Suminagashi, literally “floating ink”, is the Japanese traditional form of marbling on paper and silk. It dates back to the 12th Century and was used solely by Japan’s Imperial household and nobility until 1582.
Suminagashi consists of a series of concentric circles formed on
water and transferred to unsized paper.
The effect is suggestive of streams of water, windblown white cloth, and clouds. Black, indigo and red inks were used to create the graceful, flowing background to haiku and other Japanese texts.
With modern inks more colours have been introduced and a bolder, more striking effect is possible. Used on translucent Japanese paper, suminagashi is very effective for lampshades and screens. It makes restrained and elegant stationery and endpapers. Very pale suminagashi forms a subtle background for Chinese and Japanese calligraphy.