Henrik Hey

Visual artist
Woodblock printmaker


Photo of the Japanese woodblock printer Tadashi Toda.
Tadashi Toda (printer) and me

Mokuhanga is the Japanese word for printing, using the water-based woodblock technique developed during the Edo period. Moku means wood and hanga can be translated as printing. Here in Europe, prints from the Edo period are widely known from the artists Hokusai and Hiroshige. Hokusai's works include 'The Great Wave At Kanagawa' (from a series of thirty-six views of Mount Fuji) and Hiroshige masterfully captured beautiful landscapes. Further examples, from the same period, include the prints of actors and beautiful women, known as wood block prints of the 'Floating World' or the Ukiyo-e.

My enduring love of mokuhanga began in the year of 2000 when I got the unique chance to take part in the Nagasawa Art-Park, Artist in Residence program, founded by Keiko Kadota. Together with 5 other international artists, I worked and studied in the studio of Nagasawa Heights, for two months. The studio was situated high in the hills of Awaji-island south of Kobe.

Photo of the Japanese carver Shunzu Matsuda
Shunzu Matsuda (carver)

The opportunity to learn this old printing technique has had a big impact on me. I not only changed from working in the technique of silkscreen printing, but also gradually changed my expression in art. The teachers were highly skilled, like the master printer Tadashi Toda, the carver Shunzo Matsuda, both from Kyoto, and Kyoko Sakamoto, from Nagoya University of Art. Paper-making was taught by Yoshiharu Okuda from Awaji-island. It was in the same period that I got the opportunity to make a collaboration project together with artist and printmaker Masahiro Takade called 'The Nagasawa Bird'. After that, the second collaboration woodblock project 'Spring is Here' was finished in 2007.

Mokuhanga is a flexible and non-toxic method to make prints. The working space does not have to be big. Also, this technique does not need a printing press. The printing sessions are all done by hand with a bamboo baren. All ink or colours are water based. The choice of paper is very important for me. Recently, I have been using Japanese kozo paper, 90 gram.

Since my stay in Japan, I have been working exclusively in this traditional Mokuhanga technique. The delicate process that applies to drawing the design, carving, and printing are very time consuming and, thus, leads to the ultimate decision of making limited editions. Every time that I start working on a new print, I realize that the world of mokuhanga for me is endlessly big and constantly filled with new challenges. I am faced daily with finding solutions and making choices to improve my printing technique. Recently, I have been interested in architecture related to wood block print. I try to stay as close as possible to the original design and its colours.

My favorite poet, Robert Frost wrote a beautiful poem, 'The Road Not Taken', about making choices: Working in this old technique with a contemporary way of designing requires quiet concentration and lengthy preparation. I try to radiate that serenity. It is my hope that my prints never disturb the viewer. I do not want my work to scream for attention but, rather, let them express a firm sense of joy. I also strive that the execution of the prints are exceptionally precise and refined.

The collections on this website contain new and old works. All prints are done in the traditional mokuhanga technique.