Friday, October 11, 2013

Fabric Panel Making Process

Kyoto is known as the center of the Japanese culture since the Japanese original culture flourished in 8th century.  The emperor (tennou) lived in the city and all the wealth and the best technique were brought to this city.  They remained and developed even after the capital was moved.  The kimono making is one of the most important craft from Kyoto, which technique is called as Yuzen-zome.  This method was invented in 17th century by a fan painter, Miyazaki Yuzen-sai.  This dyeing method is epoch-making invention which is not found in other dyeing method.  The technique enabled the kimono pattern and motif to be elaborate, colourful and fine design as if they were paintings.  In Japan, kimono has been regarded as a fortune, inherited from mother to daughter.  The the beautiful design of the nature dyed on kimono has been loved across the time.

The process of Yuzen dyeing consists of roughly 15 steps.  Each work is done by each specialist.  Therefore the completion of one kimono fabric is the result of collaboration of many craftsman.

1. Sketch the design
Sketch the design using the vegetable ink taken from petals of aobana (a family of dayflower).
2. Place starch on the outline
Apply starch or wax precisely over the ink to prevent the lines to be dyed.  A sharpened brass metal tube is used as a pen to draw the lines to glue.  The patterns are detailed and keeping the regular minute lines requires skill.
It is called as itome, a line like a string.  Since this outline remains visible as white line, the colours are clearly separated from each other and each pattern or motif looks clear.  This is the one of the distinguishing features of Yuzen-dyeing.

3. Dye the pattern
Add a colour inside of the outlines to dye the patterns.  To prevent one colour mixed with another, wait until one colour is dried.
4. Steam
Fix the colour inside the ontline on the cloth by steaming for 20 - 40 min.
5. Place starch on the pattern
After the colour stayed firmly on the cloth, place glue on the pattern to prevent it to be dyed.

6. Prepare for the cloth dyeing
Before colouring the cloth, coat the cloth with liquid made of mashed soybean and dry it.  This is to prevent the colour to be blurred and to show the colour off.

7. Dye the cloth
Dye the cloth with a brush
8. Steam
Fix the colour on the cloth by steaming for 20 - 40 min.
9. Rinse
Wash away the starch and the excess dye in clean water.  This process was done in the kamo river running from the mountain to the south of the city until 1950's, known as Yuzen-nagashi.  The scenery of the craftsmen cleaning the beautifully dyed cloth in the river was seen as poetic scene in Kyoto.
10. Prepare for the cloth dyeing
Before colouring the cloth, coat the cloth with liquid made of mashed soybean and dry it.
11. Colour pattern
Colour the pattern carefully as if painting.

12. Steam
Fix the colour on the cloth by steaming.
13. Rinse
Wash away the starch and the excess dye in clean water.
14. Form the shape
Stretch the shrink cloth from rinsing and regain the width of the cloth by steam.
15. Finish the decoration
Add the gold foil or embroidery as finish.

The designer of fabric panel, Issui Ogino

The design of the panels is taken from the original design books of a Japanese designer and painter, Issui Ogino, who created a wide range of novel and creative designs in the early 20th century.  His designs were free from existing thoughts and he is regarded to be a member of the Japanese painters's group, Rimpa.  He also took the essence of art nouveau and created new designs. His works are still fresh to our eyes in the current time.  The panel is a work synthesized from two classic Japanese art forms, Yuuzen dyeing and Rimpa design, woven together across time.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Handle the tools with care

This is what my tea teacher in Kyoto told me countless times.  She said to hold a little cup with the right hand and support it with the left hand whenever I put it down anywhere.  As a kid, I did not properly understand what this meant.  For me, the cup was just a cup.  Nothing special and the tea tools that I used during the lesson were just the same as other ordinary cups.  I was annoyed about having to pay so much attention when doing this simple thing.

As I got older, I came to understand the importance of her teaching.  This is a fundamental thought in the tea ceremony.  As a person learning the way of tea, one should have compassion for the creator of the tools that one is using.  Every tool in the tea lesson was made by artisans; the kimono worn to the tea ceremony is made devotedly by an expert, the table runner to put the tools is woven reverently by hand, and the cups themselves are the outcome of patient experiments and diligent effort.  Whenever I see such handmade products, I think of their creator.  A Spirit inhabits these objects.

Learning to respect the tools is to respect the person who made it.  At the same time, we learn to respect nature and all living things including us.