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The Unfinished Print

Feb 26, 2023

Within the framework of mokuhanga, you have the freedom to go anywhere, try anything and explore so many places with your own work. The skies the limit. Whether through colour, shapes, size, or technique, you are able to explore as far as you want. 

On this episode of the Unfinished Print, I speak with mokuhanga printmaker, teacher and artist Kate MacDonagh. Based in Dublin, Kate's mokuhanga live in the ethereal, through colour and shape, making abstract work which engages and attracts. 

Kate speaks to me about her artistic background, gallery experience, teaching and the adaptation of mokuhanga. We discuss the mokuhanga aesthetic, bad days and believing in yourself, local shopping for your materials, abstraction and colour, the spiritual realm, and residencies and travel. 

Please follow The Unfinished Print and my own mokuhanga work on Instagram @andrezadoroznyprints or email me at 

Notes: may contain a hyperlink. Simply click on the highlighted word or phrase.

Artists works follow after the note. Pieces are mokuhanga unless otherwise noted.

Kate MacDonagh - website, Instagram

Cadence - diptych

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - is an art museum located in Boston, Massachusetts, USA and was founded in 1870. With over 450,000 works in the museum, the MFA is one of the most distinguished museums in the world. In regards to mokuhanga, the MFA has had a long relationship with the Japanese woodblock print starting from the late 19th century. It was the first museum in the US to develop a Japanese art collection, and with the help of major donations the MFA developed one of the most important Japanese print collections in the world. More information about the museum can be found, here. Information regarding their Japanese collection can be found, here. To browse some of their digitized collection, here

ukiyo-e - is a multi colour woodblock print generally associated with the Edo Period (1603-1867) of Japan. What began in the 17th Century as prints of only a few colours, evolved into an elaborate system of production and technique into the Meiji Period (1868-1912). With the advent of photography and other forms of printmaking, ukiyo-e as we know it today, ceased production by the late 19th Century. 

The National Print Museum - one of a kind in Ireland, is a print museum located in Dublin. It was founded in 1996 and is a registered charity focusing on education. More info about the museum can be found, here

Debra Bowden -  is a mokuhanga printmaker, bookbinder, and artist based in Thomastown (Grennan), Ireland. She conducts mokuhanga workshops in and around Ireland. About all I could find of her is through Facebook, although that hasn't been updated since 2018. Her website doesn't seem to exist any longer. You can find her Facebook page, here
Tangent Script I
Nagasawa Art Park (MI Lab) Awaji City - Nagasawa Art Park was an artist-in-residence program located in Awaji City, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. It was open for 12 years before evolving into MI Lab in 2012. More info, here. 
Robert Blackburn (1920-2003) - was an African American printmaker based in New York City. His lithogrpahy work represented his life experiences, being influenced by the Harlem Renaissance, and American society at large. His studio and his workshop in Chelsea attracted artists from around the world. More information about Robert Blackburn, his life and work can be found here from the Smithsonian, and here, from The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts where the Robert Blackwell Printmaking Workshop Program continues today. 
Color Symphony (1960) - lithograph
The Kentler International Drawing Space - is an art gallery located in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York. It has hosted several mokuhanga centred exhibitions. The most recent was Between Worlds as hosted by The Mokuhanga Sisters, from July 17 - July 31, 2022. More info, 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.
MI Lab - is a mokuhanga residency located in Kawaguchi-ko, near Mount Fuji. More info can be found, here

Graphic Studio, Dublin - is a printmakers studio located in Dublin, Ireland. The studio was established in 1960 as a space for printmakers to share ideas and their works. The gallery was established in 1980 as Dublin’s first fine art gallery. It is a space where printmakers are able to work in a subsidized environment with the freedom to create work. Kate has been on the Board of Directors since 2019. More info about the Graphic Studio can be found, here.  

gomazuri - is a mokuhanga technique where slight pressure is used with pigments too make a “spotty” image, what look like sesame seeds. It can add depth to your prints. 

sōsaku-hanga - or creative prints, is a style of printmaking which is predominantly, although not exclusively, prints made by one person. It started in the early twentieth century in Japan, in the same period as the shin-hanga movement. The artist designs, carves, and prints their own works. The designs, especially in the early days, may seem rudimentary but the creation of self-made prints was a breakthrough for printmakers moving away from where only a select group of carvers, printers and publishers created woodblock prints. 

kizuki kozo - is a handmade Japanese paper with many uses. Of a moderate weight and cooked with caustic soda. It’s widely available. 

Ozu Washi - is a paper store located in the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo. website, Instagram

Chester Beatty Museum - is a museum and library founded by the American-British philanthropist Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). He was made an honourary citizen of Ireland in 1957. The museum is located in Dublin Castle. More info can be found, here

Rebecca Salter - is the President of The Royal Academy of Arts, in London, England. She is also an artist who has written two books about Japanese woodblock printing, Japanese Woodblock Printing (2001), and Japanese Popular Prints (2006). She worked with the Satō Woodblock Print Workshop, documenting their process. Her interview with The Unfinished Print can be found, here

2017-12 (mixed media on paper 20 ½ x 20 ½ ins) [2017]

shina - is a type of Japanese plywood used in mokuhanga. Not all shina is made equally, buyer beware. 

Lucy May Schofield - is a printmaker, photographer, and scroll maker (kakemono, 掛物) and is based in England. website, Instagram. Lucy's interview with The Unfinished Print can be found, here

The Blue Between Us

The Mokuhanga Sisters - are a mokuhanga collective consisting of Yoonmi Nam, Mariko Jesse, Lucy May Schofield, Melissa Schulenberg, Kate MacDonagh, Katie Baldwin, Mia-O, Patty Hudak, and Natasha Norman. Instagram

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.

Book of Bamboo (2020 - 8 3/5 × 12 1/5 in | 21.8 × 31 cm)

Melissa Schulenberg - is a woodblock printmaker and professor of Art and Art History at St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY. Some of her work can be found on her website, here

Stumps (reduction) 23.6 x 16 in

Katie Baldwin -  is a contemporary mokuhanga printmaker, illustrator, book maker, and artist based in Huntsville, Alabama.  Her work can be found, here. Her interview with The Unfinished Print can be found, here

Outside (2012 - woodblock and letterpress)

Between Worlds - was a mokuhanga specific show hosted by the Kentler International Drawing Space from July 17 - July 31, 2022. 

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

Northumberland, Britain - is a county located in the northernmost area of Britain. It shares a border with Scotland. It is known for its nature, industry, castles, and history. More info, here

Centre Culturel Irelandais - is located in Paris, France. It is a cultural center for Irish culture and events in France. There are artist in residence programs, exhibtions, concerts and more. For information regarding the CCI in Paris, here

Georges Seurat  (1859-1891) - was one of the pioneers of Neo Impressionism, a term coined by art critic Félix Fénéon (1861-1944). Seurat used Pointillism, where different colours are dabbed on various areas of the canvas and it is through the eyes that colour blends together. Through these new ideas, as well as the concept of Divisionism, the Neo Impressionists created a new way of seeing the canvas. Deeply rooted in the “science” of painting, Seurat attempted successfully to blend the past and his present through painting, during his short life. 

The Harbour of Honfleur (1886) oil on canvas

Musée d'Orsay - located in Paris, France the Musée d’Orsay is an art museum established in 1986. Mostly holding and exhibiting French art from the years 1848-1914, the MO conatins many Impressionist and Post Impressionsit paintings and works. More info can be found, here.

Sligo, Ireland - is a town with a population of 19,199, located in County Sligo, in the province of Connacht in Ireland. it is the final resting place of poet YB Yeats (1865-1939) More info can be found, here.

nori - is a type of paste made from starch. It is used when making mokuhanga. You can make nori from any type of material made from starch. For instance, paste can be made with tapioca,  rice, corn, even potato. You can purchase nori pretty much anywhere but making it is more environmentally friendly. Laura Boswell has a great recipe, here

mokuhanga in the 1950’s and 1960’s - Japanese woodblock printmaking became quite popular after World War II. With Japan growing exponentially post war, through industry and art, the independent philosphy that the West perpetuated began to filter into the Jpaanese art world. Sōsaku hanga became increadingly popular where there is only one carver, printer and draughtsman. These prints touched on various themes, but especially in the abstract. Artists such as Shigeru Hatsuyama (1897-1973), and Kiyoshi Saitō (1907-1997) spring to mind, who created a new kind of mokuhanga by using various techniques, colours, and sizes  that were unique and expressive. Oliver Statler’s book, written in 1956, Modern Japanese Prints : An Art Reborn, was published because the art form was growing so quickly. It is a great summary  on the sōsaku hanga movement during that time. 
Nymphs (Birds and Flowers) by Shigeru Hatsuyama
House in Aizu (1972) by Kiyoshi Saitō
hangitō - a Japanese carving knife which is primarily used for mokuhanga and comes in a variety of blade sizes.  McClains has a varied assortment, here.
kentō - is the registration system used by printmakers in order to line up the colour woodblocks with your key block, or outline block, carved first.  
nikawa - this definition from the Yamatane Museum of Art in Tōkyō is the perfect definition of nikawa, better than I could ever write. I've included it here, verbatim, describing how nikawa is used in nihon-ga painting, 

A gelatin made by boiling and extracting protein from skins and bones of animals and fish, it has long been used as an adhesive. Since the pigments used in nihonga have no adhesive strength, the use of nikawa is needed to fix them to the surface of the painting. The two types commonly used now are shika nikawa (industrially processed from cow skin, bones, and tendons) and sanzenbon (which is made by hand, of the same materials). 

gum arabic - is a sap from two types of Acacia tree. In art it is used as a binder for pigments which creates viscosity (depending on how much or little is applied to your pigments) for your watercolours and oils. Rachel Levitas has a fine description on how she uses gum arabic in her work, here
Holbein -  is a pigment company with offices located in Japan, The United States, and Canada. They offer high end gouache, watercolour, and pigment pastes. 
sumi - is a rich black stick, or liquid used by artists, calligraphers, and traditional Japanese horimono tattoo artists.  It is made from the soot of burnt lamp oil. Used in key blocks predominantly in traditional mokuhanga, it can also be used to mix pigments. Pigment Tōkyō conducts a great interview with their chief of pigments, Kei Iwaizumi, about sumi ink, 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.  
Mariko Jesse - is an illustrator, and mokuhanga printmaker who splits her time in Tōkyō, London, and California. Her work can be found, here. Mariko is also a part of the collective, wood+paper+box, which can be found, here
Two Frogs Six Leaves
Patty Hudak - is an American artist who splits her time between Vermont and NYC, who works in installation, and mokuhanga. She has travelled the world, and is a part of three artist collectives. Patty's interview with The Unfinished Print can be found, here.  
Force of Nature 1

print panels - artworks, like woodblock prints, can come in various numbers of panels. Single panel is one print, diptychs are two panels, triptychs are three panels, quadriptych is four panels, pentaptych is five panels. 

The Art Institute of Chicago - is an art museum located in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Founded both as a school and a museum of fine arts in 1879. It is built on the debris from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Its research library was opened in 1901 and the new wing was opened in 2009. More information about the AIC’s history can be found on their website, here.

Recollections of Tokyo: 1923-1945 - was a mokuhanga and lithography print show held at The Art Institute of Chicago from July 2 - September 25, 2022. It showed works by U’nichi Hiratsuka (1895-1997), Kawakami Sumio (1895-1972), Oda Kazuma (1882-1956) amongst others. More info can be found, here

Paul Furneaux - is a Scottish born mokuhanga printmaker and teacher who uses the medium of mokuhanga creating pieces of work that are third dimensional, abstract and sculptural.

Lewis: Orange Black (2020) 135 x 183 x 5 cm mokuhanga stretched over three aluminium panels coated with resin coating

Lascaux UV Spray coating - is a UV protecting archival varnish produced by Lascaux, a manufacturer of artist materials since 1963. This is the product used by mokuhanga artist Paul Furneaux for some of his works. More info about their products can be found on their website, here.

Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) - also known as Koizumi Yakumo, was an Irish/Greek/Japanese author, translator, and teacher of Japanese culture and customs to the West. He spent a portion of his life in Japan where he studied and taught. His most famous books are Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894), and Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1904). An interesting article in The Paris Review about Lafcadio Hearn can be found, here

Yuki Onna (雪女) - was a short story as written from the Japanese ghost story by Lafcadio Hearn, in Kwaidan, in 1904. According to an article about the story by Yoko Makino in 1991, Hearn contends he heard the tale from a someone in Musashino, a district in what is Tōkyō today. There are many different legends of this story from around Japan. You can read the Hearn story, here

Your First Print: David Bull - this was the first DVD I ever purchased on how to make mokuhanga. This was in and around 2007. While I look back at that time thinking about why I didn't take it up as seriously as I do now, I sometime wonder, "Where would I be now in my Mokuhanga journey?" I realize that that is a redundant way of thinking. I am where I am now today, and to be happy with just that. You can still find this product on Dave's website

© Popular Wheat Productions

opening and closing musical credit - Hater Players, by Black Star from the album Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star (1998). Released on Rawkus Records. 

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***The opinions expressed by guests in The Unfinished Print podcast are not necessarily those of André Zadorozny and of Popular Wheat Productions.***