The ancient art form of Katazome requires a steady hand and attention to detail. We have collaborated with Kata Kata to sell digital printed replicas of their Katazome prints into postcards and letter paper with beautiful attention to detail and a whimsical feel. Katazome prints are created using stencils and an ink resistant rice paste or gum. These handmade stencils are called Katagami meaning Kata=Pattern Gami=Paper (Pattern Paper).
These stencils have been dated back to the middle for the 8th Century in the Mie prefecture area of Japan. The stencils developed into intricate works of art in the Edo period which helped make Katazome an art form throughout Japan. The stencil patterns were first used to create Kimono textiles known the world over. The Mei prefecture became the centre of this art form with master artists creating stencils that were sent all over Japan to create the beautiful kimono patterns we still see today.
Katazome stencil making is a dying art form today with few masters’ left. Kata Kata takes a new approach to the stencils and created modern patterns for today that are printed onto ceramics, textiles and obviously stationery. The traditional paper used for the stencils is a very special made washi. Several pieces of handmade paper are laminated together with a juice called Kakishibu. This is made from a fermented bitter that is kept for several years before being usable to get the right level of tannin. The sheets of paper are then dried in the sun, before being smoked in a special smokehouse called a Kemenjo. The paper is repeatedly smoked for up to six months until the Kakishibu juice and smoke binds to the paper creating a dark brown, firm and waterproof sheet of washi.
This specially created waterproof paper is ideal for creating a stencil for printing with wet inks. The special paper is then ready for a hand-drawn artwork to be sketched out, before being painstakingly cut out with a sharp knife. The pattern that is cut out from the stencil is the area where a resistant resin or rice paste will be pushed through onto the textile or paper. This is a special resin that is resistant to ink and will leave a blank area; the rest of the background will take the colour when printed. A complex design can use lots of stencils to build up the colour from light to dark to create an intricate and detailed design with levels of colour and pattern.
Katazome is still alive today thanks to people like Kata Kata who are reinventing this art form for today with beautiful designs that will make you smile and are the perfect gift to send to someone in the post. If this has inspired you to look further, please visit our Kata Kata page where you can discover some of these beautiful artworks for yourself. Send a gift, not just a piece of paper.