Lampwork Glass Beads, Playing With Fire: Suminagashi, the Video

Time to make a suminagashi video with a few examples of interesting things I have learned! The video in all its glory can be found on youtube (it’s called  The Suminagashi Movie), with captions to help things along. I’m sort of assuming you’ve got a basic handle on how this technique works already.

Below is more information about some of the things you’ll see in that video.To the left is the finished (still wet) print.

This is just about 1/2 inch of water in a baking pan, with black and blue sumi ink. Nothing fancy. This is pan is solely dedicated to suminagashi~ no ink in the food chain! I do this right next to my sink, which makes it neater, but does not give 360 degree access. The ink has had a drop or two of sumifactant (see below) added to it to help it float and control the spread.

The first thing demonstrated is a way to move the ink designs around. If you place each drop of ink at the base of the previous circle, instead of in the center, the design will move across the water. You can see the different ways the design moves all through this video.

Some early tests

The ‘clear’ in the first part of the video is nose oil- to use this, rub the base of a brush against the outside of your nose to pick up a little oil (eww…) and use that to make empty circles. This gives a really nice controlled circle inside the colored ink. Another option is to add about a drop of photoflow to a teaspoon of water and use that to make clear spaces in your design. Or try a touch of soap in water and see how it works!

In most cases, a brush is loaded with ink and touched lightly to the surface of the water to make a circle, but there are times when that circle is just not big enough. Then it’s time for a double dip or a little longer or deeper dip into the water. If the ink starts looking too thin, wipe the brush off and load it again- water seeps into the brush as it is used.

Accent dots can be added here and there and, again, moved and shaped by adding ink in different areas relative to those dots. Very interesting designs can be made with this method!

The design can be further manipulated by blowing gently or strongly or through a straw, or by fanning with a hand fan. It is not necessary to do all of these techniques in each piece. Remember, sometimes less is more!

Sumifactant (a special surfactant made by Colophon Books) and photoflow  are great for pushing the design around. Careful! Both of these can move things about powerfully. Photoflow seems to be the strongest pusher, and therefore the least reliable. Sumifactant is a little more controllable.
If desired, even after all of this manipulation, you can still add more ink! (Because sometimes more is more~ ha,ha). I often do this to help consolidate the design so more of it will fit on the paper!

The paper used in the video is a very pale purple unryu of about 25 grams. Unryu is my favorite paper type to date; pretty strong and a bit see through with a lovely texture. The lighter weight unryu does not have a very good wet strength. To pick up the design, start at one corner of the paper and lay it on the water as evenly as possible. This paper has great pickup and very rarely comes away with a missed spot or line.

Leave the paper on just until the design shows through the back, lift carefully by one edge and then immediately put it on a flat surface ( I use a large plastic lid), then rinse gently so spare ink comes off. After it is a bit drier, I move it to a glass tabletop until mostly dry, then sandwich it with plain paper and press it for a couple of days under  some weight (a pile of books).

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