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’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 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.
SECOND SETBACK: In World War II, his studio in Tokyo was firebombed and Serizawa lost everything.
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.
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.
To see a video from the opening night of the exhibit, click below. [4:14 minutes]
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 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
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