Thursday, 12 October 2017

Japanese Book Binding at the Japanese Textiles Workshop

Today the members of the first Ten-Day Japanese Indigo Book Binding Workshop left the well-fed comfort of the farmhouse and made their way back into Tokyo. There was some indigo vat separation anxiety. Momo and Julie and Whiteboots will be missed by all.

Debra managed to get a whole bevy of semi-unmanageable  book binding cats to Japan and the village and the indigo vats and the work table on the third floor. They were all over the ladders and in all those nooks and crannies of the house. Yamazaki Yo sensei was very patient with the felines. Focusing on getting the tasks done he was like a soldier book maker/teacher. Many thanks to him.

The house is quiet once again the day was spent reflecting on the workshop.  As usual there was too much to do in too short a time. The course will run again next year and a small notebook was filled today on ideas for improvements. Sharper scissors and taller tables.....

With a good collection of antique indigo textiles, stencils, indigo vats, indigo fields and every book on Japanese textiles in this filled-to-the-rafters-with-textile-tools old silk-farming house it is easy to create some present and past context for the regular indigo workshop content. It is exciting and inspiring to have all the textile artifacts surrounding us.

There are old Edo period hand-bound books and Edo period Ukio-e prints etc around the house. But there has to be more. More Japanese paper and book binding backdrop is necessary. Next year the students will have to have more contact with old paper and books, ink and brushes.

There has to be a talk about Buson and Ryokan.

What did the Japanese fill their exquisite book binding culture with? Not blank pages....

So many more things to show and talk about. It was most of the participants first foray into indigo and textiles. We covered a lot of material. It was a challenge to splice in a second workshops worth of material. Indigo dyeing and Japanese book binding and Japanese book box making.

For authenticity's sake we drove to a local paper maker and made paper from mulberry fibres.

The participants received the regular pre-workshop homework box with stitching projects and persimmon tannin paper stencil cutting several months in advance. The stencils were cut to use on a piece of linen. That linen is dyed in indigo and then backed with paper to be applied to the stiff paper board that forms the box.

Here is Josephine using rice paste to resist the indigo on the linen.
After a few days of hard work she competed the box that holds the hand-bound paper books. She drew wonderful tiger motifs from Tibetan rugs.

Marie used some wonderful nautical motifs.

Tara free cut her patterns so they were refreshingly clean and balanced.

Debra planned out her design to go with her mid-century modern interior of her house.

Maria went feminine floral.

Prema had a bold pattern that was tamed slightly with a sophisticated subdued lining colour.

Rachelle's overall pattern was well balanced between the blue and the white.

Beatrice was all bold subtlety and French charm.

Glenda and packed you boxes and didn't let me photograph them...Grrrrr

We visited a book binding paper shop in Tokyo. Wow. All those numbered drawers filled with book binding paper.

We harvested some flowering indigo together in a short break from the book binding and indigo dyeing.

Like last year, the last harvest is used to make indigo sediment.

Ishi san's indigo harvest is composting perfectly already. The smell was pretty shocking.

How is it possible to teach/host a ten-day workshop and make it resonate deeply with the participants?  
How is it possible to teach the techniques while giving insights into the culture that was the source off the craft masterpieces in ten short days?

The heat of the summer is gone. It is rainy and misty.


  1. Those boxes are so serene and beautiful: now I want to become a book-binding cat! I'm preparing to talk to my quilt guild tonight about my indigo otter adventure in May, and I am reminiscing about life around the indigo vat. Miss you!

  2. This looks fantastic Bryan! I want to do it! To answer your questions... you DO manage to get the Japanese culture info across. That's one of the things I loved about the textile workshop. Can't get to Japan next year but maybe 2019???

    1. Waiting you for you Lyn. Hoping to go to Australia in June again.

  3. each of the box patterns is so unique and wonderful. I want to go to the washi store, looks scary expensive. Dramatic change in weather here. Hi to Hiro and Whiteboots.

    1. The paper store was sooo cheap! The photo does it no justice.

  4. it's all so beautiful. and the paper store, the papermaker's...

  5. love the last pic...something about those temple swagger cat ears / your focus... the interaction of the two of you! now night dreaming about the magic time spend at your place ! Emma oxo