Mizugone — water-mixed. This is considered the most difficult of finishes in Japanese plastering. Why? It’s just water, earth, sand and straw…
However, the ingredients are super fine, and the plaster goes on super thin. You have to get the substrate perfect, or the finish will be wonky. This is an “okkake” finish at this workshop, where the finish coat is applied directly after the brown coat has just dried enough. Your tools have to be of the right make, shape, and wear for each application, or your material won’t apply well. (A plaster applied well allows for success of the next application.) As always, you’re battling with time sucking away your plasters’ moisture via substrate and air as you go. All of these factors, and probably a few I’ve missed mentioning, make this the most difficult, fine finish to achieve. So much so that people come from around the country to Kyoto Plaster Guild’s Skills Training Course to learn from Master Okada, a grand puba of this timeless, centuries-old Japanese plastering. Most of the craftsmen who come to this class are repeat offenders. I’ve participated once, two years ago (well before I even started understanding what it was about), and today I was given the opportunity to join the class as an observer. [Reviewing my photos, I’m bummed that I didn’t take close-up photos of the process step-by-step. Instead, I have video. See below.]
One super cool aspect of these workshops is that we get a chance to meet each other. While in the past, joining these classes has been a bit of an awkward experience for me, this time, with so many familiar faces and fun spirits, it was like family. Playful jokes abound, but these do not outdo the juicy enthusiasm each person brings to the opportunity of upping their game.
Last week Sunday, the group gathered for the first of the two-day course; two days separated by a week; plasterers only have Sundays to spare. This is a hot group of avid learners. Last week they finished right over a wet go-around (where you use a sandy plaster beveled around the edges, preventing shrinkage when the water evaporates). They also did the go-around for the panels they would plaster today. These dried, prepped panels were thoroughly wetted before work started this week.
After watching a full demonstration from Master Okada’s ace, Hara-san, the group got to work. Master Okada’s team made rounds to guide folks who were having trouble. I was busy watching and taking notes while everyone was working, but I got good video of Hara-san. It’s about 4 1/2 minutes, edited. Have a look!