It was the best of times, during the worst of times…

When you live your life as an expatriate, friends become like family. You join them for holidays like Thanksgiving and they get to know your children well. In emergencies, they take care of you, just the way family would. We have a lot of people to thank for the last few weeks and I am enjoying searching out some thank you presents.

The friend who kept us in Singapore already has a pair of beautiful katagami, the Japanese stencils used in printing designs on fabric, usually for kimono. Hers are an unusal long narrow pair, used to make obi, but more commonly seen are smaller stencils, like the ones framed in the Eric Cohler designed bedroom above or those in the Steven Gambrel designed dining room below.

Gambrel is a master at using tightly hung textile arts in his interiors and he is one of the only published designers out there who does it often.

You can see it over and over again in his portfolio.

These look to be actual textile fragments.

Katagami are not the only fabric “printing aids” found among Japanese antiques. Obi zuan, the hand-painted patterns used in obi making can also be found at antique stores and shrine sales.  I even saw a number of them framed at the Altfield Gallery in Hong Kong. Honestly, I still cannot get over how many Japanese antiques there were for sale in Hong Kong!

On Saturday I ran down to the Azabu Juban patio market, knowing there is a dealer who usually has a nice selection of katagami. He did not disappoint – actually all the dealers were there and it was business as usual. In the wake of the disaster, it is not just aid that people need, it is for their livelihoods to continue. In that spirit, shopping seems to be one of the more valuable things I can do.

Picking out the stencils was not hard. There were two bingata style katagami, used to make traditional Okinawan cloth that I thought my friend would really like. The bingata stencils tend to be curvy and pictorial, with plants and animals depicted, unlike some of the more geometric katagami. They weren’t too big, so they wouldn’t take a lot of wall space commitment either. Key to highlighting the detail is to use a white or light-colored liner.

One common way to frame them is to cover the dark border entirely or partially with the mat.

Another way to frame them is to allow the dark border of the stencil to function as a mat in lieu of one. Here, Maja Smith of Alegria Design uses an unexpected modern lucite box frame and no matting to highlight her katagami.  

In the end, I chose a framing style similar to the first image in the post – with a mat, but allowing the dark border to show as an inner frame. I’ll post the final product when it comes back from the framer.

Unfortunately, I cannot blog about the other thank you gifts I am out shopping for as I know those friends are regular readers.  They will just have to wait and be surprised…

Image credits: 1. House Beautiful October 2008, photo credit: Julian Wass, 2. House Beautiful April 2011, photo credit: Simon Watson, 3-5. Steven Gambrel, 6-10. me.