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 katzaome 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.

The natural pigments come in powder form. You add a small amount to a mortar and pestle, 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 in their mortar & pestles

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.

above; dyed but not yet rinsed

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.

above; 2 coats of pigments in soy applied

Author: Kit

I’m a St. Paul MN Artist, working in Japanese woodblock printmaking and Katazome (stencil dyed textiles). My work celebrates daily encounters with the wild birds, plants, and lake breezes of my local urban surroundings.

2 thoughts on “Rehearsing”

  1. I can feel the challenges, frustrations, satisfactions and creativity of this process from here. It’s fascinating to watch.

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