For details about my work have a look at my website,

I am currently working on large prints combining water based woodblock techniques with oil based linocut: nothing if not a challenge! I'm also doing some teaching and go back to school myself in the spring to qualify as an adult education tutor

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Coats of many colours

I’ve got into the habit of watching a soap opera while I eat my lunch. It is in unfathomable Japanese, but I have a strong suspicion that it is sponsored by a fashion house. Every episode features the same pretty heroine who stands outside in a wide variety of elegant winter coats having angst ridden conversations with other women in other coats. I invent dialogue from the Archers and it works just fine (one of my finest achievements while here has been to convert American Betsy into an avid Archers fan thanks to BBC iPlayer).

I have also come to the end of my first set of editions. The terms of my contract were to supply three copies of three prints to the institute. Producing the woodcuts was hard, but nothing prepared me for the horrible gamble of printing: the potential for mistakes is huge and the further down the line I got with each print so the investment of time and effort started to stack against the knowledge that one small slip would write off a print. My last print required twenty three separate passes (a pass being to ink and print the block) which, multiplied by the fifteen prints I started with, adds up to an awful lot of room for error. By the end of yesterday I was twenty passes in, had nine good prints and a rotten bad back and head. This morning I finished: eight good prints and a handful of painkillers.

Now I am preparing to go again, this time editioning on hand made kozo and washi papers from the lovely paper mill we visited. It ups the anti considerably to know I’m now working with precious paper and I’m beginning to feel I left my comfort zone back in the UK by mistake.

You can see my work in progress at

Friday, 6 November 2009

Size Matters

I apologise for the gap in my blogs, but it’s not all been biscuits and sake here. We have now long finished with the teaching part of the residency and are working on our personal prints. This morning I started to prepare the final fancy paper for printing by sizing it with rabbit skin glue and alum which, especially before breakfast, smells just as nasty as its name suggests. I’m wondering if I can get glue like that in the UK or if I’ll have to put my butchering skills back into practise and skin a few of the rabbits the cat brings in? There has been so very much to learn and so many things that can go wrong, starting with the size and ending with a Prussian blue thumb print in the wrong place (today’s misery).

The more I do and the more I learn, the further I see I have to go and most of it is a matter of experiment and experience. There is a phrase common to all the sensei who’ve taught us which is ‘It is your choice’ which is just about as helpful as Alec Guinness saying ‘Feel the force’. Both I think translate into ‘You’ll learn’ and I should shut up before they make me do it blindfold like poor Luke Skywalker…

Yesterday we were taken to a small factory where natural papers are hand made, largely using local bark fibres. Better than the Bolshoi, we watched four experts make the largest sheet of handmade paper available in Japan. Standing at the corners of a frame 5m by 2.5m, they each hurled some dozen buckets of liquid paper fibre in a perfectly choreographed dance; the solution fanning across the frame in rippling washes which, when drained, formed a perfectly uniform sheet. Later this was polished smooth with immense dedication and a single camellia leaf.

This evening I am going to be interviewed by my fellow artist Philpp. His blog is a shining example of what a residency blog should be and you can read it at