Bryan leads our group by train and then bus to Hachioji where we meet Hiroshi Noguchi (right), a sixth generation master of Katazome. Katazome is a dyeing technique where a stencil is cut and then rice flour paste is applied through it. I tried this approach when I visited Bryan’s home in Fujino, but there is much to be learned and I’m here to watch a master. His studio contains long tables that are made to fit a kimono length of fabric (left).
Mr. Noguchi teaches us how to place our stencils and apply the paste with a palette knife evenly across the surface (above left and right). The stencil is quickly pulled away (bottom left) and this process is usually repeated down the length of the table. Today, we are printing smaller pieces for practice. The long tabletops, with fabric attached, are then carried outside and dried in the sun. The prepared fabric soaks in water just before it’s dyed (bottom right).
When the fabric is dipped into the indigo vat (left), the paste resists the dye and the stencil pattern is revealed (right).
Mr. Noguchi cracks a rare smile and talks excitedly as he shows us his family’s collection of katazome. Many of these patterns are so intricate and difficult to cut that it’s impossible to recreate them today. They are collector’s items. He proudly shows us one elaborate design after another. The paper between the cut shapes is sometimes so thin that human hair was once used to hold the patterns together.
At the end of the day, Mr. Noguchi shows us finished bolts of fabric that he has produced with his son, his apprentice, who will continue the family tradition of Katazome. The fabric is used to make yukata, a casual summer kimono worn by both men and women.