Some friends pick me up at Tokyo Wonder Site and we drive through Kamakura to Kugenama. We are visiting the studio and workshop of Litmus.
These guys are cool surfer dudes that make indigo dyeing look like an extension of playing in the water. They are seriously in love with the process and are generous with sharing information. Yuji Matsui (bottom left) is the owner of the company.
The studio is located in a small traditional Japanese home. The place has a lot of charm and I’m taking pictures of everything. The guys laugh at me when I take a photo of the bath used for rinsing the indigo (upper right). I smile, a little embarrassed, and respond by saying that everything is art.
I’m handed a pamphlet in English that explains Aizome (Indigo Dyeing). There is some great information about indigo and it’s history. Here is an excerpt:
“The history of indigo dye is deep and colorful. There are sayings of how mummies were wrapped with indigo cloth in the ancient Egyptian era. Indigo was told to exist in Japan as far back as the 5th century. Numerous indigo products were discovered in the treasure vaults of Horyuji and Sosoin temples. There is documentation of many samurai who wore clothes woven from indigo threads during the War Age. The color of indigo was known as the color of “Kachi” (brown, indigo’s liquid color). “Kachi” is also the word for “Win” in Japanese and thus, samarai must have entrusted superstitious belief in the color.”
I show Yuji pictures of my first attempt at cutting a stencil (katazome) and he begins to pull out some samples to show me (bottom left and right). He explains several details about the process that will help me when I try again.
I’m told to watch out for this guy. He’s an up and coming star in the surfing community.
We flip through a scrapbook of Litmus designs and inspiration. Yuji boasts that he can achieve a wide range of blue shades. He says that he’s dipped material over a hundred times in the indigo making the color so dark, it looks black.
Litmus currently has an exhibition of their work in Tokyo at Isetan May 13th- 28th.