Going With The Flow


After an incredible suminagashi session with the Succurro fellows at the Winter gathering and another suminagashi class I taught this past week, I have been contemplating the phrase “going with the flow” and how it relates to my art practice as well as how I teach and convey my practice to others.

With just inks floating on water, suminagashi is in constant movement, perpetually morphing into new shapes and forms with little or no impact from the marbler. As I described to the fellows during our session together, I love teaching this process as a way to relinquish control. You can insert yourself in the suminagashi process through blowing, using a stylus, adding more ink, etc. but so many environmental factors (a slight gust of air in the room or someone bumping into the table) can change the movement of water and thus the movement of inks in uncontrollable ways.

In almost every class I teach, there is usually at least one student who resists the process. They enter the class wanting the inks to bend to their will in order to create a piece they have in their mind. These students are holding onto control within the creative process and typically become frustrated when they are unable to achieve what they deem to be a satisfactory result. As an instructor, it can be challenging to deal with this type of student, but the more I share my practice with others, the more I realize that I wish all my students were like this as I believe this is the sort of person who would benefit the most from the lessons of suminagashi.

To “go with the flow” within this practice is very literally moving with the flow of water, observing the changes in motion, creating a conversation with the evolving design, and using your intuition to know when to be active and when to be passive. Also, within the individual, it means to release preconceived notions and control, to come at every experience with an open and receptive mind, to bend yourself to the unexpected, to be calm and trust your instincts within the discomfort of chaos.

Imagine a flowing river or tributary that meets with a physical obstacle. The waves of moving water will crash against the object (resist) but eventually will flow around the obstacle, forging a new pathway and eroding the obstacle slowly over time to extend beyond it. Now imagine the river are your thoughts - how can we maneuver around difficult situations or challenges and embark on new modes of thinking?

Linh Truong