What is Katazome?
Katazome, or stencil dyeing, is a Japanese paste-resist surface design technique for cloth and paper. While the process is centuries old, the art was revived in the 20th century by Serizawa Keisuke, an artist of the mingei, or “people’s crafts” movement of 1920’s and 1930’s Japan.
The process incorporates elements of both printmaking and painting, and
relies on simple non-toxic materials such as rice paste resist, natural
pigments and soymilk.
Here is an outline of the process.
1. Once the design is complete, the stencil is cut from a water-impervious Japanese paper called shibugami, and reinforced with a fine silk mesh.
2. The fabric is then sized with soymilk to prepare it for the paste and the dyes. In addition to preventing the dyes from wicking, the soy sizing gives the fabric a temporary paper-like feel.
3. Rice paste resist is spread through the stencil. This step feels like printing, but rice paste resist (rather than color/ink) is transferred to the cloth. The paste resist dries to a strong yet water-soluble resist, which prevents the dyes from reaching the areas of the cloth as defined by the stencil design.
4. I color my work with natural pigments, which come from mineral and plant sources. These are blended with the soy milk, which serves as a
binder for the pigments. The natural pigments are rich and subtle.
5. I brush these pigments on the cloth in several layers, usually 3 plus accents. The areas with rice paste are protected from the dyes.
6. The fabric is left to air cure for at least 7 days. Air curing causes the soymilk used to carry the pigments to oxidize, creating an insoluble protein polymer, which binds the pigments to the cloth permanently. Finally the rice paste is soaked off in cold water, revealing the design.
There is no color wash-out from this process – the pigments
are permanent, locked into the weave of the fabric by the high-protein
soy milk. In addition, the hand of the fabric is restored by gently washing the piece in a mild fabric soap.