What is mokulito?


I first discovered mokulito – which means “wood lithography” in Japanese – at a workshop
run by the Polish printmaker Ewa Budka at East London Printmakers. The technique was
originated in Japan in the 1970s by Ozaku Schisi, and has been developed more recently by
Ewa and her father Josef Budka. Like all lithographic techniques, mokulito relies on the fact
that water and oil do not mix. As in traditional lithography, the image is drawn using greasy
inks and crayons onto the printing matrix or plate. Traditionally the “plate” would have been a
polished slab of limestone, but nowadays litho plates are usually made of aluminium or
polyester. The stability of these materials permits hundreds, or even thousands, of almost
identical prints to be pulled from the same plate. In mokulito, however, the plate is made of
an organic substance: wood. As a result the image changes slightlys each time the plate is
printed and degrades relatively quickly, meaning that editions are small and variable, with
results depending on factors such as the species and age of the particular piece of wood and
the weather. Each plate must be printed in a single session, as the image can only very
rarely be preserved to print at a later date, and it is impossible to know the outcome of an
attempt to preserve the image in advance. As the printing session progresses, the grain of
the wood gradually becomes more dominant, often producing the evocative veils of colour
that are so characteristic of this technique. A particular advantage of using wood as the
printing matrix is the possibility of combining mokulito with woodcut, which can be used to
produce contrasting sharp lines and textures that would otherwise be impossible to achieve.