Neko Hakkei : Updates

An overview of recent activity on the project

[The first three prints in the series are available! Visit this page of the Mokuhankan catalogue to see them!]

[This is the most recent of a group of Update Pages on this project. The first one is here.]

[Repeat visitors: jump directly down to the newest entry on this page.]

March 21: carving on the Evening Snow image is at the colour stage

I apologize for the slow pace of updates - and indeed the slow pace of the project overall. We are moving steadily forward with it, but we are desperately short-staffed and flooded with work, and our subscription prints - which of course have monthly deadlines - always tend to push everything else back. But today I can show you the progress on the first print - Evening Snow - and then in a couple of days from now, I will have photos of the progress on the second one - Night Rain.

As many of our regular fans know, a lot of the work on this print has been streamed on our Twitch channel. You don't need a 'subscription' to watch - it's a completely open channel that anybody can tune in to. The current schedule is for me to stream three times a week - the days/times are listed on the channel page - but if you can't tune-in live, Twitch keeps each stream available for OnDemand viewing for around two weeks. There is usually plenty of 'chat' happening while I work, and 'the usual crowd' is always happy to answer questions from newbies ... "What is going on here??"

The key block carving was finished some weeks back, and here is a proof print from it:

Evening Snow : Randy Hall

The next stage is to cut a set of colour blocks, using impressions from the key block as 'transfer sheets'. This isn't going to be a 'colourful' print, of course, but it will actually need quite a few blocks to bring it to life. Here's an image of the original Hiroshige design that Randall transformed into his pair of cats:

Ando Hiroshige - 1857

As you can see, the shape of the mountainsides is depicted by shading. We are going to do much the same thing, but because many of the areas to be shaded are quite close together, they can't be carved onto the same block face. Most (not all) of the shadings will be done on two blocks faces - planned like this:

Carving is now under way ... Please drop in on Twitch and join the conversations while it happens!


March 22: sampling possible colour variations for 'Night Rain'

In yesterday's update - just above - we saw some planning for colour blocks for the 'Evening Snow' design. The second print in the set - 'Night Rain' - is already at the same stage. This one is being carved by Tsoi Wai Chung, one of our carving team members. He did most of the Japan Journey prints last year, and this year he is splitting work on the Woodblock Pilgrimage set with Noriko Kawasaki, our carver living in Kobe.

He had the keyblock for this one done even before Dave had his print ready. Here's a quick proof on flat paper:

Night Rain : Jonathan Huff

Because Chung-san works together (in his personal time) with his partner the printer Rei-chan, he has access to knowledge about colouring, and the two of them have worked out a few ideas for colouring this design:

The three of us will mull these over ... and perhaps try some more ideas, and he will then get busy carving the colour block set (in between his work on the subscription prints, of course!)


June 10: 1st Goal finally reached ... 'Evening Snow' is now available!

Well, it has taken very much longer than I anticipated when I set all this in motion last summer, but we are finally at the starting line :-) The first print in the series - Evening Snow, by Randall Hall - is finished, and is now available on the Mokuhankan website.

I am very happy with the way that it has turned out. And although it's not our main motivation in making these, I do think that this is going to be a steady-seller in our catalogue, providing a nice royalty to Randall, steady work for the printers, and a great deal of pleasure to the collectors ... all over many years to come!

Next up - Night Rain!


September 10: Next one done ... 'Night Rain' is also available!

I can't apologize enough to our viewers for the lack of steady and interesting updates to this project, but even though we haven't been showing you our progress, we have been getting things done! And here's the proof ... Jonathan Huff's design for Night Rain is finally ready as a woodblock print!

We are so happy with this! Jonathan gave us a good strong base on which to build, and two of our young workers (Tsoi Wai Chung the carver, and Rei-chan, his partner and printer) took it from there. They worked out a colour separation plan, carved an initial set of blocks, and then began proofing. They went back and forth a few times, preparing a couple more blocks part-way along, but eventually settled on the layering and colour tones that you see here.

The transparency in the water ... the overall 'lighting' ... the beautiful sky ... wøøt! And what a wonderfully international project this has been: designed in Texas, carved and printed here in Tokyo by Hong Kong born craftspeople, ‘coordinated’ by this Canadian guy from England, and everybody working clearly within the cultural framework of the traditional Japanese woodblock print. Great fun! The print is now in the catalog on our website.

Two down ... six to go! Three down ... five to go! (carving on Evening Bell has now begun ...)