Nagoya textiles Nagoya yuzen
Beauty of quiet colors and austere elegance
A long tradition of exquisite patterns
Nagoya Yuzen is a type of dyed and painted cloth made by a range of unique traditional techniques in the Nagoya City area.
Nagoya Yuzen is characterized by its designs such as monotone, color gradations, classical motifs, as well as for its quiet unfussy palette of limited colors. Nagoya Yuzen is the quiet elegant sister of the gorgeous Kyo Yuzen or the graceful Kaga Yuzen and as such attracts people with a taste for more muted and slightly austere designs.
There are three methods each with their own array of traditional skills and effects: Nagoya Tegaki Yuzen involves drawing designs by hand onto the fabric; Nagoya Kata Yuzen uses paper patterns made in Ise; and Kuromontsuki-zome, the dying of family crests in black and usually on clothes for formal or ceremonial occasions. Today, some Nagoya Yuzen has tastefully combined not only the traditional austere elegance but also more contemporary tastes to give a fresh impression in keeping with modern times.
The tradition of Nagoya Yuzen dates back to around 1730 to 1739. At that time, in the Owari region we find a thriving and spectacular culture, which attracted craftsmen from all over Japan and among them were dyers from Kyoto or Edo, who are thought to be the original introducers of the Yuzen dyeing techniques to the region. Unfortunately with the downfall of the domain’s lord, Muneharu TOKUGAWA, an age of opulence was followed by one of simplicity and frugality, leading to the unique austere elegance of the current Nagoya Yuzen.
Today, Nagoya Yuzen enjoys great popularity, but the term Nagoya Yuzen was only coined in 1983, the style having been formerly included under the Kyo Yuzen umbrella. In 1983, the Nagoya Yuzen Kuromontsuki Federation of Cooperatives was established by 3 organizations; the Aichi Prefecture Dyeing Cooperatives of Kuromontsuki-zome dyers, the Aichi Prefecture Custom-made Dyeing Cooperatives for Komon and Kata Yuzen dyers, and the Nagoya Yuzen Industrial Cooperatives of Tegaki Yuzen dyers. Accordingly, in April of the same year, Nagoya Yuzen was designated as one of the National Traditional Crafts.
General Production Process
- 1. Underdrawing
A colored draft design is created on paper and then transferred onto the fabric by using aobana solution made from the juice of the dayflower which disappears when wet. A modern chemical version, also known as aobana is used; the synthetic version disappears when steamed.
- 2. Itome-nori starching
Itome-nori is a mix of starch glue made of zinc dust, glutinous rice powder and rice bran, and is spread onto the reverse side of the fabric to prevent dyes penetrating in the later processes; it is a method unique to Nagoya Yuzen. Besides starch glue, a kind of gum, a mixture of ultramarine blue pigment called gunjo used in Japanese-style painting and glutinous rice powder is sometimes used. Unlike itome-nori, which is water soluble, the gum can only be removed with benzine.
- 3. Coloring
Using the underdrawings dyes are applied in the order of colors from the lightest to the darkest by using many kinds of painting brushes and wide brushes to cover larger areas. Between applying dyes, the reverse side is repeatedly dried over a hot plate to prevent the starch glue from becoming sodden and colors from mixing. To finish and fix the colors the fabric is steamed in a later process; finer details such as faces are dyed in a later process.
- 4. Cover Sizing
A mixture of steamed glutinous rice powder and salt is applied to the colored patterns so as to prevent ground colors from bleeding in to the newly applied dyes in the following process. Itome-nori starching, is carried out with a narrow tube, but cover-sizing tubes have a wider opening to cover a larger area. In addition to the mix, sawdust or rice bran are sprinkled to speed up the drying and avoid the mix spreading; this process also prevents the fabric sticking together in the later processes.
- 5. Hikizome (ground coloring)
By referring to color samples and cloth swatches colors are chosen and applied as ground color to the fabric. Mixing too much color decreases the luminosity and brightness of the target color; so it is important to prepare a tone using as light a color as possible. When the color is ready, it must be spread quickly from end to end of the fabric using a wide brush; if one end dries too soon it will result in uneven coloring so this process requires a steady hand and years of practice.
- 6. Final Coloring
Any fine details left out in the early stages are now filled in. Before final coloring, excess dyes and glue are washed out, followed by hand or machine steam ironing to remove wrinkles. At this point the fabric is cut to the required length and width. After a final ironing, fine colors and details are applied along with any gold powder or gold leaf.