Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Motohiko Katano Shibori Postcards

At the Japanese Folkcraft Museum you can buy four books of postcards featuring the work of the shibori /indigo master Motohiko Katano.

Motohiko Katano (1889-1975), a painter turned dyer, created a body of sublime shibori work using indigo and other natural dyes. Guided by Soetsu Yanagi and Kanjiro Kawai, leaders of the mingei (“folk craft”) movement, Katano recognized the beauty of the humble yet high spirited art of Arimatsu-Narumi shibori and, from 1957 to his death, set out to revive these traditions. Many of his techniques were inspired by shibori craft traditions from the area where he lived, in Nagoya. One such process, now popularly called “katano shibori,” produces a repeating pattern across the width of the cloth in variegated colors, white lines, and areas resembling soft airbrushed tinting. His work leaves an indelible mark on contemporary shibori art, and his legacy is being continued by his daughter, Kaori Katano. 

Motohiko Katano: Motohiko Katano.

They are often out on the work table/ dining table for us to figure out how he made them. Truus and Mini and Ogata san and I have worked on this one recently. Truus went back to the Netherlands and I didn't get a picture of her beautiful piece.

After it is stitched and pulled it is bound to a flexible rope core and the white parts are resisted with kite string and cloth and saran wrap. Mini is exhausted after all the prep work. She hit the indigo vat the second the last place was wrapped and tied.  Mini-like clean lines and a clean melody appeared when it was opened.

It is interesting to see his ingenuity and precision in trying to copy these works. As the techniques are picked up over years my students can tweak them and find their own shape-resist voice.  I don't push the students to do something never done before. Copy and refine the master works and your own will come in time.

Ogata sans was a tad bolder.

This is another technique Ogata san and I worked on recently. (Amanda mastered it last year.) A simple paper cut out stencil was repeated with the aobana ink and then stitched up, pulled and dyed in the indigo ten times. On Lithuanian linen.

Yet another two techniques from these cards:

I suggest anyone interested in Shibori find these and work away. They are the best resource material I have ever seen on shibori. Why look at the textbook stuff? Look at the Leonardo stuff.


  1. Oh my, I clicked on the Motohiko Katano link and was whisked away to hundreds of images on Google. That's my afternoon taken care of, it's as well it is raining and I can't be weeding the garden today. Thank you Bryan.

  2. these computers....wasting our lives....I was on a Joni Mitchell kick again late last night.

  3. My knowledge/handwork of shibori is very limited but I find Katano's work so inspiring - thank you for mentioning him here, I will explore more. And then there's Ogata san ... she is a wonder!

    This might be going up above my worktable: "Why look at the textbook stuff? Look at the Leonardo stuff." dang. that's gooooood.

  4. I'm very intrigued with the idea of stenciling a pattern for stitched shibori. not sure aobana is available here. good excuse for a trip to japan. Mini and Ogata-san patterns are beautiful, what will they use the fabric for?

    1. Hi Jean,
      Ogata san will use it for some blouse. I am not sure about Mini.

  5. Nice to see Ogata san. Her udon was the best, we still talk about it.

  6. This is a wonderful Blog. I have been studying Katano shibori for a couple of years and find the process so rewarding. Can the Katano Post Cards be purchased anywhere? I would love to have a set. Thanks so much.

  7. The Postcards can be purchased at the Japanese Folkcraft Museum in Tokyo.

  8. Thanks for posting this special kind of stuff !
    It sent my mind working away immediately ... :-)