I’d like to build a bit upon my last posting, St. George and the Dragon.
Every hand technique has its peculiar needs to achieve its own unique look. In katazome a great deal of expense and effort is expended to create stencils. But it is a worthwhile investment. If properly cared for, the stencils will remain a useful tool far beyond my lifetime. When my katazome teacher, Matsuyo Hayashi, died I inherited her collection of stencils which included some of her teacher’s stencils.
In most cases an artist will only create a stencil if he or she plans to use it repeatedly, otherwise most will opt for variations on the tsutsugaki technique, which makes use of the rice paste without the stencil.
Most Japanese fabric is woven in what is called tanhaba (反巾), about 14″ wide for kimono. So you’ll find that most traditional stencils are about this wide, too. In most styles of katazome the image or pattern is complete in itself, that is, multiple stencils are not generally used to create a single image. But so what? Not everyone uses 14″ width fabric. Furthermore, as artists we are certainly allowed to follow our own paths!
So, this is what I have for you today: A large writhing dragon superimposed over a background of repeating dragon circles. The background imagery was inspired by the patterns found on the ceilings of many large Buddhist temples. And the writhing dragon?
Take a peek again at the Dragon depicted in my earlier posting of St. George and the Virgin Icon. Look carefully and you may be able to see that it is the same dragon.
Knowing that I would want to use this image in many different ways, I decided to break up my original drawing into many different segments. To do this, I had to fall back upon the experience I gained in plumbing my studio. When working with pipes, a basic thing to know is that you can get from any point a to any point b as long as you have 90º and 45º fittings. Some straight lengths of pipe, caps, and maybe even a T or two will cover all your needs.
I started out by drawing a very large dragon circle and then divided it in half and carved two separate stencils. I was careful to make sure that the two halves of the body would match perfectly when rejoined during the pasting process. In plumbing terms each half is a 180º bend, and the head and tale are caps. Next I cut the tail section in my drawing in half to create a 90º stencil. So with only a cap (the head) and one 90º angle (used three times for the body in the sample above) and an end cap (the tail) I am able to create the undulations you see above. Of course the wider range of angles you add, the greater flexibility you will have in wrapping your dragon around a shape as I have done.
For a bit of fun, I decided to tuck the head into the sleeve of the garment, allowing it to peek out with a mischievous smile as the mood strikes it.