Heron and Iris (白鷺と菖蒲)

Designer: Hiroshige | Carver: David Bull | Printer: Rei

Paper size: 22.5cm by 11.5cm | Enlargement | Shipping Code: [M] ? ( Change currency: $ / £ / )

Price: $ 70.00£ 56.50€ 64.50

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Description: This design by Hiroshige was originally issued in what is known as the tanzaku-ban size - about 38cm high - but we have reduced it to about 23cm. If any of you were considering putting these prints up on the wall in frames, this reduction in size considerably reduces the dramatic impact, but when they are held in the hand of viewed closely, the scale gives a good feeling of intimacy, which is just what I want when I look at a woodblock print!

There are a number of gradations on this print. Making a gradation on a woodblock print is a fairly straightforward process - moisten the wood in the area where the colour is to taper, apply the pigment in the ‘deep’ area, then brush it out smoothly in the effect desired. What makes it difficult is the requirement that each of the prints in the stack have an identical gradation. Modern printmakers don’t really care so much about that, but to the traditional suri-shi, (printing craftsman) it is a very strict requirement. He may be free to test and experiment with various gradations during the proofing stage, but once the decision is made as to the desired appearance of the print, no deviation is permitted.

Why is it difficult to make them all the same? As one works, the pigment tends to ‘creep’ up into areas of the brush where it is not wanted, and the gradation becomes wider and wider. If one takes a break and washes the brush, then the succeeding prints tends to have a narrower gradation. It is much like trying to drive a car along an absolutely straight line; as you make small adjustments to the steering wheel the car moves ever so slightly from left to right.

It’s a very interesting paradox - working in a creative field, yet working as an absolutely mindless robot, trying to reproduce an exact image time after time. It seems there are advantages to being a stubborn person ...

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