Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Katagami (Stencil Painting) in Kyoto, Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts (Fureaikan)

My project... a set of coasters
Kyoto is a city that is rich in textile heritage. It was the capital and seat of the Imperial Court for more than 1000 years. Members of the Court became patrons of the arts, and a strong industry in handcrafts resulted. Even today, Kyoto holds on to its heritage of traditional crafts.

On Sunday, September 13th, I visited the Museum of Traditional Crafts (Fureaikan). The museum hosts exhibits that demonstrate the steps of various textile and other crafts. There were several artisans demonstrating techniques.

Katagami is a Stencil technique where the images to be dyed onto fabric are cut into a heavy handmade paper called washi. Made from the inner bark of mulberry trees, the layers of washi paper were treated with persimmon tannin and smoked to make them waterproof. If the designs to be cut were extremely fine, strands of silk would be laid between the sheets of paper used to build the stencil, to stabilize it.

Cut stencil
A variety of paints

Each element (leaves, petals, etc.) of the image would have its own stencil cut, and thus registration (lining up) becomes imperative.  

Registering the first stencil
The stencils are laid onto the fabric, and the color is applied using special brushes. One doesn’t simply use a single color per stencil; rather, the art of mixing colors and shading is what makes the finished results so amazing.

Surikomi brushes are used and these come in a variety of sizes, although the brush head is generally small, as is necessary for the fine art of stencil painting. The short bristles were traditionally made from deer hair, and the handles were bamboo.

Blotting excess paint from the brush
The painting technique involves dabbing the brush into a color, and then blotting it on a soft cloth to remove excess dye until only a small and controllable amount of dye remains. One then moves to the fabric and blots the color in place through the stencil, onto the cloth. A light circular motion is used. This is where the ‘art’ comes into play, as you can blend and shade multiple colors to create the result you want.

Don painting butterflies

My first stencil with colored dots

My first attempt at katagami was great fun. I know I have a long way to go, but I understand the basic process. It was a pleasure to take this workshop from the two Japanese women at the museum. They spoke no English, but there tends to be a universal language that can easily be understood when it comes to textile arts.

One of my finished pieces

An example of proper shading (this is not mine...)

Samples of finished pieces

In addition to the wonder displays at the museum, there is an excellent library of books and videos that you can browse through. Most are in Japanese, but again, the pictures tell the story. And of course, there is an amazing gift shop.

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts (Fureaikan)
Address: 9-1 Okazakiseishojicho, Sakyo-ku | B1F MiyakomesseKyoto 606-8343Kyoto Prefecture
Phone Number: +81 75-762-2670

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Christiann Moore said...

Amazing ! Your coaster is beautiful....

Susan Lazear said...

Thanks!! Can't wait to use these techniques in the new Textile Design class I teach next semester!