Aug 3, 2022
April Vollmer is one of the most important mokuhanga printmakers and authors working today. Her book, Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop, is a must have for any person interested in mokuhanga. its process, history, and the artists making it.
On this epsiode of The Unfinished Print, I speak with April Vollmer about her travels throughout the mokuhanga landscape. Her time at Nagasawa Art Park, and then onto MI Lab. How she got into becoming an author, writing Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop, her influences and her process.
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Artists works follow after the note about them.
Notes: may contain a hyperlink. Simply click on the highlighted word or phrase.
April Vollmer -website, Instagram, Facebook. April was recently a part of the mokuhanga exhibition at the Kentler International Drawing Space, in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York. This show was curated by the Mokuhanga Sisters collective and is called Between Worlds from, June 17 - July 31st, 2022.
Rochester, New York - is a city located in Upstate New York. It was originally inhabited by the Seneca peoples. Shaped by the Genesee River, Rochester was once a flour making city as well as a city famous for its horticulture. More information can be found, here.
Hunter College - Is a public college located in Manhattan, New York, and was founded in 1870 as a college for women. More info, here.
abstract art - is an art type which moved away from a 19th Century artistic idea of perspective. Abstract art was a rebellion of colour, shape, and experience, for both the viewer and the maker. It corresponds to the modernism of the industrial world, with science, technology, and architecture. More info can be found, here.
colour field - is a term in painting associated with the abstract painters of the 1950’s and 1960’s using large swaths of flat colour. Mark Rothko (1903-1970) is one such painter associated with colour field. More info, here.
Vincent Longo (1923-2017) - was a painter, printmaker and teacher based in New York City. He was a part of the New York School of artist’s of the 1950’s and 1960’s. His work was based in geometry. You can find more information about Vinnie, here.
4 Blocks (1985)
Bill Paden (1930-2004) - was a woodblock printmaker and artist who studied under the American expat Clifton Karhu (1927-2007) in Kyoto. More info, here.
Beppu Beach Water Bay Mountain (ca. 1970's)
hanmoto system - is the Edo Period (1603-1868) collaboration system of making woodblock prints in Japan. The system was about using, carvers, printers, and craftsmen, by various print publishers in order to produce woodblock prints. The system consisted of the following professions; publisher, artist, carver, and printer.
Tetsuya Noda (b 1940) - is a contemporary print artist, photographer and professor emeritus at Tokyo University of the Arts (Tōkyō Geidai). His process uses photographs through a mimeograph machine, then woodblock and silk screen. Considered one of Japan’s most famous living artists, Noda’s work is a wonderful representation of what can be done with the print medium. More info, with video, can be found, here.
The LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies - is a not for profit centre at the Columbia University School of the Arts, which provides an atmosphere of print education for students and invited guests.
Tōkyō v Kyōto (Ōsaka) school of mokuhanga - Tōkyō and Kyōto have, historically, been culturally different throughout Japanese history. Even today, especially with foreign expats, which side of the border you pledge allegiance to can make or break a pleasant conversation. Regarding woodblock printing, it was the moving of the capital to Edo from Kyōto by Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616), officially in 1603, which centred the world for an entire nation.
Edo became the business, and cultural district in which most people found themselves. The sankin kōtai system, where daimyō from the entire country, were obligated to spend alternating years in the capital, allowed the merchant classes to grow prosperous, spending their time and money on entertainments such as ukiyo-e, kabuki, and sumo.
This didn’t mean that Kyōto and Ōsaka didn’t have ukiyo-e, it simply meant that it was overshadowed by Edo. This is because many publishers and artists lived and worked in Edo’s environs. Kabuki from Edo and kabuki from Kyōto thrived, therefore there were many prints published for the plays performed in both cities. Stylistically the prints are different, with Ōsaka ukiyo-e being called Kamigata-e, the region where Ōsaka, and Kyōto are situated. For instance, the work of Ōsaka artist, and painter Shunkōsai Hokushū (active 1802-1832) is famous in Ōsaka for his kabuki prints, but is relatively unknown today, as compared to Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) who lived and worked around the same time in Edo. Comparing the two is perhaps comparing Brad Pitt (b. 1963), with Steve Buscemi (b. 1957), but I feel that it shows what both artists, successful in their fields, can accomplish for the genre. More information on Ōsaka ukiyo-e, can be found, here.
Keiko Kadota (1942-2017) - was the director of Nagasawa Art Park at Awaji City from 1997-2011, and then of MI Lab at Lake Kawaguchi from 2011 until her passing.
Minimalism - is an art movement based on simplicity and geometry. Generally connected to 1960’s New York City. More info, here.
Yoonmi Nam (b. 1974) - is a contemporary mokuhanga printmaker, lithographer, sculptor, and teacher, based in Lawrence, Kansas. Her work can be found, here. Her interview with The Unfinished Print can be found, here.
Katie Baldwin - is a contemporary mokuhanga printmaker, illustrator, book maker, and artist based in Huntsville, Alabama. Her work can be found, here.
The Dance (2015)
Mariko Jesse - is an illustrator, and mokuhanga printmaker based in Tōkyō, London, and California. Her work can be found, here. Mariko, Katie, and Yoonmi are also a part of the collective, wood+paper+box, which can be found, here.
Summer Flowers (2021)
Daniel Heyman (b. 1963) - is a painter and printmaker based in Rhode Island at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he is Assistant Professor. His work can be found, here.
IMPACT Conference - started by The Center for Print Research, IMPACT stands for "International Multi-discipinary Printmaking, Artists, Concepts and Techniques’. Based in Europe, it is an academic conference discussing printmaking and how it fits into this world. More info about the most recent conference can be found, here.
Kari Laitinen (b. 1952) - is a Finnish artist and printmaker based in Finland. His works explore colour and dimension. More information can be found, here. He helped write, with Tuula Moilanen, the book Woodblock Printmaking with Oil-based Inks and the Japanese Watercolour Woodcut. It was published in 1999.
Secret Space II (2014)
Tuula Moilanen - is a Finnish mokuhanga printmaker and painter based in Finland. She lived and studied in Kyōto from 1989-2012, where she learned her printmaking at Kyōto Seika University and from printmaker Akira Kurosaki (1937-2019). Her work can be found, here.
Clear Day Fuji (2014)
Arches - is a brand of Western watercolour paper that is acid-free.
BFK - also knowns as Rives BFK, is a Western printmaking paper, made in France. Like Arches, it is 100% cotton.
Lower East Side Print Shop - founded in 1968, and is a not-for- profit printmaking studio located in New York City. More information can be found, here.
Jennifer Mack-Watkins - is a contemporary mokuhanga printmaker, and serigrapher based in New York City and New Jersey. Her work explores American culture through a personal lens. Her work has been featured in Vogue and the New York Times. More information can be found, here.
What To Do (2013)
Andrew Stone - is based in Florence, Italy. Andrew is a wine maker and former full-time doctor who has been making mokuhanga and baren, for years. His blog can be found, here. his interview with The Unfinished Print can be found, here.
Mons Veneris (2016)
Frogman’s Print Workshop - is a print space, opened in 1979, in South Dakota. In 2016 the space moved to the University of Nebraska. More info can be found, here.
The Adachi Institute of Woodblock Prints - is a print studio located in Tōkyō. Established in 1994 in order to promote and preserve the colour woodblock print of Japan. More information, in English and in Japanese.
bokashi - is a Japanese term associated with the gradation of water into ink. There are several types of bokashi. For more information regarding these types of bokashi please check out Professor Claire Cuccio's lecture called “A Story in Layers,” for the Library of Congress, and the book Japanese Printmaking by Tōshi Yoshida, and Rei Yuki. Below are the following types of bokashi. This is from the Yoshida book:
ichimonji bokashi - straight line gradation
ichimonji mura bokashi - straight line gradation with an uneven edg.
Ō-bokashi - a gradual shading over a wide area
atenashi bokashi - gradation without definition
futairo bokashi - two tone gradation
Ansei Uchima (1921-2000) - was a mokuhanga printmaker in the sōsaku hanga style of Japanese printmaking. He was the translator for Japanologist Oliver Statler (1915-2002).
In Memoriam (1958)
Keiji Shinohara (b. 1955) - is a Japanese mokuhanga printmaker who apprenticed under Uesugi Keiichiro in Ōsaka. He is the artist-in-residence at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. More info about Keiji can be found here, and here.
Ursula Schneider - is a painter, woodblock printmaker and teacher at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York. More info about her work can be found, here.
Leaf and Wood (2018)
Jackie Battenfield - is a painter, printmaker, collagist, author, and motivational speaker. April alludes to Jackie’s book, “The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love,” (2009). More information about Jackie’s work can be found, here.
International Mokuhanga Conference - is a bi-yearly conference dedicated to mokuhanga which started in 2011 by the International Mokuhanga Association. Each conference is themed. The latest conference was in 2021, delayed a year because of the pandemic. More information can be found, here.
Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami 2011 - (東北地方太平洋沖地震) was a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami which struck the coast of North East Japan on March, 11, 2011. The earthquake was 9.0 - 9.1 on the Richter scale.
Watson-Guptill - is an American publishing house, starting business in 1937. It is now a part of Ten Speed Press.
Mina Takahashi - is the editor of Hand Papermaking magazine dedicated to the production and preservation of handmade paper. Was the editor of Dieu Donné in New York City from 1990-2004. She is also a curator.
Printmaking Today - is a magazine published by Cello Press in England, and is published quarterly. The magazine focuses on printmaking themes and artists. More info, here.
Mid-America Print Council - promotes the art of printmaking of all types. It was started in 1990 in Des Moines, Iowa. It publishes an annual journal with essays and articles about printmaking. More information can be found, here.
Edvard Munch (1863-1944) - was a Norwegian artist, who at the time of his death in 1944 had amassed thousands of his own works, including 15,391 prints of all types. Munch loved printmaking, using various mediums. The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. has an excellent exploration of his prints, here.
Mokuhanga books in English - Here is a list of books for those interested in studying and understanding mokuhanga, that I am aware of. This list is by no means exhaustive, so if you believe I've missed one please message me. If the book is in print (or even out of print and there are PDF's) you will see the authors name hyper-linked so you can get the books :
April Vollmer - Japanese Woodblock Printshop: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Art of Mokuhanga. (2015) Watson-Guptill Publications
Tuula Moilanen, Kari Laitinen, and Antti Tanttu - The Art and Craft of Woodblock Printmaking. (2013) Aalto Books
Laura Boswell - Making Japanese Woodblock Prints. (2020) The Crowood Press.
Hiroshi Yoshida - Japanese Woodblock Printing. (1939) Sanseido Company, Ltd.
Walter J. Phillips - The Technique of the Colour Woodcut. (1926) Brown-Robertson, New York.
Rebecca Salter - Japanese Woodblock Printing. (2001) A&C Black.
Tōshi Yoshida & Rei Yuki - Japanese Print Making: A Handbook of Traditional and Modern Techniques. (1966) Tuttle Publishing.
Marilyn Chesterton and Rod Nelson - Making Woodblock Prints. (2015) Crowood Press
Terry McKenna - Terry has written two excellent woodblock primers for the beginner and the intermediate practitioner. The first is Mokuhanga Fundamentals: Core Skills... & the second book is, Creative Print. Both can be purchased directly from here, and other fine establishments in e-book or physical form. Self Published.
Fabiola Gil Alares - her book, Mokuhanga: Manual Ilustrado de Xilografía Japonesa, is one of the finest books on the subject of mokuhanga. This book is in Spanish. Her interview with The Unfinished Print can be found, here.
Keiko Hara (b.1942) - is a painter, printmaker in mokuhanga, lithograph, and stencil. She is also a sculptor, and collagist. More info can be found, here.
Verse R - Black and White (2017)
floating kentō - is a removable registration system attached to the block when printing. As the kentō isn’t affixed to the block; blotting, and very clean borders are one of the positives of using this method of registration. It is an "L" shape.
baren - is a Japanese word to describe the flat, round shaped disc which is predominantly used in the creation of Japanese woodblock prints. It is traditionally made of cord of various types, and a bamboo sheath, although baren come in many variations.
Guerra & Paint Pigment Corp. - is a brick and mortar store located in Brooklyn, New York that sells artists pigments. More info, here.
Endi Poskovich - is a printmaker and artist who focuses on symbols, and language for his work. More info about his work can be found, here.
Two (Hälftberg) (2004-2017)
Holbein - is a pigment company with offices in Japan, Canada, and the United States. More info, here
Benjamin Selby - is an artist who works in mokuhanga, as well as touching on serigraphy and installations. More information about Benjamin’s work can be found, here.
Turbulent Waters (2020)
Auto Mach Reciprocating Wood Carver - is an automatic chisel that is made in Japan. It is plugged into an outlet. It comes with a variety of bits for carving. It makes carving large areas of hard wood a breeze. More information can be found, here.
acetate - is a plant based, non-petroleum product. It is made from wood pulp and cotton. It is bendable, and stiff enough to use for getting into your kentō registration if you decide to use it for key block transfer.
Yoshida Family of Artists - The Yoshida’s are one of the most famous family of artists from Japan. Started with painter Yoshida Kasaburō (1861-1894), and made famous by Yoshida Hiroshi (1876-1950) and his work with the shin-hanga movement and woodblock printing. The Yoshida family has helped shape many artists around the world. More info from the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, here.
Generation by April Vollmer (2002)
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opening and closing credit - Anyone Can Have a Good Time by OWLS (2001). From their self-titled album, and released on Jade Tree.
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