Tag Archives: 染め物

Rokutani Baiken, Living National Treasure 人間国宝 六谷梅軒

Auspicious Gourd Pattern on Silk Chirimen (Japanese Crepe)

End of bolt for the design called Cluster of Guords, showing artist’s label, Baiken Rokutani

This is a marvelous example of extremely fine stencil
carving by Rokutani Baiken, who was declared a Living National Treasure in 1955 and passed away in 1973.

Master Ise Stencil Carver Rokutani Baiken
1907-1973
重要無形文化財 伊勢型紙錐彫 保持者
六谷梅軒

1907(明治40) 三重県鈴鹿市に生まれる
born 1907 in Suzuka, Mie Prefecture
1919(大正 8)  父・芳蔵のもとで修行
began studies under his father, Rokutani Bouzou
1939(昭和14) 独立
became independent
1942(昭和17) 小宮康助の勧めで極鮫小紋の研究
began research into extremely fine, sharkskin-pattern stencils while working for Komiya Kousuke
1955(昭和30) 重要無形文化財保持者「伊勢型紙錐彫」に認定
designated as Living National Treasure (preserver of the hole punch style of Ise katagami)

Close up of both sides of the bolt

As you can see from the back, the entire bolt was first dyed a solid color in a vat of fresh-leaf tadeai (Persicaria tinctoria), after which the paste was applied to the front side through the stencil carved by Rokutani Baiken. Once the paste dried, several more coats of the dye were brushed on. Eventually the paste was washed away revealing the detailed imagery of “one-thousand gourds”.

Detailed description of bolt

The paperwork attached to the bolt gives us quite a bit of information.

伊勢型紙
Ise Katagami
千成瓢箪
One-Thousand Gourds
もの事すべて実になる
瓢箪には神のが宿るといわれる
豊臣友秀吉の馬印は瓢箪であり緑起がよく戦に勝つたびに一個づつふやしていった
Custom has it that the souls of the gods take refuge in this type of gourd, and keeping one about helps to bring to fruition all your aspirations. Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s battle standard was this gourd. With every battle won he added one more gourd to the standard, so that in time he was reputed to have one-thousand gourds dangling – scaring away anyone who would seek to challenge him.

人間国宝 六谷梅軒 彫刻
Carved by Rokutani Baikan, Living National Treasure
二代目 六谷梅軒 彫刻
Carved by Rokutani Baikan II

Additional information elsewhere on the bolt indicates that the fabric was woven in Japan using Japanese silk.

Bolt label

The characters in the upper right of the label read 千成, sen-nari, which  means “a large cluster”, but by way of a pun it also means “one-thousand successes” and so is used for felicitous occasions.

Artist’s signature and stamp

The wording in the rectangular area above reads Living National Treasure, Rokutani Baiken and bears a stamp in red with his full name. The gourd shape bears a stamp of just his first name, Baiken.

Baiken Rokutaini II

Baiken Rokutani II

Baiken Rokutaini II was born in 1937 as Hiromi Rokutani and took his father’s name in 1996.

1937 (昭和12年) 三重県鈴鹿市寺家町に生まれる
(本名 六谷博臣)
born in Suzuka, Mie Prefecture (birth name: Hiromi Rokutani)
1953 (昭和28年) 中学卒業、同日より父について修行
graduated middle school in and began instruction under his father
1963 (昭和38年) 伊勢型紙技術伝承者養成事業第一期生として4年間錐彫部門専修
undertook training in the traditional techniques of Ise katagami carving and became a specialist in punch style after four years
1992 (平成4年) 三重県指定無形文化財保持団体、認定会員
became recognized as a member of Mie Intangible Treasure Preservation Society
1993 (平成5年) 伊勢型紙技術保存会会員、理事に選任
became a member of the Ise Katagami Arts Preservation Society, and elected as director
1995 (平成7年) 伊勢型紙技術保存会会員、副会長に選任
member of the Ise Katagami Arts Preservation Society, and elected as president
1996 (平成8年) 還暦を機に父の雅号「梅軒」を襲名
took his father’s name “Baiken” on the occasion of his 6oth birthday

 

Shibori Landscape Dyed Using Fresh-Leaf Indigo

It isn’t often that I am able to come across a dyed piece employing more than one type of indigo. The kimono below appears to be using not only cold, fresh-leaf indigo, but also reduced, fresh-leaf indigo, and perhaps composted indigo as well. It is also an excellent example of shibori used as a medium for artistic expression.

Back view of kimono showing off the dynamic movement of the pattern

The entire bolt of fabric was first dyed using the cold-water, fresh-leaf indigo method of vat dyeing. It is the pale, robin’s egg blue seen as the background color above. The next step would have been to make use of a shibori style called mokume (wood grain). This involves a series of running stitches, sewn in parallel and close proximity. The thread is pulled up tight, which creates a series of closely packed, random pleats.  The second phase of dyeing again involves dunking this now-pleated fabric into an indigo vat. Based on the medium blue seen in the “grain” of the pattern above, or behind the trees below, the second vat makes use of dye with a higher pH (which is what takes the color away from the cyan range and into the blue-gray range). This shade of blue-gray is easily achieved with simple fresh-leaf indigo, to which has been added an alkaline, such as chalk; or with dry-leaf indigo that has been cooked and reduced, which also has a high pH.

Detail of upper, back section of the kimono focusing on the multiple layers of color and technique–stitched mokume (wood grain), stitched outlines (nui), and kanoko (deer spot)

The next and final dye step is to stitch around the outline of all of the landscape imagery and pull in tight. In so doing, the yardage becomes scrunched into two general divisions–the area with the wood-grain pattern, and the area without. The wood-grain section will need to be capped off to protect it from any further coloring, leaving only the scrunched, landscape area exposed.

The orinui (baby’s teeth) pattern seen above as parallel dashed lines, is prepared by plying a running stitch along a fold in the silk.

The exposed area is now dipped multiple times into a reduced vat. This particular shade of deep blue may be achieved through cooking dried indigo leaves, or by using sukumo (composted leaves) in a fermentation vat.

Detail of trees and foliage–notice how well the various techniques and shades of indigo work together to draw you into the artist’s vision

If you look closely at the foliage above, you can see that there are many shades of blue. This was achieved by scrunching and/or tying off sections repeatedly as each successive dunk into the dark blue deepened the color and the impression of movement.

Detail showing how the pattern was dyed to traverse the seam

All dyework is done in yardage form. Matching imagery at the seams involves careful calculations and a clear understanding of how the pattern is to appear in the final garment, an understanding the designer must communicate to both the dyer and the tailor.

Front as it would appear when worn

The image above will give you an idea of how the kimono will look from the front when worn–notice how well the sleeve, body front, and kake-eri (false collar) all match up nicely to create a single, columnar canvas.

Detail of the front, inside of the kimono

The okumi is the front panel of the kimono. The wood grain above appears on the inside (lining side) of the okumi–a detail only to be appreciated as the wearer walks and the panel flaps open slightly.

 

 

Just What is Indigo?

Just what is indigo? Most of us start out thinking we know, but do we?

The term indigo is, of course, used as the name of a color. To me it is
a deep navy blue with an ever-so-slightly greenish cast. But this is the description of the color called ai (藍) in Japanese. When indigo appears as one of the seven colors of the rainbow in the West it exhibits a slightly reddish cast.

Indigofera tinctoria – “true” indigo from India

Next, most of us would list it as a plant. But, which plant? Perhaps Indigofera tinctoria, commonly called true indigo? This is the one associated with the blues of India. It grows as a shrub and is in the legume family of plants along with beans and wisteria. It likes a tropical climate. The basic material we extract from the leaves to create blue is called indican.

Indigofera suffruticosa from the Americas

But indican is found in many other plants and in many other parts of the world, such as Indigofera suffruticosa. Even though it is commonly called Guatemalan indigo, this plant is native to most of the tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas including the Southern United States and all the way down to the northern reaches of Argentina.

Indigofera bracteolata – West Africa

Indigofera bracteolata grows well in the moist savannah lands of West Africa and thrives in sandy soil.

Isatis tinctoria – woad, covering Europe and the Middle East

Woad, Isatis tinctoria, is another common source of indican. It is native to the steppe and desert areas of the Middle East and Central Asia, and is related to mustard and cabbage. It is the plant associated with the blues of Britain, going all the way back back to the Celts.

Marsdenia tinctoria – covering Southeast Asia

Marsdenia tinctoria is commonly found in subtropical regions including Nepal, Thailand, Burma, and Indonesia. It is a winding shrub or vine that can grow up to fifteen feet long. It is related to a plant called dogbane.

Persicaria tinctoria – tadeai, or Japanese (buckwheat) indigo

And in Japan there is tadeai (蓼藍), (Persicaria tinctoria), also known as Polygonum tinctorium, or Japanese indigo. It is an annual that grows up to about three feet in height and grows well in temperate climates. It is classed with buckwheat.

Mercurialis leiocarpa – Japanese yama-ai

Strobilanthes cusia – Ryuukyuu-ai, Okinawan indigo

But even in Japan there are more plants than just tadeai that contain indican. There is yama-ai (山藍), Mercurialis leiocarpa, a slender perennial that hugs the ground.  Ryuukyuu-ai (琉球藍), Strobilanthes cusia, has leaves as large as a person’s hand. It is in the acanthus family and has been a long-time favorite source of blue for collectors of Okinawan textiles.

And of course, there is synthetic indigo. It made its first real commercial appearance at the tail end of the 19th century (1897) and quickly replaced the more laboriously produced natural sources. The actual core colorant of all of these sources, including the synthetic, are chemically identical. Slight visual variations can be appreciated among the numerous natural sources brought about by differing impurities in the plants or unique extraction techniques.

If you are interested in browsing a beautiful collection of photos of Indigofera, visit JuiceyImages, or this page of the Chinese Herbarium.

Fresh-Leaf Indigo, It’s Magic!

As a child, do you remember ever rubbing flowers and leaves between your fingers, perhaps smearing them in a coloring book hoping to preserve the beauty of that moment? Unfortunately, without some assistance most colorful plants won’t give us much more than a spinach-spittle brown.

Pokeweed berries are a wonderful temptation in red for young children’s artistic expression. Unfortunately for the tykes, it is poisonous.

Indigo, however, is one of the exceptions.
Try this: Take an indigo leaf (any of the varieties will do) and rub it well into the palm of your hand. Wait a moment and just like magic it will turn from green to blue and even remain on your hand after you wash it! While it is not the green of the leaf, it is something far more rare.

Magic!

The magic of indigo, even in this simple and direct method, is the expression of the blue as it breathes in fresh oxygen. Can’t you just imagine it coming to life in the palm of your hand as you watch it at first timidly, and then boldly declare its true nature?

All forms of indigo dyeing involve this concept of taking on oxygen to express the blue. The color essence contained in the leaf is called indican. It is colorless and water-soluble. In the presence of water it breaks down into β-D-glucose and indoxyl. It is this indoxyl that produces indigo blue when exposed to oxygen. Getting from here to there successfully is the joy of growing your own plants and exposing the beauty hidden within.

Let’s start with one of the most direct approaches, similar to the hands on method used above. Collect several nicely shaped indigo leaves. All varieties work, but what you have been able to grow will depend upon the climate in which you live. I live in the mountains of Northern California, so Japanese tadeai is my pet plant. It grows well in temperate climates.

The two leaves on the right were transferred using a large marble bead to give a pointillist look. The full leaf on the left was transferred using a wooden mallet – the flat surface of the mallet allowed for greater detail and definition. The partial leaf, on the far left, has additional lines of aibana pigment applied for definition. This will be explored in a later blog.

Prepare some silk, wool, cotton, or hemp (that is to say, any natural fiber) by washing thoroughly. Once dry, make an attractive arrangement with your leaves. Lay a plastic bag over the top and have at it with something hard. A mallet will work, but so will a large bead, rock, or that Tonka Toy you tripped over in the dark last night. Each has its own unique texture and will affect the outcome of the image transferred. Feeling better? Remove the plastic and peel the lacerated pulp from the surface of the cloth. Can you see what is happening? This is simply a more controlled version of the hand trick above. Allow the fabric to oxidize for a full day before washing to allow the blue to fully develop. Each leaf contains a different volume of indigo allowing for a wide range of variance. If the transfer is splotchy or ill defined wait until you are having a worse day and try again.

Arranging fresh tadeai leaves

Using an embossing machine to transfer a large arrangement of leaves. In this case the leaves are sandwiched between two layers of yardage–one hemp and one wool.

Pressed leaves on silk jacquard

Fresh-Leaf Cold Vat Scarf by John Marshall

 

The image at the left was dyed with the help of my sister and brother-in-law.  I put them to work picking and chopping leaves, dunking and wringing. The silk was immersed in a cold-water, fresh-leaf vat for about an hour. Once dry, I pounded in the image of the leaf with freshly picked indigo from my garden and a handy rock.

(click on the image to the left or just below for more information)

 

Left: John at work: Scruffy and unkempt, I’m in my element! (Notice the green of the scarf I have just pulled from the cold-water vat.) Right: Sienna is keeping an eye on us to make sure that there are no slackers. (You can see in this shot that the dye has oxidized into a beautiful robins-egg blue.)

While not as therapeutic, the wringer from an old washer or an embossing machine will give equally splendid results.

I live in an old flour mill. During renovations many boards were exposed that were worn smooth by particles of flour over time. Several of these have quite beautifully raised grains as seen in the rubbing below created with the help of the board above.

And this is just the beginning! Try placing your handkerchief over the bark of a black walnut tree or your mother-in-law’s tombstone, roll the leaves into a wad and rub vigorously. Just like transferring the image of a coin to paper with a pencil, the image beneath will be transferred to the surface your cloth. You are only limited by your imagination and the forbearance of your family.

My studio as viewed from the back. The tadeai indigo patch is in the foreground.