Thursday, December 22, 2011

Paper chase: Laughing Gull linocut

Many long minutes now my fingers have hovered over the keyboard.

I'm waiting. Not for an idea, but for the passing of an idea. I'm trying desperately to resist the urge to continue the bad-relationship metaphor of my previous post. But it's so tempting.

I have, after all, recently released myself from the tyranny of a once-loved-paper-turned-desperado. I am free to shop around... to flirt with all sorts of interesting-looking sheets.... Oh, let's not go there.

A little background for anyone who's just tuning in: For several years I've printed by hand on a domestically-available hand-made sheet called Hosho "Pro." I liked this paper for several reasons:
1) It's bright white,
2) It has both a smooth side and a "felt" side,
3) It comes in a handy size (19 x 24 inches),
4) It's a good thickness for printing by hand
5) It's readily available and
6) It's reasonably priced.

In the last year or so, however, I've started to notice some changes. The paper has been less consistent in thickness, both from sheet to sheet within a batch and from one end to the other of an individual sheet. There have been more brush hairs and other remnants of non-paper "stuff" in the sheets. It has become more difficult to tell smooth surface from felt surface. And the final blow: The paper has been shedding fibers everywhere during printing- soft, linty fibers that gum up ink and rollers and interfere with ink adhesion. In some cases the paper even pulled apart when I peeled it back from the block after burnishing. Not good.

So it's time to find a new "favorite paper." I've ordered a few sheets each of several different papers and for the small (7" x 5") image I'm working on now I'm trying three of them: Rives lightweight, Canson Johannot, and Awagami Kozo.

Two passes down, one light blue solid and then the blended blue roll. Papers, left to right in the image above: Rives Lightweight, Canson Johannot, Awagami Kozo.

The first thing I noticed is that NONE of these papers shed fiber. Thank goodness.

The Johannot's chief appeal is that it's the whitest of the three papers. It is also the thickest and sports the most texture... two features which do not appeal. More on this later.

Sorry, didn't pay attention to order of papers. These are now, left to right,
Kozo, Johannot, Rives lightweight. I'll try to be consistent from here on out.

The third color pass was done during my demonstration at Abend Gallery last weekend, and it's here that things really started to get interesting. All of the papers showed some texture in the first color passes, but look at how little pigment made it on to the Johannot (center), even after three passes. These were all inked and baren-rubbed the same way. In fact, they were printed in the order in which they appear here... so it's not like I started with too little ink on the Johannot sheets. (I even rubbed the Johannot sheets harder than the others, but could only get this light ink transfer.)

Here's a comparison a little closer. Kozo on the left, Johannot on the right.
You can also see the difference in paper weights here. The Kozo is much thinner.

The fourth color pass is another gray. More interesting still. The value changes are clear on the Kozo and Johannot... not so much on the Rives. (Far right in the image below.) Hm.

Four colors down and the differences in ink adhesion become more pronounced.
Left to right: Awagami Kozo, Canson Johannot, Rives Lightweight.

Kozo left, Johannot right.

And now the tricky part. Teeny, tiny red bird bills. I hand-inked these by dabbing some pigment on the block. Took no time at all. A half dozen little chips later I was ready for the final black.

All three sheets laid side-by-side again. The Johannot, while interesting, is not a paper I would choose to use very often. The Kozo (left) looks badly wrinkled here... but that's not the paper's fault. I spilled water on the table and didn't notice until after I'd set prints down in it. (sigh) It's good to note, however, that this is probably not a paper that would respond well to damp printing. I always print on dry sheets.

Here is the Johannot (left) side-by-side with the Rives lightweight. I've done the last couple of small prints on the Rives and aside from the fact that it's a warm white I've liked it well enough. Inks seem to be drying much more slowly on it, though. It has a very fine and regular linen-y texture that seems to take ink okay.

But the most intriguing "new" paper is the Awagami Kozo. The paper is a warmer white than I'd like and the texture is a little more pronounced, BUT... this paper seems to love ink. Every pass went down smoothly and with relatively little pressure on the baren. The Kozo is the thinnest of the three papers I compared here, which I am sure contributed to the ease of printing.

For my next piece I'll try the Kozo again. I'm anticipating a larger image, so one of the key questions will be how easy it is to register this thinner paper in a large sheet. The batch I just ordered was shipped in a roll instead of flat, which impacted handling a bit. (Curvy paper requires a little more finesse in the registration jig.) I'm hoping that gravity will do its thing now that I'm storing the remaining sheets flat.

In all, a worthwhile experiment.

One final photo just for grins: All that remained on the block for the final color pass. A reduction print that really lived up to its name.


  1. I used the Awagami Kozo for one of my moku hanga prints; I think it was my domino print and did some on Echizen Kozo and some on Awagami.
    I printed by hand with the baren and waterbased pigments and while the Awagami looked less interesting while I was printing on damp paper- and registration was fine-- When it dried it was pretty close (but not as nice) as the Echizen. But $8.00/sheet vs $21.00/sheet makes it very suitable for some work. And I'll use it again.
    (some of my beetles made it on a few leftover pieces too.)

  2. Hey Andrew! I just discovered through another supplier that Awagami also makes a "hosho type" paper that's REALLY cheap. (Less than $1.00/sheet!) I ordered a few sheets just to see what it's like. I can't imagine...

    I received an Andrew Stone beetle in my exchange set... Such a joy to hold "the real thing" in my hand after watching it develop on your blog. Thank you!

  3. I really am intrigued by your experiment. Will you run the same test using your press? I have been experimenting with kozo papers but can't report so thoroughly. I will be more diligent and share what I have found...Where are you buying your paper?
    And the image is great! I love this one breaking the edge even better than your last one. Nice!

  4. It is interesting how different the papers printed. If the Kozo is more buff color than you'd like there are a lot of options on Hiromi paper I think they offer a sample pack. western paper can be nice but it needs a lot more pressure.

  5. its very helpful seeing how the different papers work, thank you :)

  6. I love the Kozo papers from Awagami. They are strong and versatile and take the ink so well. But sometimes the creamy tint of the paper is not what I want, especially as it's not a very warm cream. They make a white one called Kozo Extra Light, but as its name suggests, it's very thin, and is better printed with a press.
    But thanks for documenting all this experimentation, it's wonderful!

  7. very interesting, and beautiful. so 3-D!!

  8. Thanks for the additional paper tips, Hannah and Elizabeth... It's so hard to judge papers when one is obliged to shop online! It's challenging to even know where to start.

    Hi Jennifer, it's nice to "see" you! Seems like you've been under the weather a bit lately... hope you're feeling spry now!

    Lotus, welcome.. and thanks for taking the time to comment.

  9. Oh, Wendy... I expect eventually I'll spend some time sorting papers out for Elvis. I did do a little of that early on, but haven't spent much time with him lately. And Presszilla is still in limbo in a friend's garage, waiting for a stable (and warm) place to set up. (sigh)