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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Intermediate Work - The Komodaru (Sake Barrels)

Sake barrels outside a temple.
April 25th - 3rd June 2014

Around the same time I started working on the Shimotsuke doll, I also started to work on some sake barrels.  I had seen some pictures of the barrels that are brought to temples in Japan as gifts and usually opened during important ceremonies.  But I really liked the idea of some sake barrels being stored in the ryokan house.  I mean, they must drink some sake too even if they are visiting the inn for health and relaxation.

The first thing I had to do was find a way to make barrel shapes.  I was going to make them from wooden square dowels carved down to size but that was probably going to take too long.  If I had a lathe or something, it would have been easy but I don’t have one so I opted for using some Kinder Surprise toy eggs.  The kinder eggs come with a surprise in them so I just used the toy container, covered it with some paper and glue and let it set.  I noticed that the bottom of the barrels were pretty tapered and the tops somewhat flat.  I wanted to make the larger komodaru barrels but if you use half of the kinder egg container, you can make smaller barrels and get two out of it! Especially if you are making a wall of barrels like the above picture.  As for wrapping them,  I did find a nice site which illustrated how they wrap the barrels so I used that as my inspiration.
Example of how to wrap the barrel.

It took me a long time to figure out what kind of material I was going to use to enclose the barrel.  The real barrels are wrapped in woven hay cloth.  I even considered weaving some raffia to create a fabric.  Then I remembered I had some cross stitch aida cloth which would work really well.  I covered the barrel by sewing the cloth into place.  I covered the top with a small wooden circle to show the barrel top.  And then generously painted the cloth with white acrylic.  One the first barrel, I had to flatten the bottom by hand.  With the second one, I just clamped it while the paint was still wet.  That way, the bottom of the barrel dried flat so I would have less problems standing it up.
The next step was to apply the sake barrel producer’s name.  I found quite a few examples of them on the internet.  So I just applied some glue to the dry sake barrel surface and soaked the image in water to make it easier to apply.  I use my regular inkjet printer and have minimal color loss during this process.  If you rub the image or use a wet brush over the image or leave it in the water too long, it will run tho.  But you can always touch up the barrel once the image is dry.

Kinder surprise container covered with paper and with a foam bottom to simulate the tapered barrel.
I added some washers to the bottom for more weight and stability.
Sewing the aida cloth onto the eggs.
Generous layers of white acrylic to simulate hay cloth.
Once that was done, I could weave and tie off the binding cords.  I found some macramé twine in two sizes that worked well.  The thicker string for the outside and the thinner for the top and bottom details.  I had to flatten the bottom of the barrels again because of the thick twine so I clamped them again in the vice.  I’m pretty pleased with my barrels! No ryokan is any fun without sake!
Adding the thicker twine first.
Finished barrels.
Propped up outside the kitchen with some sacks - at least till I build the outside storage area.

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