04 July 2005

What Is Moku Hanga?

Moku hanga is the Japanese term for woodblock print (moku means wood and hanga means print). Woodblock printing was brought to Japan in the 8th century by Buddhists from China and was first used to reproduce religious texts. After a time colors began to be added by hand and then, as woodblock printing became the primary form of commercial printing in Japan, printers began to carve blocks for each color. Japanese woodblock prints are known especially for their intense use of color and for the fact that the pigments are water-based rather than oil-based.

All that is needed to produce a Japanese style woodblock print is wood, water, pigment, paper, a few carving tools, some brushes and something to rub the paper with - simple materials that anyone can easily acquire and get started with right away. The process, however, is far from simple. It involves many steps - developing a design, transfering the design to the wood blocks, carving the blocks, choosing paper, printing the blocks - and each step introduces many variables so there are many challenges to this art form.

Traditional moku hanga differs from western style woodblock printing in several ways. Water-borne pigments are used rather than oil-based or even water-based printing inks and the pigment is brushed onto the block rather than applied with rollers. Pigments are then applied to the paper by hand using a baren rather than a mechanical press.

To go to the front page of this blog, click on the words "Woodblock Dreams" at the top of the page.


happyd said...

where are you taking your moku hanga classes?

Annie B said...

Hi happy d,

Thanks so much for checking out my blog and for your kind comments.

Since the 3-day moku hanga intensive with Matt Brown at Snow Farm (see post #1), all my explorations have been done in the comfort of my own not-very-big home studio. The great thing about moku hanga is that it’s completely non-toxic and you don’t need a press, so it can be done just about anywhere. The biggest hassle is getting wood chips all over the floor!

Anonymous said...

Just browsing by looking for woodcuts ... since the last post was in 2005 - did you stop experimenting or have you just stopped posting?

Annie B said...

Hi Hans,

The blog is still very active. Click the title "Woodblock Dreams" at the top of this page to reach the most recent entry. Thanks for stopping by!


Agne/アグネ said...

Thank you so much for this blog! The woodblocks are really captivating technique! I would like to try carving myself. Could you recommend where i could buy the basic tools for carving. (I'm from UK). Would you recommend the japanese ones, or can be replaced by other tools?



Annie B said...

Hi Agne. Any wood carving tools will do, especially if you're just looking into the technique and you aren't sure if you want to invest in the best quality tools. Later, if you decide to continue, you should definitely invest in a set of fine Japanese tools. They'll last a lifetime. I order many supplies from McClain's Printmaking Supplies in Oregon USA, and also online from Baren Forum Mall. There are links to both places in the sidebar of my blog. Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment.

Agne/アグネ said...

Thank you for the quick response,
You really inspire me to try carving woodblocks, thank you! =)