By Patricia Belyea
KYOTO JP The best time to go to a museum is on a rainy day. So that’s what Michael and I did when the skies opened up in a deluge.
Armed with clear plastic umbrellas, we walked two blocks north to a municipal campus—home of six museums and the Kyoto Zoo. We located our destination, Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts, in the basement of the International Exhibition Hall. The Museum, with displays of every kind of traditional craft, came to life when we entered a room filled with textile artisans diligently working at their crafts.
Through gesturing, I was invited to partake in a fabric dyeing project using the yusen method. I made a placemat decorated with purple bellflowers, rubbing dyes through five different rice paper stencils.
I was having so much fun that I moved on to the next station—painting a hankie. Here I joined Maggie from Australia, a recent high school graduate. The designs were already stamped in gold so we just had to paint between the lines. Maggie and I dabbed vibrant dyes onto our square clothes stretched across bamboo holding frames.
The longer we stayed, the more the craftsmen in the room warmed up to us. Pretty soon everyone was smiling and laughing.
It's interesting to note that the Japanese fabric artisans were all men. That's quite the opposite to the preponderance of women textile artists in my North American neck of the woods. When we finally emerged from the Museum, the rains had subsided!