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Ibushi


Guest katfen

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You are already thinking in the right direction! Some ivory netsuke were stained by placing it with burning (smoking) incense in an enclosure.

 

Avoiding heat build-up would be my first concern. I tried using smoldering sticks in a coffee can over another coffee can (with holes) setup with the piece hanging on a wire in the top can, which actually left a resist mark where the moose antler carving contacted the wire. That was solved by moving the piece periodically, shifting its position to open the resting points to the smoke. The holes at the can's bottom were opened or closed to alter the air flow to keep the smolder cool. This was very experimental. One would likely do better than that, and might be able to make something that you could walk away from to make your hours more productive. I was simply enjoying the rainy summer afternoon in a small, open playhouse, free from family for a few hours.

 

Committing a piece to incense will give you a piece that smells of the incense, wood smoke will give you the smell of the wood.

 

I recall the piece feeling sticky with the smokey residue. Would this dry over time to create a "varnish"? I chose to wash/scrub the stickiness away and left an amount that subtly colored the piece of moose antler. The antique netsuke that I remember having been colored by incense were a delicious, shiny smooth color, which I won't give a name to until I look at my artist's oil paints. (The first name could stick and then if I got it wrong you would have the wrong concept of outcome.) Time and wear have modified and shaded the original state. There is lots of room to play with it, timing, heat, fuel source...

 

When I get to the studio, I intend to look in the Masatoshi book by Bushell to see if there are any explanations for this technique, and the Living Masters netsukeshi book by Kinsey as well. I'll write about any findings here later.

 

I did see on Amazon.com that the two books are available for purchase. The Masatoshi/Bushell book was under one hundred dollars! The other was where I have heard it to be before, around or above three hundred dollars. It is good to know that the books become available now and then. They are a good resource, since there are no real "how to" books out there for netsuke carving.

 

Time to start the day, more later.

 

Janel

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hmmm, that is interesting. Perhaps the moose antler is less porous than the wood and the tars collected on the surface rather than being absorbed by the wood.

 

I read in Masatoshi's book about ibushi with incense. He did discover that when heat collected, the ivory would crack, so he tried for a cooler smoke.

 

I have not tried using an herb such as sage. My experiment was with oak branches and leaves. I wonder what sorts of smoke producing materials might offer to the coloration of various materials. Sage must also smell very good.

 

Thanks for sharing that information. Let us know if you do more with it, please!

 

Janel

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I've been speaking with a colleague of mine at the local art museum. They had some Japanese hanging scrolls that needed to travel out of the country for exhibit. The end knobs (sometimes termed scroll weights) or 'jiku' in Japanese were of ivory and needed to be removed due to Customs regulations.

 

Bone replacements were acquired, but needed tinting to tone down the newness. Her Japanese associates recommended incense staining, so she bought some of those insect-repellant coils of incense at the local Japanese grocery. They were placed in a large cookie tin with the knobs suspended from the lid.

 

As Janel has found, the results were "amber colored, but uneven and soft". It could be polished lightly with a cloth, but rubbed off with pressure. In the end, they settled for a light coat of tinted shellac.

 

The late Guy Shaw had posted on his website a beautiful stag antler pipe case which was incense stained; very deeply and darkly. His methods are unfortunately, perhaps gone.

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I wonder if the polished surface were opened up with acetic acid, limited time immersion in 32% photo acetic acid, if the surface would be more open to color retention after cleansing the piece.

 

The polished surface of antler and mammoth is very smooth and takes very little color until it has been etched. A limited number of seconds (time/stain experiments are mandatory) of immersion in the acetic acid will open the surface without compromising the gloss. I etched antler which had some porosity in part of it, I then to neutralize the acetic acid (very strong vinegar smell) with sodium bicarbonate (kitchen soda) and water, then rinsed well and dried before coloring with stain.

 

I have not tried this step before ibushi, or smoke coloring, but it might allow the smoke color to be retained by the material after the residue is removed. Perhaps an alternate step is time, to let the tars from the smoke dry to a polish able state.

 

I wonder also if different combustible materials yield different qualities of tars and colors. Hmmm? Some more tarry, some less? Does anyone know about the incense used in the past centuries in Japan? What was the base material that provided the smoking fuel, other than the fragrance?

 

Lots to learn about.

 

Janel

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Guest Clive

A few points to bear in mind, the dryer the material, the better it'll absorb the staining. This is particularly important with materials like stag than can be very waxy when "fresh".

 

You need to Key the material by immersing it in acetic acid... (as Janel suggests) but for no longer than 20 seconds. Make sure you dry completely after washing acid off.

 

Use good quality incense, try lots of different brands...I use great big blocks of the stuff in a 20 litre drum and have left some carvings slowly "cooking" for days...removing every now and again to wash (and dry). Best results achieved by show and cool.

 

Oh And finally... theres no reason why you can't dye using some other process to reach a desired tone and just put the refining finish on with incense.... how da ya think Guy got this stag pieces so dark!! :);)

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Clive- I thought maybe it couldn't be all incense on that pipecase, but I didn't want to hazhard a guess, given the quality of Mr. Shaw's work.

 

A brief acid etch sounds like the way to go- I'll pass this along to my art museum acquaintance for future reference. We certainly have enough of that stinky acetic acid around here (smells up the whole cupboard in my conservation lab)

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