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.
Using the 2nd method is great — you can then dry the bubbles and use them as indigo pigments along with the soymilk.
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.
Oh, and I must not forget Nutmeg, the cat.