive of these three materials.
A bush that originated in China. Mitsumata grows to 1.0 - 1.5 meters in height. Records indicate that it was used in papermaking as early as 1614. The fibers are shorter than Kozo's. Mitsumata papers have insect repelling qualities.
"Today Japanese papermakers rely upon washi's adaptability as they try to maintain the age-old tradition of the process while fulfilling the changing needs of society. As new applications are developed for washi, this traditional material is being reinforced into the daily lives of people, not only in Japan but in countries around the world. Through international exhibitions, demonstrations, and workshops, handmade Japanese paper is being rediscovered for its versatility, beauty, and power as an expressive medium appealing to the visual, tactile, and emotional senses."
Whatever paper you choose, appreciate the structure and beauty of each sheet. Most of us have preferred papers, those we have come to know well and thus their behavior is predictable, always friendly. But I enjoy the adventure of the unknown sheet, that paper that I have not tried, the one with fibers, the smooth and slick white sheet...
Enjoy your paper adventures!
Secrets of Japanese papermakers in the next issue...
by David Bull
So, you think you know something about colour woodblock prints? Here's a chance to test the depth of your knowledge!
We have chosen eight prints, spanning a range of just over three hundred years. Some of them are quite well known, others may perhaps be new to you. We all know how difficult it is to remember those foreign artists' names (especially those Japanese ones!), so we're going to make it a bit easier - you don't need to identify the artists.
Your mission - should you decide to accept it - is simply to identify when each of these prints was made, and to make things even simpler, we'll make it multiple choice!
Make your selections from the popup-menu under each print, and then when you're done, check how well you did by using the buttons at the end of the quiz ...
How did you do? Anybody with a perfect score? Let us know!
WORKSHOPS AND RESIDENCIES:
Artist's ResidencyORGANIZATIONS FOR PRINTMAKERS:
Stewart House on the beautiful northern beaches of Sydney, Australia is introducing a program of artist's residencies to begin in 2001. Each residency will be for a period of 10 weeks coinciding with the NSW school terms and there will be four residencies per year.
Stewart House is a combination of school, hospital and charity where kids between the ages of 6 - 17 years old who suffer from some sort of disadvantage or isolation at home get to go for a two week intensive "holiday". For many of the kids (and teachers) this will be their first contact with a real live working artist and an important stimulus to and validation of their own creative impulses.
The artist in residence will be provided with a large studio over looking the beach and Pacific Ocean, their own room, three meals a day and the opportunity to develop their own projects in a beautiful and stimulating environment. You will also have the chance to participate in the numerous excursions organized for the kids while they are there. The resident artist will be required, in conjunction with the art teacher, to provide one art lesson for the older students of each group going through the school i.e. each fortnight, otherwise your time is your own.
The program seeks to attract artists from a wide range of disciplines and at various stages in their careerdevelopment. The studio has a range of equipment (see web site for details) and we are currently organizing acquiring small etching press for the studio. In the meantime there is a very good print studio and printmakers group operating near the school.
The first residency will begin in February 2001 and applications are due by the end of November, 2000.
For further information and application details see the Stewart House Artist in Residence program web site http://artist.batcave.net (after the 8th October 2000. With any luck it will be all there by then.)
Submitted by: Gerald Soworka - On-line Gallery and Portfolio
Contains gallery of prints, drawings and paintings, as well as a detailed résumé and calendar of forthcoming exhibitions and activities, including:
Eye to Eye - solo show of new drawings and prints
20th September - 9th October, Precinct Galleries, 12 - 14 Alexandra St, Berry NSW
The Florida Printmakers SocietyEXHIBITIONS AND CALLS FOR ENTRIES:
Call for entries! Go to the web site...
Current President and Baren Member: Daniel Dew
The Florida Printmakers Society and the Venice Art Center are proud to offer this international opportunity for original, fine art, hand pulled prints (etchings, lithographs, reliefs, monotypes, dry points and mezzotints, silkscreens).
Dates of Exhibition: February 9, 2001 - March 1, 2001
Entree by slides: Deadline for slides Nov. 15, 2000
Entry Fee (3 slides) $10.00 FL Printmakers Members
$20.00 Includes entry fee and membership to the Florida Printmakers Society.
Commission: 35% charged by the Venice Art Center
Shipped work: Receive, Jan. 31, Feb. 1 & 2
Venice Art Center
390 Nokomis Ave. Venice, FL 34285
Hand delivered work: February 5, 2001 9:00 a.m. to noon
Hang show: February 5, noon
Contact Person: Marcia Stewart, FPS
10091 McGregor Blvd. Ft. Myers, FL 33919
Opening reception: February 9, 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Exhibition Closes/Pick Up: March 1, 9:00 - noon
Shipped work: Work return shipped March 5 & 6
Juror: Patrick Lindhart, Director of Printmaking, RINGLING SCHOOL OF ART & DESIGN. Patrick is a Master Printmaker actively teaching and practicing his art. He is known for his book art and his work can be found in major museums and is collected by print enthusiasts. He is the owner of the Flat Stone Studio located in Sarasota, FL. As a Master Printer, he has worked for Graphic Studio and Gemini Studio.
1st Place: $300.00
2nd Place: $200.00
3rd Place: $100.00
Purchase Award: Provident Funding Group ($250.00)
The objective of the Maryland Printmakers is to "promote printmaking through charitable and educational lectures, demonstrations, juried, and non-juried and traveling exhibits. Membership is open to any individual committed to the promotion of printmaking. Among the benefits are a quarterly newsletter, InPrint, written and compiled by Shireen Holman, calls for entries, a slide registry, a wonderful web site full of information and much more.
Membership: Mary Laur, Web Manager/Membership
Newsletter: Shireen Holman, Editor
Exhibitions: Ellen Hill, Exhibitions/Slide Registry
McGOPA / Montgomery County Guild of Professional Artists
Located in SPP Galleries 800 River Rd. West Conshohocken, Pa.
Mail to: McGOPA po box 153 Flourtown, PA. 19031 or e-mail to
Montgomery County Guild of Professional Artists was formed to provide a place where artists could meet and share common interests. Shared goals of McGOPA are educating fellow artists on the art of being an artist, exhibiting works, and educating the public about art as well as selected mediums. Creating and maintaining a forum for such communication between artists and the community as well as educating the public on the fine
arts are ongoing objectives .
For more information please contact:
Betz Green VP@ 215-233-8945 , Anthe Pres.@ 215-233-3916, or e-mail:
for prospectus to exhibitions or applications for Supporting Associate
SASE to McGOPA PO BOX 153, Flourtown,PA 19031
Opening Sept 15 -Oct. 7, 2000
Zen Buddist Temple, 1710 W Cornelia Ave., Chicago, ILLINOIS
"In Search of Moonlight: Hwang Nam-Chae Woodblock Painting
Anchor Graphics, 119 W. Hubbard St., Chicago, ILLINOIS
"Everyday Alchemy," Michael Krueger, Paintings, Drawings,
Ceramics until Oct 2. (Lots on printing on ceramics!)
Deadline October 15th, 2000
THE BOSTON PRINTMAKERS BIENNIAL: North American Print Exhibition February 22 - April 8, 2001
808 Gallery of Boston University.
All original print media. Juried by Davied Kiehl, Curator of Prints, Whitney Museum of American Art. Over $5,000 in material & purchase awards. For a prospectus send an SASE to:
The Boston Printmakers
400 The Fenway
Boston MA 02115
Tammy Mackenzie of http://www.SageBase.com writes:
I'm writing to you on behalf of SageBase.com. We're an article database, and we're looking for experts in Arts and Entertainment to contribute articles to our site. Particularly experts in Art. The pay is 20$ per article after a three-month trial period. If you could inform your readers of the opportunity, I would greatly appreciate it.
The web site has all the information and contacts.
The Print Center 75th Annual International Competition
Deadline: October 13th
Juror: Marjorie Cohn, Carl A Weyerhaeuser Curator of Prints, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA
Prospectus at http://www.PrintCenter.org
Fourteenth Parkside National Small Print Exhibition
Deadline: November 10th
Awards, all print media except photographs completed in the past two years. Print and mat or support cannot exceed 18 inches in any dimension. Judged from actual work which must be shipped matted and protected.
For prospectus, send a SASE:
PARKSIDE NATIONAL SMALL PRINT EXHIBITION
University of Wisconsin-Parkside
900 Wood Road, Box 2000
Kenosha, WI 53141-2000
EMERGING ARTISTS 2001
Deadline: October 30, 2000
Location: New York
Type: Juried Competitions - Mixed Media
Description: New York, NY - Emerging Artists 2001, eleventh annual international competition for exhibition to be held February 7 - 24, 2001 at the Limner Gallery, 870 Avenue of the Americas, New York City. $1000.00 cash awards.
Contact: For prospectus email Limner Gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org or send
SASE to Limner Gallery, 870 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY 10001
NOTE: Date given is deadline for entries. Be sure to request the prospectus. Editor highly recommends subscribing to Art Calendar, Art Deadlines, and a host of other organizations if you find these useful and will be entering competitions.
If anyone would like to take over the compiling of this department, it is up for grabs! I usually just gather the upcoming printmaking competitions and some promising works on paper calls for entries, and make a text file. Let me know if you are interested. Sources this issue: Art Calendar, Art Deadlines, Access Art Deadline, direct e-mails and mailings to editor
Darrell Madis writes: "I STILL have a dozen hardbound blank books, 212 pages, 8 1/2 by 11", blue lined paper. Handy for printmaking records, etc. Anyone who wants one can have it for bookrate postage which is $2.00.Contact Darrell at Artsmadis@aol.com.
Maria Arango has some small cherry wood blocks aged, sanded to 600, polished and sealed with linseed oil, ready to carve on both sides. Blocks are 4 x 6 inches, approximately 3/4" inch thick. Cost $7.50 each includes shipping in U.S. They are simply too small for the work I'm doing right now. Contact Maria at email@example.com.