I never know what to expect when I open the
'Inbox' every morning, but one thing is guaranteed
... it is never empty! It is always interesting to
hear from people who have questions about my work,
but it can get a bit repetitive sometimes, as there
are a number of topics that come up again and
again. Hopefully, if I answer some of them 'in
public' here, it might save us both some time!
If you came to this page hoping to find an
answer to your query, but don't see anything here
that helps you, then of course your only option is
to me! I may not answer you right away (that Inbox
really is quite full most days), but I will try and
get to it ...
I should mention that I have not included
technical questions on points of printmaking here
on this page. Your first spot for that sort of
answer might be the
section of this website; failing that, I would
heartily recommend a visit to
where you will find a group of nearly 300
printmakers ready to offer all sorts of advice ...
A: As it happens, there isn't
much use asking me this question, because I
am not part of the 'art' scene here at all, and
have very little knowledge of study opportunities.
Printmaking is of course, an important part of the
curriculum in many institutions here, but I do not
know much about them, nor which ones make their
programs open to overseas students.
Right from the beginning, I myself have worked
independently, 'studying' on my own and seeking out
personal contacts with experienced printers and
carvers. That option is available to anyone who
wishes to follow it, and once you got established
here, I could certainly help you meet people ...
But rather than leave you completely
empty-handed, here are a couple of suggestions:
- There is a very interesting 'artist in residence' program at the
Nagasawa Art Park, (link updated) which may be just what you are looking for.
- You might check the English website of
Art University, which offers programs to
Steiner down in Kyoto, does a lot of
teaching, and he may have some ideas for you.
- The Japanese Education
Ministry (Mombusho) has a scholarship program
under which foreigners can study printmaking
here in Japan. Application forms are available at Japanese Embassies around the world. If you have a degree, and are under 35 years of age, you may be eligible; contact your local embassy. I was recently in touch with a Belgian student here on such a scholarship, and he said "The scholarship offers 6 months of study and one year of "research" in a national or private university. Once you get it, it's not
so difficult to extend it for two more years ..."
A: The 'quick and dirty'
answer is 'no'. I work in my own home, and simply
have no facilities for other people to work
together with me. But read on ...
Back in the old days, there were many types of
work available for printers and carvers; some of it
was difficult - working on delicate ukiyo-e prints,
for example - and this would be done by the
experienced men. But a great deal of the work was
simple - printing food wrappers, etc. - and this
was perfect for apprentices. But these days, the
'simple' type of work is of course all done by
printing presses. There is simply no way for an
inexperienced worker to make himself productive ...
at least not until he has gained enough experience
to work on 'real' prints.
There is another reason though, why I am not so
excited about the concept of having 'apprentices'.
Any number of times since I started making a living
as a woodblock printmaker here in Japan, I have
been contacted by visitors to this country who want
to come to my studio and learn about printmaking.
In the early years, I was very responsive to
these requests - I invited these people to come
over, and we frequently spent many hours together
going over some of the basics of printmaking. My
philosophy was (and still is) that as I myself only
learned through the willingness of experienced
people to share their knowledge, I have a
responsibility to pass on what I have learned.
But ... and it is quite a big 'but' ... I also
learned that all those hours spent with those
people were wasted hours. Nobody, nobody ever
continued with their printmaking activities ...
To generalize a bit too extremely, I have
learned that the people who want to learn from me
fall into two camps. One camp wants to sit at my
feet and have me tell them everything about 'how
it's done' and 'what to do'. They have been brought
up with the idea that one must be taught how
to do things. They think that they need the proper
tools and equipment before they can start to do
something, so (quite reasonably, I guess) they
start by seeking advice. And as there are indeed a
lot of things to learn in this craft, they need a
lot of advice ...
The other group is not so concerned with the
'official and proper' way of doing things; their
motivation is different - they just want to
make some of these beautiful things we call
woodblock prints. Such people inevitably have more
of a 'trial and error' type of approach. Without
worrying about whether any particular piece of wood
is really absolutely the best type for woodblock
printmaking, they try chopping away at it to see
Now I don't really want to pass judgment on
these two 'types', because it takes all kinds to
make a world, but I have learned at least one thing
about people - those who need outside motivation to
get going never end up continuing with the
craft. Those who are self-motivated have every
chance of doing well ...
Woodblock printmaking is extraordinarily 'low
tech'. If you want to make a Hiroshige
reproduction, then you're going to have to spend a
lot of years learning just how the craftsmen in
Hiroshige's day did it. But believe me, that's not
how you want to start off. You don't need special
tools, special materials, or special techniques.
Using any old tool hack a design in any old piece
of wood splash any pigment on it slap a piece of
paper on top rub it with something and when you
lift it up you've got a print.
Want a bit more practical advice than that? Head
over to the
section of my
website, and start reading. Right there on your own
computer screen you have access to more practical
'how-to-do-it' information than has ever been
available before to anybody anywhere anytime in
history. If you can't make some interesting prints
with the practical advice you will find there, then
you are barking up the wrong tree ...
But if, after you've made a few prints,
they're looking not too bad, and it looks like you
might just be really interested in learning
how to do this properly, then by all means contact
me. Once I see those prints, and can thus see the
practical proof that you are the self-motivated
type, I'll be plenty willing to spend those hours
(and hours and hours and hours) with you ...
Are you angry with what I have written here? Are
you insulted that I am putting the burden on
you? I hope not. If you actually try
doing this, and then
me with specific questions about your attempts,
I will sit up all night if necessary answering them
and doing what I can to assist you. But the
motivation must come from you.
I look forward to hearing from you!