The Mark of Beauty:Yuzen dyeing

NHK Educational

Yūzen dyeing is a well-known Japanese textile tradition in which fabrics are surface dyed in delicate patterns using a rich variety of colors.
The yūzen dyeing technique came about in the late 17th century during Japan’s Edo period (1603–1868). The name comes from the eponymous painter Miyazaki Yūzensai, whose designs were becoming increasingly popular at the time.
Point 1: Freestyle Designs Formed with Fine Lines of Paste 
The patterns of yūzen dyeing are distinguished by curved lines and simplified designs of flora and fauna, objects, and landscapes. These are known as “yūzen patterns.”
The secret to the freestyle design potential of yūzen dyeing is the technique of outlining dyed sections with fine lines of paste (itome nori), which is washed off after the dyeing. This paste, which can be wielded like a paintbrush, allows colored dyestuffs to be contained within specific sections. The fine paste-resisted lines, which are protected from the dyes, remain white, serving as an elegant accent.
Point 2: The Expressive Potential of Color 
Irosashi (color infilling) is the work of hand-painting dyes into the design areas created by the paste outlines. The paste serves as a sort of seawall that prevents colors from seeping out of their boundaries and mixing with adjacent colors.
The Tabata family has been doing yūzen dyeing in Kyoto for more than 200 years. The family’s color sample books have colors in them that have been used for dyeing by generations of family artisans. The books contain tens of thousands of colors.
Point 3: Vivid Colors Fostered by Water
After the cloth is dyed and steamed to fix the color, the fabric is rinsed. During this step, called mizumoto, the paste lines and any excess dyes are washed away in water.
In the past, this step was done by allowing the textiles to be rinsed by the current of the Kamo River, but today textiles are rinsed in artificial currents generated inside the workshops. Underground well water from Kyoto is used for this process. Each workshop carefully selects the locality from which to draw water in order to achieve its own desired, signature results.
The Mark of Beauty : NHK Educational
Credits: Story

Tabata the art of dyeing laboratory
Tatsuo Komai
Junichi Araki

Photography by Tadayuki Minamoto

Music by shienu

Supervised by
Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University
M. Rinne, Kyoto National Museum

Produced by NHK Educational Corporation


Credits: All media
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