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March 30, 2004

Note To Self

Sleepy late night session, fueled only by coke and working on katagami do not mix!

No permanent damage done, and I stopped immediately and put it all away. My tired, possibly jittery, hand slipped the blade too far and cut through a bridge that was supposed to remain. Luckily I can shift the location of the bridge by a fraction–about 1/2–of an inch where I have not cut yet. If it had been in one of the chrysanthemums a similar slip would have been far harder to conceal or adapt into the design. Another reason to proceed only when well rested and after clearing my mind and relaxing. No TV and only soft music.

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March 29, 2004

No Pattern DDoS'd

No pattern today, sorry - when I found DreamHost DDoS‘d for much of the wonderful spring day, I decided the heck with it, time to get out.. I needed to get some exterior building pictures for a client’s website and the sky today was the perfect shade of blue. The whole family took a walk to the post office to return some books my parents lent me (novels and Art History–almost 25 pounds worth!) by media mail, then on down the river to take the pictures and leisurely stroll. A wonderful outing all in all. On the way home we picked up some daffodils and pussy-willow branches to decorate for Easter. Decorating the “pussy-willow tree” took the remainder of the afternoon.

Luckily DreamHost has beefed up their network and things seem to be running well again. (In their defense this is the first outage or service problem of any sort I have had with them in over two years, great bunch to do business with.) So we’ll look for getting the pattern up tomorrow, although spring keeps calling me–crocuses are blooming, daffodils and tulips are peeking up, Ospreys are beginning to return to their nests….

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March 28, 2004

Blood Orange Bliss

There is something exceptionally relaxing about fixing myself a nice cup of tea (blood orange tonight!) then sharpening the knives and spending a couple of hours on a stencil. Pausing every 20—30 minutes to re-sharpen the blade and rest my eyes. I get the same satisfaction doing shibori as well. Hours of preparation and work, followed by the dyeing–which for all the recipes and synthesized formulations is still very unpredictable. Those who know me are probably amazed that this is something I have chosen to do. 

So a small update for that two hours spent this evening on the stencil. In blue is the work done earlier, in purple/pink is tonights work. I have noticed that sharpening my blade every 20—30 minutes makes a huge difference in the ability to easily cut details like the chrysanthemum flower that has tight curves. I will be trying out some surgical blades soon, loaned to me from a jewelry designer along with a catalog of some other tools used in his industry. That one will probably require far less frequent re-sharpening. I’m not entirely sure if that is good or bad, but it’s worth checking out.

chugata style katagami stencil from 1694 - peonies, chrysanthemums and oleander - in progress

Tomorrow I thik I will add another web interpretation of a traditional pattern to the site.

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March 27, 2004

Chūgata Progress

Well after about 5 hours of total time spent on it–and 4 resharpenings of an X-acto blade–I have finished maybe one quarter of the interior details of the katagami pattern so far. I never thought I would find myself sharpening an X-acto blade, let alone sharpening it every hour. Some of the lines are barely the thickness of the x-acto blade itself. I think it may actually pay to invest in a set of the traditional dōgubori (punch-carving) punches and hikibori (pull-carving) knives. I would ideally love to learn how to make them myself–just as the traditional stencil carvers do–but for now I think it would be best to try and find a source for the knives and punches.

Below is another significantly reduced image–the active part (in other words without the border) 9.5×3.65 inches, about two thirds the size of the 1694 original–of the stencil, the areas that are blue are what I cut yesterday and last night, in two sessions, totalling four to five hours. I did make one significant mistake–I should have started in the upper left corner to reduce the chances of any damage while working the rest of the pattern. The cutting is being done in two stages: first the finer detail work, then the larger open sections. This is done to keep the pattern as stable as possible. If I tried to cut everyting in the same pass, the chance of tearing out some of the finer bridges and details would be significantly higher.

chugata style katagami stencil from 1694 - peonies, chrysanthemums and oleander - in progress
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March 26, 2004


I began cutting a new katagami pattern today as a stress reliever. This one is arguably the most complicated I have attempted. It is actually a very old pattern that I found in the wonderful book Carved Paper: The Art of the Japanese Stencil which is in essence the English language bible of katagami. It is a chūgata or medium pattern, a pattern designed to repeat down the length of a bolt of cloth (but not across). This particular one, from page 27 of Carved Paper, is dated to 1694 (Genroku 7) and is one of the two oldest dated stencils. Working only an hour or two a day on this pattern, it will probably take at least a ten days to complete–more like two weeks.

chugata style katagami stencil from 1694 - peonies, chrysanthemums and oleander

Unfortunately, I am not able to do the pattern onto shibugami, the laminated and persimmon juice tanned mulberry paper traditionally used for stencil carving. The production of shibugami appears to be trailing off, and I imagine that most of what is produced is reserved for the few traditional katagami carvers left in Japan (many of them designated as National Treasures). I have no idea if this stencil will hold up to more than a few pastings as it is being carved from heavy card stock. I hope that I am wrong, but the only source I know for blank shibugami paper is having a hard time getting a steady supply of it.

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March 24, 2004

Thanks for the gift!

I was genuinely surprised to receive two books from my Amazon Wishlist this past Monday. Whoever it was enclosed a thanks for the recent Japanese inspired patterns along with a request to keep them coming. (Talk about positive feedback!)

Whoever you are, thank you very much! There will be more patterns coming over the next weeks to be sure. I know it has been quiet here lately as I have been working on two other projects. One is a web site for a local store, the other is identity design for my wife’s soon—to-be-established business. Add to this my own dying and textile design along with spending as much time as possible with my son and I seem to be running out of time each day for making an occaisional quick–or not so quick–posting.

Fortunately the store’s web site is almost finished, and my wife’s business now has it’s identity work established (though eventually she will be wanting a web site as well) so it’s back to a much more normal routine.

In related news–textile design and patterns–I have been asked to teach a class in shibori dyeing this summer, so I will be working on setting up some handouts and general history which I will preview here over the next months I imagine.

Oh, the books were Color: A Natural History of the Palette and Nature’s Art Box and yes, my generous friend, “Nature’s Art Box” is actually for my son (well the whole family, but mostly for him), so once again a big thank you from all of us!

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March 04, 2004

Oh, man that's fast and sweet!

Jeremy Hedley is back on broadband…no not your normal cable/DSL broadband, fibre optic cable straight into his Tokyo suburb home pumping 100 Mb/s.

Man that’s an internet connection! For all the talk here in the US we are constantly running 3—4 years behind in telecommunications infrastructure it seems.

Posted by Eric at 10:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 03, 2004

Bishamon patterns in use

I recently remembered a Bhuddist painting available online in theMasterworks section of the Kyoto National Museum that shows use of some of the patterns I have recently posted. The piece is a painting of Bishamon-ten that was done in 1127 as one of 12 divas hung for the New Years cermony at Shingon-in in the Imperial Palace.

In the detail images you can see the bishamon patterns executed in cut gold leaf (kirikane). In the center detail you can see a variant of the bishamon pattern on the belly and thigh armour of Bishamon-ten.

In the pattern detail you can see a variant of the shippō or “seven treasures” design as an all over design.

Also notice the background pattern in use at the museum’s site. It is a drill carved (kiribori) stencil inspired design. In fact this oldest of Japanese stencil carving techniques lends itself perfectly to web background patterns as most kiribori designs are repeating patterns known as komon. Often the carver would create a small template called a kohon (lit. “small book”) that was used to ink the repeating pattern onto the larger stencil. The final komon generally consisted of 8—12 repeats of one kohon. A standard komon stencil size was 15cm x 40 cm (approx. 5×15 inches). This stencil would be repeated the entire length of the bolt of fabric being dyed–often over 100 repeats. More on all that later if anyone is interested…

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March 01, 2004


This pattern is from a traditional Japanese design called shippō or “seven-treasures”. The interlocking circles of shippō are said to represent the seven treasures of Bhuddism. Similar linked circle designs are found in many cultures through-out the world. The shippō or shippō-tsunagi(lit. linked seven tresures) design has been used as a motif in Japanese textile decoration since at least the Nara period (645-794). It is quite possible it was in use long before that, but there are few surviving samples of textiles from before then. A piece of fabric exists in the Shōsō-in collection with a similar shippō design done in shibori.

Shippō motifs are used in all forms of textile decoration, and are often used as an all over background pattern in a subtle color shift from the ground color, with the main designs layed above. This particular variant of the shippō motif is based on a stencil found in the excellent book Carved Paper - The Art of the Japanese Stencil.

shippō on indigo background pattern
shippō on indigo
(20×20 pixels)
shippō pattern on transparent background
shippō with transparent background
(20×20 pixel)
shippō pattern on indigo  background
shippō with indigo background
(40×40 pixel)
shippō pattern on transparent background
shippō with transparent background
(40×40 pixel)
shippō pattern on indigo  background
shippō with indigo background
(60×60 pixel)
shippō pattern on transparent background
shippō with transparent background
(60×60 pixel)

If some of the images appear blank–just a thin line frame around nothing–then your browser (most likely IE) has an issue displaying transparent .png files. The image is there, right click on the “empty” box and “Save Picture As” or “Save Target As”.

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