Friday, 8 August 2014

Making Katazome Rice Paste/ Harvesting Indigo.

It was sweltering at the stencil studio yesterday. Dripping sweat didn't dampen our enthusiasm much. Only a few scorching minutes that seemed to drag on for eternity. It was worth it.

The stencils are resisted with a rice paste. Each master seems to have their own recipe. The basic ingredients are glutinous rice flour, fine rice bran and slaked lime. According to the material being stencilled and the complexity and fineness of the stencil itself the elasticity and thickness of the paste is adjusted. The paste is also used to size the 6 meter long boards to attach the cloth to. The material must be stuck on firmly but leave no paste residue on the back when peeled off. Each sizing of the board lasts approximately five uses.

We boiled the balls of mochi rice paste on an old wood fire stove for three hours and then stirred and mixed and added the boiling goop water to get the exact right consistency. It was an overwhelming amount of sensory information. Our eyes met in disbelief at the process and rolled upwards in solidarity worship of these master craftsmen.

Next the rice bran was prepared with lime and water to perfect the elasticity of the paste.

The paste used to size the boards has no bran. The motions took us a while to understand and will take hours of practice to really get.

I soaked soybeans overnight in water and then smushed them in this mortar. The juice was strained out and then mixed with a red pigment and some pine soot.

We will make hanten festival jackets but first needed to practice on cheap cotton to get the technique for painting on the pigments and then resisting the colours and dipping to get an indigo background. 

We are up late tonight designing and cutting stencils for use tomorrow. It has been a long day. We were up early harvesting indigo this morning. Looks like an exceptionally good crop this year. Thanks to all the sunshine and manure. The sun and a slight breeze helped dry out the leaves to a dark blue in a few hours. The smell of drying indigo is sublime.


  1. I recently started reading your blog-find if very interesting and informative thanks for sharing Kathy

  2. How amazing. thank you for sharing the experience...

  3. Japan in August and a wood fire? can't imagine how you're not all fried. the indigo field looks amazing. my little patch is starting to flower - a month early -it has been hot here,too.

  4. What an amazing adventure, Bryan. Forever learning.

  5. wow. just wow. and then the indigo, all blueing as it dries.

  6. just found your blog---great; thanks a lot!!! Greetings from La Palma, Anu