Saturday, July 11, 2009

Something fishy here...GYOTAKU

Since I taught trigonometry for years, I guess I am permitted now and then to "go off on a tangent."

Ever since I saw the Japanese method of making prints with fish, called  gyotaku,  which means "fish impression", I have been interested in learning more about it.

Originally, it was done so that fishermen (and women?) had proof of the size of a fish they had just caught. Or so they say.

There is a woman in Sarasota who teaches classes in gyotaku, and also in making prints with seaweed and other marine creatures and plants. I have been in touch with her, and perhaps some day, I might take a class from her. She says that the printing works well on fabric, as well as paper. She said it works really well on silk.

So in the meantime, I borrowed two rubber fish stamps from my friend Emma, and I bought some fabric paint and started playing. These are wonderful stamps,  from Fred Mullett (yes, that's really his name!)

I have almost no experience with paint on fabric, so I did some research about the best type of fabric and the best kind of fabric paint.

I used white pdf fabric. Some I left as is, and some I bonded to a pellon stabilizer. And I just tried various methods of applying the paint to the stamp. Some of my impressions have little blobs, but I think in time and with practice, I could get it right. The higher the thread count, the better the impression. One source suggested using batik, so I'll try that, too.

This last picture is of an impression I got when I was using the stamp a second time without refreshing the ink, and of course, it is not as clear. But I don't like to waste anything, so I am using it to practice some thread painting.

 I put another layer of stabilizer on the back, and I am just going to free-motion embroider it and see how it turns out.

And that raises a question for me. I have seen a method in which people thread-paint on the kind of stabilizer that dissolves in water when you get your image finished. So what would happen if you stamped an image on it and then tried to thread paint it? Would the paint cause it to dissolve? 


  1. It would depend on what type of wash away you use. Some wash aways are only removed with WARM water so using a cold liquid paint shouldn't make it disolve. There is also a kind of stabelizer that is removed with heat from an iron. It has a sticky side to attach to your project and heat from an iron makes it crumble away. I believe it's made by Floriani.

  2. As to your "what if?"...I'm thinking you would end up with a thread laced fish, right? The water disolve I'm played with a couple of times seemed to need a lot of water...more than you would get with a fabric paint. And it turned gooey before it dissolved.

    Love the fish stamps from Mullet too!