I’ve recently been inspired by the catalog from the Colorful Realm exhibit, a show of scintillating silk paintings created by Japanese artist Ito Jakuchu, which was on view at the National Gallery of Art earlier this spring. (Click the first link in this post to see a great slide show of some of the works.)
Jakuchu completed these 30 large silk scrolls of (mostly) flowers and birds between 1757 and 1766. There is so much to see and learn looking at the images. I find it fascinating that Jakuchu sometimes painted pigments (mineral and/or vegetable) on the verso (back) side of the silk to subtly influence the color on the front. The excellent detail images in the catalog convince me that I can see these hints of color and tone peeking through from the reverse.
This intriguing fact floated in my mind as I began to work on several wool scarves. The thought occurred to me — what if I paste a different stencil on the front and back of the fabric — and then dip the pieces in indigo? Perhaps the images will combine in an interesting way when viewed from either side. And so an idea from a master silk painter of 250 years ago influences my katazome exploration.
This is a medium weight wool — so called “Italian suiting” (???). I knew it would be sturdy enough to paste on both sides yet soft enough for a scarf. After washing and drying it became very soft (and did not felt). I’ve chosen to use my water and spring stencils because they combine nicely.
After pasting the water stencil on one side of the wool, I pinned the work to my carpet-covered table and allowed the paste to dry to a leather-hard state, i.e., still damp but not at all sticky.
I turned the pieces over and pasted the 2nd stencil (Spring).
After the paste was completely dry, I dipped the work in an instant indigo vat, but soon realized I wouldn’t be getting the depth of color I wanted with the wool (protein) fiber. So, I stretched and soy sized the scarves, and then gave them several quick coats of indigo pigment on the front and black (soot) pigment on the back. I like how the images mix in a soft-edged and subtle way.