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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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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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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. $250.

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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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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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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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Katagami is the Japanese craft of making paper stencils for dyeing textiles. It is designated one of the Important Intangible Cultural Properties of Japan. Multiple layers of thin washi paper are bonded with a glue extracted from persimmon, which makes a strong flexible brown colored paper. The designs can be extremely intricate, and consequently fragile. Now the stencils are often sold as artwork, attached to hand fans, or used to decorate screens and doors in Japanese rooms. For kimono printing the stencils are stabilized by attaching them to a fine silk net.

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").

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Traditional Japanese Prints.

Modern Japanese Prints.

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