How to work with Tosa Washi sans illustrations

Finally there is a sign of progress in regards to printing on Tosa Washi. I completely revamped my approach to making negatives by designing a QTR printer profile. Despite the recent push to use matte black ink for inkjet negatives, I have stuck with the glossy black strictly because of the expense of swapping out black ink on the Epson 4800. It seems to block plenty of UV. The dried down prints show no sign of a change in Dmax in the ground which can accompany the dark ground where the edge of the transparency lies.

Here’s a brief workflow for handling the paper, without illustrations. At some point I will include an entry with pictures but I am short on time which will make sense in a couple of days.

Coating 30 gsm Tosa Washi

1. I use a 3 inch wide synthetic bristle brush, which gets primed with distilled water prior to coating. I run the brush against the sides of the distilled water dish to discharge as much of the distilled water as possible.

2. The paper is placed on a piece of felt. I am using an 11 x 14 inch size piece for paper that is about 9″ x 12″. I use two strips of poplar weighted down with a stainless steel straight edge and a large wrench. These go to the left and right edges of the paper to keep it from moving during coating. I coat on the smooth side of the paper.

3. I brush initially in one direction from left to right, dipping the brush into the palladium / ferric oxalate mix for each pass. After creating four rows, I build up emulsion on the right side by starting at the bottom and brushing in one direction upwards. The action of the brushing goes from fast to slow. Fast at the start of a row or column and slower as you get to the other side. I use about 80 drop total for the 9″ x 12″ size paper.

4. I hang the paper on a clothesline, allowing it to air dry for thirty minutes.

Print Frame and exposure.

5. I lay a sheet of card stock weight paper on the felt of spring back of the print frame.

6. Next comes the coated sheet emulsion up.

7. I use a sheet of clear mylar  as a barrier between the negative and the coated paper. The paper has a lot of emulsion on it.

8. The negative is placed upon the mylar and the split back is assemble together.


9. Exposures have been running around 60 minutes to 90 minutes in a BL fluorescent exposure unit. I do use a Stouffer’s step tablet and expose to just barely make out the distinction between step 7 and 8.

10. It is very hard to gauge exposure so I recommend smaller coated pieces of paper as test strips.

Development and clearing:

11. I use a piece of Plexiglass that is slightly smaller than the tray but larger than the print to transport it between trays.

12. Always, always, always have chemistry in the tray before placing the print into the tray. The only modification to this is developer. I place the print into a tray with the Plexiglass with 80 percent of the developer. Once the paper has absorbed the developer from the reverse side, I pour the remaining developer onto the surface.

13. The paper is strong but prone to damage towards the end of clearing. I place the plexi and print into a slightly tilted tray with running water. The water strikes the tray in the upper left corner and monitor the print for five minutes taking care that the print does not roll up on itself or travel underneath the running water.

14. The washed print is transported on the plexiglass to a table. I place a piece of blotter paper on top and lightly brayer the blotter paper. I then peel off the print from the Plexiglass and transfer it to a clean drying screen.

The prints have a bit of texture from the drying process and will need to be smoothed out with a clothes iron or dry mount press. Experiment with overexposed / underexposed prints.





osage orange and black walnut system

The one comment that really sticks in mind from the summer residency in Boston is from Drew Ippoliti who is currently working on his PhD in London. “Artists are problem makers, not problem solvers!”

I’ve given myself several problems over the last two weeks. The problems I haven’t successfully solved are due to time constraints, defective paper and a complicated lighting set-up.

I am trying directional lighting to evoke the look of a Voyager image which is alleged to be the first photograph to show the Earth / Moon system together in one frame. Perhaps you can recognize the Black Walnut and Osage Orange I am using as surrogates for a planet and moon.

I am showing you an ugly print. Once time permits, I will upload the final version.

my next big thing


This is the layout for the next multi section van dyke brown piece I am making for in vivo. These are the negatives used for the print exposures done today. Thirty-five minutes per group of four.

Tomorrow I’ll be processing about seventeen of these. I’ll have two extra blanks and four unexposed, coated pieces of paper in reserve because I do not work in a perfect universe.

what a mess I’ve made

The devil is in the details from what I’ve heard. Here are some current details.

I’ve thawed out the remaining poke berries from last fall given to me by Nate Smyth. What a mess I’ve made!


I also invented something to make my job easier. The crushed pokeberries make a thick liquid which is more syrupy than watery. A good potion of this syrup clings to the seeds.

In order to avoid rinsing the seeds with water to reclaim as much pigment as possible I developed a press to push out the liquid. I used three plastic containers, two are pint size and one is quart size (which becomes the default collection container). The middle container gets holes drilled into the bottom. This middle container holds the seeds and syrup slurry which I push down upon with an empty container with a lid closure.

All the containers share the same diameter (and lids), so they fit into each other (creating a stack). Since the largest container has more depth than the smaller containers, it never comes into contact with the liquid being separated from the seeds.


A note of warning. The previously frozen berries create an environment for fast decomposition. Gasses will build up in the bottles in which the liquid is collected. Leave lots of space in the bottle to prevent a magenta explosion!

Finally, I bought some fabric to make the lab coat and have done a small test coating of the material. This swatch will become the upper pocket on the front of the lab coat.