About this print
I’ve created this woodblock print of a rooster and hen, after Koson, by individually printing it by hand onto Japanese Awagami Kitakata paper. The original design is by Ohara Koson, a Japanese artist of the shin-hanga, “new prints” movement. Koson was active in the late 19th and early 20th century, producing mainly bird-and-flower prints (kachō-e). I am a big fan of Koson’s work and have re-produced several of his designs using blocks I’ve carved myself.
My reference for this design was an image from the Rijksmuseum digital archive. I have used tools, techniques and materials virtually unchanged from those that would have been used around 100 years ago in Japan to create the original edition. My own interpretation of Koson’s design is simpler than the original in that I have chosen to leave the background unprinted to show off the vintage-looking paper. I’ve also chosen to print the white areas of the design, which is unusual in a Japanese woodblock.
The print making process
Japanese cutting knives and chisels were used to carve into pieces of flat, smooth cherry wood to create the printing blocks. I then printed each colour from these blocks using pigmented inks. During the printing process, I apply ink to a block, and then lay the paper onto it. Next, I press on the back of the paper using a Japanese hand-printing press called a baren. Each colour in the design is printed from different blocks, or different areas using stencils, to build up the layers. This is how I achieve the variety and depth of colour in the final print.
Every print in a batch is made in the same way, but each time I ink and press the block slightly differently. This results in a succession of seemingly identical but actually unique prints. Each and every one is an individual, hand crafted work of art.
This woodblock print of Rooster and Hen, after Koson, is one of several based on designs by Ohara Koson (1877-1945). If you like this one, have a look at others I’ve made, such as Flowering Wisteria, or Egret.
When the print is finished, I blind print my chop seal in the corner so it appears embossed.
Print size is 4″ x 6″ (10cm x 15cm) approx.
The print comes mounted and ready to frame, with double bevel-cut mount – overall size is 10″ x 12″ (25.5cm x 30.5cm) approx.
I mount the print onto the backing board using photo corners. I also attach an information sheet explaining how the print was made on the reverse.
The print comes packaged in a crystal clear cellophane bag. I send prints in a board-backed envelope by Royal Mail.