'Living Colours: Kasane' – an exhibition on Yoshioka Dyeing Workshop

Posted on May 25, 2019 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

Living Colours: Kasane

 

When I returned from Asia, I managed to book myself onto the curator's tour of the "Living Colours: Kasane – the Language of Japanese Colour Combinations" exhibition at Japan House. The exhibition explores the natural dyed textile work of the Yoshioka Dyeing Workshop in Kyoto. Due to my interest in natural dyeing, it prompted me to pay a visit to Yoshioka's small shop Somenotsukasa Yoshioka in Kyoto last year (see photos at the bottom), hence I was particularly keen to see this exhibition.

 

Living Colours: Kasane

Living Colours: Kasane   Living Colours: Kasane

 

The exhibition focused on the ancient art of kasane, the creation of Japanese colour combinations based on the changing seasons in Japan, using natural dye techniques. Master Sachio Yoshioka is the 5th-generation dyer of the 200-year old family-run company, while his daughter Sarasa also co-runs the workshop.

Kasane is the layering of colours seen in formal kimonos worn by the aristocratic women of the courts during the Heian period in Japan (794-1185 CE). The hand and plant-dyed silk kimonos were made up of three, five, or up to eight layers, with each layer reflecting the colours of the natural world around them, such as cherry blossom, or an important occasion or the wearer’s rank.

Japan’s oldest record of natural dyeing was also compiled during this period in early 10th century in books called Engishiki, which describe royal rituals, customs, and clothing, including dye ingredients used for particular colors.

 

Living Colours: Kasane

Living Colours: Kasane

Living Colours: Kasane

 

With the help of pre-19th century historical documents and textile samples, Yoshioka was able to recreate the palette of the Japanese court and revived this an anicent craft from the brink of extinction.

When I did the indigo textiles dyeing workshop in Japan last year, I learned that the traditional kimono industry is rapidly declining, and craftsmen working in the industry are struggling to preserve their important heritage and craftsmanship. Hence, what Yoshioka doing is not only reviving an ancient craft, but an industry that is in crisis.

 

img_4836

Living Colours: Kasane   Living Colours: Kasane

img_4847

 

Aside from textiles, Kasane was also used in paper. Members of the Heian court often wrote and exchanged poems between lovers on dyed fans or several sheets of seasonally coloured paper.

The most famous Japanese literature from the Heian period is "The Tale of Genji", which is often referred to as the world's first novel. Written by a noble women from the 11th century, the novel depicts the lives of courtiers during the time. Inspired by the novel, special dyed washi revealed how the layering concept applied to paper as well.

 

img_4843  Living Colours: Kasane

 

For over 40 years, Yoshioka has been taking part in the the thousand-year-old Shuni-e Buddhist ceremony held every March at the famous Todai-ji temple in Nara. Washi paper flowers dyed in red with benibana (safflower) and yellow with kuchinashi (gardenia) are offered to the Kannon (the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara) for harvest and protection for the nation. A five-coloured cord made of dyed silk yarn was also recreated at the consecration ceremony of the Great Buddha at the temple in 2002.

 

img_4853

img_4840

img_4846

  

Based on traditional dyeing methods, Yoshioka uses 30 kinds of dyeing materials, including indigo (ai), benibana petals, murasaki-gusa (purple gromwell) roots, akane (madder) roots, acorn nuts, and leaves and stalks of kariyasu (rice grass). Meanwhile, silk, hemp, and cotton are commonly used in their work.

 

Living Colours: Kasane

Living Colours: Kasane

Living Colours: Kasane

 

The Japanese are a nation particularly sensitive to the changing seasons, and their appreciation for this is reflected in their culture, habits, arts and craft.

Simon, the curator of the exhibition told us that Yoshioka wanted to show that Japanese aesthetics are not just about wabi sabi (the beauty of the transience and imperfection), and the art of kasane demonstrates an aesthetic that is vastly different.

 

Living Colours: Kasane  img_4848

img_4849

Living Colours: Kasane   Living Colours: Kasane

 

It is encouraging to see that natural dyeing is becoming more popular in recent years, and this exhibition showcased the vivid and sensual colour palette that can be created from plants. It is time for us to reflect on the sustainability of synthetic dyes and its damaging impact on the environment.

 

Living Colours: Kasane   Living Colours: Kasane

Living Colours: Kasane

Living Colours: Kasane   Living Colours: Kasane

Living Colours: Kasane

Living Colours: Kasane

 

If you missed the exhibition, you can watch this beautiful video "In Search of Forgotten Colours" on the Somenotsukasa Yoshioka dye workshop made by the V & A, which was accompanied by a small exhibition at the museum.

 

 

yoshioka workshop

yoshioka workshop

The "In Search of Forgotten Colours" display at the V & A museum

 

Higashiyama-ku

Somenotsukasa Yoshioka

Somenotsukasa Yoshioka's shop is located at 206-1 Nishinocho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto

 

 


This post was posted in London, Exhibitions, Anything Japanese, Textiles, natural dyeing and was tagged with art and design exhibitions, traditional crafts, textiles, natural dyeing, Yoshioka Dyeing Workshop, Japanese craft, Japan House

Comments