On the Town: Discover Suminagashi at Palmetto Art Center

By Virginia Johnson, Entertainment Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, February 09, 2018, 10:19 PM EST

In the ancient eastern art of Suminagashi, ink dances on water.

"The Suminagashi artists of Japan, they really started doing this in the 12th Century,” explained Wendy Marble, lead instructor at PAC. “They created ways to manipulate the ink on the surface."

But all the techniques begin with water in a shallow container mixed with seaweed extract.

“That helps hold the ink on the top of the surface,” said Marble.

Marble first came across this art form in Turkey—and yes, I see how marbling ink with an artist named Marble is super cool.

The first technique involves moving the ink across the water with our breath.

We pick our ink colors and touch the tip of a small paint brush into the ink and then touch the top of the water.

The ink spreads across the surface, and very little sinks to the bottom of the container.

We use a straw and blow from different spots across the water, and the red ink rolls outward and circles around the blue and yellow ink.

It’s trippy.

Photo: Virginia Johnson, staff

Then when we decide we are done, we get our rice paper ready.

We lay it on the water in one rolling movement, wait just a few seconds, and take it out.

"And the ink stays on the paper," said Marble, holding the dripping paper with a perfectly captured image.

It is, in essence, a monoprint

"It can’t be repeated--it’s unique," said Marble.

The next unique technique is dragging an implement through the water.

We use a pick style comb, pulling it through green, yellow and red ink and the strokes are captured on the paper.

Photo: Virginia Johnson, staff

The final technique uses surfactants.

"For example, a drop of turpentine or a drop of soapy water on the surface makes the dye [go] poof!” said Marble, moving her hands outward, mimicking the movement, “it wants to run away from that."

We use black ink, dip a toothpick tip in soapy water and touch it to the middle of the ink drop.

It spreads in a “poof” as Marble demonstrated earlier.

To make rings, we put another black ink drop in the middle and repeat the toothpick trick.

We finish the rings with a red middle.

"Isn't that fun?” asked Marble. "And it’s fun because each one’s different and you can’t make a mistake- Love that part!"

The Palmetto Art Center is offering you a chance to continue this centuries-old tradition on Saturday, Feb. 10. For more information, visit palmettoartcenter.com/FSWS_show.html.

Photo: Virginia Johnson, staff