AUTHOR NOTE: Last January, Sanae Naito took me to a chusen-dyeing workshop where I saw cottons being hand dyed using this traditional Japanese process. To see photos of chusen-dyeing, please +click here
By Patricia Belyea
TOKYO JP Artist Sanae Naito came to my hotel early as she had a full-day of chusen-dyeing adventures planned for the day. Our first stop, after three subway/train transfers, was a visit to the head offices of Rienzome Company—the oldest chusen-dyeing company in Tokyo.
The outside of the unpretentious building was decorated with framed chusen-dyeing stencils. Note, on the close-up, how the mesh keeps all the parts of the design together.
We were ushered into a meeting room where pillows were laid out on the floor and green tea was poured for all.
The highlight of our visit was a chat with Eiji Kobayashi, a fifth generation member of the family who founded Rienzome Company in1872. Today Mr. Kobayashi’s son Kenji leads the company.
Mr. Miyakawa showed us a tenugui (Japanese wash cloth) with a classic woodblock design, and a washi paper stencil that had been prepared for chusen dyeing. He also let us wander though the high stacks of folded and packaged chusen-dyed tenugui in the upstairs warehouse.
Demand for hand-dyed yukata cotton has declined in recent years. All the same, we found a cabinet filled with gorgeous chusen-dyed yukata cottons that made my heart sing!
Our next stop was within walking distance—Edo Kiriko filled with exquisite glassware cut in traditional patterns. Paired with the glittering glass masterpieces were chusen-dyed tenugui by Rienzome Company.
After a perfect lunch at a chichi Japanese restaurant, we continued to one of the best-known craft shops in Tokyo. All the same, you could walk right past the Decola sign if you weren’t in the know!
Up some robins-egg blue stairs, a simple door opened to a world of eclectic handmade treasures.
In one corner was a table of Sanae’s contemporary chusen-dyed tenugui under her brand, Crazy Texiles. Her stencil designs are all made by hand and she handles every step of the production of her hand-dyed products.
Our final stop was Sanae’s petite office where we sipped black tea and viewed her bigger chusen-dyed projects. Sanae is a part-time lecturer at Joshibi University of Art and Design, and an exhibiting textile artist.
One large chusen-dyed scarf, inspired by a pearl necklace, was presented to me at the end of our day together. It was a grand gesture that added more to my gratitude for being toured around by the brilliant and gentle Sanae.
To visit Sanae Naito’s website +click here
To visit the website of the Rienzome Company +click here