Block Cutting and the Planning of Blocks

The cutting of a line block needs patience and care and skill, but it is not the most difficult part of print making, nor is it so hopeless an enterprise as it seems at first to one who has not tried to use the block-cutter's knife.

In Japan this work is a highly specialised craft, never undertaken by the artist himself, but carried out by skilled craftsmen who only do this part of the work of making colour prints. Even the clearing of the spaces between the cut lines is done by assistant craftsmen or craftswomen.

The exquisite perfection of the cutting of the lines in the finest of the Japanese prints, as, for instance, the profile of a face in a design by Outamaro, has required the special training and tradition of generations of craftsmen.

The knife, however, is not a difficult weapon to an artist who has hands and a trained sense of form. In carrying out his own work, moreover, he may express a quality that is of greater value even than technical perfection.

At present we have no craftsmen ready for this work—nor could our designs be safely trusted to the interpretation of Japanese block-cutters. Until we train craftsmen among ourselves we must therefore continue to cut our own blocks.