Rehearsing

Today’s Writer’s Almanac included a quote from playwright Sean O’Casey, which rings a bell for me this week: “All the world’s a stage, and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.”

Last week and this week I am getting a feel for the process, the rhythm, the dyes and the brushes, and playing with colors. So far, I’ve made rice paste that was too thick, applied too many colors of a too-bright palette, and was too careful brushing on the dyes. I’ll be selecting a better color palette this week, and playing with a looser grip on the brush. The stencils are obsessive enough. I want the dyeing process to be less so!

The photo below shows work on the pasting table. I can’t avoid the reflection on the wet paste, due to overhead lighting. The surface under the work is indoor/outdoor carpeting, the cheap kind. It must be smooth, i.e. you don’t want the kind with a ribbing-like texture. This provides a bit of a cushion and prevents the fabric from slipping.

Pasting stencils
Pasting stencils

The detail below illustrates a common problem, most likely due to rice paste that is too thick. You can see the places where the paste did not adhere to the fabric, leaving traces of the texture of netting that protects the stencil. It takes practice to learn the best consistency for the paste, sort of like learning to cook. The paste RESISTS the dye application. It’s like a really strong, water-soluble glue. This will all be washed away after dying (and curing) is complete.

Thick rice paste problem, part 1
Thick rice paste problem, part 1

The natural pigments come in powder format. You add a small amount to a mortar and pestle (inexpensive porcelain), then a bit of water, and grind to a smooth consistency. A small amount of this is added to a dish along with soy milk, and then you are ready to paint.

Natural pigments
Natural pigments

The next photo illustrates Part 2 of my rice paste problem. Remember where the paste pulled up from the ground? This leaves the fabric exposed to dyes where you don’t want it to be. So there will be little dots of dye where the paste did not cover the fiber completely. Click the photo and look at the area in lower right near my thumb.

Thick rice paste problem, part 2
Thick rice paste problem, part 2

So far I’ve put 2 coats of dye on the Heron pillow. I loosened up quite a bit with the 2nd coat, applying without too much regard for the edges of the various forms in the image. I want colors to blend more smoothly.

After 2nd coat of dye has been applied
After 2nd coat of dye has been applied

Studio Improvements, Tool-making, Fabric Stretching

Since my last post, I’ve been doing a lot of preparation work for dyeing fabric. I’ve lacquered stencils, which involves using water-based floor paint to attach silk “Sha” to the front of the stencil. John Marshall’s Website has complete instructions.

lacquered stencil detail
lacquered stencil detail

We modified my studio a bit to allow me to stretch fabric in preparation for soy sizing and dyeing. Ray mounted one of my temporary walls onto a sliding mechanism like those used for closets, so I can access the concrete wall behind it to attach a handle for tying a rope. I made my own “Harite”, or fabric clamps, which you see in this picture.

Stretched fabric, with shinshi on underside, harite (fabric clamps)
Stretched fabric, with shinshi on underside, harite (fabric clamps)

This morning I made soymik, sized the fabric, which prepares it to receive the pigments. I also made rice paste today. The rest of this week will be devoted to pasting stencils and dyeing.

The photos below are from Serizawa, Master of Japanese Textile Design, a catalog of a major exhibit of Serizawa’s work that was shown at the National Museums of Scotland in August-November of 2001. Serizawa, a master of Katazome, was designated a Living National Treasure in 1956, and was a member of the Mingei (Folk Craft) movement founded during the 1920’s by Yanagi Soetsu. The Mingei International Museum Website has a wonderful video clip about Serizawa.

Serizawa Keisuke  in fabric stretching yard, Tokyo, 1982
Serizawa Keisuke in fabric stretching yard, Tokyo, 1982
Noren by Serizawa Keisuke
Noren by Serizawa Keisuke

As you can see, climate and weather permitting, you can dye your work outdoors. John Marshall has a fabulous outdoor space in Covelo California for teaching and working, which I experienced in 2004. Here in the north country, I won’t be able to work outside until at least May 15th. We visited Lyndale Park Rose Garden in Minneapolis last weekend. The rose bushes there are still deeply mulched with dried leaves from last fall. The locals were out in droves to walk around nearby Lake Harriet in 60 degree weather for the first time this year! We weren’t looking for roses, obviously, but wanted to join the joyful throng around the lake.

Lake Harriet Rose Garden
Lake Harriet Rose Garden

Blue Heron Stencil

Today I finished cutting another new stencil. I just can’t get the Heron and Great White Egret out of my system. It’s one of the most dramatic birds I see frequently during the spring and summer months here. Here’s a photo of a Blue Heron I snapped last summer. The Great White Egret especially likes feeding in Lake Como. The open areas of the stencil allow the rice paste to flow through. The brown paper masks the fabric, so these areas will eventually be dyed with a variety of pigments. I will go for more simplicity in the next design!

heronstencil1.jpg
heron stencil © Kit Eastman

I like to look for inspiration before starting a new design. Green Chair Press recently highlighted a piece by Japanese/French artist Aoyama Hina who works in the medium of paper cutting. Her work is stunning. She uses a small scissors to create these works. I found this image in the set called Sentences on her Flickr Photostream.

Paper Cutting by Aoyama Hina
Paper Cutting by Aoyama Hina

I also find the work of the Cape Dorset Inuit printmakers inspiring. The artists work in stonecut, stencil, litho and etching. This print (image found on Glenbow Museum of Calgary, Alberta Website), is included in the book, Cape Dorset Prints by Leslie Boyd Ryan. The book tells the tale of this amazing printmaking community, which started in 1959.

Pot Spirits by Sheouak Petaulassie, 1960, Stencil
Pot Spirits by Sheouak Petaulassie, 1960, Stencil