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Japanese Stencils (Katagami).

Japanese paper stencils are used in the process of dyeing textiles. The patterns are varied: geometric shapes, animals, flowers, landscapes and everyday objects. The patterns are an art form in themselves. Some are constructed for repeat dyeing; others are single designs. They are cut into sheets of handmade mulberry paper laminated together and waterproofed with persimmon tannin.

Designs are cut into the paper with thin knives and fine punches, and reinforced with stands of silk. Each plate has two small pinholes that serve as "register marks." A pin or point is passed through each of these two holes and into the corresponding marks left by the previous impression. In this way, design continuity is insured. Designs can be printed either vertically or horizontally.

Bibliography: Andrew W. Tuer. The Book of Delightful and Strange Designs, Being One Hundred Facsimile Illustrations of the Art of the Japanese Stencil-Cutter. 1892. reprinted as Traditional Japanese Patterns. New York: Dover, 1967.

Clarence Hornung. Traditional Japanese Stencil Designs. New York: Dover, 1985.

Susan Shin-Tsu-Tai (editor). Carved Paper: The Art of the Japanese Stencil. New York and Tokyo: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1998.

Stencils have been collected in Europe and America rather than in Japan, where they were not considered an art form until recently. The first western book on stencils was written by Andrew Tuer in 1892. Stencils were collected in Europe and in America in the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1910, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston held a stencil exhibition.

Japanese stencils, as well as Japanese woodlock prints, influenced artists such as Van Gogh, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, John La Farge, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Helen Hyde, Arthur Wesley Dow and Frank Lloyd Wright.

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Click on the images for larger screens.

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Bottle Gourds and Maple Leaves on Vertical Panels. c.1900. White ground 'jishiro' Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Silk thread insertion reinforcement. Carved with 'tsukibori' or pushed cut technique. 7 3/4 x 14. (sheet 14 1/2 x 17). $300.

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Chrysanthemums and Bands. c.1900. Dark ground Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Drill and punch carving. 8 x 13 7/8 (sheet 12 1/2 x 16 1/2). $300.

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Crabs and Pebbles. c.1900. White and dark ground Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Carved with 'tsukibori' or pushed cut technique. 8 1/8 x 13 5/8 (sheet 10 5/8 x 16 1/8). $300.

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Daruma Dolls. c.1900. Dark ground Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Thrust-cut technique. 8 1/2 x 13 (sheet 12 5/8 x 16 1/8). Signed, lower right. It is highly unusual for stencils to be signed. Ex-collection Arthur Wesley Dow. $300.

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Daruma Dolls and Clappers. c.1900. Dark ground Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Thrust-cut technique. 7 3/4 x 13 3/4 (sheet 12 1/2 x 16 3/8). A delightful komon (small motif) pattern. Ex-collection Helen Hyde. $275.

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Dianthus. c.1900. Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Punch carved technique. 7 1/2 x 14 1/2 (sheet 12 1/2 x 16 5/8). A delightful repeating komon (small pattern) design. Ex-collection Helen Hyde. $300.

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Dianthus and Sparrows. c.1900. Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Punch-carved leaf and flower pattern A chirashi (scattered) pattern. 8 1/2 x 14 (sheet 12 1/2 x 16 3/8). An exceptionally fine and skilled stencil. Ex-collection Helen Hyde. $275.

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Firecrackers. c.1900. Dark ground Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Thrust-cut technique. 6 x 13 3/4 (sheet 10 x 16). $275.

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Floral Squares. c.1900. Dark ground Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Punch carving technique. 7 1/2 x 14 3/4 (sheet 12 1/2 x 17 3/4).The intricately carved squares are set on diagonals. A delightful komon (small motif) pattern. Ex-collection Helen Hyde. $275.

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Floral Stripes: Flowers Alternating with Sesame Seeds. c.1900. Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Punch-carved technique. 5 1/2 x 14(sheet 10 1/8 x 16 1/4). Two small paper losses. An extremely delicate and subtle pattern. Ex-collection Helen Hyde. $275.

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Geometric Pattern. c.1900. Dark ground Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Punch carving technique. 7 1/4 x 15 1/4 (sheet 12 5/8 x 18). The intricately carved squares are set on diagonals. A delightful komon (small motif) pattern. Ex-collection Helen Hyde. The dark and light areas are not in the stencil, but reflect the light where the stencil is not lying flat. $275.

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Lanterns. c.1900. Dark ground Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Punch-cut technique. A komon (small motif) stencil. 7 1/2 x 14 (sheet 12 3/4 x 17). An extremely fine and skilled stencil. The light and dark swirls result from the stencil not lying flat; they are not in the stencil itself. $275.

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Morning Glories. c.1900. Japanese paper stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Thrust carving with silk thread insertion reinforcement. 16 1/4 x 14 1/2 (sheet 20 5/8 x 17). A striking large stencil. $500.

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Pawlonia. c.1900. White and dark ground Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Carved with 'tsukibori' or pushed cut technique. 7 1/4 x 13 3/4 (sheet 11 3/4 x 15 3/4). $275.

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Phoenixes and Flowers. c.1900. Dark ground Japanese paper stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Drill and punch carving. 8 3/8 x 13 7/8 (sheet 12 1/2 x 16). $275.

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Pine needles. c.1900. Dark ground Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Carved with thrust cut technique. 6 x 14 (sheet 10 1/8 x 15 3/4). An unusual chirashi (scattered pattern). $275.

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Spider Chrysanthemums. c.1900. Japanese paper stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Thrust carving with silk thread insertion reinforcement. 11 7/8 x 14 1/4 (sheet 16 x 16 3/4). An extremely stylized version of a favorite flower in Japanese art. $500.

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Squares on a diagonal striped background. c.1900. White and dark ground Japanese stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Carved with 'tsukibori' or pushed cut technique. 8 1/8 x 13 1/2(sheet 11 5/8 x 15 3/4). $300.

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Water and Pickerel Weed. c.1900. Japanese paper stencil on mulberry paper treated with persimmon juice and smoked. Thrust carving with silk thread insertion reinforcement. 12 1/4 x 14 3/8 (sheet 17 1/8x 17 1/8). An bold image full of movement. $500.

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It is extremely helpful to view the stencils and then look at the designs on the kimonos in Japanese prints:

Traditional Japanese Prints.

Modern Japanese Prints.

Mori Yoshitoshi and Sadao Watanabe (1913-1996) were the two best known 'sosaku hanga' artists to use the medium called kappazuri ("stencil printing"), a technique related to 'katazome' ("stencil dyeing").

If you wish to see a contemporary stencil artist using the method to create fabric, then utilize the fabric in clothing, quilts and art textiles, please click on Nautilus Fiber Arts.

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