Thursday, 26 April 2012

Katazome Master Visit

 I first visited Noguchi san's time slip katazome studio seventeen years ago. He is the seventh generation stencil dyer here and his son Kaz  become the eighth a few years back.  Our entourage arrived and Noguchi san was happy to have me do all the explaining. He shies away from any limelight and has called me before to help when a group of non-Japanese somehow found his Japanese Hobbit-like Indigoshire heaven.

Judy said she, "lost it" while watching him at work. I am not quite sure of what she meant but can imagine how she was overwhelmed by both the tradition itself and the magical atmosphere of his studio and his indigo dyed yukata.

 "Stand still I can't get a picture of you that isn't blurred....."(Sorry there was just too much to explain.)

Noguchi san ferments his indigo differently than anyone else I have ever met or read about. He keeps several vats in a thick fermentation state and scoops out the fresh pigment and bacteria laden liquid and pours it into the main dying vats in a separate room.


There is a tremendous amount of information to take in on a visit to this studio. It is not laid out in a tidy classroom like format. The family lives with and in and amongst the studio. The processes include sizing and ironing the yukata material, keeping indigo fermentation vats alive, stretching the material on the long maple boards, preparing the pastes, handling of the stencils, drying racks in the sun, soya milk production to size and over dye with soot, washing the rolls of cotton, pressing them again and finishing them up to sell. All of these processes and their accompanying tools and space jumbled in together. I was so impressed with our tour members for taking so much in. It took me years to get an idea of what is involved and how he manages it.

In the pasting studio his son gave a demonstration on how he applies the paste. I arranged for Noguchi san to let us all have chance to paste a piece of our own. The tour members enjoyed this thoroughly.

The red pigment is added to make the paste more visible when lining up the stencils for a continuous pattern.


  1. thanks for the explanation and these wonderful images.

    1. Deanna san;
      I will one day go and document as fully as I can all the events and corners of Noguchi san's studio and post it on the blog. Hopefully later this year.

  2. 'lost it' means I was blown away by the skills and their reverence for the process. Completely overwhelmed and overawed by the opportunity we were given to try our hand at the process. It was indeed an honor to be in a situation
    Ike this one., almost spiritual.

  3. Hello Brian,

    I happen to be lucky enough to be in possession of 2kg of indigo paste. How do I make a vat with the paste and reduce it to the right pH level? I live in the tropics so keeping the vat warm won't be too difficult, and I'm planning to use banana mash juice as a reducing agent. Thanks for your help!

    1. The process is a little tricky. Check out Rowland Ricketts website. He explains it best. Best of luck. bryan