Katazome, or stencil dyeing, is a Japanese paste-resist surface design technique. 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 a brief outline of the steps involved.
- Once the design is complete, the stencil is cut from a water-impervious Japanese paper, and reinforced with a fine silk mesh.
- The fabric is sized with soy milk to prepare it for the paste and the dyes.
- Rice paste resist then spread through the stencil and left to dry.
- The pasted areas of the cloth resist the dyes and pigments. The colors consist of natural pigments suspended in a soy milk binder. I paint them on in several layers. The pigments come from plant, mineral and other natural source. They are subtle, rich and permanent.
- The work is left to air-cure (oxidize) and then the rice paste is simply soaked off in cold water, revealing the design.
There is virtually 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 original feel of the fabric is restored by a final wash. To care for the piece, you may wash it gently in cool water, dry it on the line, and then iron it as necessary. Linen always requires a hot iron.
Each order includes a a small booklet explaining the katazome process with photos from my studio.