Antique markets in Japan always have a few stalls selling rolls of these stencils for someone to purchase and use as an interior design object. Lampshades or perhaps to be framed. Very few people know how the stencils were actually used. We were there to purchase stencils we could use as well as glean ideas for stencils we could design and cut ourselves. Some were just so breathtaking in their complexity we bought them just to have and marvel at on a rainy day. This was an untouched intact, previously unpicked over jackpot of katagami stencils. Oh la la.
Uncomfortably rummaging, not only through someone's life but also through a nearly extinct and breathtaking kimono dyeing technique was both debilitating as well as invigorating. We were seriously burnt-out after a few hours of evaluating stencils as our eyes and criteria sharpened with each hundred leafed-through, while filling out our personal collections.
Many of the stencils came in bundles of 30. Wrap your head around this.... It would take 30 (or many more) individually hand-carved stencils, for each colour and to resist areas with rice-paste to dye the background colours. These were for Edo Sarasa stencil technique kimono from the 1960's through to the late 80's when the craftsman had passed away.
A book could be written about the pile of stencils and sketches and cloth samples on the table beside me. It hasn't been written and I don't have the time to do it. Just a blog entry.
With some bundles of stencils were the hand drawn original sketches for the patterns that also acted as colour keys for the dyer to use. Here are a few I picked up. You can see the Indian and Arabic influences along with the pure Japanese stuff. These are the patterns that would be repeatedly dyed on 14 meters of silk with seamless accuracy. A thousand hours of work? More?