You are about to view the second set of 'exchange' prints made by members of [Baren] - the Internet Forum for Woodblock Printmaking. The first was produced earlier this year, and upon its completion, discussions immediately arose on the possibility of repeating the experience. That original exchange had been not only informative and educational for the participants, but fun as well, and the group soon agreed that a format for further print exchanges should be established. That was done, and even as this second set of prints is being distributed to the participants, a third set is already in preparation, and a fourth is being planned.
Unlike the first [Baren] exchange, this one has turned out to be an exclusively North American affair. Looking through the names and addresses of the participants, one sees only two addresses outside this area (and these two people are North Americans living overseas). This obviously reflects the very high level of penetration of the internet into North American culture - far in advance of most other areas of the world. The [Baren] membership as a whole though (90+ members as I write), is not so exclusively American. Looking through the roster of names, I see email addresses that identify members as living in Brazil, Japan, Australia, Indonesia, England, Pakistan, Austria, Israel, Portugal, and Mexico. It is to be hoped that members in these places will feel inspired by the production of this set of prints to actively take part in future exchanges. Only when this happens can [Baren] consider itself to be a truly international group.
But [Baren] is still very young, not yet two years old. When I first started the forum, I could not have imagined that nearly 100 people with an interest in woodblock prints could be found - let alone that they would involve themselves so enthusiastically in the group discussions. And as for the idea that members would be willing to spend the length of time necessary to produce prints like the ones in this collection, merely for the pleasure of taking part ... this never crossed my mind. Here the prints are though, each one the product of many hours of work (that's the wrong word!) at carving and printing benches.
In as much as [Baren] has a mission to promote the wider practice of this ancient craft, this Exchange folio has an important part to play. No one can understand or love woodblock prints without having the experience of seeing them 'in the flesh', close at hand. Illustrations in books mean nothing. In the years to come, how many people will see one of the copies of this collection, and through that contact, will themselves become captivated by woodblock prints? It is of course impossible to say, but I know that each of us will share the same hope - that our prints will help show the world just how beautiful woodblock prints can be.
Let me end this little introduction with the same words that I used for the first Exchange, just a few months ago. There are none more suitable ...
I hope you enjoy viewing our collection as much as we enjoyed making it!
[Baren] forum list-owner
Tokyo, July 1999
(Special thanks to member John Amoss for coordinating this exchange)