Suminagashi is a Japanese
technique for marbling paper or silk,
and has been in use since the 12th century.
I’ve been curious to try it since I began practicing
Turkish marbling last year. And today,
during my Friday residency at Tiger Lily Press,
I finally had the opportunity.
It’s considerably easier to set up than Turkish marbling. All that’s
needed is a tray of tap water, sumi ink, surfactant, a few sumi brushes
and unsized washi.
I practiced first on smaller sheets of scrap paper just to
figure out the ratio of ink to surfactant. I only used black sumi ink
diluted to two different values. They were far too pale initially,
and as I progressed I continued to darken them. Too bad I ran out
of paper before I could get the one value as dark as I wanted.
To create the pattern, the brushes are dipped in the diluted ink & surfactant,
and then barely allowed to touch the surface of the water. Instantly a
small circle of ink floats on the surface. With each touch of the brush,
concentric circles can be built up to any size.
In addition, I use a third brush that is dipped in plain water mixed
with a few drops of surfactant. This brush is used
to create a clear circle which will print as a clear line.
After the circles are created, I then fan (or blow across)
the surface of the water which causes the
floating ink to begin to swirl and move around to create the pattern.
It’s impossible to control it, and it’s not supposed to be. Part of the charm is
in relinquishing control and allowing
the pattern to develop on its own.
In order to capture the pattern, a sheet
of unsized washi is lowered onto the surface
and the pattern is immediately transferred to the paper.