“To dye for”

One of the loveliest articles on kimono I’ve seen in a while, on a kimono artist I’ve admired for years: The San Diego Union-Tribune — To dye for:

Itchiku Kubota’s works reach back to a mythic golden age of Japanese textiles.

In 1937, a promising 20-year-old Japanese artist, Itchiku Kubota, paid a visit to the Tokyo National Museum. He saw a fragment of a 17th-century textile with imagery so vivid he stared at it for hours. The technique used to make it, tsujigahana, was lost to history. But Kubota vowed to recreate it in his own work.

“This find seemed like a revelation from God,” he would recall, “and I vowed then to devote the rest of my life to bring its beauty alive again.”

An exhibition catalogue of Kubota’s, and Kimono as Art: The Landscapes of Itchiku Kubota are both available on Amazon for very reasonable prices. A few more online photos of the exhibit can also be found here, where clicking on the thumbnails will open a “super-sized” view that gives a much better idea of the kimono in three dimensions. The Itchiku Kubota Art Museum has its own website, in Japanese of course.

Up close, his work is awe-inspiring. Keep in mind he saw that tsujigahana fragment in 1937: “Kubota didn’t have an exhibition until 1977 simply because he wasn’t satisfied with his method until then.” Forty years later. I was able to find a video about tsujigahana dyeing, also in Japanese, that shows more common tsujigahana designs on kimono.

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