Searching all of Japan for handcrafted items that express its heart and soul, our proprietor, KASHIYUKA, presents things that bring a bit of luxury to everyday life. This trip brings her to Okinawa in pursuit of Bingata, stencil-dyed textiles. She visits with an artist in her thirties who is keeping alive a traditional art form treasured by dynastic royalty dating from the 14th century.
I feel you can glimpse in this textile the light and shadow, the air and land, and the color of Okinawa, the place it was born. The imperial era of this Ryukyu region, when it held political dominance, extended from the 15th to 19th centuries, and I’ve chosen to examine Bingata, the textile produced for the royal elite of that era. In the old tongue, “bin” is color, and “gata”, model or form.
Now in her thirties, Tomoko Nawa left her hometown of Tottori, to the north, when she was 22 to study traditional craft making for four years before setting off on her own. Today she produces traditional accessories such as kimono sashes (obi), fans, and purses using all traditional materials and methods. She takes the processes of design, creating the stencil, and dyeing the fabric, from start to finish herself. The first thing she demonstrated was cutting the stencil with a small knife.
“In Bingata, many colors share a single plane, and it is through the kumadori, the shading, that the modulations and the unity of the pattern are communicated. As with makeup, the base color is the foundation, the kumadori, like lipstick or eyeliner. My Bingata master instructed me, through kumadori, to draw with ‘the spirit of a fleeting smile’.”