Elaine Chandler Interview continued...

McClain's: What other mediums have influenced your work?

Elaine Chandler: I have always aspired to do watercolors and be able to do them well.  You know how it is when artists are confronted by a pristine sheet of paper, well Moku Hanga has allowed me to work with watercolor with none of the anxiety of ruining that pristine sheet of paper; to ‘say’ what I wanted to say and not sweat the mistakes.  My experience with Moku Hanga has given me the confidence to take up the brush again.  Currently, I work back and forth between painting and printmaking, ideas from each complementing the other.  And while it has not been my usual method of operation, I find myself using a few of the paintings as the basis of new prints.  The print on the cover of McClain’s 2005 catalog was the result of a painting that did not quite make it, at least not yet.


McClain's: Tell us about your studio.

Elaine Chandler: After 25 years of creating Japanese woodcuts in a variety of studios away from home, my new studio is in an unfinished, spare basement room in our house.  So far the benefits have outweighed any drawbacks.  The only competition for studio time seems to occur on sunny days when the garden sings its Siren song.  There are two major benefits to having that basement room as a studio.  The first is the convenience of proximity which I have come to treasure. The second, an unforeseen benefit, has been the consistently cool temperature and higher humidity ideal for Moku Hanga .  In my past studio spaces, the fluctuations in temperature and humidity required adjustments on a daily basis, and in the summer, sometimes hourly, in order to maintain consistent printing results.  I suspect that most artists would be somewhat horrified to know that my studio has no windows, no outside light.  I have solved this issue with color corrected lighting.  It has worked very well and as a colorist sensitive to any changes that might skew my perception of color, I am pleased.  On the other hand, with no windows there are no distractions!  It helps to silence those garden Sirens’ songs when necessary.

McClain's: Do your initial ideas change during the course of working?

Elaine Chandler: For the most part, many of the initial ideas do end up in the finished work; however, I never feel bound to try to force everything originally conceived into a print.  My prints evolve, and I allow the process of printing to dictate direction.  I firmly believe in happy accidents, serendipity if you will.  I always tell my students to initially accept what they might perceive as a mistake, to continue proofing the print before trying to make any corrections.  I’ve had too many slips of the knife or ‘errors’ in printing that have turned out to actually enhance the finished print.  So hang loose!

McClain's: Can you give some advice to beginners?

Elaine Chandler: First of all, purchase the very best, sharpest tools your budget allows.  There is nothing more discouraging than having tools that will not carve well, will not hold an edge and in the end are impossible to sharpen.
Secondly, this may be a low tech medium, but that does not mean Moku Hanga is easy to master. To become proficient, one must regularly practice the techniques and learn to feel the nuances.  Most of the medium is simply learned from hands-on experience.  In Japan , a master printer is required to spend five intensive years as an apprentice before being deemed an accomplished printer.

McClain's: Where can we see your work? 


Elaine Chandler: Currently I am working on building a body of prints and paintings and will be looking for a local gallery as well as a new one in Portland , OR .  My gallery of 21 years there recently closed.  I still show at the Hoffman Gallery at Oregon College of Art and Craft and am affiliated with the Rental Sales Gallery of the Portland Art Museum and I will have more work there once the remodeling of the North Wing is completed. 

McClain's: What is a typical print edition size for you?  


Elaine Chandler: Edition size varies from 10 to 30 depending on the size and complexity of the print.

McClain's: Tell us about the interest level in woodblock printmaking in recent times.

Elaine Chandler: Interest in Japanese wood block printmaking has grown a great deal in the past 14 years and I think it has especially escalated in the past five years.  I’m sure that McClain’s customer list reflects the increase in  Moku Hanga workshops as well as art institute and university classes.   When you have wonderful instructors like the late Bill Paden of NYC  and now Karen Kunc of the University of Nebraska Lincoln who perfected their knowledge of the medium in Japan and have returned to teach here, well, you end up with a growing cadre of wonderful artists proficient in the techniques who in turn conduct classes and workshops.  When I first had the opportunity to study Japanese woodcut techniques in 1980, it was a novelty, techniques that few knew at that time.  Until 1979 when Robert McClain began his small business of importing the necessary tools, wood, paper, brushes, etc., there was really no source in this country of the supplies essential for Moku Hanga .  As interest in non-toxic forms of printmaking grew, so did the interest in Moku Hanga .