15 April 2011

My First Baren Wrap

OK. You can't be a self-respecting moku hanga printmaker and not know how to wrap a baren in the pretty bamboo skins (leaves "bark") that make a Japanese baren a baren. But here I am, coming up on my 6 year anniversary of working with moku hanga and I have never wrapped my own baren. I used it oh so carefully for the first couple of years and the skin didn't split until year 2 1/2. Then I got Matt Brown to wrap it for me at a workshop (thank you Matt). And then I took to using a ball-bearing baren for large prints, so I eked out another couple of years on the bamboo skin Matt had installed. But it's time to face the music...

Last month I ordered a new skin (takenogawa) from McClain's and set about re-covering my very fine Murasaki baren. Oops. I split the skin before I could even get half the baren wrapped. And I only had one skin! So there's lesson #1. If you've never done it before, buy more than one skin.

I found out that my friend Rick Finn was trying to learn to wrap a baren at the same time I was, so I checked out his new blog to see how it was going for him. He was smart enough to buy three skins to begin with, but even then he wasn't able to successfully wrap his baren. I felt better about myself (sorry Rick) after reading his account. Rick, by the way, makes beautiful grayscale reduction print portraits of petty criminals from old mug shots -- check them out. Anyhow, Rick finally got his baren covered and, this morning, so did I. It was nice to have online company getting through this first hurdle. So lesson #2 is, get as much help and moral support as you can.

Here are some great resources for help in re-covering your baren:
+ David Bull's online step-by-step
+ David Bull's e-book "Your First Print"
+ Ryusei Okamoto's step-by-step photo tutorial

All three are excellent. Dave Bull's e-book is especially great because it has a video of the entire process (plus there are chapters on every aspect of the craft). And the very awesome thing about Ryusei Okamoto's photos is that at the end he has a very clear demonstration of how to tie the finishing knot. Only after seeing his photos could I could figure that out.

However. What I'm about to show you is a very poor imitation of a proper baren re-covering project. I know that you might tease me, but I show you these photos in the spirit of showing my whole process, warts and all.

The lovely baren wrap by Matt Brown.

The ugly baren wrap by the blog author.

You can see here that in addition to having extra material along the baren edges, I also have fewer tight little tucks AND I obviously neglected to fold the raw edges under as I tucked. These edges will no doubt be annoying as I use the baren. The other glaring error is that I twisted one side of the "handle" clockwise and the opposite side counterclockwise. This means the two sides of the handle are fighting each other and so they don't sit up straight

However, I can say four positive things about the job I did.
1. I did it.
2. I learned what it feels like, what's hard, what's easy.
3. I'll never again have to do it for the first time.
4. Because my new cover is too loose and too uneven, I'll have the opportunity to try it again very soon!

Anyway, I show you the following photo in the spirit of cheering myself up:

Forced forsythia in my living room.


Bette Norcross Wappner -- said...

You rock, girl!

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Well done!! I've been wrapping my baren for a while and have settled for serviceable and tight(ish) over good looking. My confession is that I make heavy use of duct tape on the back to hold the edges and form the handle. There now the world knows my bad!

Maria said...

Bravo! I will send you a baren bonnet for testing when I get some sewn up.
BTW, my bamboo skins last about a month in Vegas so consider yourself very lucky :-)

Gerrie said...

Congrats etc.. but since we are allowed to have a peek inside, what is the little print above the small table?

d. moll, l.ac. said...

@Maria- what's a baren bonnet? There should be a Girl Scout patch for Baren Wrapping...

Annie B said...

Oh yeah, I would like to try out Maria's baren bonnet!
@Gerrie, the little print above the table in my living room is a simple 4 or 5 color woodblock print of poppies by Tomoo Inagaki. Inagaki mostly did images of cats, so when I saw this print of poppies I thought it might be a little bit rare.

Agne said...

Well done! We're all very proud! And I was dying to know how do japanese make them, so yay!!! Thank you so much! I hope the next one will be perfect!

Rick Finn said...

You did it! Congrats on a job well done!
Once mine was dry, I slipped a thin piece of cardboard under the rough edge and used a very sharp x-acto knife to trim away that excess. Otherwise, it does get in the way.
Love that photo tutorial from Ryusei Okamoto...wish I had seen that earlier!
Thanks for the blog "plug" also! :)

mizu designs said...

Omedetou Annie!
Good for you for getting through it.

Andrew Stone said...

Well, I did my first recovering about 6m ago and while I can say I managed the first time; that's not making ME any more aggressive at doing it again.

I too need to recover the same baren: it was too loose and I wore a hole in it already; but have still been putting it off...

But it has to be done before I print my next run....

Linda Beeman said...

Good job Annie! It took my husband and me 2 tries to get mine recovered. And a lot of words unfit for delicate ears!

starkeyart said...

Your first baren recovering job looks amazingly similar to mine. Had to laugh. I ordered 2 the first time, next time it is 3, just in case. Way to go!

Maison Conti said...

Love the lessons learned and the flower photo to cheer yourself up. It's brave to have tired this reputedly very difficult process. I've certainly never given it a go.

Gerrie said...

Thank you, I will look him up !

minouette said...

I've wrapped my baren once, but only with a lot of help and supervision. It really needs new bamboo bark (I thought it was a leaf too). I'm a bit scared to try this unsupervised. I'm rather encouraged to read that I'm not the only one intimidated to do this. Thanks for your post.

There's another tutorial here: