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 this Table of Contents from anywhere in the Newsletter, just click on the barens scattered about.


Southern Graphics Conference Reports: 3 Perspectives
     by April Vollmer, Barbara Mason, and Shireen Holman

Growing a Baren Exhibit
     by Bea Gold with Julio Rodriguez

The Dynamic Duo:
April Volmer and Sarah Hauser Baren Members
     An Interview by Bea Gold

A High/Low Printing/Carving Ensemble
     by John Amoss

"Primitives": A Brief Look at Early Japanese Prints


Editor's Notes

Exchange & Exhibition News

Members in the Spotlight

Opportunities for Printmakers

Printmaking Supplies from Traditional Japanese Makers

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
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Stream, 1998
by Baren Member Hideshi Yoshida
This Spring brings yet another issue of Baren-Suji, our newsletter. Contributions from our membership were crucial in bringing this issue together, and I thank everyone here heartily for helping.
Sadly, I will not be able to continue as Editor of this fine production. I am assuming that someone in the ranks of Baren will step up and take rein of the task of recording our marks. The reasons for me discontinuing this wonderful task are many and irrelevant; the fact is this will be the last issue I am able to produce.
Many of you have contributed and your contributions will continue to be extremely important to the survival of the newsletter. However, someone is needed to put it all together and make it happen. That someone (and I have full faith that one of you will take the baton) should have good working knowledge of HTML or an alternative web page composing program in order to complete the quarterly task.
Perhaps a budding editor can emerge every quarter and thus give Baren-Suji a new flavor with each issue. Perhaps one of you is just sitting and waiting for such a task. In any case, Dear Members, the next issue of Baren-Suji rests solely and fully in your hands.
Please contact your editor directly or a member of the Baren Council regarding this matter. Thanks everyone.

"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
 April Vollmer
 Shireen Holman
 Matt Brown
 John Amoss
 Sarah Hauser
 Ray Hudson
As always, an extra 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 Barenforum 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:

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 #8 was a non-themed exchange in the larger O-ban size. Your friendly coordinator this time was Ray Hudson in cold Vermont. Prints have been received by participants, and are now on display on the website. There is a mechanism for giving the participating artists feedback on their prints; this makes for good discussion. Check it out and say what you think by viewing the Exchange Exhibit in the web site.

Exchange #9 is well on its way, prints are due May 1st, 2001. Mark your calendars! This is a smaller size themed exchange with the concept of "Endangered Species." The collection promises to be interesting!

And as usual, another exchange is around the corner. Be sure to keep checking the dates and mark your calendars for the upcoming sign-up period of Exchange #10. A great way to keep up with these is to bookmark the Exchange sign-up pages in your Favorites or Bookmarks (Internet Explorer and Nescape respectively).

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.

Woodblock Print Lecture/Demonstration

Last February 27th Baren members Julio Rodriguez and Sharen Linder combined forces to give a talk/demo on woodblock printmaking. The audience of approximately fifty artists were members of the Skokie Art Guild, a long standing community group consisting of over 100+ painters, photographers and sculptors.

Julio started the hour and a half presentation by defining the word "print", defining the challenges of printmaking and the why's, and followed with a detailed explanation of the differences between the western and the Japanese styles of woodblock. Also covered were the closely related wood engraving and linoleum block techniques. Both Sharen and Julio brought along many of their own prints to share with the group as well as a selection of exchange prints from other Baren members. An assortment of tools and materials were on display and Julio described and demonstrated their use in traditional woodblock printmaking. Among the things that the audience got to see was a set of three woodblocks carved by our very own forum founder David Bull. Plans are in the works for a workshop in the near future.

BAREN Woodblock Print Exhibition

The second annual BAREN woodblock print exhibition will be held again this year at the Skokie Public Library.  Last year Baren member Julio Rodriguez exhibited his collection of Baren exchange prints and also invited artists.
In total the exhibition included over 130 prints representing seventy-five international members.

This year's exhibition will open on May 20 and go through the first week of July. Because the space available this time is limited to only the first floor area, the exhibit will include only a selection of prints from exchanges #5 through #9 and postcard prints from the very popular New Year Snakes exchange.  As the date approaches, Julio will post more information and details about the exhibit and the selection of prints going on display.

Last year's exhibit can be viewed here:

BAREN Exchange Print Exhibition May 20 - July 3, 2001

Skokie Public Library
5215 Oakton
Skokie, Illinois 60077
(847- 673-7774)

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!

written by Bea Gold with contributions by Julio Rodriguez
Since our first Baren Exhibit, I have watched with interest the exhibits that have been developed around the world. I felt challenged to try to get one in this wild and wonderful town, Los Angeles. I chose the Los Angeles Public Library, because it is centrally located, has the respect of the community and is beautiful and has a lot of daily traffic.
Toria Aiken (the Central Library Exhibition Coordinator) and I began an email communication in late 2000. Toria is a very busy but interested and interesting person and finally after several emails back and forth, we were able to meet on March 1st at the library. I brought Baren Exchanges 2, 4, 5, and 7 as well as both my Dragon and Snake prints. I also brought a set of cut blocks (my #4 exchange self portrait), some bushes, cutting tools and a baren. Toria asked Library Designer Carol Fulton to join us and we went through the prints. I showed and described the use of the other things I brought. They studied each print as they were turned up with much interest and then we talked about what other displays and activities they would like in addition to the hanging of prints. I recognized many of the artists as we turned over the prints and felt very good about that. They expressed interest in three presentation/demonstrations geared towards the different age groups the cater to: Children, Teens and Adults. I thought I might be able to get L.A. people Ruth Leaf and Georga Garside to each do part of it. They wanted a case holding the tools of woodcuts to make a “How To” display.
We talked about where other Baren Exchange exhibits had been held and what they were like. I left feeling like we would definitely have an L.A. exhibit BUT we did not set a date for a follow up meeting and have not heard from Toria! Will it happen? Check the next Baren Suji for an update on the L.A. Public Library, Baren Exchange Exhibit.

Julio Rodriguez put this impressive list together, you might call it Baren's own Resume:
BAREN EXHIBITS since inception to present (and future!):

Third KIWA (Kyoto International Woodprint Association) Exhibition, Kyoto, Japan - June 1999. Organized by: Richard Steiner.

"Baren Print Portfolio", Manhattan Graphics Center, Manhattan, New York - October 1999. Organized by: Judy Mensch, April Vollmer, Sarah Hauser, Ray Hudson.

"Baren Exchange Print Exhibit", Skokie Public Library, Skokie, Illinois - April/May 2000. Organized by: Julio Rodriguez, Sharen Linder.

"Junin-Toiro - Ten People, Ten Colors", National Art Gallery ( Nommo Gallery ), Kampala, Uganda - May 2000. Organized by: Greg Robison.

"Woodcut", Beit Gavriel Cultural Center, Jordan Valley, Israel - November 2000. Organized by: Arye Saar.

"Baren's 6th Print Exchange Exhibit", Kent State University's Geauga Campus Gallery, Burton, Ohio - November 2000. Organized by: Gayle Wohlken.

"Woodcut", Yad leBanim Gallery, Tiberias, Israel - January 2001. Organized by: Arye Saar.


"Baren Print Exhibit", Skokie Public Library, Skokie, Illinois - May/June 2001. Organized by: Julio Rodriguez.

"Endangered Species", Artists Unlimited, Florida Printmakers Society,
Tampa, Florida - August 2001 (?) Organized by: Daniel Dew.

Hats off to the members who have volunteered their valuable time, resources, and sometimes money to achieve these international exhibits and demonstrations of the art of the woodcut.

Southern Graphics Conference Reports: 3 Perspectives
by April Vollmer, Barbara Mason, and Shireen Holman
April Vollmer's Report
Southern Graphics Council Meeting in Austin, March 8 to 10, 2001
Printmaker’s Gossip Column

April Vollmer and Barbara masonThis was the first time I had gone to this important printmaking conference. I had heard about it for years, it has a reputation as a great place to meet fellow printmakers and to get inspired about printmaking.

The first reason I decided to go this year was that many printmakers I’d met at when I taught a hanga woodcut class at Frogman’s Print and Paper in South Dakota last summer would be there. The second reason was that many printmakers I knew from Baren would be there. The clincher was that Barbara Mason offered to arrange the hotel, and Susan Rostow offered to arrange the flight. All I had to do was show up.

Seeing old friends was the best part of the conference. Barbara Mason and Shireen Holman are not exactly old friends--we had never met before. But they certainly FELT like old friends, since we have known one another at Baren for several years now. Sharing a room with the energetic, positive force called Barbara Mason and the quiet, serious cutter of exquisitely patterned books, Shireen Holman, was a highlight of the conference. It was also great to spend time with Susan Rostow (the clever co-inventor of Akua Color), and a pleasure to meet her friends Gail and Julia Ayres (clever inventors of the printing pin). I felt guilty sometimes because I missed so many nice talks and demonstrations...but then I realized I was doing the most important thing: chatting with other printmakers.

For woodblock printers our own Karla Hackenmiller's demo was a treat. She worked with Nancy Palmieri, Karla Hackenmilleranother great block printer I hadn't met before, and of course the inimitable Tom Huck with his eight-foot black and white cuts. I found Bareners Roxanne Sexauer, Bobbie Mandel, and a lurker or two were all enjoying that demonstration too. The steamroller print demos were fun, though the prints showed more energy than finesse. It was a thrill to be in a place with 800 enthusiastic printmakers and to overhear stories about various esoteric printerly subjects that you might only expect to hear in the dark recesses of a printshop in the elevator of the Omni Hotel. Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick's keynote address was inspiring, he spoke about the importance of printmaking, he has dedicated much of his creative energy to funny, personal, and very idiosyncratic small color etchings.

The materials fair was almost as much fun as the main conference. Susan Rostow gave ongoing demonstrations of Akua Color ink, and I found Barbara Mason pulling a print or two with her in between lectures. I hear Dean from Graphic Chemical was there, but I was too busy! I did have an opportunity to talk with Hiromi, the intrepid Japanese paper importer from Santa Monica. I got some new washi samples to try from her. There were other paper suppliers, inks, digital materials, the printing pin, and perhaps the most tempting of all, Chapter Registration for THE HONORABLE COMPANY OF GENTLEMAN PRINTMAKERS SOCIAL CLUB. For only $10 I could have started my own chapter! I was politely assured that ‘gentleman’ includes both sexes. They had buttons and certificates. But alas, I missed my big opportunity. Does anyone know where the central offices are?

Next year the Southern Graphics Council meets in New Orleans, the following year in Boston, and then at Rutgers. Check for more information.

Barbara Mason's Turn
There is not a lot I can add to April's overview of the conference, we had a great time and although we were pretty tired of box lunches by the end, I think we would all go again. I did have a chance to meet with Dean Clark and his daughter Sarah, both such nice people and both doing so much to promote printmaking. I finally got some tubes of their water soluble block printing ink so will report on it as soon as I have an opportunity to try it.

Left to right: April Vollmer, Julia Ayres, Susan Rostow, Barbara MasonLess toxic processes were not as big an issue this year, but everyone assumes the world in general is moving in that direction. Karla Hackenmiller  demonstrated her carving on 1/8" HIPS or high impact polystyrene. She carves it with woodcut tools and inks it with oil based litho ink. Pictures will appear somewhere, if not here then on the show and tell pages. I don't think it will replace wood, but it was very interesting.

We saw a lot of artwork and came away inspired to go home and work in our studios. Shireen's books were twice as amazing in person and April's beautiful and large hanga prints were truly inspiring. April said she had trouble with the bokashi printing, but it looked to me like she had it down pretty well. I hope I can take a class from her some time in the future to hone my skills a bit.April and Shireen with Shireen's Book

Meeting old friends and making new ones, what could be better? All with an interest in printmaking, it was like heaven. The only problem was not being more than one person so I could see everything. As usual many things were happening at the same time. Guess this means we will have to go again!

The steam roller printing was great, lots of enthusiasm and prints that turned out fairly well considering the problems inherent with such a large project. Pictures to follow....

And Shireen Holman's View
By Shireen Holman

In March, I flew down to Austin, Texas, to attend Border Crossings, the Southern Graphics Council’s 29th Annual Conference. The conference was hosted by the art department of the University of Texas at Austin, and was organized by Tom Druecker and Margie Simpson. It was a wonderful conference – my only regret is that, being only one person, I could only attend one event at a time. I went to many interesting and stimulating demonstrations and presentations, but felt that I missed even more than I saw!

The University of Texas campus is huge. I think we all got plenty of exercise the few days we were there, scurrying from one place to another. Spring had arrived in Austin, with flowers in bloom everywhere – a nice change from the snow and freezing rain we’d been having in Maryland. I had been looking forward to hearing Barry Moser speak on Thursday, March 8th, but it turned out that he had been unable to come because of snowbound airports in New England! However, I was glad to be able to see his video, “A Thief Among the Angels,” which documents his work on the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible. About a year ago, I had seen the Bible with its intricate, brooding wood engravings, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. It was on exhibit at Concordia University in Austin during the conference.

Every day there were panels and speakers; a section called “Telegraphics,” which consisted of videos about printmaking; a section called “Demographics,” a collaborative project involving photo-litho, ink-jet transfers and monoprints; demonstrations of various printmaking techniques; an ongoing bookmaking project; and the product fair. In addition, on Thursday evening there were buses to area galleries and print workshops, on Friday evening there was an open portfolio, and on Saturday evening there was a Texas barbecue and wrap-up party.

For me, the demonstrations were the real highlight of the conference. Michael Krueger, Lisa Bulawsky, Adele Henderson, Bob Anderson and Eileen Foti worked together on the Demographics project. Observers were able to participate by working directly on the images being developed. I was fascinated to see the changes in the prints from one day to the next. In between dropping in on Demographics, I watched several of the other demos. Oscar Gillespie demonstrated metal plate engraving and showed his beautifully detailed portraits. Donald Furst gave a hilarious talk about the serious and exacting technique of mezzotint. Wearing a hat (?!) made out of his daughter’s basketball with a large cardboard mezzotint rocker attached to the top, he explained how to create velvety blacks and subtle gradations of grey. He talked about both why one might want to use a 350-year-old traditional method, and how to create “faux” mezzotints using modern techniques. Charlie Jones also gave an interesting and informative demo of large woodcut techniques. His work is printed from pine planks up to 72” long, which have been glued together to give a width of 24”. Sometimes he uses power tools to cut the blocks into shapes. He prints by hand, using drawer pulls.

Other relief demos included methods of creating chiaroscuro, by Nancy Palmeri; black-line woodcut techniques similar to those Dürer used, by Tom Huck; and engraving techniques on Hi-impact Polystyrene, Sintra and Resingrave, by Karla Hackenmiller. The steamroller printing, done outside on a driveway, was more of a fun event than anything else. House paint rollers, dipped into buckets of ink, were used to ink up large, roughly carved blocks. Four people were needed to lay the paper down. The steamroller then rolled over the paper, first forward and then backwards.

One of the most interesting gallery exhibits was the work of North Vietnamese artist Dinh Luc. He had been invited to do a guest residency at The University of Texas as part of the SGC theme of Border Crossings. Artist Gordon Fowler, a Purple Heart Marine from the Vietnam War, had met him when he returned to Hanoi last year for a visit. Fowler explained, rather incredulously, that the two had been soldiers fighting on opposite sides in the same part of Vietnam at the same time. Now they were collaborating on the exhibition. Dinh Luc uses water-based inks on black paper to create large textural cityscapes and scenes from folktales.

The Printmaker Emeritus Award for 2001 was given to Antonio Frasconi. There was also an exhibit of his work on campus. The Slugfest Printmaking Workshop and Flatbed Press both have impressive printshops and equipment, as well as very nice gallery spaces. The Slugfest Gallery had an exhibit of Tony Fitzpatrick’s work. Unfortunately I missed the talk he gave – several people described it as very inspiring.

Meeting other printmakers and exchanging ideas is a very important part of the experience of attending the conference. I met many new printmakers and also connected with friends from around the country whom I had not seen in many years. I couldn't believe my luck to be rooming with Barbara Mason and April Vollmer! We turned out to be very compatible, and even enjoyed going out to get a taste of Austin's active nightlife. (When we returned to our hotel after midnight, we had to walk around the block, trying all the doors, before we found an entrance that was unlocked). The open portfolio was also an excellent opportunity to meet people, to show work, and to see what others are doing.

Next years conference will be held in New Orleans. We all came away from Austin wearing brightly coloured Mardi Gras beads promoting “Print Gumbo” in New Orleans.

THE DYNAMIC DUO:   April Vollmer and Sarah Hauser Baren Members
by Bea Gold
It has been a very interesting to read about the interactions, quest to learn and successes (and failures) of Baren Members. We live in so many different environments including farms (Wanda shearing sheep in Oregon) and cities, (Nilsa’s workspace problem in Manhattan) and forests (Gayle in an Ohio woods ) and deserts (Maria in Las Vegas).  We come from many countries including Brazil, Greece, Mexico, Japan, Israel, Bulgaria, Canada, England, United States, Ireland, Australia, Uganda (what did I miss?)  we work alone in studios or are teaching or attending art schools and universities, surrounded by people.  We have our youngest member, 11 year old Meagan Dew and our oldest ones (I know a couple in their 70’s) How many of us have met face to face?  How many of us have had Teacher/Student relationships?

In this issue we will concentrate on two very successful New York artists whose relationship has grown before our eyes.

April Vollmer
Sarah Hauser

Both April and Sarah were asked a number of questions to help draw a picture of their relationship as it has developed over time.  Each responded with such ease that I found myself envying their experiences.  Well, we may not be able to live them but we can get vicarious enjoyment from reading descriptions of their learning, teaching, volunteering and exhibiting.   When asked: “How did you first get interested in relief printing and in hanga in particular? And How did you meet?”  We learn that both April and Sarah came to hanga after many experiences with other forms of printmaking.  April has her MFA in printmaking and always had a special affection for woodcut as the most basic and sculptural of the printmaking techniques.  She worked with oil based inks.  Sarah’s first prints were monotypes and linocut prints and combinations of types of printmaking that can be done without a press.

April looked for someone to teach her the Japanese method of printmaking and found . Kathy Caraccio who offered an introductory class.  Kathy Suggested she call Bill Paden, a real expert, who had lived in Kyoto for many years.  He became April’s teacher and guided her to a deeper understanding of the technique with an intensive series of private lessons.  Sarah also had a desire to learn the Japanese method and in 1997, found a class in Japanese woodblock printing, at Manhattan Graphics, taught by Jonathan Glick.  After this class Sarah studied with Kathy Caraccio, who gave her many new things to try with this technique.  She recommended that Sarah take a class with April Vollmer, which she did at the Lower East Side Printshop. As they say in the movies – “The rest is history!”

Sarah states that April helped answer so many questions about the many different aspects of hanga, from cutting wood to tool sharpening to printing that she helped Sarah move up to a whole new level of printmaking.  The more she learned about hanga and woodblock printing, the more she felt she still had to learn. Sarah states that as time has gone on, April and she have continued to share opportunities, and April has been continually generous as a teacher and as a friend.

“Teacher April” describes Sarah as an advanced student who zoomed ahead, bringing in more complicated blocks each week.  She sets herself insurmountable tasks and then surmounted them.  She had bought good tools, and was Aprils model student, providing great demos for the other students.  They worked on the Baren show at Manhattan Graphics together with Judy Mensch.  Sarah submitted a proposal for a two person show to Organization for Independent Artists and the proposal was accepted.  April and Sarah were the two persons!  Sarah did the organizing, and they worked together on the hanging and opening.  It was great to see how the two styles fit together.  They share a strong feeling for pattern and a sense of humor in their approach to animals
( )  The exhibition went well with a lively and well-attended opening, very positive feedback.

Sarah and April found that they had a lot in common, and Sarah went to April’s studio for a little private consultation.  April visited Sarah's to see her blocks, and gave one-on one lessons which were extremely helpful.  Sarah asked her how she could repay her, and April said she could help her tote her printing equipment out to Brooklyn for a hanga demonstration at the yearly Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  Sarah found this much more a treat than a chore and this year will be the third year doing this demo together.  They find the festival hectic and crazy and wonderful all at the same time.  It is an opportunity to demonstrate basic Japanese printing to the general public and requires patience, printing simple blocks all weekend.  Being outside with a crowd leaves little time to discuss the finer points of hanga, and the same information must repeated to a changing group of visitors.  All kinds of people from children to artists to housewives, stop by to watch the Printmaking.  It looks like magic to children.  Sarah says ”They watch intensely in anticipation as you rub the back of the paper with the baren and often cheer as you pull the paper up off the block to show them”.  At the next Sakura Matsuri Sarah will be officially on the program. Wearing her plastic monkey earrings, while interacting with the children.

While working at the Sakura Matsuri, April met the Executive Director of  the Japan Society who invited her to give a class for twenty New York City school teachers.  They could learn about the culture of Japan by creating a print themselves. April prepared written material and did the talking to the group at large, while Sarah circulated around helping individuals.  She spent her time going around to each student, making sure they had their kentos cut right, and their paper face down.  The people at the Japan Society were enthusiastic about the idea of doing it again sometime, as well as possibly having them do a demonstration in their summer festival.

The future holds some exciting prospects, Sarah has a show coming up in Chicago while April has one at the same time in New York.  They wont be able to support each other at the big openings but they will continue to find projects to work on together, and will continue to share information and support.  April says, “One of the greatest things about doing crazy things like Japanese woodcut, is the conspiratorial pleasure of sharing an obsession with someone as generous as Sarah Hauser” and Sarah says, “It's always a pleasure working with April, I feel our personalities complement one another, and she's a great teacher and great human being!”

by John Amoss
I have been looking at different solutions for hanga style printing desks the last few years. Initially, I used a drafting table which I think was perfectly useful, but I never felt like I could stand for hours on end and that I needed to sit down and let my arms do the work.

I therefore started considering low desks- the traditional Japanese style such as David Bull uses in which the printer and carver sits on a floor cushion. I'm not a naturally flexible person, but I jury-rigged a similar desk using books and a piece of wood to try things out. After about 15 minutes of working on the floor, I realized that this was not something I could ever get used to.

I was then reminded of Baren member Matt Brown using a compromise- sitting on a low stool that allows for what I thought might be the best of both worlds: a "settled" sitting position and yet ergonomically comfortable.

You might look at the images here and say I'm complicating things and making a piece of furniture- which is probably true! My enjoyment of woodworking led me to woodblocks and I love projects that include both pursuits. My objective in sharing these plans is for you to take what you see here and simplify things to suit your needs. An example: I used solid oak and brass fittings; you don't need to of course, 3/4 inch plywood and deck screws would work just fine. For the paper tables, simple boxes would also do.

If you are interested in making a bench like this, I would suggest that you make a makeshift version using materials like books, cardboard or cheap pieces of wood. Variables such as leg length, flexibility, size of prints, angle of desk, etc. make for a wide range of possibilities. As a result, I wouldn't follow my specific measurements but would suggest that you arrive at what dimensions you deem are appropriate.

[click to enlarge]

front view  not in use

side view

This ensemble is made up of three parts: (1) the Maebako - paper to be printed table (2) the Yoko-ita - printed paper table, and the (3) Suri-dai/Horo-dai - the main printing and carving bench. I also am lucky to have an old silverware chest in which I store my tools and place my pigments on top when printing. In addition, I sit on a simple 9" high stool.

The main bench (as well as the tables) is at a 9 degree slant, the working surface of my bench is 19" by 30"; the printing side is 14" off the ground, the carving side is 11". When printing, I have found it helpful to have the surface slant away from me as traditional benches do. Once I tried this for a while, it felt right and is supposed to help you apply pressure more evenly.

As for the carving side, I have bored 2 tapered holes to accommodate bench dogs. These tapered plugs allow the block to have points of resistance when carving. Adding a screw makes for a very tight fit and keeps the dogs from straying. Also, since the surface is at an angle, I added a brass strip to the lowest edge so that my tools won't fall off and stick me or worse, get damaged.

One of the most important qualities of a bench is for it to be rock solid - no sliding on the floor, no rocking, etc. and so I over-built it. However, I also wanted the bench to be broken down, so I used a wooden peg to allow for disassembly of the legs and to tighten any looseness in the joint. I also added a set screw for strength.

This setup differs from any other I've seen in that all of the work surfaces here (bench, and both tables) are at the same 9 degree angle. That allows for the paper to stay at a consistent angle - this is a pretty minor point, but I like not having to tilt the paper as it is processed.

As for the paper tables, I wanted them to nestle into the printing bench. The paper to be printed table's leading edge overlaps the printing desk so that it can be adjusted front or back. Also, since I work with my back to a wall, I can slide the printing bench away from me when I get up without disturbing anything. To keep moisture from escaping from the paper into the table's wood, each paper table has a piece of plexiglas on the top .

My choice for finishing was a reddish mahogany oil-based gel stain to minimize the oak's grain and then I followed up with 3-4 coats of yellow varnish roughing with fine steel wool after each coat including the last which gave the finish a matte look.

I'm happy with how they came out both in looks and in performance. I really feel "planted" once I'm situated - much like I'm in a fighter pilot's cockpit and can work for hours with everything within reach. In retrospect, however I think that the carving side is a bit low and I wish that I had made the whole ensemble a little higher, but not by much.

As for cost, it was a little over $100 with a some varnish left over for sealing my blocks.

I encourage anyone who is interested in asking me more questions or comments on the bench, please message me
or we can discuss it on Barenforum.

Thanks to: David Bull and Matt Brown for their input.
© 2001

"Primitives": A Brief Look at Early Japanese Prints
In reviewing one of the many books of prints that sits in my ever growing library, I was struck by the simplicity of line and style of some of the earlier works of Japanese masters. I investigated a bit in order to account for the black lines, elegantly alone, or sometimes accompanied meagerly by a splash of color in a very limited palette of golds, greens and reds. Later, of course, the beauty of Japanese prints lies in the masterful use of color enhancing but not overwhelming the delicate and efficient designs.
Why the lack of color in early works? Were full color techniques not known? Were pigments not available? The answer to my query came in a book by James T. Ulak, published by the Art Institute of Chicago and called simply Japanese Prints. What follows is a small excerpt from this book.
"Primitives" is the generally accepted English term for Japanese woodblock prints produced between approximately 1660 and 1765. (The later date marks the advent of full-color, multiple-block printing.) The term primitive unfortunately connotes both a naive approach to subject matter and limited technical expertise--neither is an accurate description of the Japanese prints so designated. The term is best understood as a category comprising the three types of works made before the advent of full-color printing: ink-monochrome, ink-monochrome with hand-applied color, and ink-monochrome elaborated by a very limited, block-produced palette consisting of green, yellow, orange, and rose.
    The dramatic increase in literacy among the general population in the seventeenth century generated a demand for inexpensive reading material, sometimes with illustrated texts. At the same time, urban life in Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo burst with vitality and prosperity. Many chose to celebrate the new era with panoramic cityscapes, taking delight in rendering minutely detailed presentations of diverse urban activities, including the diversions of the pleasure quarters. Gradually, these pleasure quarters and their denizens became a singular focus for some painters.
     What is sometimes interpreted as naive, in both the paintings and the prints of this period, was probably an accurate representation of the ebullient and self-satisfied spirit of the times. Some painted images of courtesans or actors were translated into woodblock prints. Productions ranged from cheap and casual to carefully printed, with erotic images especially favored. These ink-monochrome prints were not a mode of expression languishing in the background until an economical process for full-color production could be discovered. In a culture in which the calligraphic brush stroke was regarded as the most sophisticated art, prints were judged by their ability to approximate the calligraphic line or reveal the unique textures of ink on paper. The so-called "primitives" had a devoted following of patrons and connoisseurs.

Prints from top to bottom right:
- Suzuki Harunobu (1725-1770).
  Gathering Lotus Flowers, 1765. 8 1/8 x 10 7/8 in. (20.6 x 27.6 cm).
  The Crow and the Heron, c. 1765. 10 3/4 x 7 3/4 in. (27.3 x 19.7 cm).
- Tori Kiyomasu I (active c. 1696-1716).
  Fujimura Handayu as a Woman, c. 1715. 22 x 12 5/8 in. (55.9 x 32.1 cm).
  Dekijima Shogoro, 1715/16. 22 3/8 x 12 1/4 in. (56.8 x 31.1 cm).



Ray Hudson will be teaching a week-long workshop on woodblock watercolor printing (shui-yin) at Fruit of the Trees Studio in Lincoln, New Mexico.
Dates are May 21 through 25
Contact Ray Hudson or Beverly Wilson at 505-653-4699
More information at the Fruit of the Trees Studio
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:
The Florida Printmakers Society and Artists Unlimited present our very first, International, “theme” juried exhibition! Every year we will present to the printmaking world an opportunity to create a print or series of prints based on a “theme”. This years theme is: Endangered Species. The competition is open to all the printmakers of the world who have created a work (see eligibility) in the past three years along the parameters of this “theme”. Whether it be animal, vegetable, real or imagined, let your imagination and ink flow.

Works considered for acceptance will be executed in the following media, or combinations thereof: Intaglio, Relief, Screen Prints, Hand-pulled Lithographs, Collographs, Monoprints. Reproductions of work created in another media will not be accepted.


U.S. PRINT EXHIBITS- Courtesy of Baren Member Sharen Linder

MAKING PRINTS:  How'd They Do That!?
March 30-April 22
6th Annual Student Printmakers' Competition
April 27-May 17
Avian Prints from the Turner Collection" Exhibition
 Ending Date: 03/19/2001
 Janet Turner Print Gallery
California State University, Chico
400 West First Street
Chico, CA 95929

FEBRUARY 18 - MARCH 18, 2001
Snite Museum of Art,
University of Notre Dame Campus.
Notre Dame, Indiana

Prints and Drawings by Günter Grass
February 17 to April 15, 2001
February 10 to April 8, 2001
   VIRTUAL TOUR Available
Elvehjem Museum of Art
University of Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin

FEBRUARY  16- MARCH 17 , 2001
Anchor Graphics Gallery
119 W. Hubbard Street [5W]
Chicago, Illinois 60610

JANUARY 12-MARCH 4, 2001

Feb 24-May 20, 2001
Terra Museum of American Art
664 N. Michigan Avenue,
Chicago, Illinois,  60611

January 12 - March 4, 2001
Block Museum of Art,
Northwestern University.
1967 South Campus Drive,
Evanston, Illinois 60208-2410.

 The Magoon Collection of British Drawings and Prints,  1739 -1854
January 25 - March 25, 2001
Smart Museum of Art, ON-LINE DATABASE
The University of Chicago
5550 S. Greenwood Ave., Chicago, IL  60637

Printworks Gallery Suite
105 311 W Superior Street
Chicago,  Illinois  60610 USA.
Phone: 312.664.9407 Fax: 312.664.8823


TYPE TO PRINT:  The Book and the Specimen Book
November 28, 2000 - March 28, 2001
Kempner Exhibition Gallery
Butler Library, 6th Fl. East
535 West 114th St.
New York, NY 10027


The Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Avenue,
Chicago, Illinois  60603

September - October 2001
Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art,
Northwestern University.
Evanston, Illinois  60208-2410

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


The search for good tools and materials is a never-ending activity for the woodblock printmaker. Unlike days of old, when the technology had wide commercial applications and supplies were thus readily available, in the modern world woodblock printmaking has ... how shall we put this ... a rather limited appeal.

In consequence, supplies - good supplies - are difficult to come by in many parts of the world. But there is one place where woodblock printmaking is still practiced widely, and that is Japan. Hobby-level supplies are available locally in any town, in stationery shops and do-it-yourself centers, and professional tools are still made for those who need them.

But Japanese suppliers are focused on their domestic market and have no ability or experience in dealing overseas. The foreign customer too, finds it very difficult to obtain knowledge about the products that are available in Japan, and how to get them.

This is where the printmakers of the [Baren] group are stepping forward - to put these two 'worlds' together.

The [Baren] Mall is a buying service - it has no physical store, there is no inventory, and there are no employees. Orders placed on this website are transmitted to the mall manager (a [Baren] member), who also processes the payment. The manager forwards the order to the appropriate suppliers in Japan, where the goods are immediately packaged and shipped directly to the customer (by Air Post). [Baren] settles the account with the Japanese suppliers later - receiving a small commission in return for acting as 'go-between'.

The dealers are happy to have their products exposed to a global market - the consumers are happy to be able to have easy access to the supplies - and the [Baren] group gets a small boost to its treasury, to help this non-profit group fund some of the exhibitions and activities it undertakes around the world.

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Masthead design by John Amoss, Illustration (706) 549-4662 - e-mail:
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