Studying katazome, you inevitably end up hearing about and seeing the very similar technique of bingata which developed in Okinawa.Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to finally get to visit Okinawa and managed to check out a couple of bingata working ateliers whilst I was there. It was an interesting exercise in realising various differences between bingata and katazome. Let’s explore some of those here.
|example of an 18-19thC Ryuku Bingata national heritage piece.|
Katazome vs Bingata
The basics process of the two techniques are essentially the same: A stencil is carved out of heavy paper, this is used to apply a gooey resist paste onto the fabric, the paste dries and the exposed fabric is dyed, then the resist paste is removed to reveal white un-dyed areas.
|hint as to why I like bingata.. birds! bingata designs often feature brightly coloured birds in flight|
Some features of bingata, however, are markedly different from katazome.
For one thing, traditional bingata is extravagantly colourful! (Bingata actually translates as “coloured patterns”) Think reds, deep yellows, greens, purples and blues. I’d like to think this is due in part to Okinawa’s tropical island climate and the subsequent vivid high-saturation flowers and light they have there. (it’s currently a Japanese prefecture but it’s quite far south from main island Japan.) But it’s probably more to do with the Chinese influence on the visual language of the old Ryukyu Kingdom and the fact that pigments were often imported from China. Plant dyes made from local plants like fukugi and Okinawan indigo were used as well as pigments like yellow ochre, vermillion and indigo were used. Apparently yellow was reserved for (then named) Ryukyu Kingdom royalty.
|various colourful bingata patterns. they are often very very detailed too!|
I went all the way to Osaka in 2012 to catch an amazing exhibition of bingata. I remember being just floored by the colours! Pinks, sky blues, purples, yellows…If the pieces on display had faded at all in their 100+ years then old Ryukyu was certainly a colourful place!
Another feature of bingata is the decorative patterns which often have large unconnected open areas which you don’t see in old katazome.
Let me explain with a picture of the stencils used for in both techniques.
|Fine traditional katazome stencils, carving blades and punches.|
The very traditonal katazome stencils seen here (known as Ise Katagami) have been carved to cut and remove small shapes.The design on the left includes lines that touch an cross to keep the whole thing in one piece. In the centre, you see an expert carver working with a VERY fine blade to cut several layers of stencil paper at once. On the right, ridiculously tiny sharp punches, both circular and shaped were often used to create uber fine details, originally employed to give the illusion of a woven fabric. Once carved, the stencil paper is left as is and soaked before use.
|more open Katazome stencils also existed and these often had a fine silk mesh applied to ease paste application, as you can just see in the right image.|
Sometimes more open designs (though never seem to be quite as open as bingata stencils) were lacquered over and had a fine silk mesh applied so that the artisan’s spatula didn’t catch on the stencil during paste application.
Now let’s look at some bingata stencils. さて、紅型の方は？
|bingata stencils with large open areas, ‘floating’ elements and fine sweeping lines.|
You can see these bingata stencils incorporate thin curving lines and a birds etc that are suspended in space, that is, not connected to other parts of this design physically. You can imagine how, when you cut this stencil, you would end up with a handful of sad, separated pieces, right? So to keep it all in one piece, temporary connecting lines are left between areas of the design, then after a fine layer of silk mesh has been applied with lacquer, they are are removed and the stencil is usable. This use of open space is much more marked than in katazome.
|can you see the gradations on the petals and feather details?|
You might notice the gradations of colour in this bingata example. This characteristic effect is acheived using a combination of dyes (which enter the fabric and grip fibres) and pigments (which rest on the surface of the fabric). When we visited Shiroma Bingata, we watched the workers first apply a layer of flat pigment colour which has been mixed to a liquid with soymilk. Next, they were using a very stiff bristled round brush, to almost dry brush a darker shade or different dye colour over the top in certain areas to create accent areas and to really push the pigment into the fabric.
|this is how the gradations are done. a quick sweep of darker dye with a brush then smudging it hard into the fabric with a stiff bristled brush.|
The feature of bingata that I am most in awe of and often confounded by is the use of “fuse-nori”, that is, a second process of very carefully covering previously dyed areas with another layer of resist paste and once dry, dyeing the background colour. The bingata patterns are often so fine and detailed and whilst the entire pattern may not be covered with fuse nori (allowing layering of colours) the time and patience involved in covering over all those tiny design parts gets some serious respect from me. 紅型の行程で一番尊敬しているのが「伏せ糊」の作業です。「伏せ糊」というのは、背景の地色が染めれるために、一回染めた模様（又はその一部）をまた糊でかぶせていくの仕事です。ものすごい細かい仕事で、時間がかなりかかりそうです。でも、この段階があるため、また別の雰囲気が出せます。
See these examples of fuse nori and what it allows you to achieve. The white areas have been preserved with the second layer of paste. 伏せ糊を使えば、こういう感じで染められます。
|bingata patterns where a second layer of masking paste has allowed a background colour to be dyed too|
I think I might put together a second post about our visit to Shiroma Bingata studio but suffice to say I was impressed with the different distinctive characteristics of bingata. I’m thinking it would be exciting to combine some bingata tricks and qualities with katazome or even with yuzen! Always inspiring to find new possibilities like this. また城間紅型工房の見学について書こうと思っていますが、一応「紅型の特徴に感動しました！！」と言いたいです。紅型の独特な行程や雰囲気を型染、もしくは友禅（！？）と組み合わせしてみたいと思ってきました！新しい可能を見つけるのは楽しいですね。