Rod Byatt: Japanese Textiles

The January guest speaker was Rod Byatt.

The first international braiding conference was held over five days last November at Kyoto Institute of Technology, Kyoto. It attracted 120 participants from Japan and ten other countries. The next conference will be held in the UK in 2012.


Proceedings have been published and they provide an excellent snapshot of contemporary braiding world-wide. The strongest focus was on Japanese braiding including loop-manipulated braids, but Peruvian braids, Canadian Assumption sashes and Hmong braiding from China were all treated comprehensively. The entire conference was run on a voluntary basis and included practical workshops on marudai, takadai and karakumidai equipment.
An exhibition featured top-quality work and participants gained exclusive entry to private studios, factories and retail outlets. More information at www.kumihimoconf.org.
Rod discussed a wide range Japanese textiles and garments, describing briefly the many techniques and traditions perfected over the centuries. He covered fibres and spinning (hemp, paper, ramie, banana, elm, wisteria and other bast fibres prominent in country textiles and silk and cotton in city textiles); weaving (plain, twill and gauze including shima, komon, shifu, nishiki brocade, Saga Nishiki, nishijin-ori, zanshi and sakiori ragweaving); dyeing (indigo, persimmon kakushibu, shibori, kasuri); printed fabrics (paper stencils and katazome, rice-paste resist yuzen, sarasa Indian chintz) and needlework (sashiko, kogin, temari, shishu).
He had on show examples of city and country textiles, mens’ and womens’ garments including kimono, obi, aprons and jackets. Some examples showed how different textile techniques were combined in the one piece (background shibori dyeing with yuzen stencilled pattern plus metallic embroidery highlights) as well as how fabrics were constantly recycled, from kimono to quilted patchwork to rags ending up as temari thread balls and zanshi weaving using recycled thread.

5 Responses to Rod Byatt: Japanese Textiles

  1. maria bergman says:

    Hello
    Can you tell me if Japanese blue and white yukata fabric is available to purchase from Japanese artisans? If so how would I go about contacting or locating a producer?
    Any informatuin would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you
    Maria Bergman

  2. Rod Byatt says:

    Hello Maria
    I think you’re in the market for a standard kimono-length bolt of 13inch-wide cotton yukata cloth.
    On the one hand, it’s extremely easy to buy an as-new yukata bolt, still in its original cellophane packaging and manufacturer’s label intact, over the internet from Japan and have it sent out ordinary airmail, arriving here ten days later.
    On the other hand, almost all are machine-made these days (and that applies to all textiles including shibori, yuzen, braids). Any printed by hand by a katazome/fabric printing artisan will be both rare, unusual and costly. There may exist some in towns such as Nagoya, Kanazawa and Takayama, and in Tokyo, perhaps even Kyoto though traditional blue-and-white textiles are not widely promoted in that city where silk is more prominent.
    I can only recommend you work your way through a variety of local and Japanese dealers as follows, in order to assess age, condition and whether it’s handmade or not. Watch the stock coming and going on the Japanese online shops to get a feel for prices and value-for-money.
    The following dealers are known to me here in Australia:
    Edo Arts, Terrey Hills Sydney; Japanache, Mittagong; http://www.kimoyes.com, Canberra, Wafu Works, Tasmania; Sanshi, Perth; Ziguzagu Kazari, http://www.ziguzagu.net, Melbourne. Prices are high and stock limited at any one time because of the cost of doing business in Australia and the relatively low turnover. Almost all have internet sites, often with online selling.
    I have had good dealings with the following Japanese dealers who source bolts from auctions, living artists and textile factories. All have internet sites with online purchasing; they also run eBay auctions. The higher the price the better the quality. While some bolts appear cheap, postage will be expensive.
    The range is obviously greater here than in Australian outlets. They can afford to keep prices low because they deal with overseas buyers, agreeing not to undercut the local Japanese market.
    Ichiroya in Osaka – http://www.ichiroya.com; Yamatoku with a smaller range, http://www.yamatoku.jp; Ryujapan – http://www.net-shinei.co.jp
    Ichiroya deals in older cloth and always has a large amount of stock at any one time; Ryujapan has huge turnover of modern textiles and is probably the largest seller on eBay; Yamatoku (Japan) and Yokodana (USA) have smaller ranges.
    Daily internet checks on Ebay searching “yukata” are a good start.
    After a lot of research and online hunting, you may end up identifying someone in Japan who is making them by hand, probably for the exclusive high-end Tokyo market. Sometimes the work of highly traditional artisans is reviewed and advertised in the glossy magazine “Kateigaho”, available quarterly at Kinokinuya Bookshops.
    Keep in mind that the market is not good at the moment – dealers are particularly worried about the lack of sellers and high postage/transportation costs. Japan is of course in Depression at the moment so the market is much more volatile than 12 months ago.
    I hope this helps and good luck!
    -Rod

  3. margaret murray says:

    Can you possibly suggest an on line course for the study of Japanese textiles.
    Thank you

  4. joy long says:

    would you know where i could learn shibori, i live in sydney but would go to japan if i had to as i’m seriously interested in it.
    i’m a member of atasda and will do one workshop there. i can’t get into toshiko wada’s workshops this year as they are booked out.
    many thanks
    joy

  5. re. source for traditional Japanese shibori.
    Rod,
    A friend advised me of your interest in Japanese textiles and possible sources.
    You’re right on target regarding your suggestions on availability – great info. – it can be challenging.
    I’d be happy to assist anyone interested in shibori. I’m a traditional Japanese shibori artist in the USA (aizome, kusakizome focused) and can provide shibori ranging from art pieces, textiles (including kimono bolts) to yukata, kimono (houmongi, furisode, etc.). My website only includes basic info.
    Please email for details and current creations.
    Domo arigato!