applying nori | furoshiki three

Knowing that the nori is now the right consistency, I can happily move on to applying paste to a third stencil which can dry while I take some time to colour mix a new range of colours using straight 3% dye mixtures.

I chose to work with the first katagami stencil that I drew and cut for my JUMP project - the jitensha design in the urban series. Below are a few action shots of the pasting process.

The jitensha stencil pasted with nori

The big reveal...

Jitensha furoshiki drying after adding sand and stretching with shinshi


furoshiki two | pavement

The second furoshiki - the pavement pattern from the urban series - is finished. Dyed, fixed and washed.

This furoshiki was over-dyed using the same strength of dye as the background colour and, as suspected, the dye mixture wasn't strong enough. The design is far more subtle than intended.

I'll take some more time to colour mix using straight 3% dye mixtures (rather than watering 3% mixtures down). Challenge accepted!


fixing | furoshiki two

These furoshiki have been fixed using a liquid sodium silicate solution. This solution is painted directly on to the front of the furoshiki which is then rolled up in plastic for 2 hours before being washed thoroughly in water to remove the nori and any excess dye.

I find this part of the process to be one of the most exciting as well as the most harrowing. There is nothing more you can do at this point in time except to wait for the design to be revealed...


furoshiki two | dyed and ready to fix

Three layers of dye have been applied to the second furoshiki and it is now ready to fix and wash.

You can tell the density and depth of dye, as well as the colour, when you look at the reverse of the furoshiki.

Below are a couple of images of the back of the second furoshiki before fixing. I am a little concerned that the dye mixtures used in the over-dyeing process might be too light but this won't be revealed until the design is fixed and washed.


dyeing | furoshiki two

Now that the second furoshiki has been pasted with nori, it is time for the over-dyeing  process.

Below are a few images of the furoshiki after two layers of dye have been applied. There is one more dry dye layer to go before fixing and washing out.


applying nori | furoshiki two

With the batch of nori resurrected after returning it to a bowl over a boiling pot of water to reduce the moisture content, the second furoshiki was ready to be pasted.

To test the nori I decided to paste one of the more intricate patterns in the urban series - the final pavement design.

The nori appeared to be a much better consistency this time with no bleeding when the stencil was removed. It would seem that this stage has been rectified successfully. Yippee!


furoshiki one | tenjiburokku

The first furoshiki is done. This furoshiki is tenjiburokku from the urban series - designed, katagami stencil cut, nori applied, dyed, fixed and washed.

Not a perfect rendition, which is always a little disappointing when so many hours have gone into the production of a piece, but I knew that the paste was too wet and hopefully I am able to take steps to ensure that this problem won't affect the next piece.

You can see in the images below that the dye lines are a little fuzzy and the density of the colour, especially in the fine lines, is not as dark as it should be in certain spots. This is because the moisture that seeped into the fabric when the nori was applied through the stencil inhibited the absorption of the dye in the next stage of the process.

The nori will need to be thicker with less moisture in the paste. The current batch of nori can possibly be resurrected by returning it to a bowl over boiling water and heating it until it re-thickens and loses some of the moisture content.

Onwards and upwards from here!


dyeing | furoshiki one

A few images of the first furoshiki which has been dyed 3 times over the resist paste using the same strength dye mixture as the background colour.

It is definitely not as crisp as it should be but time will tell how much clarity has been lost because of the moisture in the paste. The next step is to fix the dye and wash the paste off.


applying nori | furoshiki one

Ready to paste the first furoshiki - this is where the batch of nori comes in.

At this point the fabric is stretched taut on the table and nori is squeegeed through the hand cut katagami stencil onto the fabric.

After the paste has been applied, very fine sawdust would usually be sprinkled on top to draw moisture to the surface of the nori to assist with the drying process.

I was unable to find sawdust fine enough locally, and substituted sawdust for sand. The sand seems to have worked quite well in place of the sawdust on this design.
Ready to apply nori to the first furoshiki
The first furoshiki - pasted with the stencil removed
A detail of the furoshiki with paste and sand applied

After applying nori to this first design it was clear straight away that the nori was too wet. The mixture contained too much water and bled slightly underneath the stencil.

Any bleeding interferes with the next stage when dye is applied over the resist, so it is very likely that this particular furoshiki won't dye as clearly and crisply as it is meant to. Despite knowing that there is a very good chance that this furoshiki won't be up to scratch, I intend to finish it as a test piece.


making nori

The time has come to make nori - the resist paste used in the katazome process. I anticipate that I will need to make a few batches before the end of the project because even with the addition of salt and slated lime (as preservatives) each batch will only keep for a few weeks.

Nori is predominantly made from a mixture of super fine rice bran and sweet rice flour. I haven't been able to find rice bran which is fine enough here in Australia and consequently bought a healthy supply from Tanaka Nao Seryoten (a specialist dye store in Kyoto, Japan) for this project.

After sifting and mixing the rice bran and rice flour, a little water is added to create a dough-like mixture which is then steamed for a few hours. After steaming, the nori is mixed vigorously while still hot until it reaches a smooth consistency with no lumps.

Salt and slaked lime are added to this smooth paste at the end of this process to preserve the mixture for slightly longer. The nori is then left to cool at room temperature before it can be placed in the fridge for safe keeping until it is needed.

Action shots - nori being vigorously mixed


colour mixing + background dyeing

With the katagami stencils for my JUMP project taking shape it's time to start the next step in the process.

The first step is to background dye the pre-made furoshiki. For this project I am working with pre-hemmed, white, 100% cotton furoshiki that I bought from Tanaka Nao Senryoten, a specialist dye store in Kyoto, Japan.

Below is an image of the white furoshiki stretched with shinshi (bamboo sticks with small needles at either end used for stretching fabric and holding it taut during the dyeing process), ready for background dyeing.

As I did not want the background for this paticular furoshiki series to be white, it is necessary to pre-dye and fix the background colour before I can start the katazome process.
Working with Remazol dyes, I colour mixed and significantly watered down 3% strength dye solutions to create this range of colours.

With the dyes mixed and the recipes for these colours ready to go, I was ready to mix larger quantities and background dye a few furoshiki with the beautifully soft, large brush that you can see in the bottom left corner of the first image.

Prior to dyeing, the furoshiki were washed in hot water to pre-shrink them (being made from a natural fibre) and to remove any traces of sizing.

Soft mint green dye mixture - made and ready to use

Four furoshiki freshly dyed and drying

Hastening the drying process just a little

Once the background colour was completely dry I used a liquid fixative (sodium silicate solution) to fix the colour before washing thoroughly and drying again.

Four furoshiki background dyed, fixed and washed

And the final step in this stage of the process is to wash the shinshi before their next use to avoid cross contamination with any residual dye. The shinshi are placed in boiling water for 30 minutes at either end to remove any dye that seeped into the bamboo.

Shinshi boiling in a large pot


geometric pattern four | stencil nine

And the exquisitely komakai (small/fine/minute) fourth pattern in the manhole cover series is cut and ready to unveil. This katagami stencil was many hours of concentrated cutting followed by an hour of careful erasing.

And a detail of the delicate design.


furoshiki design | nine

A few progress shots of the drawing of the fourth katagami stencil in the manhole cover series.

This is proving to be quite a complex pattern to draw to scale precisely from the little scribble in my sketch book. Lots of measuring, followed by more measuring, while at the same time back-filling the motif as it rotates within the pattern...and making sure it is all connnected as a stencil should be! Whew.

And a detail of this intricate design. My work was often described as komakai whilst I was studying this technique in Japan. Komakai roughly translates as small, fine or minute. This pattern is sure not to disappoint in that respect ;)


geometric pattern three | stencil eight

This is the third katagami stencil in the manhole cover series - finished and ready for pasting.

There are still two more stencils to come in this series, followed by a third series (the typographic series) which I will be working on whilst I start pasting and dyeing some of the initial designs.


furoshiki design | eight

The half way point! Half way through cutting the eighth katagami stencil out of fifteen. A momentous occasion to be celebrated after drawing and cutting for a period of more than 47 hours over a number of weeks.

This is a progress shot of the third geometric design in the manhole cover series inspired by the stunning patterns of the manhole covers in Japan.


geometric pattern two | stencil seven

This is the second katagami stencil in the manhole cover series. Cut and complete. This design almost marks the half way point in the stencil design/cutting process.

*NB: Large cup of chai latte in the bottom right corner of the photograph - this is my vice of choice to keep me going for long periods of time at my desk :)

I am aiming to design and hand-cut 15 stencils in total - 5 in the urban series (which you have already seen), 5 in the manhole cover series (underway now) and 5 in a typographic series (still to come).

After researching and practicing the katazome process in Australia over the coming months, I hope to complete a number of furoshiki using a selection of these stencils. These furoshiki will be created as part of my JUMP project, and will be ready to take back to Japan for critique with my mentor Keiko in mid-October (all going well).


furoshiki design | seven

This is a small preview of the seventh katagami stencil. It is the second pattern in the geometric manhole cover series.

And a detail of the drawing - 2B pencil lead on the smoky scented katagami paper...just waiting to be cut.


geometric pattern one | stencil six

The first katagami stencil in the manhole cover series is complete - yippee!

I don't know how many days/hours/months I spent dreaming up and sketching these design ideas...I wasn't keeping track of time spent at that point of the project...but I did take my time over the first few months with the design phase.

I do know that up until this point the completion of the first six stencils has taken a total of 21 hours drawing time, 16.25 hours cutting time and 2.75 hours finishing time - which comes to a grand total of 40 hours. Whew!


furoshiki design | six

This sixth design marks the beginning of the katagami stencils for my second series which I have temporarily titled the manhole cover series.

This series is so aptly named because the geometric patterns are inspired by the many photos that I have taken of manhole covers in Japan over the last 5 years. I have to confess that I may be a little obsessed!


katagami stencil five unveiled

The katagami stencil for the fifth and final furoshiki design in the urban series is done.

This design is untitled at this stage but should be named shortly. I have been thinking of calling it 'pavement' but if you have any inspired thoughts on a suitable title for this image I would love to hear them! I am open to suggestions.

This stencil required a high level of attention to detail both in the drawing and cutting stage due to the multitude of fine lines. It also took quite a bit of concentration as I drew the design to scale straight onto to the katagami in 'stencil' form - thinking all the time about which sections would stay when cut and which sections would go.


furoshiki design | five

The fifth furoshiki design in the urban series is well underway.

The imagery in this design is of a manhole cover partially covered by a shop roller door - perhaps not so useful? I took a photograph of this anomaly in a little side street near K's House hostel in Kyoto, Japan.

Below are some progress shots of the katagami stencil for this design. Nearly there!



tenjiburokku | stencil four

The stencil for the fourth furoshiki design, tenjiburokku, is done - hurrah!

This design forms part of the urban series and was inspired by the yellow braille blocks which are found on many of the footpaths around Kyoto, as well as in the train and subway stations in Japan.