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<About Yuzen dyeing>
Yuzen is a renowned dyeing technique, which is mainly used for “kimono” (Japanese traditional cloth) and “obi”(belt for kimono).
Yuzen dyeing is reportedly established by a professional painter, Yuzen Miyazaki in Kyoto on Edo period (at the end of 17th century). Yuzen’s traditional dyeing technique requires to draw outlines with rice-paste resist and to depict design patterns that become highlights of kimono or obi belt with various colors derived from plants.
To finish a work of Yuzen, taken a lot of patience, more than 20 of delicate handwork processes have been made. That is not changed for Yuzen dyeing in modern days.
<About Tokyo Tegaki Yuzen >
Tokyo Tegaki (meaning "freehand drawing") Yuzen is one of the three greatest Yuzen dyeing methods, along with Kyoto-Yuzen which is based on the dyeing technique's origin and is distinguished by the gorgeous forms and Kaga Yuzen which is characterized by five iconic deep colors called "Kaga Gosai."
In Tokyo, from the time when a kimono mercer (currently known as Mitsukoshi Department) was established at Nihombashi in the late 17th century, dyers settled down in Kanda river upper side (current Takadanobaba area). After that, the dyeing industry in Tokyo has been developed.
With such backgrounds, Tokyo Tegaki Yuzen has been cultivated as chic ("iki" in Japanese) in sophisticated Edo urban culture.
Compared with other two biggest Yuzen methods, Tokyo Tegaki Yuzen is characterized by chic, modern and fashionable design often in restrained color tones.
On works of Tokyo Tegaki Yuzen today, motifs like bridge or cat, rabbit and other animals can be seen in contemporary taste, thanks to the innovative sense of Yuzen dyeing artisans.
<Yuzen dyeing process>
Here we see typical processes of Yuzen dyeing as below.
More than 20 of processes have to be made in order to finish a work of Yuzen, if we look into the detail. All these works require careful attention and patience.
We hope you understand why kimono is highly-valued, compared with ordinary Western cloth.
Plan overall design of kimono with decoration pattern and colors for each part, likening kimono to a canvas.
Decide dyeing techniques and the order to be taken. Draw outlines on paper.
2. Under Drawing
Draw pattern as planed on a cloth with soluble ink.
The drawing work need to be done with caution so drawing patterns on two separate pieces can match each other perfectly when they are tacked up into kimono.
3. Outlining (“Itome nori oki”, thread resist placing)
Place resist on surface of the cloth along outlines of under drawing (made on Process No. 2).
Traditionally rice-paste resist has been used and today rubber-paste resist is also utilized for this process.
To laid down resist following direct or curving thin lines of under drawing, the paste resist is put into cone shaped water-proof paper (looks like an icing bag) and it is squeezed from a small hole of a special metal nozzle attached at the end of the paper cone.
This process is called “itome” (thread), because parts on which resist is placed will remain as fine white lines like a thread, when the resist is washed off at finishing stage. That is the biggest feature of Yuzen dyeing.
Before proceeding to the next step, the cloth is moistened in order to make the resist stick together with the cloth.
4. Coloring (“Yuzen sashi”, putting colors in Yuzen style)
Apply dyes on the cloth and color the drawing pattern with a variety of brushes.
Heat the cloth from the underside to dry dyes out during the coloring work.
(Yes, it is hard work in hot summer time!)
The process is not limited to coloring a cloth simply. It includes techniques to combine and grade colors and to add shades like painting. The work is a big chance for a craftsperson artist to show his/her skills and coloring sense.
Cover the colored parts (made on Process No.4) with paste resist.
Stretch out the cloth tightly by wooden frame called “Harite” and dye the whole of cloth in background color with a wide brush.
7. Steaming, Washing
Steam the cloth at a temperature of 100 degree C to fix the dyes. Then wash it out in order to remove resists. (placed on Process No. 3 and No. 5)
This washing process used to be done in a river. The beautiful scene of flowing colorful kimono cloth in a river is known as “Yuzen nagashi” (Yuzen washing out).
Partially add detail design with a brush, put gold/silver leaf, family crest and/or embroider on the cloth, to complete the work.
Dyeing processes and their order may differ by works and studios. However it is Tokyo Tegaki Yuzen’s feature that almost all these dyeing processes from design, under drawing, coloring to finishing are handled by a craftsperson, unlike division of labor system often seen for Kyoto Yuzen.
What kind of textile can be used for Yuzen dyeing?
Mainly it is done on silk for kimono, obi belt and Japanese style belongings or accessories.
How long does it take to finish a piece of work?
It takes one to a few months for kimono and about a week for obi belt.
The hardest and longest work in the whole processes is the first step of design.
At the beginning of work, we have to plan everything; design of entire kimono, colors and techniques and the order of dye process for beautiful finishing.
After design and process plan are decided, all of further processes is made to the end without a break. We are not able to stop the process in the middle, because time can make a color and glue deteriorated.
How design, decorations and colors are decided?
It is up to craftsperson’s imagination.
Sometimes I am inspired not only from traditional records of Yuzen but also from books in other fields that are quite different from Yuzen, for example art or cooking.
Yuzen dyeing has a lot of different colors. These colors can be changed by amount of water added to the colors. Furthermore we can create more number of colors by mixing them.
Yuzen colors are very sensitive to temperature and humidity. Heat in summer and rain affect on dyeing finish. Therefore it is difficult to replicate a dyeing work of kimono in exactly same colors.