Still Work’n in Japan

Photos by Thomas A. Crossland

For those unfamiliar with woodblocks, let me briefly explain. First off, it’s a real painstaking process in my opinion. It requires unconditional attention and precision. Woodblock printing is a long and tedious which starts from concept, to paper, to woodblock. It’s the technique for printing text, images, or patterns on wood. It’s a process somewhat similar to “inking a handheld rubber stamp which is then pressed against a blank sheet of paper,” only in this case it involves a complete set of illustrations carved on cherry woodblocks, a separate one required for EACH color used. The inking and actual printing process produces wonderful gradations.

The content of woodblock prints are usually of Fujiwara/Mt. Fuji [wara, Japanese for Mount], the mystifying geisha women of the pleasure quarters, life in Kyoto and/or Edo and chonin, and samurai.

Woodblock printing originated in China, but is widely used throughout East Asia. Woodblock printing was staple for East Asian art. There still are modern day woodblock artisans, the only thing new to the process are electric lights for better vision and precision. A lot of the prints done today are reproductions of popular works, known as “re-strikes.”


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