I wanted to learn how to make Ise Katagome stencils from a master. For two days in 2014, from the 6th of September to the 7th of September, I was very fortunate to be in the presence of Professor Masayoshi Ohashi, Reiko Sudo from Nuno Corporation, Chei Takai and Takeshi Matsunaga of kata kata (students of Prof. Ohashi who came from Japan to help him teach the process), and Yukiko Blackwell of Maiwa
Professor Masayoshi Ohashi is definitely a master of his craft. A learned student of Japan’s Serizawa Keisuke who was designated a living treasure in 1953 (1895-1984), Professor Ohashi is a remarkable teacher of Katazome and Kata-e some. Professor Ohashi’s knowledge base and wealth of information on these subjects are amazing. He could probably talk for years without running out of interesting things to speak about along with occasionally throwing in a good joke or two now and then.
I share with you to my best recollection (if I am misinformed in any way, please let me know so that I may make corrections) my journey and experiences in, and what I found interesting from, this course starting with my two pieces of art produced. Due to my inexperience with Kata-e some on Washi, I have to say that I prefer the fabric Katazome Indigo piece I produced:
We were asked to bring to the class “two designs measuring 21cm X 30cm each (A4 size paper) that are simple and attached to the edges of the stencil”. The actual stencil was to be cut out in the class. Since most of us had never done this before, some of the designs had to be modified and tweaked before they could be photocopied. Reiko translated Professor Ohashi’s instructions, throughout the course as he only speaks Japanese and, along with Chie and Takeshi guided us through this process and Professor Ohashi gave his final approval.
By the time my drawing was redrawn to sufficiently pass Professor Ohashi’s approval, it was too big to fit on the photocopier so I cut my stencil from my original drawing. Not totally a bad thing, however it would have been nice to have the original drawing further down the road as a reference map while cutting the stencil and when painting the design on the Washi. I also did not have enough bridges on my design (which are carefully cut off after the stencil is finished) as it took me three tries to understand the concept, and when I finally understood the Japanese vigorously applauded my triumph. The stencils I had seen on Google worked in reverse to the Kat-e some method and had much less detail. On the back side of my stencil you can see where I accidentally made cuts that should have been solid so I had to tape them. My finished stencil:
Due to lack of time, the Washi and fabric was prepared for us as well as the rice paste.
After cleaning up the paste, we hung our Washi up outside to dry. Reiko, Yukiko, Chei, Takeshi and Professor Ohashi had lunch outside to guard our prized treasures drying. We sprinkled our fabric prints with sawdust and then dipped them into Indigo, rinsed the pieces swishing them back and forth under running water, put them in the washing machine to spin out any excess water and hung them up to dry. In this step I learned to only rinse Indigo pieces and let them sit for two weeks to batch before washing with soap. Otherwise the Indigo will come out of the fabric if you wash too soon after dying.
Professor Ohashi proceeded to explain the ins and outs of how to prepare and then paint on Washi and the difference of using pigments made in Japan and the SetaColour Opaque paint we were going to be using.
Chei gave us a demonstration on how to paint and then repeatedly kept on telling everyone not to make the brush too wet as not to let the paint soak through the Washi and to keep checking the back of the Washi to make sure that the paint wasn’t soaking through to the back. I’m still not sure what the importance of this step is.
As we were not be able to wash out the resist paste from our Washi in class, we were given final instructions on this last step of the process. Here are images of my pieces before I soaked the dry painted Washi in water to rinse off the paste.
I found that the paste was very easy to remove in some areas and much harder in others. Where the paste was difficult to remove, I seemed to get paper strands also coming off the paper which in turn removed some of the paint off the paper as I tried to remove the strands. I definitely need more practice with this art form.