BAFA Japanese woodblock printing talk and demo with Laura Boswell

31 October 2012

On the 9th October I went to my very first Buckingham Art For All (BAFA) meeting. BAFA is a wonderful group for artists living in and around Buckingham. It aims to encourage amateur artists and supports professional artists too. They meet every month for a talk or demo, they organise two exhibitions a year for its members, plus an Art Trail in the town which displays memberís work in the local shops and businesses.

I donít even live in Buckingham any more, I live 20 minutes away in Bicester but there is no equivalent group here that I can find. I've been a member of BAFA for a while but they meet on Tuesdays, a night I'm rarely free. I made sure I was free this time though because Laura Boswell was doing a talk and demo about Japanese Woodblock Printing. I've wanted to meet Laura for a while, always intending to get to her Bucks Open Studios event, but being too busy with my own!

Laura began by talking about her eight week residency at Nagasawa Art Park in Japan, working under the guidance of master craftsmen and artists. Laura showed us some wonderful slides of the Japanese countryside where she stayed, including one that showed the resident bugs that she had to share her living quarters with which made everyone gasp and wriggle with horror! We were also shown a fascinating slide taken of four men in a paper factory making a very large sheet of mulberry paper. We learned a little about Japanese culture and attitudes and got a feel for the importance the Japanese place on this craft. Laura talked about suitable types of paper and wood to use and showed us images of the brushes and cutters needed. She also talked about various methods of sharpening the cutters.

While we paused for a cup of tea, we had chance to look at Lauraís work and study the interesting and very foreign looking equipment that Laura had brought along for her demo, we were even encouraged to have a go with the wood cutters which I couldn't resist!

The second half of the talk was Lauraís demo. She printed a beautiful 4 block print. The first block was the sky, the second the moon, the third block was of some wheat sheaves and the fourth foreground block was some bramble with cute dormouse! The technique uses watercolour paint with rice flour paste blended into the carved wood blocks. As the paint is not opaque you have to consider when making your blocks which areas can overlap and which canít. What fascinated me was the way that you could blend the colours together using the same block by reprinting it many times over. Provided you are working on a small scale, you can work sat down at a table. Very little pressure is needed to transfer the watercolour from the wood block to the paper as the wood and the paper is kept wet.

Don't make the mistake that I did by confusing this method with Woodcut Printing which sounds similar but creates quite different results. The blocks for Woodblock Printing are carved with the grain of the wood whereas Woodcut blocks are carved from the cross section of the grain of the wood. Although Woodcut can be done as a colour reduction like lino, it is generally executed in black ink on white paper. Woodcut is also a dry technique.

Woodblock Printing is an altogether different way of working to my reduction lino work where I have been using opaque ink and overlaying the colours. Laura also does reduction linocuts and has been successfully combining both methods within the same piece of work.

I thoroughly enjoyed Laura Boswellís talk and demo about Japanese Woodblock Printing. I am now very keen to have a go at and have booked a day at Lauraís studio.

I shall write an update once I have been and share some images of my work.

Go to Laura Boswell's website

Go to BAFA's website

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