Exhibition: Katagami – The Craft of the Japanese Stencil

Exhibition dates: 11 April – 7 December 2017

This exhibition celebrates one of the ULITA archive’s major collections – ‘katagami’, Japanese resist dyeing stencils, which form a prominent part of ULITA’s Japanese collection. Through drilling, punching and cutting, a great variety of detailed and intricate designs were cut into mulberry paper. These stencils were used for dyeing designs onto clothing ranging from everyday workers’ garments to the finest silk kimonos.

This exhibition introduces the techniques of making and using the katagami, and explores the imagery used. Although produced simply as tools, in recent years, the katagami themselves have come to be appreciated as remarkable and beautiful objects in their own right. The designs on the stencils amount to more than decoration. Whether it be evoking a season, carrying wishes for longevity and good fortune or containing an entire folk story, every katagami has a story to tell about the fashion and culture of Japan at the time of its creation and use.

Katagami – The Craft of the Japanese Stencil features forty katagami, including stencils lent by the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDa),which informed the work of the British textile company the Silver Studio, whilst stencil-dyed clothing lent by Leeds Museums and Galleries shows the finishing effects. The exhibition has been realised with the support of MoDa as part of their Arts Council-funded project Katagami in Practice. The exhibition is written and curated by guest Curator Dr Alice Humphrey, who has worked with the katagami collections in both ULITA and MoDa.

For more information, visit the website of ULITA (University of Leeds International Textile Archive).

Exhibition: Cherry Blossom and Shark Skin – Samurai and Civilian Textiles from the Edo Period

Kirschblüten und Haifischhaut - Textilien der Samurai und Bürger in der Edo-Zeit

Exhibition dates: 14 June – 13 December 2015

The German Textile Museum in Krefeld is unique in Europe for its collection of Japanese garments from the Edo period, decorated in the style known as ‘komon’. These 18th and 19th century garments, for both men and women, were purchased in the last decade by the city of Krefeld and given by various donors, and some are being shown to the public in this exhibition for the very first time.

The garments are characterised by small, very fine patterns, created using stencils (katagami) and rice-paste resist dyeing. The katagami templates consist of layers of mulberry paper. These very small, complex patterns are known as komon, and these so-called Edo komon patterns are considered the artistic peak of this stencil-dyeing technique in Japan. The small scale, with the entire surface of the textile being covered in tiny motifs, means that the tiny dots and other shapes – such as ovals and squares – can only be perceived by the human eye upon close inspection. The German Textile Museum shows a wide selection of different pattern variations in the exhibition.

Komon patterns were formerly reserved as decorative elements for the Samurai alone. Samurai families had their own pattern, which was not allowed to be used by others. Over time komon patterns began to be found in Japanese theatre, Noh or Kabuki, and in the adornment of precious garments that are still used to this day.

The exhibition also presents historic Noh robes and other Japanese textiles from the museum’s own collection as well as a suit of Samurai armour and woodblock prints on loan from the Krefeld art museum. Other loans – photographs from the Reiss-Engelhorn Museum in Mannheim and ceramics, Noh masks and a folding screen from private collections – round off this exhibition of textiles from the Edo period beautifully.

For more information, visit the website of the Deutsches Textilmuseum, Krefeld, Germany.