Friday, December 19, 2008


My apprentice has been busy the past few weeks finishing a lot of routine pasting, in preparation for several batches of indigo dyeing, once I get the vat up. I do all the dyeing myself because it takes so long for each batch to dry, and there is a kind of rhythm to it that is hard to teach. Once she was done I went back to work on some commissioned pieces. Yesterday I pasted four sets of the little crèche kit that I designed almost ten years ago, when I was just beginning katazome. Two are for custom orders and two will be packaged up for sale.

Long before that I had purchased two darling Japanese folk toys in the shop of Koji Wada in Berkeley. They were printed fabric animals, stuffed with rice hulls. One was a bird, and the other a mother monkey, holding her baby. I treasured those little guys. There is a long story about her, and the birth of my daughter many years ago. Here is the monkey.

Anyway I did not really know how they were made, but they were simple shapes, and I got the bright idea to design a set of crèche figures with katazome stencils. I used PFD pimatex and dilute but thickened Setacolor transparent textile paints. Usually I do not like to work with my watercolors on cotton because they tend to bleed, but this tightly woven cotton worked out OK, and it is stable enough to sew and turn with small seam allowances. This is the finished crèche. My small daughter loved it and it was safe to play with. I still get it out every year.

In my post from Takayama, I mentioned finding these folk toys. It turns out they are wood block printed. They make a set of darling zodiac animals, of which my mama monkey is one, and quite a lot of birds, plus a handful of fish. I bought a flock of the little birds for the Christmas tree. Here are a couple. I managed to translate the names of some of them and some remain mysterious. The cute bird with the crabs on his tummy is called “water loving bird” (the direct translation of the kanji).

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