Whoa, woodblock printmaking?
What's that all about?
My name is Erica Lang, I'm the artist / human behind Woosah and woodblock printmaking is my jam. Nothin' beats it. I started carving woodblocks in college. I was studying Printmaking at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, MI and immediately fell in love with the whole process! That was back in 2012, and I haven't really stopped carving since. The graphics that make up the Woosah brand and vibe are created in this way. I've learned a lot about woodblock printmaking over the years and would love to share some of that knowledge with ya!
The Woodcut is literally the oldest and raddest form of printmaking techniques.
The process goes like this:
1. Carve the Block.
Carve an image backwards into a block of wood. The reason for carving backwards is because the image is reversed when printed. Many different types of wood can be used for carving, I prefer to carve MDF because there is no woodgrain which allows for cleaner lines. When carving a woodblock, the lines that are carved away are not printed, therefore you are carving the areas that you would not like to print.
2. Ink the Block.
The final carved block creates a surface that is raised (the areas you left are higher than the areas you carved away) which allows for ink to be applied with a brayer. I use oil based inks, and when printing on textiles I use Drive By Black ink by Gamblin because it dries much faster.
3. Print the Block.
Once the woodblock is all inked up and looking all sorts of sexy, it can either be printed by hand by placing a piece of paper face down and using a spoon or thumb to apply pressure, or my preferred method (due to consistency and aint nobody got time for that) is using an etching press. This piece of equipment is life. It allows for different levels of pressure to be applied evenly on your substrate. Etching presses can be used for printing woodblocks and intaglio.
4. Edition the Block
Once you are happy with the printed image, you can print an edition. An edition is a set number of prints that are consistent in their printing. These prints are numbered out of the total number of prints. For example if you pulled 100 prints, you would "edition" these prints 1/100, 2/100, 3/100 and so on. This allows each print to be an authentic original because there are only so many of them existing in this beautiful world, it also allows for people to know what print they have, I often get requests for a certain number in the edition. Once the edition is complete, that woodblock should never be printed in the same way, ever again in the history of forever. Whoa. Neato.
5. Do it again and again
It's fun and addictive. The more you do it, the better ya get. But only if you enjoy it.
Personally, it's my favorite pass time. I enjoy the physical aspect of carving out an image; to have to work for the result makes it even more gratifying. The entire time I'm carving a block I don't really know what it looks like, sure I have an idea but inking the block up for the first time and seeing the chatter (the carved lines) and all the detail come to life feels like my birthday, every time. The technique of carving woodblocks is also chosen due to the nature of the process which creates a unique style. You can't fake a woodcut. They aren't for everyone, but they are definitely for me. If you would like to try this process out you can purchase Linoleum blocks from Hobby Lobby or Michaels, these are soft, rubber like surfaces that are beyond easy to carve. Have at it!