So what motivated the project? The Book Arts Guild of Vermont is in the midst of hosting a challenge where participants create an edition of prints, exchange them, and then create a book incorporating the full set of prints. The book has to be completed by May – I’m so thankful that I have two months to get that done.
Since I still seem to be in my post-Japan bliss, I decided to use my trip as inspiration for my print. During my trip, I discovered so many things that added to its unending charm. Among them – manhole covers (a.k.a. manhoru). Yes, this is totally a thing.
Each municipality in Japan has its own manhole cover design, with different colors, patterns, and themes. According to an article on deMilked, the practice started in an effort to promote the importance of funding sewage projects. Estimates have the number of different manhoru at about 6,000. According to an article on Colossal, the most popular design is trees, followed by landscapes, flowers, and birds.
I really wish I had noticed them sooner, although if I had, I probably would have spent all of my time looking at the ground instead of what was in front of me.
So, now that I’ve given you a lengthy introduction, here’s the Tokyo manhole cover that inspired my edition:
I monkeyed with the image in Photoshop until I was able to reduce it to a black and white image. It took a really.long.time. Swearing happened.
Here’s the final image:
As you can see, I took some creative license and eliminated the holes and the writing on the left side. I wanted a uniform image.
Screen burning time! I printed out the image using my laser printer and burned a Gocco screen. Next, I surrounded my image with ink block to help keep the ink from spreading.
Ink mixing time! I wanted a dirty bronze color, which required five different inks to achieve.
Inking time! Next, I applied the ink to the burned screen…
…and slid the screen into my Gocco.
Printing time! Next thing I know, there were these:
Something weird happened during printing, which caused a very minor smudgy thing. You probably can’t even see it, but I can. Don’t ask me to tell you what I’m talking about because my lips are sealed.
I am thrilled with the results! Due to my total lack of creativity in naming, I settled on naming the edition Manhole.
Next mission – the swapped book of prints. I’ll be writing about that project when it gets going.
In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Japanese manhole covers, you’ve got a few options:
- Check out the book Drainspotting by Remo Camerota
- View the more than 1,500 photos by S. Morita, THE go-to dude for images of manhoru
- Visit the website for the Japan Manhole Cover Society (Note: The website is in Japanese and looks sketchy, but it’s totally legit. If you click on the links, you’ll be taken to images of manhole covers, along with information about their locations.)
And lastly, be sure to read book artist Louise Levergneux blog posts about her fascination with manhole covers (she calls them city shields). Her work isn’t just limited to Japan, but has a worldwide focus.