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Printers: How to Experience Ukiyo-e Making with Authentic Artisans in Tokyo(3)

Updated: May 21

How to Experience Ukiyo-e Making with Authentic Artisans in Tokyo

Edo Woodblock Prints Rely on the Collaboration of All Four Artisans

Edo woodblock prints are a comprehensive art form that comes to life only when all four artisans— the "Eshi (painters)" who draw the initial design, the "Horishi (carvers)" who meticulously carve each color block, the "Surishi (printers)" who layer the colors onto paper using a baren, and the publishing house, known as the "Hanmoto (publishers)," responsible for planning and overseeing the production—come together.

The Printers Are Essential in the Final Stages of Woodblock Printing

So far, we've discussed the roles of the painters, the carvers, and the publishers. Now, let's delve into the role of the printers. While painters often receive the spotlight, printers and carvers rarely surface. Yet, it's their exceptional skills that bring woodblock prints to fruition, particularly the printers who are essential in the final stages of woodblock printing. During the founding period of Takahashi Kobo (Studio), they began as printers. Nowadays, the Takahashi Workshop also serves as a publisher.

How to Experience Ukiyo-e Making with Authentic Artisans in Tokyo

What Printers Do

Printers meticulously layer colors, starting with the smallest and lightest blocks and gradually building up the image. They apply ink onto the blocks, spread it evenly with a brush, place paper over the blocks to prevent misalignment, and then repeat the process of layering colors, sometimes up to 30 times, to achieve the final masterpiece.

Printers employ various techniques using the baren to create effects, such as gradation by applying water, ink, or glue onto the blocks. Unique to Edo, woodblock printing is the technique where printers, without applying ink to the carved design, directly press the paper onto the block and rub it with a baren to create textures.

How Many Layers Do Ukiyo-e Prints Need?

One of the charms of Edo woodblock prints lies in their vibrant colors achieved through precise layering, often involving 20 to 30 layers. The prints are made on the finest Echizen Hosho paper, known for its soft texture, which enhances the warmth of the colors absorbed into the paper.

Moreover, the distinctiveness of hand-printed woodblock prints lies in the visible traces of the printing process. When you flip the paper, you can see the image transferred from the block, allowing you to appreciate the subtle marks left by the printer's baren.

How to Experience Ukiyo-e Making with Authentic Artisans in Tokyo

Printers's Tools:

Baren: The essential tool of the printers, meticulously crafted to apply pressure to Japanese paper efficiently. Made by artisans, it consists of a core wrapped in layers of spiral-bound bamboo threads encased in multiple layers of lacquer-coated washi paper.

Brush: Brushes used by printers are made from stiff horsehair, providing strength and precision.

Pigments: Printers use natural pigments derived from minerals and plants, mixing them to create a wide range of colors. By comparing the carved blocks with the original artwork, printers adjust the color mix to achieve the desired hues.

How to Experience Ukiyo-e Making with Authentic Artisans in Tokyo

Would You Like to Experience Ukiyo-e Making with Authentic Artisans in Tokyo?

Wouldn't you like to experience the creation of these fascinating woodblock prints guided by real artisans? You'll also receive explanations on how to appreciate woodblock prints. Moreover, you can take home both authentic woodblock prints crafted by artisans and those created by yourself (on a fan and book cover) as souvenirs. Such a unique experience, exclusive to the Takahashi Studio, will enrich your life and lead you to a more fulfilling journey. Join us for a Ukiyo-e-making experience with authentic artisans in Tokyo.

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