Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Gyotaku" Fish Quilts


Gyotaku (Japanese 魚拓, from gyo "fish" + taku "rubbing") is a traditional form of Japanese fish printing, dating from the mid 1800s, a form of nature printing used by fishermen to record their catches. In order to make a gyotaku print, one places the subject (e.g. fish, crab, scallop shell) on a flat surface and paints one side with sumi ink.

Modern gyotaku artists often substitute watercolor, india ink or other painting material for the traditional sumi. Once the pigment is applied to the subject, a piece of rice paper is then carefully applied on top of the fish and then pulled off with a mirror image of the fish having been created on the substrate.

The indirect approach requires that the subject is firmly secured into a cradle or mounted onto a firm backing, then a very fine piece of fabric, either silk or polyester, is attached to the subject with a glue that will release (e.g. spray adhesive or a water-based glue that can later be washed out).

The artist carefully applies ink to the fabric using a tool called a tampo. The tampo is constructed from a piece of fine silk bound around a soft, rounded ball of cotton. Very thin layers of ink are successively laid onto the fabric, and the textures of the subject transfer through the fabric, creating textures in the print.

Quilters, using art quilting techniques, are incorporating these or variations of these techniques, into their beautiful art quilts. Usually using real fish, as Robin Ryan did for the Sisters Quilt Show, then saving the salmon or other fish used, in their freezers for up to six months for re-use in print and then, in quilt making.

There were a variety of interesting quilts made this way at the 2008 Sisters Quilt Show and Robin Ryan, as the featured artist, had an amazing display of not only her Fish Quilts but others that were exceptional in many ways. Her machine quilting techniques were amazingly complex and added unusual effects to the quilts, as well. I am not sure if all of these fish quilts are Robin's but the first four shown, definitely are, as we had the opportunity to discuss them and her techniques at her display.

My other links on the Sisters Quilt Show:
Butterfly Quilts
"Gyotaku" Fish Quilts
Jane Sassaman
Sisters Oregon Quilt Show
Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show 2008 Photos

3 comments:

  1. Gyotaku is very popular with some of my friend's fishing husbands. Often I'll see a sumi print of some fish hanging in the entryway or livingroom and I'm ashamed to say that I don't find them all that attractive... Hmmm. A dead fish... I might like this if it had a bit more color and an artistic arrangement of fish, but as is... it is a bragging post for the fisherman! I'm sure he loves the memories it brings.

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  2. Anonymous11:28 AM

    Normally, I don't like fish very much but I saw a couple of these at the quilt show and I was amazed at how she painted and quilted them. I think fish quilts must be much more interesting than just the painted ink versions.

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  3. waw beautiful. i love fish
    i'm waiting you in my blog.tx

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.