Baren-suji, the newsletter of Baren International Woodblock Printmakers
Baren-suji is the newsletter of [Baren], The International Forum for Woodblock Printmaking. The official internet site of [Baren] is

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 [Barenforum], simply point your browser to:
and click on Administration Links. Be sure to read the FAQ's and Guidelines of the Forum.


NOTE! To return to thisTable of Contents from anywhere in the Newsletter, just click on the barens scattered about.


Chinese Woodblock Printmaking by Bea Gold

A Tradition in Prints

Worthwhile Books on Printmaking, reviewed by Barbara Mason

Paper Bits II: The Japanese Way, by Maria Arango


A Word from the Leadership

Editor's Notes

Members' Comments

Exchange & Exhibition News

Members in the Spotlight

Opportunities for Printmakers

Sales and Trades

Copyright © [], 2000
Masthead design by John Amoss, Illustration (706) 549-4662 - e-mail:
No part of this newsletter may be reproduced without permission from its publishers
To subscribe to Baren-suji, change your subscription format, or unsubscribe, please go to


The Baren Forum Administrative Council thanks you for your support! The transition was smooth and pretty painless and although we will miss Dave at the helm we know we can always go to him for advice.

The future is clear, we can and will keep this the best list on the internet, full of friendly advice and block printing support. Baren-After 5 will continue to be a place to get silly and blow off some steam while the main list will continue to be professional and helpful. The encyclopedia will continue to grow and the exchanges will get better and better and be exhibited with enthusiasm by our loyal members.
Life is good, printmaking is the best!
Barbara Mason

Well, I have been serving Baren in the capacity of "moderator of the forum" for a whole 3 days now. There have been a few bumps in the road, but I'm getting the hang(a?) of it now. It's not a hard job, but it is tricky, dealing with Mr. Majordomo. You have to be precise & clear in your commands to that machine! I am glad to have the opportunity to help with this fantastic thing we've got going here. I'm sure that Dave Bull never dreamed this thing would take on such a life of it's own & grow into so many areas. You, the members, have a lot to be proud of. And there will be even more rewards of belonging to Baren as this next year rolls on. More exhibits, the opening of the "Baren Mall" - allowing everyone to purchase supplies for this wonderful medium, without having to travel to Japan or speak Japanese. This is very exciting. I hope that Baren can continue on as it has - with grace and virtue & willingness to help anyone interesting in learning about Japanese Woodblock printing.
Wanda Robertson

I am the newest member of the Baren Council and am still learning how best I can help. Although, 2000 was a hard year for me because of nasty medical stuff, the bright spot was the Baren, where I knew I would find interesting conversations, discussions, agreements and disagreements and always lessons and new things to learn. I am looking forward to the snaky Baren year, 2001. Thanks to all of you.
Bea Gold

2001 Year of the Snake Post Card by Philip Smith


1917 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001

If you were born in the year of the snake, you are wise and charming. You are also romantic and a deep thinker, but you tend to procrastinate and be a bit stingy about money. You will make a good teacher, writer or psychiatrist.

Unbelievably, this is the fourth issue of Baren-Suji, completing the yearly cycle. We have seen eight exchanges and five exhibits to date and more are planned as we speak for the coming year. Not bad for a bunch of strangers that met through the internet, I'd say! We should all be proud.
After a year of blissful full-time artistic activity, there is little I dislike about woodcuts, art, and this bohemian life in general. There is one ugly thing, though, that lunges out of the grass like a mean snake, seemingly everywhere I go.
Artists are divided. They, or I should more correctly say "we," split into the most ridiculous and laughable groups. Not only are we painters and printmakers and watercolorists and craftsmen, but some of us are academic or outsiders or hobbyists or copyists or hackers... And it doesn't end there, no, among printmakers we are relief printmakers and, more specifically woodcut printmakers who pull prints by hand.
Sure we need an identity, sure we find pride in distinguishing ourselves from others by the craft we so love. But we speak of each other in demeaning ways, whisper about "those other artists" (who really shouldn't be called artists at all) and with our whispers we further divide ourselves into meaningless minute groups.
Perhaps it is time for a new beginning.

"We must, indeed, all hang together,
or most assuredly we shall all hang separately"

-Printmaker Benjamin Franklin

A special thank YOU! to the contributors this issue:
Bea Gold
Barbara Mason
Sharen Linder
David Bull
Philip Smith
Michelle Morrell
Ruth Leaf
Dan Dew
Kate Courchaine
Jeanne Norman Chase
John Amoss
Ray Hudson
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:

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:

Received by e-mail from member Sharen Linder:

Subject: So I was heading to bed after watching the Olympics...

Hi, Maria!
...and I just thought I'd check in on the e-mail.
W e l l ! What a terrific surprise! I have had to read the Baren-suji from virtual cover to virtual cover! What a great job!
I love the article from Kampala! I enjoy reading the 'blow-by-blow' experiences of show organizers, what unique problems they confront, and the positive effects realized by the organizers, artists, and the viewers of the exhibits. (and I wish there would be information on ways to continue to support the work of some of the local printmakers!)
Through bleary eyes I won't attempt the print quiz tonight, but the -suji is becoming a great resource for artist's opportunities!
It's a great edition! Congratulations on the quality, variety, and scope of your newsletter! Wonderful job, Maria!

Please send your comments for this section anytime to

Remember! General information and links to all exchanges can always be found here:
And in case you missed them, the Exchange Gallery can delight you here:

Exchange #7 was a theme exchange: The Comedy of Life. Coordinators for this exchange are the Florida teammates: Daniel Dew and Jeanne Norman-Chase. Prints are being collated as we speak!
Greg Carter has kindly offered to exhibit this exchange. Details to come soon.

Exchange #8 is a non-themed exchange in the larger Oban size. Sign up is closed. Your friendly coordinator this time is Ray Hudson in cold Vermont. As always, details for this exchange are here: If you have not yet ordered your case or submitted the details of your print, do so sometime soon. Deadline for the prints to reach Ray is February 1, 2001.

Exchange #9 (take a deep breath, we will reach double digits next year) opens for early sign-up January 1st, 2001. Mark your calendars! Information and sign up page can be reached from the main exchange information page.

The Baren International Swap Shop 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 that wish to participate in a smaller and less pressuring exchange, go to the woodblock site and read all about this new Baren 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.

Many Baren members are also participating in the Year of the Sssssssnake exchange. This is a post-card type informal exchange, not regulated by Baren. The information page is in Pete White's web site. The ssslithery creatures are expected to sssneak into our mail boxesss throughout the next few monthsss, producing a fun batch of mail among billsss and other ussselessss advertissmentsss.

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!

Two exhibitions are currently underway or have just finished in Ohio and Israel. Thank you members Gayle Wohlken and Arye Saar for undertaking these events and all the work that is involved. Rather than repeat what our energetic (we hope) webmaster David Bull has done, I direct you to the web site (Events and Activities) where you will find information on these and many other activities.

by Bea Gold and Ray Hudson
The Woodblock Prints of Lu Fang
by Ray Hudson

a. Drawing

He arranges what he sees
to fit his vision.

Nothing he knows
has prepared him for this

something familiar
which no one has seen.

b. Carving

He lowers knife into wood
a small breath blown across the grain
a brush dipping through water, a minnow leaping.
A storm of willow leaves strews the table.
What he carves away appears briefly for what it is not.
It is what is left behind
anchored in wood
wide as his palm or thin as a nail clipping,

c. Printing

He prepares the surface with water:
wood, paper, sea spray, mountain mist.
Paper breathes into wood. With a curved brush
from watercolors in shallow bowls
he paints the wood. Paper touches wood.
He sees, as the blind know,
how water carries color
along branches, across shadows of snow,
against the weight of rain and beyond.

As he burnishes the print
a lavender dust brushes the landscape.

I took a Japanese Print Making class with April Volmer as instructor in August of 1999. She was terrific and I worked in the hanga technique for a little over a year. I enjoyed it a great deal but I felt it was very complicated. I called it the hanga mystique. While at Horizons, the center where April's class was taught, I noticed that a Chinese Print Making class was taught the year before by Baren member, Ray (from Vermont) Hudson. I looked at his exchange prints and found them lovely and interesting.

I e-mailed him to find out if he was teaching somewhere this year. He was not teaching but he helped me learn the technique through our communication by e-mail. I wanted to see if the process was right for me. I believe it is.

Ray took a class in China in 1990 and has used this method of printing since that time. Here is what Ray wrote about the class he took in China with Lu Fang in 1990.

"The college course at Hangzhou, People's Republic of China, was offered by the University of Minnesota, Duluth (Continuing Education & Extension, 403 Darland Administration Building, 10 University Drive, Duluth, Minnesota 55812-2496)."
"I took the course in 1990 and found it amazing because of the instructor Lu Fang. Basically, you carve the block like any other. The printing is different, however, and it is not like the printing of traditional Chinese “New Year” pictures (as illustrated in the baren encyclopedia.) Basically, you take a piece of paper that has been dampened and lay it on the uninked block."
"When I took the class from Lu Fang in Hangzhou, he had some special paper made for us. I think it was just thicker than what he used, quite thick, but completely unsized. The unsized part is important for the watercolor to absorb evenly. I used hosho paper, but to dampen it takes time--placing a sheet between rung-out wet pieces of sheeting and then weighting it all down for several hours or overnight. Now I usually use a Chinese paper that I buy from a store in Conn. It's not a fancy paper but it is unsized and comes in different weights. (This can be dampened by spraying with a garden or plant “mister” just before printing.) But try any paper."
"Next, a blotter sheet or two (I am often driven to use just newsprint) is placed on the dampened paper. Then a weight heavy enough to hold the papers in place is put on top. If your block and paper are large enough, the weight can go off the carved part of the block. If not, you'll have to print in sections."
"Next, peel the paper back revealing the uninked block. Using regular tube watercolors and a watercolor brush (or a Japanese block printing brush) apply color to the wood. Lower the paper, rub with a baren, lift and inspect. You will find it's often best to make several printings of thin color rather than one heavy one that often will blur fine lines. Repeat, using whatever colors you like and need until the print is finished. Move the weight if necessary. Registration in China was done (in Lu Fang's class) by blind feel. The paper was thin enough to push down onto the uninked second block and “see” if it fit. I've tried other methods also, the two carved corners in the Japanese method."

This is my interpretation of Ray's teachings of the Chinese method.
I used it to print my Comedy of Life print.

1. Used mulberry, moistened the paper and covered with plastic over night
2. Wet 4 light weight towels and put 2 flat on the table to be under and 2 over the prints in process ? 2 stacks
3. Sprayed each wood block with water before printing to keep from absorbing the paint in the first printings.
4. Set up small dishes with colors that would be used in this printing, thinned to light water color density.
5. Set up blocks with same thickness as the block to be printed on each side. This is to be able use the Baren over the printing block without going over the edge.
6. Placed the dampened paper on the UNINKED block using the kento mark to set registration. Hard to remember if you've been doing Hanga.
7. Placed a weight over half of the block to hold the paper in place. I used a wooden block.
8. Folded the moist paper back on the weight.
9. Brushed the thin paint on the block sparingly. I used the small bushes I bought for Hanga.
10. Folded the moist paper back onto the block, gently.
11. Placed a sheet of absorbent paper over the print paper so that the color would not run in the dampened paper. I tried paper towel but ended up using blotting paper with a slip paper over it. After the absorbent paper I used the slip paper alone.
12. Used a Baren to print. Had to be careful not to hit the paper without a slip paper because the dampened unsized paper is delicate and can tear easily. If needed I lifted the paper and inked the block again to get the color I wanted.
13. Placed printed sheet on top of moist towel, covered with moist towel to save for the next color to be printing.
14. When printing was finished, I placed a weight over the prints to dry flat.

What is different from Hanga:
1. The paper is not sized
2. There is no paste used.
3. The paper is placed on the uninked block.
4. The weight holds the paper in place and only part of the block is printed at a time.
5. You can move the paper around to get perfect registration without paint getting on the block.
6. You can create a more painterly print by varying the way the paint is used.

Bea Gold with quotes and introduction by Ray Hudson

Where I Live by Bea Gold


Jeanne Norman Chase
If you have been paying attention to our lively forum, you have no doubt been listening to the slithery comments from this thing called "the snake exchange." Although not exclusively a woodblock tradition, exchanging Chinese New Year cards has become somewhat of a popular tradition with printmakers around the world.
Our very own exchange has already produced these little critters, more to come.

Dan Dew Kate Courchaine

The Chinese Lunar Calendar is a yearly calendar like the Western calendar, except that the start of the lunar year is based on the cycles of the moon. Thus the beginning of the year can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February. Western cultures date the years from the birth of Jesus Christ (For example, 1994 means 1,994 years after the birth of Christ), and thus approach the progression of years from a linear point of view. In traditional China, dating methods were cyclical, meaning that the years repeat according to a pattern. The repetition is in increments of twelve years.

The Chinese Lunar Calendar goes further and names one of twelve animals as a symbol for each year. A Chinese legend explains that all the animals of the world were invited to come and visit Buddha. Only twelve came. In order to reward these animals for their loyalty, Buddha named a year after each one in the order they appeared before him.

Michelle Morrell

A second legend gives another version of the determination of the order of the animals. The twelve animals quarreled one day as to who was to head the cycle of years. The gods were asked to decide and they held a contest: whoever reached the opposite bank of the river first would be head of the first cycle, and the rest of the animals would receive their years according to their finish.

All twelve animals gathered at the river bank and jumped in. Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back. As the ox was about to jump ashore, the rat jumped off the ox's back and won the race. The pig, who was very lazy, ended up last. That is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox is the second, and the pig last. If one knows the animal of a person's birth year, the person's age can be known through calculation as the animals repeat every twelve years.

The Chinese culture, like many Western cultures, predicts certain characteristics of a person's personality based upon his or her birth date. However, while many Western cultures base this expected fortune on the location of the stars and planets on the day of a person's birth, the ancient Chinese horoscope predicts a certain set of characteristics based upon the year in which a person was born. In China, this very personal method is not just a fortune telling game for self amusement; rather it is a historically practiced religious art.

Ruth Leaf

More on snakes and the Chinese Lunar Calendar?
(with music)
(with Chinese music)

by Barbara Mason
I am moving away from "how to" books and onto a beautiful little "paper" book. I purchased this book last year at the Southern Graphics Conference from Hiromi Paper, I also got their catalog which is a wealth of information on Japanese paper. Page 2 of the Hiromi catalog states 'wa' translates to Japanese and 'shi' translates to paper, thus the word we all know, washi. The catalog price is $2 and worth so much more, it is a wealth of information and history.

My book review is on the small book Washi Basics by Ann K. Nakamura published by the Hall of Awa Japanese Handmade Paper, Tokushima, Japan.

The history of paper is more than 2000 years old and very well documented in the first few chapters. Several families of papermakers are highlighted and there is much information on the actual making of paper. There is a large glossary of terms in the back of the book that explains most terms in a very understandable way. The cost of this book from Hiromi paper was $20. I highly recommend both of these, the book and the catalog. This is the real stuff, Hiromi Paper is in Santa Monica, so you California people are lucky to have it close by. I would love to go there in person.

by Maria Arango
"The unique washi has, besides its beauty and inherent strength, such qualities as warmth, softness, eloquence and attractiveness which are not commonly found in western style papers." Chosuke Taki, Handbook on the Art of Washi, Tokyo 1991

Last issue we explored the history of paper in general and began a journey into the exquisite and mysterious world of Japanese papers. The choice of traditional woodblock printmakers, Japanese papers have a magical quality perhaps initially brought about by the strange juxtapositions of strength and softness, ruggedness and beauty, resiliency and thinness. They appear fragile and transparent yet resist the process of tearing with stubborn beauty. What makes Japanese papers so different?
What follows are excerpts of several sources, cited at the end of this section.

"It is faith in tradition and intimacy with nature that allow the papermaker to create beautiful sheets... It is almost invariably true that the further the village from the mainstream of modern life, the more beautiful is the paper made there." Sukey Hughes, Washi, The World of Japanese Paper, New York, 1978

Character of Washi
A characteristic of Japanese papermaking is the influence of the rhythms of country life. Two that are essential are water and cold. Production of the best papers requires very pure, cold, fast flowing water, and most papermaking areas are high in the mountains close to a water source where coolness and movement considerably limit the growth of bacteria thus ensuring durability. Cold is equally vital to papermaking. In wintry conditions, the ingredients do not decompose; cold strengthens and contracts the fibers, giving the resulting paper a fresh, crisp and firm appearance. Paper made in the summer, when a hot humid atmosphere prevails, can appear limp in comparison. The presence of damp during manufacture also ruins the paper, hence most sites are in areas of Japan where the winters are drier.

Preparation of the fibers
Japanese paper's originality and renown are due partly to the remarkable quality of its fibers. The three that are used most often are kozo, mitsumata and gampi, being some of the longest and strongest of all papermaking fibers. These fibers contain three layers: the outer bark (kurokawa), an secondary green pith, and the inner white layer (shirokawa) which is used for papermaking.
The procedure to obtain the white fiber is as follows: Firstly the tree shoots are harvested and steamed to loosen the outer layer; women traditionally strip this away and the remaining bark can be dried for indefinite storage. When required, it is softened in water and the green layer is scraped away. If necessary, unwanted bits of black or green bark still remaining (chiri) are picked out by hand. Two papers, Chiri and Kaisuri, make use of this refuse, sporting a mottled appearance with bark inclusions.
The sinuous white layer that remains can be dried for later use. At the next stage, soaked shirokawa is boiled in an alkali solution to soften the fibers and release any non-cellulose material such as starches, fats and tannins. It is washed again and then bleached. Stream bleaching, called kawa-zarashi (running water through the bark), is a traditional method which helps to whiten, not weaken, the fiber. Two other "natural" bleaching methods that enhance the fiber's whiteness are yuki-zarashi (snow bleaching) and tenpi-zarashi (sun bleaching). However, the chemical bleaching process is a more widely practiced method today.

The Japanese Difference
Two things are unique in the making of Japanese handmade paper:
First is a viscous substance called neri (a vegetable starch obtained from the root of the tororo-ai) is added to the vat of pulp to slow the flow of stock through the mould and deckle and to disperse the long fibers.
Second is the uniqueness of the Japanese mould, keta, which is made of well-seasoned cypress, while the laid screen or su is made of thick bamboo laid lines tied with silk or horse hair chain lines to form a very flexible screen in one direction and a very rigid one in the other.
There, of course, are those secrets that each papermaker purports to pass from generation to generation, and much like a secret recipe for good whiskey, are kept in the family and told to no soul outside the mills.
Other observable differences are in the actual making and drying of the paper. The vatman in Japan, seemingly scoops the pulp on the mould as do Westerners. Some Eastern deckles are closed by individual pieces of wood held firmly with each thumb, rather than the Western full-frame deckle. There is, however, no vatman's stroke to witness. This "stroke" also called "throwing off the wave," is a side-to-side stroke performed just as the mould and deckle is lifted from the pulp or slurry, and is designed to distribute the paper fibers evenly throughout the forming sheet of paper. The Japanese way, instead, employs a series of shakes and strokes, more than one dipping, and a throwing off--at the very end--of the unwanted slurry.
The result? As rich and varied as the personalities of the thousands of craftsmen who engage in making handmade paper in Japan.

Japanese papers
It would take a life time to really get to know and use the wide variety of Japanese papers. Interested experimenters can purchase a sampler of these papers from many resources, some of them listed in Catalogs and sampler packs can only give a small thrill to the paper lover. I highly recommend that the printmaker experiments with full sheets, especially those that are truly imported from the treasured papermakers of Japan.
Pictured below are some samples of Japanese papers. They say a picture is worth a thousand words but in the case of Japanese paper, a picture is a very poor representative of the real thing. Feeling and touching a sheet, however, is worth a thousand pictures.

A small sample of the variety of Japanese papers

Compiled and edited by Maria Arango
The Book of Fine Paper, Sylvie Turner, Thames & Hudson
Paper-making, Jules Heller, Watson Guptill
Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, Dard Hunter, Dover



If you happen to be a moonlight wood engraver, I turn your attention to the Wood Engraver's Network.
Since 1994 WEN is an organization for the education and enjoyment of relief printmaking and, in particular, engraving upon end-grain wood.
WEN offers the delicate and engaging Block & Burin, a quarterly newsletter (soon to be semiannual) filled with wood engraving history and wisdom. Members design the cover and it is always a beautiful surprise. Members also exchange prints, called Bundles, on a quarterly basis.
Membership information can be found at WEN's new and improved web site:
The forum for wood engraving is here:
24th Harper College
National Small Works Exhibition
April 3 - 28, 2001
New Student Services and Art Center

JUROR: Wendy Woon, Director of Education, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

AWARDS: At least $1,000 is anticipated, including the Harper College Educational Foundation Purchase Award(s) and the Martha Bell Purchase Award.

ELIGIBILITY AND MEDIA: All artists over 18 living in the USA are eligible. In its largest dimension, individual artwork must be no greater than 20”. All media excluding jewelry, film and video are eligible. Weight limitation of 45 lb.. No work which requires special installation or instructions will be accepted.
All entries will first be judged from slides.
Small Works
Art Department
Harper College
1200 West Algonquin Road
Palatine, IL 60067-7398

Kirkland Arts Center Printmaking Exhibition
Deadline: Annual Recurring - April
Location: Washington
Type: Call for Submissions - All Media
Description: The gallery takes a look at contemporary Northwest printmakers through the eyes of an expert. Area artists will submit their work by slide. Twenty to thirty prints will be chosen for inclusion in the show. Call for Artists. The purpose of this annual exhibit is to recognize and promote excellence in printmaking as well as to foster an integrated understanding of this versatile and widespread art-making medium. $2,000 in cash prizes to five top artists: one first place, two second place, and two third place winners.
Contact: For info call (425) 822-7161 Kirkland Art Center Peter Kirk Building 620 Market Street Kirkland, WA 98033
Home Page:

Deadline: Annual Recurring - July 1
Location: New York
Type: Juried Competitions - Other
Description: Call for Entries. Open to all artists working in printmaking media; no monoprints or photo-offset prints. Juried.
Contact: For a prospectus send an SASE to: Print Club of Albany, Box 6578, Albany NY 12206

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

No items this time, but a permanent page has been set up for the purpose of bartering and selling items among and to other artists. This page resides in the Editor's web site:

Copyright © [], 2000-2001
Masthead design by John Amoss, Illustration (706) 549-4662 - e-mail:
No part of this newsletter may be reproduced without permission from its publishers
To subscribe to Baren-suji, change your subscription format, or unsubscribe, please go to