Today, we met Sekioka sensei, the carving instructor. He told us that his father had been a printer and his grandfather was also a carver, so it has been in his family for a number of generations. He said that his father's woodblocks were destroyed during the war. But before all that, here is the now obligatory image of the local landscape. We get the local bus at 8.10 am which gets us to the studio at a time of day when the light is beautiful. So, here once more are the fields outside the studio, but this time early in the morning.
Here is Sekioka sensei, who is showing us how the keyline blocks are created. Traditionally, the original artwork is pasted onto the block using nori [rice glue] and then while it is still wet, the drawing is peeled back, leaving the outline on the block. If the drawing is not peeled back, it is difficult to see it on the block, so it must be done carefully to only remove the top layer of paper, otherwise the drawing will be destroyed. Here he holds a print taken from a block, with the area in orange going to be the next colour [in this case red]. So, the artwork is pasted down, the outline cut and then printed for the amount of colours needed. Then, each block is pasted face down and the colour blocks cut ready for printing.
Here is one of the blocks that Sekioka sensei has cut. You can see the detail of the line.
Here, he demonstrates how to cut the block. The hangi-to, or outline knife, is placed at 45* to each side of the line and cut.
Here, sensei is removing the excess wood from either side of the line, leaving the raised area which is printed.
Here, Keiko-san is showing us the various stages of printing a 14 plate image and there was a very interesting talk about the relationship between publisher, artist, carver and printer. Basically, the more money one has, the more complex prints can be made because of the timescale involved. This was explained as a historical reference, where rich men would get very complex private prints made for them, which they swopped with other people of similar financial position.
Here sensei shows how each block adds another layer to the image of the geisha.
At present we are cutting on plywood. As plywood is made up of a few layers, with alternating grains..ie. the top layer grain goes one way and the next layer down goes the other, we need to be cutting into the second layer. This gives the block more stability. But, we mustn't carve along the grain because it is difficult to do. So, instead of being aware of the top layer of plywood, we must carve in accordance with the second layer down, which we cannot see. The hangi-to must go down to this layer. Otherwise, thin lines will break up and the block will not be strong. I had never heard this information before, so we took some time working out how to carve lines, but being aware of the layer of plywood we could not actually see.