11 July 2005
The Mystery of Rice Paste
Here are two prints of block #1 from the batch I printed this morning. Japanese woodblock printing is done with water-based pigments which are mixed with rice paste as a binder. You drop down some paste on the block with a little brush, dribble on some pigment with another brush and mix the two together on the block with a third brush, called a maru bake, that looks like a little shoe brush. The rice paste gives body to the pigment and ensures a uniform application to the block and the dampened paper.
I was surprised how much paste was necessary to get a smooth print from this block. I ended up using about 5 "drops" of paste for every 3 or 4 "drops" of pigment. You can see above how mottled the print looks when there isn't enough paste. Although I can imagine times when that mottled effect will be desirable, learning to control it seems important.