|sent from: London, UK. destination: Chicago, IL, USA|
“Printing on paper with wood-blocks was the mass communication medium of its day. There were whole workshops of carvers and printers. Prints would be put on the walls, pasted over the following week with a new one. Now there are only about 10 traditional carvers left.”
This is what out workshop teacher told us. The workshop on Japanese woodblock printing held at the British Museum was a window into a dying world. Aside from the craft itself, every material involved in the process is increasingly hard to find and expensive. The seasoned cherry wood; the samurai-blade carving tool; the gorgeous paper fibre; the custom hand-woven baren. To say nothing of the 10 years it takes to apprentice as a carver, or the 15 to apprentice as a printer. The market is shrinking, the traditional techniques unable to compete with modern technology. As much as I want to see this craft preserved, I also think that everything has its day… when it is gone, perhaps, that is just how it is.
Perhaps this is a reflection of my feelings about other mass-market crafts, including that of visual effects. How long before I stand in front of a building, empty or re-purposed and say, “This used to be full of people. Every floor we had people of different disciplines, Do you know we used to have to fix each shot, frame by frame, by hand? And we made a living doing it! It’s hard to believe, I know.”
The connection between these worlds was made most strongly when the teacher told us of the rivalries and ribbing between the carvers and the printers, each accusing the other of messing up their work, or passing along substandard product. Oh, those animators, let me tell you…
The above print was the result of the workshop, mounted to the back of a cereal box.