Ukiyo-e Woodblock prints
Ukiyo-e Woodblock prints
Shokunin (featured in video interview) : Nagao
Origin: Tokyo prefecture
How to customize: Send an email to email@example.com with the subject line "ukiyo-e custom". We can talk about your design and the estimated time and investment it will take.
Dimensions (purchase includes frame):
(Print without frame; listed in order of appearance)
"One Hundred Phases of the Moon" - Width 225 mm / Length 330 mm
"The Amida Waterfall on the Kiso Road" - Width 255 mm / Length 370 mm
To you, the Edo period was the real Japan.
You see the fine lines of Ukiyo-e woodblock prints and admire the simplicity with which people lived back then.
A time of peace where art proliferated throughout the streets and elite backrooms alike.
Samurai and Kabuki legends. Bijin or Beautiful women. Yokai characters. Erotic Shunga.
And most of all nature in all its variety and omnipresence.
All of these images enrapture your mind with the Japan you know and love.
But whenever you look for authentic works online, you run into machine-printed, carbon-copied, shallow shells of the original.
You simply cannot find Ukiyo-e woodblock prints that are created in the same method used hundreds of years ago.
And for good reason…the artisans that make Ukiyo-e woodblock prints in their original form are a dying breed.
This is why I went to Taito City in Tokyo to interview some of the last artisans (shokunin) creating woodblock prints through the original process.
The Nagao brothers spend essentially all of their waking time sitting in their studio pouring every ounce of their energy into preserving this fading art.
While they are true shokunin to the core, they struggle with getting the word out about their work.
Fortunately, I’ve documented their process and philosophy in creating these relics that depict everyday life in Edo Japan.
When you add any of the woodblock prints pictured here to your collection, you get access to their exclusive video interview.
You can also order something custom.
Although there aren’t many illustrators left in Taito City (they told me they didn’t know anyone living), where Ukiyo-e work flourished for decades, the Nagao brothers say they can recreate mostly anything into a woodblock print.
They just need the design.
Keep in mind though, they are a team of two. They also have a backlist of clients, including big corporations.
Creating a custom design means that they must first carve a woodblock specifically based on your design. Many prints need at least 30 woodcuts to create a single print.
After the woodcuts are ready, they use ink, a special glue, and a unique brush to imprint your design onto washi paper.
And because they don’t use computers or smartphones, I have to physically bring the print to them in Tokyo to discuss your vision, etc.
Add all of this together and you will have to wait some time and spend more.
But that makes it all the more valuable considering the bleak future of this artform.
Whether you want to show your friends and families the ancient Japan you love, or new designs you’ve done yourself, these Ukiyo-e woodblock prints add a unique atmosphere to your home.
One where you acknowledge and absorb the values of the Edo period - living with nature, peace over war, and a fierce dedication to creativity and whatever fruits it may bring.
The other option is simply to stick to Etsy copies from creators unknown.
The choice is yours.