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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.


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.


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


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



Silkworm cocoons, loosely wrapped in newspaper, below.


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



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


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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Three Hindu Copper Vessels

May 4, 2009

These three, elegant copper forms are used in ritual bathing rites during Hindu pujas, the puja being  a prescribed, worship ceremony of a god or goddess.  Often a puja is done with the intention to benefit the good of a person, a family or the greater good of mankind.  These copper vessels would be filled with water and held in the hand (the middle finger resting into the center  “dimple” for balance) and the image or murthi of the god or goddess would be bathed.  Shlokas or prayers would be uttered as the idol is being worshipped.


The form of these vessels is that of the yoni, a cosmic symbol of the goddess in the form of the female generative organ–I chose these words carefully as in Hindu thought this stylized vulva form is meant to represent the flowing forth of universal life in all of its creative manifestations, both spiritual and material.   The yoni is often seen in combination with the lingam, the primordial symbol of Lord Shiva represented as a phallus, so you see that the unified yoni lingam demonstrates the unification of male and female energies.

In Hinduism, female energy is worshipped as shakti, or the enlivening energy force.


These three yoni vessels are shown sitting on a mended Japanese hemp mesh textile called a koji mushiro.  Directly under the yonis is a fabulous silk organza cloth dyed in a Japanese botanical dyestuff called benibana or safflower.  This brilliant fuchshia cloth was dyed by Kyoto’s master dyer and cultural historian, Sachio Yoshioka. I selected this rich, red color as shakti, the Hindu feminine force, is represented by the color red.

The largest of these three yonis is 14″ x 7″ x 4″/ 35.5 cm x 18 cm x 10 cm.

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