Creation of ukiyo-e involves three stages: illustrating, woodcarving and printing, with each process requiring a skillful craftsperson. The publisher, called the hanmoto, coordinates these three processes to bring a piece of ukiyo-e to completion.
Once the principal woodblock, or omohan, has been carefully carved based on the illustrator's work, the next step is to create the iroita woodblocks that will be used to apply each color. The number of iroita needed depends on the design. The KISS ukiyo-e took 20 to 24 blocks, which is above the average number for such an endeavor.
The printer then works to carefully rub each successive color layer onto the final print paper. The usual printing process for an ukiyo-e requires 15 to 20 color passes, but the KISS ukiyo-e took more than 90 passes!
People of the day used to receive news of fashion, travel and society through ukiyo-e, which explains why so many surviving images you can see today still show landscapes, famously beautiful women, Kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers. These extraordinary skills have been passed on for more than 300 years, and are now recognized as a Japanese Traditional Handicraft by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
However, ukiyo-e is now facing the crisis of extinction, and there are currently only nine master carvers and 30 printers left in the entire world. The Ukiyo-e Project teamed with U.S.-based Epic Rights, the global brand management firm for rock legends KISS, to launch a collaborative ukiyo-e artwork project in the tradition of depicting major figures of the modern world through ukiyo-e.
The third round of limited-edition KISS ukiyo-e went on sale March 18, 2016. Entitled Ukiyo-ikiotoko Seppun Yonin-shu Paul Stanley (roughly, Sophisticated Men of the Present World, the Four-Person Group Kiss: Paul Stanley), the image (above right) is based on Utagawa Kuniyoshi's Men of Ready Money with True Labels Attached, Kuniyoshi Style (1845, above left).
Just 200 prints are available: 100 signed by the KISS rhythm guitarist and co-lead singer (¥237,600), and 100 unsigned (¥108,000). Designed by illustrator Masumi Ishikawa, the prints are 48 centimeters by 34 centimeters (19 in x 13 in), and can be found at the site below.