process

The whole process of woodblock printing for me is a sensitive one, which I express entirely by hand without presses and machines. Printing can be the most nerve-wracking part of the process because concentration and energy are vital. When the image and materials work well together, I feel an organic part of the process, rather than the instigator and controller.

Wood and cutting

I use wood from Japan and Thailand, including shina and rubber veneer and lauan, which have different grains and absorb pigment in different ways. I cut with a set of Japanese woodcutting knives to mark out raised areas in relief and to make sharp, graphic lines of varying widths and depths. I also cut shapes in these blocks with a jigsaw. Moving the block around the saw is like making gentle curves with a steering wheel, and the lines become free and smooth, which suits the organic shapes of many of my prints. Some of the white lines in my prints are the areas between these sections.

Water-based pigments

If I mix water-based pigments together, I can make approximations of the colours I see, create soft or sharp tones, or a range of transparent and opaque colours. A colour can be made brilliant by printing lightly or by mixing with more water to let the white of the sheet shine through. It becomes creamy by adding white. I sometimes mix fluorescent orange, yellow or pink into a colour to light it up, although I usually prefer to work with pigments that are mineral or vegetable based.

Handmade paper

I print on different kinds of mulberry (kozo) paper, a strong, layered paper of enmeshed fibres made in Japan. I may use thin paper so that I can print on both sides. This gives me great freedom with the colours, because printed from behind, they can be muted or mottled, whereas from the front they can be made creamier, flatter and sharper.

Printing by hand

There is a sensuality, sensitivity and unpredictability in my work, because I print by hand using various barens: some made from a disc of coiled twisted strings of bamboo and covered with a leaf from the base of the bamboo; some made from 100s of ballbearings that spin countless times across the back of the paper.  

Because I often cut up blocks into several shapes with the jigsaw, I can print the same shape from either side of the paper. I reassemble the separate shapes of the block to make the image. This gives me fantastic flexibility with textures, both from the wood itself, and from the varying applications of pigment, wet or dry, soft or strong, onto the paper.

My prints can be enhanced by the texture of the wood and from the marks made by the baren, which I use like a brush, so that no two prints are exactly the same, but have their own spontaneity.