Visiting a traditional fabric dyer

Jul 9  ·  2 min read

Who said field trips are for school kids? They are great for expanding knowledge and fuelling creativity, and if you choose to go with the flow they are, most often, fun.

Senior creative artworker, Mie Christensen and project manager, Minako Horanai went on a small field trip and visited Tomita Dye Craft (est. 1914) in Shinjuku, Tokyo. More than 100 years ago, artisans settled in Shinjuku, which was ideally situated next to the clean Kanda river. The clear stream of water was necessary for high-quality dye craft. Today the river is polluted, and the dyers are not allowed to use it, but the area still has around 60 dyers still in operation.

Tokyo Some-Komon

Not some as in ‘SoMe’, but Some as in ‘Some-Komon’ which means ‘Fine-Patterned Dyeing’. In contrast to Daimongata-Some (large-patterned stencil dyeing) and Chugata-Some (medium stencil dyeing), Komongata-Some (fine-patterned stencil dyeing) is said to have earned its name from the stencil dyeing of intricate patterns. The Komon patterns are all unique and mainly used in the Edo Period (1603-1868) for samurai warrior’s ceremonial kamishimo clothing. Each pattern was exclusively used for one samurai or one particular, and often wealthy, family. No other family or person could use the same komon pattern and the extremely delicate stencils only lasted a certain amount of time. In the middle of the Edo Period, ‘ordinary’ people began to use the patterns for their everyday kimonos, which lead to a larger variety of designs.

Mie an Minako used stencil rice paper, seen on the pictures below, to dye patterns on silk cloth. Tomita Dye Craft have more than 120.000 patterns to choose from.