Taku-hon and Gyo-taku

Takuhon (ink rubbing) is an ancient Japanese art of print making whereby books were made by transcribing onto paper the protruding shapes from the scripts of sutras engraved on stone monuments, wood, metals, and earthenware. The method can be used to create impressions of any textural object. Thin Japanese washi paper is dampened and pressed into the detail of the object, allowed to almost dry, and then ink is sparingly applied using a tampo or pad which is press vertically onto the object.

I have been fortunate to be part of a group of students and staff travelling to Santander in September for IMPACT 10 – an international printmaking conference, and we will be using this technique to create prints en route and at the conference where we have been allocated a workshop space. The theme of the conference is ‘Encuentro’ (encounters), and we are planning to collaborate with artists from across the world, to exchange objects to stimulate ideas and debate, and share food, art and company.

Call out for collaborators!
Worm casts on a scallop shell
Sea urchin print – unfortunately the ink stained the shell
Takuhon in progress
The finished print…

One of the beauties of the prints is that they can retain the form of the original object, as shown with the print shown above. The flattened impression does not relay the roundness of the melon and its tactical protrusions.

Gyo-tuku is another traditional Japanese technique used by fishermen to document their prized catch. The fish is inked, dampened paper or fabric laid over it, and the ink transferred by rubbing the fish with the fingers. The first fish that I used spilt its guts across my print, so I subsequently gutted my fish, stuffed the cavity and stitched the resulting wound before printing. Success! I used squid ink and we ate the delicious fish for supper (you would not want to eat it if you had used potentially toxic, oil-based inks).

Gyotaku in progress with paper pressed over the inked fish
The wonderfully detailed result.




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