Suminagashi: The Art of Floating Ink

Hundreds of years before marbleizing techniques were adopted by the Europeans, Japanese masters had perfected the art. Known in Japan as suminagashi (which literally translates to "floating ink"), the decorative artform originated in the 12th Century. As with many traditional Japanese artforms, suminagashi was practiced not only as a craft but as a form of self-discipline, concentration and a means through which to control seemingly unpredictable or natural elements. The process involves dropping special inks called Aitoh Boku-Undo into a shallow tray of water that is wide enough and long enough to accommodate the size of paper or fabric the artist intends to dye. The inks can be allowed to swirl on their own as they meet with the gentle undulations of the water itself or can be manipulated into whimsical, whirly patterns with a thin tip or with a gentle current of air. The artist then lays the paper or fabric on top of the finished floating-ink design, which becomes almost immediately absorbed by the material. The work, once removed from the water, can be hung to dry. Click here to see a Japanese suminagashi artist at work.
In the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Europeans developed new technologies that could identically replicate marbleized ink patterns for use on book covers and wrapping papers. Machines with precise mechanisms that recreated specific ink designs ensured uniformity and consistency of pattern. In the March issue of Martha Stewart Living there is an excellent article about how to replicate this ancient artform for fun and inventive new craft projects, such as designing pillow case patterns, wall hangings, coasters and journals. The idea behind it is to play with colour and let your imagination go, to "embrace the surprise" as crafts editor Marcie McGoldrick notes in the article. Photographs here by Ryan Liebe illustrate some of the craft projects in the issue. Click here for a very good tutorial on how to do this project at home and here for more resources and information about suminagashi.
These cardboard coasters, which can be purchased online, were decorated using the remnant ink from a larger project. Once dry, they were waterproofed using a d├ęcoupage finish.
I love the vintage-modern splash this wall hanging creates with its vibrant mix of colours. The artwork is actually a scan of a marbled piece of paper that was enlarged and printed on fabric by spoonflower.com and then stretched between two dowels.
The leather blotter and these fabric-covered notebooks are a nod to traditional stationery marbling techniques. With bright colours in lieu of the usual jewel tones, this is a new, fresh take.

1 comment:

Rowaida said...

Suminagashi, is an amazing Japanese art. I have done marbleizing projects at home and used them as gift wraps and cards, but in a different technique. When I went to Japan last year, I learned about the original history of Suminagashi, I was astonished by their technique, amazing and very inspiring.
Thank you Andrew for a great post
Best wishes