Tag Archives: Japanese

Fresh-Leaf Indigo Clamp Resist 生藍板締め

 Itajime Michiyuki

I’m always on the look out for new weaves, dyes, and dye techniques to add to my collection. I was happy to stumble upon this garment and recognize it as having been dyed with fresh-leaf indigo. It is clamp-resist dyeing on a very nice quality Japanese silk jacquard (rinzu).

Full front view of a michiyuki dyed with fresh-leaf tadeai indigo on silk using clamp resist (itajime)

 

Detail of the michiyuki above (the fan shapes are part of the jacquard pattern in the weave)

It’s always fun to try to figure out exactly how something was accomplished. Below is my guess as to what the block for clamp resist must have looked like based on the pattern we see.

The thin, baby-blue lines indicate the fold lines of the design. The red image indicates the shape of the block required to achieve this repetitious pattern.

If the silk is folded along the baby-blue lines indicated above, we wind up with a layered rectangle as seen below. The fabric is sandwiched between two blocks and clamped. Only the exposed areas of silk will receive a saturation of color – although because of the length of time required to soak the fiber in a fresh-leaf vat, some dye will wick under the clamped areas giving the beautifully variegated look see in the finished piece.  What fun!

Folded and clamped yardage

Of course, I could be wrong…

The red circle indicates a distinctly white (resisted) line.

In the detail above we can see a distinctly white line. This resisted area can’t be accounted for with the method I suggested above. I wonder what would work?

The red line traces the general path of the white, resisted area.

The block from the earlier attempt cut into two new blocks.

If I draw a border in from the edge of the block used in the earlier attempt to mimic the dye pattern, and then using a scroll saw to separate this border from the center section, I will wind up with two distinct blocks with which to clamp my fabric, allowing me to work in stages.

The yellow area indicates a piece of plywood used to help hold the blocks in place and to distribute the pressure when the clamps are applied.

I’ll start by fitting the two blocks together and placing them as I did above. A piece of plywood or plexiglass will help to distribute the pressure of the clamps and hold the blocks in place. Once the exposed areas are dunked several times in the indigo, I removed the clamps and while being careful not to disturb the border block, removed the center block.

The center block removed, and the border block re-clamped with a new layer of plywood.

The red, border block needs to remain in position to ensure the white area of the design continues to be resisted. I’ve prepared a new sheet of plywood, this time with holes to allow the dye to flow into the moat created by the border block. OK, this will work. But if I’m going to use two different plywood forms, then who needs the center block?

Updated version: start with the border block, front and back, in position.

This is my streamlined solution: I start with two red border blocks, one on top, one on bottom. I place a solid plywood form on top and bottom and clamp in place (I would use several more than just two C-clamps in this case). Dye the outer, exposed edges.

The solid plywood form swapped out for the perforated form.

Next remove the clamps and swap out the solid plywood form for that with the holes. Dunk several more times, and you’re all set!

I’ll let you know once I’ve had a chance to actually try out my theory – but if you get to it first let me know your results!

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

 

Year of the Horse 午年

2014 is the Year of the Horse according to the Asian zodiac of patron animals. Each year in a twelve-year cycle has an animal mascot. This deity watches over your household employing its particular strengths. Horses are considered companionable,  bright, and hardworking and will do their utmost to help you achieve your goals in the coming year.

Year of the Horse 2014 by John Marshall natural dyes on silk

As a child I loved watching clouds coalesce into imaginary playmates and then dissipate into the background of the next image forming. For this reason, my horses are often shown prancing in the clouds.

In the image below, I carved a stencil from hand-made mulberry paper (shibugami) and used it to apply a resist of paste made with rice bran and flour to silk yardage. Once the paste dried, I used small deer-hair brushes to apply my natural dyes (primarily cochineal, California Central Valley subsoil,  and Japanese indigo), allowed the dye to cure and washed away the paste to expose the image at the top of this page.

Below is a closeup to help you appreciate the details of the finished piece.

Year of the Horse 2014 by John Marshall detail

I have a limited number of these available. If you would care to have this mascot share your home this year just click on any of the images above to go to my website for more information.

 

Toy Horses – Traditional Bingata

You may also want to take a look at an article about bingata with a horse as the main theme of the image used. Just click on the image to the left.

 

Leaping Horse 跳馬

Not long after arriving in Japan I met a paper-craft artist named Kunio Ekiguchi. [He is most noted in the West for his packaging and paper-craft books published through Kodansha, International.] He took me under his wing and while earning my way as his assistant, he introduced me to my katazome teacher and many others who proved to be of great help to me.

Tsutsugaki Rice Paste Resist with Indigo – Leaping Horse Noren

Wanting in some way to indicate my gratitude, I decided to dye a noren (an entry way curtain) for his new studio. Ekiguchi Sensei was born in the year of the horse and was also partial to indigo blue, so that helped me to settle on my design.

I bought a bolt of hand-woven cotton in the traditional 14″ width and went about the business of plotting the dimensions and sketching my design on the cloth. I applied the image of the leaping white horse with rice paste squeezed through a paper tube – a bit like writing with frosting on a cake. Up to this point I had never attempted a piece so large, nor had I ever dyed with indigo in vat form.

While living in Japan I had a tiny 4-1/2 mat apartment (only about nine feet by nine feet plus a toilet and hot plate counter) so there was certainly no chance of keeping an indigo vat going. However, I was able to locate a dyer in Saitama who rented out his studio.

Detail showing the white lines. The white area was created through the use of rice paste resist applied with a cone to the cotton to prevent the indigo from dyeing that area. Once the background was dyed blue, the additional horizontal stripe of leaping horses and irises was added. Notice how the image was dyed to transverse the split in the panels.

This required two trips – the first to dye the fabric with the large horse in place, which gave me a white image and a solid, pale indigo background. Back in my studio, I applied the second layer of paste to both sides, the small leaping horse and iris pattern, and then off again to the indigo studio for my second round of dunkings in the vats. I washed the fabric out in the river to remove the paste and once home, joined the tops of the panels, added tabs, and was set to go!

Detail of background image. The clusters of crosses are actually stylized irises.

Ekiguchi Sensei was kind enough to actually use my first attempt at vat dyeing as the entry curtain to his studio for over well over thirty years. Just before his death, he returned it to me so that now I have it with me as reminder of my time as his apprentice and assistant.

The trip to the indigo dye studio is a bit of a story in itself…

During morning rush hour, trains heading out of Tokyo are virtually empty.

It was about a two hour train ride to the indigo studio. Armed with my pasted fabric and stretching equipment, looking much like a quiver of arrows, I left before dawn on a Tuesday morning in the early fall. Heading out of Tokyo in the morning meant that there was hardly a soul on the train. Sitting opposite me in the otherwise empty car was a middle-aged woman, also carrying what appeared to be a quiver of arrows wrapped in a furoshiki.

Enjoying the scenery along the single track railroad.

Wondering if she was on the same field trip as I, I tried to make eye contact. She was obviously not interested in conversation, so we both enjoyed the scenery, passing through rice fields and trees just beginning to change color. Eventually I arrived at my station.

Train Station – no one to be found!

Up my would-be travel companion popped and was out of the train before I was sure I even had the right stop. Being in no particular rush, I took my time gathering my things and making my way to the only exit, but there was no stationmaster to take my ticket. The station seemed to be deserted. Eventually I was able to rouse a rather sleepy-eyed someone.

Stationmaster

I explained where I was headed and was told there would be a taxi out front. The stationmaster told me that there normally is, but that there was someone before me and now it’s gone. Since there is normally so little business, the stationmaster thought that the cab driver would likely go fishing instead of coming back!

After waiting around an hour, the station master was kind enough to call the wife of the cabby and ask her to go get the driver for me. And two hours after getting off the train I was at the indigo studio, but again not a soul to be seen!

I wandered until I came across the area that looked as if it would house the indigo vats, and in the Japanese tradition, opened the door and called out, “Gomen kudasai!” to let them know I had arrived.

Inner workroom with indigo pots sunk deep into the flooring.

Before my eyes could adjust to the inner darkness of the studio, I saw a flash of movement, and the door was slammed in my face as someone screamed, “Haitcha dame!” (“Stay out!”). Not knowing what else so do, by now it was nearing 11:00, I sat down on the step and contemplated my sins in the warmth of the autumn sun.

It wasn’t long before a kindly looking, elderly man came out and motioned me to follow him to the side of the building. He was deeply apologetic for what he described as the rude behavior of his customer. He confided that she was very protective and secretive of the techniques she employed, and he went on to describe each step she followed in great detail! It seems that each of her works requires dozens of visits to the indigo studio, which meant that each completed piece would have several hundreds of dollars invested in it in dye costs alone.

…offered to share my lunch…

By noon, this mysterious customer joined me in the yard, and as you may have guessed, it was indeed my traveling companion. She was very gracious and solicitous, wanting to know all about what I was doing, who I was studying with, what I may have seen when I opened the door upon arrival, and so on. I had a bad case of not being able to speak Japanese but offered her some of my lunch.

Soon her work was dry enough to take home, and I was allowed, with some trepidation, to begin work on my noren. Once the once customer finally departed several members of the household came out and made a point of being very chatty with me. I wound up getting a full tour of the facility, had afternoon tea and a snack with the grandfatherly dyer and was encouraged to come back whenever I liked.

All in all, it was a very educational experience!