I first went to Noguchi san's katazome studio/house with Minako all these years ago when she wanted to dye some silk for a weft. I had never heard of katazome before and was simply overwhelmed by all the old equipment that was still in use. I've taken many of my guests here to be as overwhelmed as I was initially. (Judi I haven't forgotten your breakdown at the beauty of the place.)
Katazome has been a major part of indigo life here in Japan. It has been eyed rather suspiciously from a distance to tell the truth. Like some object or person in your life you never really noticed, paid much attention to or even loved until one day you can't imagine life without it/him/her. It is here to stay and be acknowledged, celebrated a little and have any suspicions discarded .
Except for an exhibition in Europe a few years back where I cut out stencils of elaborate Buddhist images and used them on antique linen cloth and dyed them with indigo and persimmon tannin to a degree where the images were barely recognisable, I haven't really used the katazome with any true focus.
(On the wall behind Tohei and Annette.)
I travelled to Ise and researched how the paper is made and the traditional stencil carving categories and techniques. The bookcase has a few dozen books on Japanese stencil dyeing. I've visited studios and exhibitions. Given talks about stencils in Japan. Designed and cut hundreds of stencils.
I've taught countless people how to cut stencils, lacquer on silk reinforcement net, make rice paste, paste and indigo dye the cloth. I haven't worked on any long term projects myself. Realising how much time I've spent on life with katazome and not accomplished much I figure it is time to up the volume a bit.
Now with the knitting machines working and a cotton/ linen paper thread balance has been worked out, there is a growing stack of white knit fabric upstairs that needs some katazome surface design. I designed a few good scarves and wraps that are selling. There is plenty of room for improvement and more product design. I have a teacher come in and teach me pattern making and sewing classes a few hours each Wednesday at the Atsugi studio. The middle term goal is to indigo and persimmon stencil dye some knit fabric I make on those old machines and develop (design and make) some men's shirts and cardigans and scarves and find a market for them.
Last year, due to time restrictions, I used a combination of stencils drawn and cut myself with old stencils I bought at antique markets. A few of the bought ones are well over 150 years old. I re-lacquered them and have used them so much that they are disintegrating. It was cool to give them one more shot at life. Sad to see that they won't last much longer.
You can use the old stencils in a way they were not intended and you can admire the genius of the design. The time trip to the culture and time that the stencils design and technique came from is invigorating.
It is cool to sing other peoples songs. But the satisfaction of writing and composing your own is different. (Even if they are not up Neil Young standards.) The same with the stencils. (Not up to the Edo masters standards.)
It is only natural to want to cut all original stencils for the knit project now.
One of the very old, worn out stencils is this wave pattern. It seemed a little banal at first. But if you scrape the paste across and then slightly shift the stencil and re-apply it makes an interference pattern that is interesting and easy on the eye. Since the goal is not to have perfectly lined up repeat patterns and a cold perfectionism it is fine to do this. The stencil has been in tatters time and time again and it has been painstakingly patched.
It was time to carve a new one. I ended up netting both sides of the stencil and as a result the paste started clogging up. Grfrrrrrrrr. It was no longer fun to use. It was a late Maria Callas concert. Plenty of adoration and respect but there comes a time to retire.