Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop by April Vollmer: Book Review

Review by Nellie Escalante

As a printmaker, I was so excited to receive Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop: A Modern Guide to the World of Mokuhanga by April Vollmer. I don’t know much about this kind of printmaking, mokuhanga, but I was excited to find out more. From the moment the book was delivered it into my hands, and I opened the package, I was impressed. It was a lot thicker than I thought and the cover was absolutely beautiful. 

Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop has an approachable tone but also reads like a manual, giving step by step, methodical instructions in creating a work with this printing system. I am accustomed to reading printmaking books that are crafty in nature, about having fun with the art form; the very nature of printmaking is about the everyday and the ease in which one can make an impression. But this book conveys printmaking as serious business.  This is indeed a workshop, just as the title suggests. You come to this book to learn and to work, and I like that.

The author, herself, is a serious student of this art form. Vollmer completed her MFA in printmaking at Hunter College (also my alma mater) and worked with Vincent Longo, an abstract artist who moved easily between printmaking and painting.  She sought mokuhanga after graduate school because it was a water based technique and suited her needs as an artist printmaker in a small studio.  

However, this does not mean that a novice wouldn’t also enjoy Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop. Vollmer states, “I have tried to balance my respect for the careful craftsmanship of Japanese professionals with the desire to make the technique accessible.” Elsewhere in the book she says, “with experience, artists can develop an approach to woodblock printing that reflects their practical situation, technical ability and available resources.”

Vollmer takes us back to the history of Japanese woodblock printmaking, the tools and materials needed to carry out this art form, a step by step guide to create a print, and a chapter on new directions in this medium. The book also includes many exquisite illustrations and photos and is packed with information about tools, techniques, and paper. At the end of the tome, Vollmer, generously, offers countless resources such as a list of online and print magazines, classes, conferences, residencies, a dense bibliography, and other printmaking opportunities.

This was an absolute feast for the mind and eyes. I would recommend this book to serious students of printmaking, someone who already has a basic knowledge of the art form and would like to delve more into the world of the Japanese woodblock print, or, in other words, mokuhanga. I know I will! 

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To learn more about April Vollmer, go to her website here

Reviewed by Nellie Escalante
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.