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Ink Rubbing

The art of rubbing coincided with the invention of paper. For nearly two thousand years, ink rubbing performed some of the functions of modern photographs. Duplicated from inscriptions and low-relief designs found on stones, bronzes and clayworks, they were collected for study, hung in temples, and used as interior decoration.

Gyotaku

Equipment

  • The tuber of hyacinth bletilla
  • Unsized rice paper
  • Ink
  • Ink pad
  • Bristle brush

How to

  1. Some weak glue is necessary to keep the paper in place during rubbing. Prepare the glue in advance. Soak one teaspoon of the tuber of hyacinth bletilla in one quart of cool water overnight. Boil the saturated tuber of hyacinth bletilla on low fire for about an hour. Test the stickiness of the glue by fingertip. If you feel some stickiness, the glue is ready to use.
  2. Spaying water lightly over an unsized rice paper. Fold the paper into small square in size of book to let the moisture spread out evenly. Brush a thin coat of prepared glue evenly over the rubbing surface. Unfold the moistened paper and carefully spread it over with a broad, bristle brush. Carefully tamp the paper into all the depressions and crevices of the incised areas with the same brush while the paper is still wet. Exercise care not to tear the paper.
  3. Apply ink when the paper almost dries white. Ink pad is made from a piece of fine silk containing cotton wadding. With an ink pad in each hand, soak the rubbing pad with ink and then wipe clean of all excess ink with the other pad until the rubbing pad is barely moist to the touch. Be aware that excessive ink results in smudging images. Dab the rubbing pad gently over the mounted paper, leaving the background black and the incised areas white. Ink can be applied in multiple times. A single layered rubbing produces light impression; a multilayered rubbing produces a solid impression. Peel the rubbing off when it is almost dry.


 
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