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I'm going to be straddling themes this week. Below you will find a Kintarou image I dyed using a range of natural dyes, and also an image of two children at play done entirely in natural pigments.
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Kintarou at Play in the Forest
This is rather a large piece, 44″ x 36″, the central image of Kintarou took two sheets of stencil paper to create. The image of Kintarou, along with the bear and the monkey were dyed first with the paste applied to white silk Shantung from Exotic Silks. The browns you see as the tanned body of the boy, along with bottom, feet, hands, and face of the monkey, were all done with iron rust and soymilk. The deeper shadings are a combination of the same rust with cocheneal pigment added. The bear is dyed primarily with burnt umber, and the blacks you see are all soot from my fireplace. Kintarou’s harakake is dyed with indigo and barberry (Ryrica rubra Sieb, aka, shibuki 渋木).
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Once Kintaroo and company were allowed to cure for a period, they were covered with a layer of rice paste to protect them during the following steps: The background was sized with soymilk to help the silk take the dyes and protect the silk from the mordant. It was then brushed several times with a combination of barberry and chrome (the mordant).
Detail of Kintarou Silk–notice how the first application of paste kept some parts of the silk white.
I use very minute quantities of mordants, and normally add them to the dye so that the mixture may be applied to the silk all in one step. The main advantages to this approach is a reduction in the amount of mordant needed, and knowing exactly what color I will wind up with before it is applied. So, unlike traditional western dyeing, the mordant is not being used to fix the dye (the soymilk takes care of that task) but instead to simply point the color of the barberry in a certain direction, in this case golden brown.

Over this golden-brown barberry I applied more rice paste to create the images of the pine trees in the background. Once dry, I built up more layers of indigo, cocheneal, and barberry (this time with alum added) to create the variations in color you see.

After two months of curing, I washed out all the paste, dumped the wash water in the garden (the mordants are completely bound up in the cloth), pulled out the steam iron to take care of the wrinkles, and you can see the results above!
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I buy my barberry in large bricks of concentrated extract that break apart into shiny tar-like chunks.
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Boy and Girl Playing Jan Ken Po (Scissor Paper Stone)
Jan Ken Po is a game found world wide in one form or another, known in English as Scissor Paper Stone.

The image has been dyed on heavy-weight Shantung silk. The design for the two was first sketched in blue flower (aobana 青花), a disappearing dye made from flower petals (Commelina communis). Unlike most of my work, rice paste was not used to create the image of the boy and the girl. They were hand-painted. Once the natural dyes were cured, they, just like Kintarou above, were covered in rice paste as a protective layer. The background was dyed a pale indigo. It is only at this point that I pulled out a stencil, the maple leaf, and used it to create background patterning with paste.

22″ x 32″ All of the dyes used are natural pigments; including indigo, ocher, vermillion, cocheneal, and soot.
Now I have a confession to make: A while back in an attempt to purge the country of sexism, Japan’s powers-that-be decided to end the distinction between Girls Day, traditionally celebrated on March 3, and Boys Day, celebrated on May 5, and declared that hence forth May 5 shall simply be called Children’s Day! Which of course meant that Girls Day was removed from the official calendar, and everyone went on celebrating May 5 as Boys Day.

So, here at last, is my Children’s Day offering…
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