Wednesday 16 November 2022

Mokuhanga workshop!

Towards the end of the third week of October, I took a two day mokuhanga printmaking workshop at the Clones Art Studios, located in the historic Old Post Office. The building is in "The Diamond" across from the town's central high cross. I had excitedly booked the course as soon as I saw it advertised last August. Kate MacDonagh is an expert in this Japanese woodblock printmaking technique and I have  admired her work since coming across it in zoom artist talks over lockdown last year (through both Graphic Studio Dublin and DĂșn Laoghaire-Rathdown Arts Office).

While Kate gave demonstrations throughout the two days, the first day was primarily concerned with carving our own blocks with our simplified images and with especial care to measuring and getting the registration marks correct.

 I only thought later that I should have taken a photo of the space as it was set up for the workshop before the work began but the studios provided a spacious work area and demonstration area, that allowed concentration and focus to permeate the atmosphere.

Kate had stressed the importance of simple images for carving and I thought my obsession with chimneys provided an ideal image with which to work.

The stress Kate had put on the importance of registration made huge sense when it was realised that the blocks we were carving would work in tandem with uncarved woodblocks that could provide a variety of backgrounds. 

We each prepared a number of pre-cut Japanese papers for printing on the second day and with these papers we could use a number of techniques to create gradated or solid backgrounds for our images. One of the beauties of mokuhanga printing is that it is environmentally sound, using watercolour and nori paste (made from rice flour and water) to create a water soluble ink that, in combination with the fibrous Japanese paper, is incredibly durable and robust.

The workshop was about experimentation with a technique that produces varied and rich results. At the end of the two days everyone involved chose one print only as a sample of our work. The workshop was fantastic and we were all so grateful to Kate for being so generous in sharing her time and expertise with us.

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