Mokuhanga is the traditional hand-printed woodcarving technique of Japan, which grew out of Chinese and Korean traditions during Japan’s Edo period (1603-1867). Moku means wood, and Hanga means print making. The traditional woodblock prints are what we generally associate with Japanese Art. I’ve always loved woodblock prints and seeing how they have inspired Western art in the 20th Century. When I realized that April Vollmer wrote a book, Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop, which discusses the history, techniques, and a guide to woodblock print, I knew I had to check it out!
April Vollmer is an artist and printmaker living in New York City. She works primarily in mokuhanga, Japanese woodblock. Her book is broken into six sections: an Introduction, History, Tools, Washi (Japanese Handmade Paper), Creating a Print (Step by Step), and New Directions in Mokuhanga. This is not a DIY book for amateur artists. It doesn’t include 15 fun projects that you can make it home. Instead, Vollmer assumes you are a visual artist like her and that you have the dedication, training, and studio space to approach woodblock carving.
Although I will not be buying the lists of carving tools and wood that she suggests, I loved reading this book anyway. The history behind mokuhanga is fascinating, and Vollmer knows what she’s talking about. The paper in the book is thick and the prints are of a very high quality. Vollmer includes her own art, famous Japanese examples, as well as what some of her contemporaries are doing. The book includes some of Vollmer’s tips and tricks as well, which tools you should splurge on and when you can just pick the cheapest option. I do wish that Vollmer had considered adding a chapter of approachable projects for amateur artists, but I recognize that I may not be her target audience. This will definitely not be the last book on mokuhanga that I will read, though!
I would recommend this book to artists who are looking to learn a new technique and people who like looking at pretty things and have space on their coffee table.