On one of the occasions that I was fortunate enough to visit the Japan Traditional Craft Centre in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo, there was an absolutely amazing demonstration of Stencil cutting, called Ise- Katagami, which dates back to the 12th century. The stencils are then used to print patterns onto kimono and yukata either by dyeing through the stencil or by using a rice paste as a resist through the stencil.
You can see some wonderful examples of the designs on Ise-Kategami - A Personal Collection. The International Kateigaho magazine had a really interesting article about the technique and designs a while back too.
As you can see the work is extremely intricate and demands great skill and attention to detail. Apparently the stencil cutters undergo many years of training and only work in one of several highly specialized cutting techniques, illustrated here, using images from the exhibition brochure. Nowadays some of the stencils are not used for dyeing, but have become works of art in their own right. Some of these can be seen in the Kioi Art Gallery.
But what I liked more than anything, needless to say, was the special stencil paper, called Katajigami, which comes from Suzuka. It is made using sheets of white minogami, handmade paper from Gifu prefecture which are brushed with persimmon juice - 3 of them are then laminated together with the grain going in opposite directions, almost like a veneer, to prevent the paper warping or stretching. It is then dried outdoors on large boards for a few days before being cured, by being hung on wires in an earthen walled room where sawdust is burned for about 2 weeks. In order to complete the process the persimmon juice is reapplied, it is dried outdoors once more and returned to the smoke room again. The resulting paper is a lovely tobacco colour and smells wonderfully smokey. It is also very, very strong and shrinkproof. I will show you in a future post what I was inspired to do with my Katajigami.