[2019.03.08] Kokontozai: KASHIYUKA’s Shop of Japanese Arts and Crafts / [Bingata Folding Fan]

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.

The Okinawan stencil-dyed textile known as Bingata originated, perhaps, as long ago as the 14th century. Our shopkeeper, KASHIYUKA, paid a visit to an artisan seeking to continue the tradition while exploring new design directions.

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.

Purchase No. 12 【 Bingata Folding Fan】 A stencil-dyed fan that, in its vivid coloring, expresses the character and history of Okinawa.

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.

The practice of kumadori involves using two brushes simultaneously.
KASHIYUKA is deeply impressed by modern textiles employed for obi, kimono sashes. “It would be terrific if these Bingata fabrics inspired greater interest in the traditional kimono.”

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.

Bingata unites me with the climate and topography of Okinawa,” says Ms. Nawa, whose popular brand is called “Bingata Nawachou”.
The pigments used are those of traditional Japanese painting.

“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’.”

I think I understand what’s meant by that “fleeting smile”. The colors are, of course, beautiful. But more than that, there is the inherent sweetness of the forms. There are the patterns of birds that adorn the garments warn by traditional Ryukyu dancers. There is the classic Japanese peony, done in a modern way, and even a form inspired by that of an art deco cup.

“Because I want people to have a feel for Bingata, I try to come up with designs that fit the current mode, not only involving the classic patterns. In any case, most important to me is upholding its fundamental qualities. I never lose sight of the historical character of Bingata that the Ryukyu dynasty so cherished and so carefully preserved.”

KASHIYUKA selects a fan of graceful color.
Carving patterning stencils.

Because she captures the fundamental qualities of Bingata in all of her work, even in the modern design one feels its “heart and soul”. For this purchase I’ve selected a fan, an easygoing design that yet speaks quality. Lofted on its pattern and color, the fresh breeze of the Ryukyus is conveyed to you by this gorgeous crafted work.