Thursday, 26 August 2010

Katazome Technique

When teaching students about katazome they often freak out because they "can't draw". I found an easy way around this and it eliminates the hours of them torturing themselves over what pattern to cut in the stencil. I simply cut some flower or branch from the garden and have them trace the shadow on the persimmon paper. Then using a clever technique of a Japanese blind as a way to keep the stencil strong I have them cut out the pattern. You get a flower behind the screen look. It always works.

I held a blooming yellow iris last spring well Eri drew the outline on the paper. The stencil turned out wonderful. Here, I had her dye it with indigo. We re-pasted/resisted the material and then dyed it over ten consecutive days with persimmon tannin to get the deep browns. (Persimmon tannin needs a heavy dose of ultra-violet rays to change color.) The interference pattern where the stencil was slightly ( intentionally ) offset gives the work a retro-Asian shabby-chic look.

Eri was clever and used the technique to carve a stencil of grass and insects. We paste resited the edge of a soft cotton Japanese towel/scarf tenugui . It came out so cool and elegant that other students have asked to use her stencil to make their own. It has been a scorching hot sweltering summer. A light delicate tenugui not only makes you feel cooler just looking at it but functions well as an elegant sweat wipe.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Another Summer Yukata

Kawamoto san and I worked together to determine the pattern on her yukata project at the Tuesday class at my house. The result came out of the indigo vat this afternoon. Different stitching tensions helped add a nuanced finish to this masterpiece. This is also one of her very first pieces of Shibori. Almost unbelievable.

Un-oxidized indigo fresh from the bath:

The other students helped her undo the binding in time for a quick look as the sun went down:

Hinode Shibori/ Sunrise Shibori

Stitched, tied and wrapped and ready to dye:

Dyed ten tines and ready to unwrap:

The finished Yukata:

Takeshima san went to to great lengths to finish this charming tie-dye summer linen/cotton yukata. It must have taken her a few hundred hours to stitch then tie and wrap and then untie and unwrap this whimsical yet precise masterpiece. I forgot to mention the full sweltering day slaving over and in the indigo vat dipping and squeezing it over ten times to get the dark blues. She sewed it up herself and will now move on to the next project, a persimmon dyed obi/belt to go with it.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Backstrap Looms

An Izaribata or Jibata is a traditional type of Japanese loom that is used specifically for tight weaves of natural fibers such as hemp and nettle. It is also used for weaving ragweave as it can be beaten to a tight windbreak-proof weave. They are also used to weave Yuki Tsumugi the un-spun silk in the Yuki area. The weave is tight. Ones body actually becomes part of the loom controlling the tautness of the warp. The warp is beaten with both the reed as well as the baton-like shuttle with the tightness partially controlled with the weaver's back tension resulting in the tightest weave possible.
Here Yokoyama san is trying out a back strap loom.

There are pro's and cons to this kind of loom. You can't weave fast. You are almost stuck with plain weave. But you can weave tight and you are forced to think of what the essence of beautiful piece of cloth is because you are working with such a primitive and sensitive type of loom.

Kasuri Perfectionism

Ikat and Kasuri are the words commonly used to describe the process of dying a design into the threads before they are woven on either/both the warp and weft. Here are just a few images to see how fine and elegant the Japanese masters have taken this art. The warp and weft are finely resisted with cotton thread and then dyed. Several colors can be dyed onto a single thread. The non repeating patterns of the weft are painstakingly copied from a pattern and marked with a sumi dipped piece of bamboo.

1500 Years of Silk Weaving in Yuki Villages

Eleven students and I paid a visit to the Yuki area north of Tokyo in Ibaragi and Tochigi prefectures on Tuesday. The area is famous for producing the world's only unspun/thrown type of silk weave in the world. The ikat/kasuri rolls of silk for one kimono go for about $20 000 - $60 000 US dollars.

What a brilliant day. We visited four different organizations. Each extremely informative and friendly. We were all taken aback and impressed beyond words.

The fabrics were heavenly. The craftspeople talented and patient beyond words.

1500 years of painstakingly making silk floss and pulling it into fine threads..not spinning or reeling it. There are 40 different steps between the silk cocoon and the finished roll of silk. Each step requiring extraordinarily care and well...1500 years of perfectionism.

I could fill a moths blog on just that one day excursion. I wanted to see some specific parts of the entire process to fill in some technical holes in my own work.

I wanted to look carefully at the Japanese technique of making a thread heddle set. We watched a master at work for an hour and I learned volumes from her resourceful and graceful hands.