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Archives for June, 2009

Sometsukasa Yoshioka 染司よしおか, A Botanical Dyer’s Atelier: Post #10, Ambient Color Impressions

June 30, 2009

If you have been following this blog, you will have seen many previous postings on the great botanical dyer of Japan, the Kyoto-based Sachio Yoshioka and his family dyeworks, Sometsukasa Yoshioka.   If you haven’t been following this blog and are new to it, keep scrolling down to find the first post where I introduced Yoshioka about two weeks ago.

On today’s post, I’ll not narrate information on the dyeworks, but just let you enjoy a group of images shot around the studio on one of the days I was visiting.

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Sometsukasa Yoshioka 染司よしおか, A Botanical Dyer’s Atelier: Post #9, Red

June 27, 2009

Some ambient images of red seen at Kyoto’s botanical dyeworks, Sometsukasa Yoshioka. In the box below is the popular Japanese figure Otafuku, a mythic folk heroine who is known as the female half of a comic pair in Japan’s traditional Kyogen theatre, a comic form of entertainment.  She is considered to be the embodiment of mirth and is often depicted in Japanese art and folk art: here she is a roly-poly made of papier-mache, and now doubt she is sitting on this shelf to bring good luck.

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Red paper camellias and red lacquer trays.  The red paper camellias are used during the dramatic Omizutori festival at Nara’s ancient Todai-ji, one of Japan’s most treasured temples.

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Please scroll down to see the previous posts on Sometsukasa, the botanical dyeworks in Kyoto and Sachio Yoshioka, the master dyer and cultural historian whose family has been operating this dyeworks for five generations.

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Sometsukasa Yoshioka 染司よしおか, A Botanical Dyer’s Atelier: Post #8, Pink

June 26, 2009

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Sometsukasa Yoshioka 染司よしおか, A Botanical Dyer’s Atelier: Post #7, Yellow

June 25, 2009

This post on the botanical dyeworks in Kyoto, Sometsukasa Yoshioka, introduces yellow simply as color, without delving into details on the dyeing technique or its symbolic meaning.

Have look at the dyer dyeing a length of bright, maize yellow colored cloth, the entire time he is doing so he is agitating the cloth for even coverage during the dyeing and rinsing.  And yes, that IS a tree growing in the middle of the room.

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The image, below, was shot in the entrance way to the workshop and shows tree bark with a bright yellow interior.

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I invite you to scroll down through the previous postings to learn more about Sachio Yoshioka, the fifth generation dyer of Kyoto, Japan.  In my first post I offer an introduction to him, and in the subsequent posts, I hope to illustrate his work through photos.

Benibana, or safflower dyeing will be featured in the next post.

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Sometsukasa Yoshioka 染司よしおか, A Botanical Dyer’s Atelier: Post #6, Purple

June 23, 2009

Today’s post will highlight the natural dye that produces purple, or murasaki as seen at Sometsukasa Yoshioka, the fifth generation dyeworks in Kyoto, Japan, which specializes in botanical dyeing of the highest caliber.  The force behind this amazing color studio is Sachio Yoshioka, who is introduced in the first of what will be eleven posts.  If you scroll down you can see the previous posts on Yoshioka.

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On one of the days I visited Sometsukasa Yoshioka, the chief dyer at the atelier, Fukuda-san, who has more than 40 years experience in dyeing with Yoshioka, was dyeing purple using shikon or gromwell root.

Below you will see him pummeling the saturated roots in order to break them down to best extract their amethyst-colored dyes.

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The prepared root is placed in a ramie bag which will be set into hot water to extract its color, much like using a tea bag.  Once enough of the dye is extracted, the dyeing begins–and it must happen the same day that the dye is extracted from the roots.

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Here we see Fukuda-san agitating the dyed chirimen or crepe silk; great care must be taken that the cloth be constantly in motion as this aids in even dye coverage.

The actual piece of cloth being dyed that day is shown in the first image at the top of this post: it was destined for use as an under-obi called an obiage. After dyeing the cloth in shikon, it was mordanted in camellia ash in order to heighten the purple color.

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The color produced by dyeing with shikon is a soft, rich, red-tinged purple.  In country dyeing the color produced by gromwell root on cotton is a much darker, brooding purple, a result of dipping the cloth multiple times to build up a dense, purple color.   If you look at the purple areas on the han juban, or under kimono shown here you will see that the tone of purple is quite deep, and this is characteristic of antique gromwell root dyeing.

Yellow will be shown in the next post–have a look back soon.

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Sometsukasa Yoshioka 染司よしおか, A Botanical Dyer’s Atelier: Post #5, Green

June 21, 2009

Waves of beautifully dyed jade-green chirimen or crepe, silk are seen here drying in the sun at Sometsuka Yoshioka, the botanical dyeworks in Uji, Japan, just across the river from Kyoto city.

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The dyer must constantly agitate the cloth to insure even color absorption in the dyeing and rinsing processes.

The dyer’s colored fingernails, the result of years of immersing his hands into vats of botanical dyes, give him away as being a traditional dyer.

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The next post will show traditional dyeing using shikon or gromwell root, and the result yields rich tones of cool purple.  A stunning color— and one found very often in country dyeing as well as in the dyeing of formal garments.

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Sometsukasa Yoshioka 染司よしおか, A Botanical Dyer’s Atelier: Post #4, Black

June 20, 2009

Beautiful, velvety images of black as seen at Sometsuka Yoshioka, Kyoto’s botanical dye works owned by the publisher and master dyer, Sachio Yoshioka.

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Bamboo charcoal, above.  A mosquito coil, below.

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Dyestuffs, below.

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Please have a look at the posts below this one for an introduction to Sometsukasa Yoshioka, the Kyoto based dyeworks which has been in operation for five generations, since the late Edo Period.  And keep checking back to see more postings as there will be 11 in all.

Some postings, like this one, will be impressionistic and just give a hint of color “flavor” while others will be a bit more explanatory on the process and materials shown in photos.

A few glimpses of green will be shown in the next post….

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Sometsukasa Yoshioka 染司よしおか, A Botanical Dyer’s Atelier: Post #3, Blue

June 17, 2009

Enjoy some photos of “blue” which were shot at Sometsukasa Yoshioka, the atelier of Kyoto’s master dyer, Sashio Yoshioka, who is the fifth generation dyer in his family’s dyeworks.

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In this third post on the remarkable Renaissance man, Sachio Yoshioka, we are glimpsing some images of indigo dyeing at Sometsuka Yoshioka, located in Uji, Japan.  (Feel free to scroll down to see the two prior posts which introduce Yoshioka and his work).

Below, the indigo dyer at the workshop is holding a tsutsu or a cone fashioned from mulberry paper that is saturated in kaki shibu, or green persimmon tannin.  With this tsutsu, rice paste is applied to cloth before it is dyed in order to resist the dye of the bath; this process of freehand resist drawing is called tsutsugaki.  You can see a bit of rice paste at the tip of the tube.

The day I visited the workshop, this dyer was working on an order of cotton tsutsugaki furoshiki or wrapping cloths which you’ll see in photos below.

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Immersing cloth in the indigo vat, below.

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In the photo, below, the dyer is rinsing a finished piece and checking that the rice paste is entirely removed from the cloth.  Notice the bright white dot: this is the white cotton that resisted the indigo dye.

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Some photos below of another furoshiki which has just been dipped in the bath and is dripping dry.  Note the encrustations of dried rice paste on the cloth; these areas will resist the dye and remain white, as in the photo above.

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Fully resisted white-on-dyed blue, below:

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Many fragments of cottton taped to a piece of paper allow the dyer to monitor the consistency of color produced by the dye bath, below.

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Below is a clamp dyed (itajime) cloth, clamped and dyed in two directions.  Sometsuka Yoshioka sells this kind of item in their Kyoto shop, and in a later post we’ll browse the store.

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In the next post I’ll show some photos of the wonderful blacks to be found in and around Sometsuka Yoshioka.

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Sometsukasa Yoshioka 染司よしおか, A Botanical Dyer’s Atelier: Post #2

June 14, 2009

The previous post, below this one, talks about a series of  consecutive posts to be devoted to the multi-faceted master dyer of Kyoto, Sachio Yoshioka, and his dyeworks, Sometsuka Yoshioka, a workshop of the highest quality which is dedicated to the art of using botanical dyestuffs and traditional mordants.

I mentioned that we would go on a tour of Sometsuka Yoshioka and revel in the colors produced by plants in the natural dyeing process.  First, however, let’s follow the same path as I did when I visited the dyeworks.  Before going into the workshop and getting drenched in color, we’ll see the burning of rice straw, the ash of which will be used as a mordant in the dyeing process.  In this case, this ash was destined  to be used as a mordant in benibana or safflower dyeing. Have a look:

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Sachio Yoshioka feeding a sheath of rice straw into the fire, below.

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In the next post we’ll see blues produced by indigo, and we’ll see a few steps in the process of tsutsugaki dyeing.  Stay tuned.

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Sometsukasa Yoshioka 染司よしおか, A Botanical Dyer’s Atelier: Post #1

June 12, 2009

Today’s post is on the Kyoto-based master dyer, Sachio Yoshioka.  Because of Yoshioka’s prominence in the field of botanical dyeing in Japan, and because he is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the history of textiles and color in Japan, I will post 11 postings in all on this renown color master and his studio, Sometsukasa Yoshioka, located in Uji, Japan.  The entrance to the studio is shown below, heralded by a simple noren of indigo dyed ramie.

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To call Yoshioka a master dyer is an oversimplification of a very complex person whose expertise resides in many areas.

Dyeing is one area of expertise, but also is his understanding of the cultural history of ancient Japan, specifically the Nara (710-794 CE) and Heian (794-1185 CE) Periods where his incisive knowledge bores into the intricacies and manners of these two glorious periods of Japanese history.

Yoshioka has researched, written on and lectured extensively on topics related to ancient Japanese history.  Before taking over his family’s dyeworks, Yoshioka published countless titles on Japanese culture and textiles at his imprint, Shikosha, which is responsible for producing some of the best sources for studying Japanese cultural history in Japanese and English.

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The photos below are various views of and vignettes to be found in the studio’s entrance way and meeting room.

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On display in one of the rooms is a selection of historical, botanical dyestuffs, shown below.

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Silkworm cocoons, loosely wrapped in newspaper, below.

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A beautiful artwork by Yoshioka, a resist dyed indigo cloth scroll, below.

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And an informal portait of Sachio Yoshioka, next to of one of his artworks, a screen of gradient yellow-to-red yarns.

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This posting on this important man and his work is brief, but it is meant simply as an introduction.  In my next post we’ll go into the dyeworks to see color in action, and to talk more on Yoshioka and his world.

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