The Artist’s Process

wood block hand carved

A Single Woodblock

The single woodblock is cut, from which the full color image is printed. Shown here reflecting the light of the flash. Figure 2 shows the basic one color print from the block and Figure 3 shows the final full color print from the same block.


In traditional letterpress printing the strength of the impression is varied by adding paper packing behind the printed sheet. This has the effect of increasing the pressure in the press, thereby darkening the image. This packing must be adjusted for each block and can be saved for use later, giving it the old printer’s term “makeready”.

Unique Method for Printing Color

The traditional method for making multiple color images is to cut one block for each color. The resulting layered colors produce the final multi color print. Ilse has developed her own method for printing color with just one block. She does this by carefully controlling the printing pressure in various parts of the image. The press mechanism delivers very consistent pressure with each impression, this makes the addition of as little as one layer of tissue paper in the packing, the makeready, form a noticeably darker image.

Coloring the Prints

To form the image for a particular color run, in this case the yellow, Ilse essentially sculpts the packing material to form a custom makeready that prints a very specific version of the block. The successive colors each have their own makeready tailored to print parts of the image in that color.

Color Plates

These makereadies, layered with loose combinations of papers, prints, glue , and tape become the artist’s color plates themselves leaving the other half of her work, the woodblock, as a pure, simple, unified idea – one feeling for one image, modulated in color at the time of printing not during cutting.

Figure 1 – The wood block

Figure 2 – Black only

Figure 3 – Yellow

Figure 4 – Full Color

Figure 5 – The Makeready