Report from Covelo

Back from my adventure in Covelo: the katazome workshop with John Marshall. The road to Covelo, CA follows the Eel River, officially Wild and Scenic. A wonderful place to swim too!


Classes take place in John’s home/studio, a restored flour mill. The dates on the facade are 1888-1914-1999.



A few insights:  Yes, I have been making my rice paste too thick, and the raw paste too dry. Revelation: golf balls and doughnuts are unnecessary. I really like this! Here, the raw paste is ready to steam.


I have been working with freeze-dried indigo this summer, and it was great to observe the preparation of the vat and then the re-heating of the vat the next day. Here are pictures from our indigo experience.

Introducing the freeze-dried “instant” indigo to the vat:


Here are two ways of skimming the oxidized bubbles, “aibana” or indigo blossoms, from the top of the vat, which is necessary unless you want the dark spots of bloom on your work.

skimming with a soft muslin cloth
skimming with a screen strainer

Using the 2nd method is great — you can then dry the bubbles and use them as indigo pigments along with the soymilk.

attaching cloth to frame for dipping

Ready to dip the cloth.  (That’s my Covelo house-mate Eva Pietzcker, a printmaker from Berlin who makes beautiful woodblock prints in the Japanese tradition of mokuhanga.) John has a rope and pulley system, used primarily for larger pieces of work which need the larger ceramic vat (which you can see behind John). These containers are from China and were originally designed to hold soy sauce.


The cloth goes in slowly … count to three … pull it out and over the outside edge of the vat to drip. You want to avoid introducing oxygen. John’s rule of thumb: the rice paste resist can withstand three brief dips, then must hang to dry before further dunking. If you want it darker, repeat this until you achieve the depth of color desired. Observe the paste — you want to stop before it starts to break down.


See the lovely dark green which will turn blue as it oxidizes …


Afternoon break most days featured home-made shaved ice! John has a lovely Japanese cast-iron hand-crank machine with gears – the ice is held by a vice-grip-like mechanism on top of a flat blade. A hand crank turns the blade and the shaved ice falls into the bowl below. We tried it with powdered green Japanese tea and sugar syrup on top; and with home-made blackberry sauce! Yum!

The hot dry air in Covelo is perfect for working outside, stretching fabric between uprights of the Wisteria arbor.

wisteria arbor and yard
stretching cloth with shinshi

Oh, and I must not forget Nutmeg, the cat.

clouds above Colorado

Author: Kit

I use the materials and techniques of the Japanese art of katazome (paste resist stencil dyeing) to capture my experience of nature. My work celebrates daily meetings with the wild birds, plants, and lake breezes of my local urban surroundings.

13 thoughts on “Report from Covelo”

  1. What a great recap – I love how you included so many photos in this article. Very inspiring! I can’t wait to try this out someday 🙂 Thanks for sharing this… and happy crafting! – Joanna

  2. It looks like you had a wonderful trip. I’d never seen paste resist dipped into indigo…very cool pictures! I hope to go to one of his workshops soon. How is the hotel where you stay?
    I think the flowers are from a Crape Myrtle tree (or sometimes they grow as a shrub)

  3. What a great recap – I love how you included so many photos in this article. Very inspiring! I can’t wait to try this out someday 🙂 Thanks for sharing this… and happy crafting! – Joanna

  4. I love reading about our fun workshop experiences! ~ great pictures!Wasn’t that bush, polk weed? In a past article you had a photo of pestles & mortars…where did you find them? Can’t wait to see your new creations! I have new stencils cut ready to go!

  5. Hi Vicki – thanks for the visit! Poke weed. Maybe. In any case it won’t grow in Minnesota!My spirit still hasn’t quite caught up w/my body … it’s somewhere between Covelo and St. Paul! Some time ago I found some M&P at Ikea — but i think prices have gone up. I found the others (white ones) surplus place here called Ax-Man, which is kind of hit and miss — perhaps any type of store that sells school science lab supplies would have them. You might try checking online. Enjoy!

  6. gosh I haven’t walked along the eel river in the longest time. Probably because I live on the other side of the country but northern CA is one of two homes away from home for me. Am a participant in Jude’s upcoming weaving class and was just passing some time on a sweltering afternoon visiting other participants’ blogs that are new to me.

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