Chris Raper: Extremely hand-made art for ordinary people to consume
Chris has only been collecting woodblock prints for 3 years but was initially attracted to ukiyo-e after visiting the British Museum's Shunga exhibition in 2013. The challenges of identification and the opportunities to use these prints as a door into learning about Asian cultures and history is a key driver for him.
What appeals to Chris about collecting ukiyo-e is the combination of identification challenges but also an interest in Japanese history and culture, which is expressed through these images. The images themselves are also artistically "different" to a lot of Western art and thought provoking. He also enjoys the fact that these were still extremely hand-made art for ordinary people to consume, not elite one-off art or mass produced mechanized prints.
Chris has some valuable advice for novice collectors.
Buy what you like and enjoy but try not to be sucked into buying very damaged pieces or orphaned sheets that do not stand up well on their own. With auctions try not to get into a mindset that this will be your only chance to own a particular print - many prints come up for sale often because many hundreds were produced of each. If the piece is too expensive then pass and hope to pick up something just as interesting on another day. Don't forget to budget for decent archival storage to conserve these delicate prints.
Chris finds it too difficult to choose his "favorite" prints because his favorites change all the time and might be favorites for different reasons - some may be aesthetically pleasing, while others have an interesting story. His favorite artists are Kunichika, Chikayoshi, and Chikashige.
Chris is very active on the ukiyo-e Facebook group sites, where he often posts woodblock prints along with details about the actors, performance, and artist. He also helps other members decipher details and identify their prints.
Chris has an excellent blog page that describes how to research ukiyo-e and understand the various parts of a print. See the screenshot below of a section of his blog page. I recommend everyone should check this out.