baren 馬連
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Also written 馬棟 or 波連. The most important tool used in the process of woodblock printmaking. A baren is made up of a circular core around which is wrapped a sheathing or skin of bamboo. To make the core, bamboo sheathing is divided into small sections, twisted to form string shapes, and then braided into a circular shape. This is attached to a lacquer-covered circular form called an ategawa 当て皮. The ategawa is made by pasting together about 40 or 50 sheets of thin *minogami 美濃紙 or *ganpishi 雁皮紙, covering the paper with silk gauze, and finishing with lacquer over the gauze. This core of bamboo sheathing and ategawa is then covered with flat bamboo sheathing, which is twisted on one side to form a grip for the hand. A baren is used to apply pressure to the back of paper which has been applied to an inked or colored woodblock, *hangi 版木, in order to produce a print. The printer uses a great deal of energy and pressure to rub the baren over the surface of the paper. The printer will usually begin rubbing from a lower corner near the *kentou 見当 mark that is used for registering the print, and move the baren in a semi-circular motion, ending in an upper corner. In order to not raise a nap on the dampened paper from the pressure of the rubbing, the printer will periodically oil the baren with camellia oil or lamp oil. There are various types and sizes of baren, some of which are classified according to thickness of coils and requirements of the pressure they apply. The kikanu baren 利かぬ馬連 is made with thinner and smaller coils, and is used for ink printing, sumihan 墨版, to impart unique effects in such techniques as *gomazuri ごま摺. The chuukiki baren 中利き馬連 contains larger coils than the kikanu baren, and is used for normal color printing. An even more thickly coiled baren is the kiku baren 利く馬連, which is used for large background areas and sections in which more pressure is needed. These three types of baren are made with what is called the yakko 八っ子 core, which consists of pairs of bamboo sheathing fibers which have been twisted together three times. In the case of printing on thick paper, for example, a core called juurokko 十六っ子 may be used. This core is made in the same way as the yakko, but the pairs of fiber are twisted together one additional time. Other types of baren are also used. A kamibaren 紙馬連 is used for printing small areas of color. A kanebaren 金馬連 is employed for printing such things as cloth. There is also the itobaren 糸馬連, which was used around the end of the Meiji period. Baren have also been made with shibugami 渋紙 wrapping instead of bamboo sheathing. Shibugami is paper that has been treated with persimmon tannin. These baren are commonly called shibubaren 渋馬連. Baren were made by specialist craftsmen from the Edo period up to World War 2. After the war, however, almost all printers have made their own.


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