Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Postcard from Japan: Wednesday, October 26, 2016, Part One

Yamauchi Takeshi-sensei with stretched stenciled fabric that is
drying before being dyed.
I'd been looking forward to this day all week since I'd gotten to Akiko-san's house.  We are going to Yamauchi-sensi's studio.  He was the apprentice to Serizawa Keitsuke who made the bingata technique so famous (see my Oct. 25, Part Two, post).  Yamauchi (yama-uchi) -sensei is now 76 or 78 and worked with Serizawa for a long time, long ago, and has a studio (a-to-ri-e in Japanese, from the French "atelier") in which he produces hand-stenciled and hand-dyed fabric in huge quantities, now all by himself.

This is looking up at the ceiling in the first part of his studio
at the fabric that he's suspended between huge wood poles.  
He was expecting us but I'm sure it took time out of his day to show us around and explain the process he uses.  He is an extremely generous artist with a very happy and out-going personality.  His wife used to work with him but is now unwell and stays inside the house.

Before we began our fabric making, he offered us green
tea (Ocha) and Okashi, the traditional type of sweet
cake (sometimes two little round layers of browned
cake with sweetened red bean paste inside).
I didn't expect him to actually allow us to make a piece of fabric, and neither did Akiko-san, so we were both very surprised.

Katagami waxed stencil paper
He first talked about the katagami, stencil paper, that he uses which is increasingly difficult to find since not many textile artists use this technique.  Katagami is a somewhat thick waxed paper on which he first draws a design and then cuts out the shapes with an X-acto knife.

Two pieces of about 36 inches long (15"-18" wide) of coarsely woven
linen is what he pulls out of his stash for each of us to use.
The fabric he pulled out for us to use is a length of coarsely woven linen.

My newspaper resist stencil on the linen fabric and
underneath a screen (coarse like door screening) ready
for me to spread the resist paste onto.
Resist paste made out of rice flower and bran (nuka,
the ground brown outer hull of rice).
He showed us how to make a resist pattern on the fabric, either by tearing out pieces from newspaper (the technique I chose which was fast and easy) or using some of his pre-cut pieces which is what Akiko did.

Once the screen was on top of the paper and fabric, the resist paste is spread on thinly with a spatula, called a hera.  Then the screen is carefully lifted off and moved down to the next section to be printed, and more resist paste is spread on this.

Resist paste is applied to the second section of the fabric.
The air bubbles need to be gently removed with
a big brush.
Yamauchi-sensei hands me a big brush and suggests I use it to gently brush across the resist paste leaves to remove the air bubbles.

Then he surprises both Akiko-san and I by sprinkling saw dust on the resist pasted portions of our fabric, and then brushes off the excess.  The saw dust evidently will help the paste to dry quickly.  I don't think this is part of his normal process but he uses it on ours to speed the drying which only takes 10-15 minutes.

Akiko is working more slowly because she has included a lot more detail on her piece than I did.  This gives me a lot of time to take a lot more photographs.

He secures the fabric to the wood by pushing the
nails through the fabric along each short end.
Our pieces are hanging to dry in front of the tall white
hot water tub.  In front sits the long, low cold water tub
in which everything gets a final rinse and swishing.
In the meantime, Yamauchi-sensei has been working on his own pieces.  When we arrived he had been washing out the final paste and dye in a hot tub of water, and then rinsing it in a long, low tub of continually running water.  He then puts them into a centrifuge for a couple of minutes, removes them and secures them onto meter-long wood pieces that have nails coming out along the edge.  This is done on both ends.

Akiko-san's fabric with resisted areas is put into the red
bath a number of times, following once in the yellow
Each wood length already has a rope attached to each end which is then hooked onto another rope that's already tied around a large wood pole sunk into the floor of the studio.  He attaches both ends of the fabric to these large poles and hoists it into the air with another pole, thus producing layers upon layers of fabric lengths flying above us.

Our two paste resisted fabric lengths are now hanging in the main studio to dry.  The huge, long and low cold water bath sits in front of our pieces and the hot water tub is the white tall tub behind the pieces.  Even our screens that are now caked with paste are soaked in the cold water tub.

Next is the dyeing of  the fabric.  Yamauchi-sensei pulls out two plastic boxes.  From an old large sake bottle, he pours a yellow mixture that I assume is a yellow dye.  The second box gets a red liquid.  He tries a sample of fabric in the yellow liquid, then into the red one, adding more red to that pan for a deeper color.  Finally he's satisfied and puts Akiko-san's in the yellow and the red, repeating the red bath a number of times.  He does the same dyeing process with mine.
Yamauchi-sensei dyes my fabric piece.

Evidently the yellow isn't a dye, but a reactive dye liquid (hanno senryo) that may be yellow but is actually a substance that aids in the dyeing process, helping the red dye (this time) to achieve a better color.  We talk about this at length.  (I have to do more research on the internet to figure this out.  I certainly know of soda soak solutions which would do the same thing but are clear.  Their's is always colored, maybe always yellow?)

Once Yamauchi-sensei is satisfied that our pieces have dried enough, we swish them in the cold water
tub and rub the paste/saw dust areas to remove the paste, then hang them to dry a little to drip off the excess water.

We're both elated with the results of our pieces.  A last thank you to Yamauchi-sensei for all his generous time and willingness to share his katazome stencil and dyeing techniques with us.  We also leave an Omiyage box of Okashi with him as a thank you present.

My katazome piece once dried.  I thinking of adding
some Procion MX thickened dye lines to the
interior to make the shapes look more like leaves, maybe.
It's been a wonderful morning of learning
and sharing with Yamauchi-sensei.

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