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patterns on silk

August 1, 2016

finally, I’ve finished sorting through over 2,000 photos taken in Japan


so here is a day in Kyoto

organized by my friend’s husband

we visited four different professionals

starting with an elderly man who draws the designs for painted kimono

and then passes the designs on to the next craftperson/professional

as has always been the way in Japan

designers design, painters paint, weavers weave and stencil cutters cut stencils

many hands participate in completing one finished piece

— on to a silk painter

P1090729on the front door, a silk panel of a henro – a traveling pilgrim

 a  welcome – at the home of an artist

P1090719working when we arrive

P1090724in a tiny, crowed space

P1090725a friendly, happy man who obviously enjoys his work

he specializes in kimono, banners, whatever is need for the film industry

P1090720one of a kind –  fantasy figures

P1090723and then on to a kimono painting studio

this time three men, again in a tiny crowed space

a sample of the full pattern is painted

P1090734and a colour palette carefully chosen

P1090739the painter sits on the floor with a full kimono length

on a continuous roller system in front of him

the design has been drawn on the fabric

it is stretched back and forth on rollers at ceiling height

only parts of the design and a few colours are painted then the cloth is advanced

it goes round and round until the entire length, approximately 12-14 yards is finished

P1090735the man who mixes the colours works in an even smaller space

P1090737he works from the silk samples and dyes small batches to check formulas

P1090738and dries his samples over a hot plate to check that he has an exact match

nothing but perfect will do!

P1090730the proud owner of the studio showing us a finished length

 then it is on to yuzen dyer, Kazuo Tsuda

my friend Teruko-san is really excited

P1090746we get to make our own small sample

P1090753getting started we cut a simple shape and layer it with a traditional stencil

P1090743applying the paste, Tsuda-san is supervising

in the background, Mr. Kotani watches

he was instrumental in arranging our day, and was our driver and guide

P1090750a different brush for each colour

P1090748the handmade brushes are a work of art themselves

P1090757Deko paints, Tsuda-san instructs

P1090758and then touches up tiny missed areas

P1090768 gold leaf is applied

P1090770the extra is brushed off

P1090771the finished work is adhered to a long kimono board

and moved outside to dry

P1090772it goes out the door, across the narrow entrance and rests outside suspended over the courtyard

where space is limited, every linear foot counts

P1090778what a day!

we say our goodbyes and go back to Mr. Kotani’s studio

P1090780where he shows us some of his work – his specialty is kyo-yuzen silk dyeing

P1090781and invites us to look at some of the rare, antique design books in his extensive collection

P1100230 I came home with two of his gorgeous samples

a very humbling experience

thank you to everyone who made it possible

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Bryan permalink
    August 3, 2016 2:58 am

    Wow Jean, I want to try to gold leaf stencil techniques. Amazing.


  2. August 2, 2016 3:16 am

    SO wonderful! I love seeing the photos of all the details and different processes–the work being done is stunning. And the artisans must’ve loved having such knowledgeable and appreciative visitors, too!


    • August 2, 2016 8:08 am

      Kerry – it is a real privilege to be invited into these workshops, interrupting their work time. As for my knowledge of Japanese textiles, I’m a mere infant.


  3. August 2, 2016 12:23 am

    A superinteresting post, please give us more of this!


    • August 2, 2016 7:53 am

      Blandina – days like that don’t happen often, there are a couple more Japanese experiences yet to come.


  4. Judi bushby permalink
    August 1, 2016 7:01 pm

    What an amazing day. Experiences and memories to be treasured for a long time. Serendipity indeed


  5. August 1, 2016 4:19 pm

    wow, jean, you do know how blessed (i can’t use lucky here) you both were. these folks made it a day to remember, and you have samples to help with the remembering. i am so happy for you and thank you for sharing your day with us.


    • August 1, 2016 7:25 pm

      Velma – yes, I do know it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and some very wonderful people made it happen. The sample I dyed is in the mail, can’t wait to see it.


  6. August 1, 2016 1:31 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to document these treasures. It is always humbling to see the perfection that is made in such modest workplaces. Diana


    • August 1, 2016 1:44 pm

      Diana – I think of people I know who always want more – bigger and better equipment, studios and materials and then see incredible work from such humble conditions and am speechless.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. emilysuzanna permalink
    August 1, 2016 10:16 am

    This is fascinating…thank you, Jean, for showing us…


  8. Jean-Pierre Antonio permalink
    August 1, 2016 10:13 am

    Wow! Not many people get to visit the studios of traditional craftspeople. Your friends have good connections. Lucky you!


    • August 1, 2016 10:54 am

      Jean-Pierre – my friend and I had no idea what had been arranged, we couldn’t believe it as the day progressed. One of those incredible experiences that can never be repeated. I think there was definitely some Japanese style payback involved that is definitely beyond my comprehension.


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