On Wednesday I was very lucky to have the opportunity to learn indigo dyeing from an indigo master! It was organized through a Canadian man called Bryan who has lived in Japan for many years and became passionate about indigo soon after he came here. He has his own classes at his home, but also knows of a sixth generation indigo dyer, and it was his workshop that we went to for the day.
What an amazing experience!
We met Bryan and some of his pupils at Hachioji station, and then we all got the bus to a very old house, where the guru prints and dyes his kimono lengths.
Apparently he is only allowed to continue dyeing if he keeps the house in its original state, hence the rather ramshackle feel. But it was so wonderful being there and experiencing a centuries old technique.
The resist that is used is a yellow paste that is mixed with a red bean paste so that is shows up on the white fabric when printed through the stencil. The cut paper stencil has a thin netting placed over it to enable the paste to go through the stencil more easily. The paper is coated in a black substance to strengthen it. This stencil was beautifully intricate.
The stencil is then placed on the flattened fabric (which is attached to a wooden board with glue) and the mixed paste is then placed on the stencil with the net facing up. The printer then scrapes the paste evenly across the stencil so that it goes through it and onto the fabric. The printer matches up the design perfectly as he works his way down the fabric. What you see here on the right is the red design. This is the paste and it acts as the resist so that when the fabric is dyed, the design will remain white.
We then had a chance to choose a pre-made stencil and print our own resist, which the guru helped us to do.
I chose a stylised parasol design. You can see the stencil on the left and my printed paste on the right. The stencil has to be wet first, to make applying the paste easier.
The wooden boards are then brought out into the sun to dry.
Once the paste is dry, we removed the fabric from the boards, dipped them in water and then dipped them into the indigo vats (which are made of clay) for two minutes at a time. You can dip the fabric up to four of five times. The more times the fabric is dipped, the darker it becomes.
The fabric is then washed and scrubbed gently with a brush to remove the paste. It is then hung on a line and dried in the sun and here is my finished result! Three pieces which I am really happy with. I am now looking forward to making them into clutch bags.