This morning I got ready for work, and gathered together my printing tools: the baren and brushes from one shelf, the pigment pots from another. When they were all in place ready for use, I went to the refrigerator and got the last of the supplies that I needed. The refrigerator? Now what would a traditional woodblock printmaker need from the refrigerator? A drink? No. Something to snack on while I work? No. I took out my pile of washi for printing!
It's not all the time that I keep my paper stored overnight in the refrigerator, but just this time of year - the rainy season. And maybe you can guess why ... Woodblock printmaking is all done with washi that has been moistened. This is to help both in the absorption of the pigments, and in the control of the stretching and shrinking of the paper during the multi-coloured printing process. The night before I start any printing job, I use a large goathair brush, and thoroughly dampen each sheet of paper.
Traditional Japanese woodblock prints however, usually have many colours, and the printing process cannot generally be finished in one day. Sometimes it goes on for many days, and perhaps even weeks, in the case of special editions. At this time of year, with the air so humid, and so much mold and mildew around, this means that as the printing paper stays wet all this time, it sometimes becomes spoiled before the print can be finished and the paper dried off. It is for this reason that we keep unfinished prints in the refrigerator overnight - to help retard the growth of mold.
So although I am sure that the print I am working on at the moment will not have any spots from mold, I am not quite so sure about something else. It seems to me that while I was printing today, I noticed a distinct smell of tsukemono! I wonder where it was coming from?