Serizawa, Japanese textile master

serizawa :: master of japanese textile design

By Patricia Belyea

SEATTLE WA  Help! I'm in love with a married man with two grown children. To make matters worse, he's been dead for 32 years.

I met him online—at AbeBooks.com. His description said: clean, in good condition. Just $6 and one week later, Serizawa was in my arms. He surprised me with his stunning textile masterpieces—so simple and yet so complex at the same time.

Serizawa, Master of Japanese Textile Design

Serizawa’s life story (1895 - 1984) starts as the child of cloth merchants, so textiles were in his blood.

FIRST SETBACK: His family had major financial losses. Instead of achieving his dream of becoming a fine art painter, Serizawa enrolled at a design college. This gave him a career as a commercial artist and teacher.

In his early 30s Serizawa visited Okinawa and became inspired by the bingata textiles there. After learning to create these traditional textiles, he developed his own version of katazome stencil dyeing.

Serizawa, Master of Japanese Textile Design

Serizawa became a leading member of the Japanese folk art movement, mingei, during the 1930s. He embraced all the production steps for his textile work—from designing, to cutting the stencils, to dyeing and hand-painting his fabrics.

Serizawa, Master of Japanese Textile Design

SECOND SETBACK: In World War II, his studio in Tokyo was firebombed and Serizawa lost everything.

Serizawa, Master of Japanese Textile Design

Due to his artistic talents and individualist style, his work surpassed the status of an anonymous Japanese craftsperson. In 1956 Serizawa was designated a Living National Treasure.

Serizawa, Master of Japanese Textile Design

The catalogue (yes, I did only get a book) was produced for an exhibit of Serizawa’s work at The Japan Society in 2009. There are 90 pages showing his art with detailed captions, followed by six essays by Japanese and American scholars.

Serizawa’s masterful approach to translating his world, often utilizing traditional motifs in fresh ways, rank him as one of the greatest Japanese artists of the 20th century.

To learn about the museum that his hometown of Shizuoka built in his honor +click here

To learn more about The Japan Society in New York City +click here

To visit AbeBooks and get your own copy of Serizawa +click here

This is an unsponsored post.


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13 comments


  • Patricia Belyea
    I agree, Janet. There is a Serizawa Museum about two hours from Tokyo that I would like to visit. I almost went last time I was in Japan but I had planned my day trip on a Monday and the Museum is closed that day of the week. So, maybe next time.

  • Patricia Belyea
    Sherry, I just read your comment almost three months after you posted it! I bet you are reading the Okan Arts blog on an iPad. I don’t use an iPad and this problem does not come up on a laptop. Thank you for pointing this out. I’ll see how we can improve this for you and likely many others. Best, P.

  • Janet FOSTER
    What an inspiring person!

  • Sherry
    Hi. I have what I hope you will take as a constructive suggestion. I enjoy reading your blog but it is a little frustrating that a few seconds into reading a post, popups slide in from the right and left of earlier and newer posts and chop off the sides of what I am trying to read or an image I am trying to see details on. Is there a way for me to close those popups?

  • Patricia Belyea
    Guiliana—You will enjoy the book. A great addition to anyone’s bookshelf who’s interested in Japan and textiles. Best, P.

  • Giuliana Nakashima
    This was a lovely surprise (as I am going through my emails)….A wonderful thing to share (as I will on my FB). Thanks so much. I will be ordering the book as well.

  • Patricia Belyea
    Julie—Buy a copy of the book. You WANT to see all his work. PB

  • Rosemary Newman
    Patricia, thank you for the introduction to Serizawa. I, too, have ordered the book!

  • Julie Paschkis
    Thanks for the introduction to Serizawa – fantastic stuff!

  • Emily Breclaw
    Thank you for this book recommendation- I bought a copy and am enjoying this visual experience thoroughly!!

  • veronica
    Thank you. I enjoyed learning about him. New fresh to me- always an inspiration.

  • Emily Breclaw
    That is the most compelling opening line of a fabric blog post ever! I think I might just have to buy the book for myself :-)

  • Carolyn Burton
    Simple, clean shapes and lines, so beautiful! Carolyn Burton

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