Wooden me

February 10, 2013

The wood of choice for printmakers in Japan is a basswood or linden from Hokkaido. It comes in as plywood, 4mm, 6mm, 8mm and thicker. Basswood is a relatively soft sort, easy to carve and to print, weak grain impression, fairly inexpensive. Not available in solid blocks.

For making prints with large areas, it is the best choice. If you want to have lots of fine-line carving, lettering, for example, then you have to go to a cherry or a magnolia. Cherry is the most expensive and the hardest. But the blocks last for centuries. I have only carved cherry once, and broke my knife doing it. Magnolia is readily available and not all that expensive. If you are going to print a large batch of prints, say 100 or more, then for any of your fine carving blocks, you have to use a hard wood. 

Michigan, where I was born and raised, grows basswood. A dear friend, Clifton Monteith, also from MI, gave me two tiny blocks of solid linden last year. I had never worked on a solid block before, so was quiet excited to give it a try. I gave one block to my printer, Konomi, to test, and I worked with the other. Given the small size, I designed a two-color work with both broad and line areas, one color on the front, the other on the back. The carving went quickly, mostly because of the small block size. However, I found that it carved almost the same as a plywood. That was a nice surprise. Printing it, too, went quickly and easily.The color registration was one that is off the block, not carved on it as is usual. 

I can't seem to play much with this image on this Blogger program, sorry. Nevertheless, you can get an idea of the piece. In the background is Michigan's silhouette. The boy doesn't look like me; my ears are smaller, and I have a mustache. Otherwise... 

The Linnean name for this wood is  Tillia americana. In Japan, it would be Tillia japanica, of course.

1 comment:

  1. I see that your childhood home in Michigan lies just behind your heart (in this print)... nice coincidence... thanks for your informative posts... always interesting!


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