Kiranada lecturing on kesa at the Asian Pacific Museum

Kiranada lecturing on Kesa at the Asian Pacific Museum


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Lectures on Kesa, Rozome and Resist-Dye Techniques, Japanese Textiles, Costume, and Design

All are illustrated lectures utilizing slides and/or video
*Requests for special topic lectures for particular audiences welcomed.
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The World of Rozome
Liquid dye on thirsty cloth, molten wax and a steady hand. These are the elements of rozome. Many cultures consider fabric dyeing an art form. Historically it has been seen as clothing to designate rank or status, ritual cloth created to celebrate or commemorate life passages, soft hangings to narrate old stories of religion and myth or to depict honored royalty and even deities. In Japan wax-resist is not called batik but roketsu-zome or the shortened form, ro-zome (wax-dyeing). Although modern European and American batik have been inspired by the wax-resist fabrics of Indonesia, Japan has its own historical source flowing from the Asian continent; a flow that inspired the textile treasures stored in the Shosoin Repository of Nara for more than 1200 years. Japanese rozome is a sister of the batik of Indonesia, but the Japanese process has many distinctive techniques; a unique product of Japanese inventiveness. In current time it has grown out of the area of ethnology and decorative arts and into the field of fine arts where it has dazzled thousands with its dynamic possibilities.

Japanese Resist-Dyeing: History and Practice
Japan has an ancient tradition of fine resist-dyed textiles extending over 1200 years. During the Nara Period (645-794 CE), three resist techniques flourished: rokechi (wax resist), kokechi (bound resist) and kyokechi (clamp resist). Rokechi and kokechi are the ancient predecessors of the rozome and shibori techniques that continue to flourish in modern day Japan. Along with yuzenzome (paste resist) and katazome (stencil resist), the four resist techniques are the predominant methods of surface design for textiles. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, these techniques have been rediscovered as vehicles for dynamic contemporary art and innovative fashion medium.

Buddha’s Cloth: Historical and Contemporary Silk Painting in Japan
An overview of the earliest history of silk dyeing in the East beginning with the cloth prepared for the dedication of the Great Buddha in Nara Japan in 752AD. The development of the continued use of silk through the middle-ages, an update of dyeing for the kimono industry and the dynamic use of the dyed silk for the creation of contemporary fine art in today’s world.

Historical Buddhist Kesa Robes: Inspiration for Contemporary Fiber Art

The Japanese kesa or kasaya in Sanskrit, originated in India in fourth century BCE as a robe for the devotees of Buddha Shakyamuni. When Buddhism came to Japan in the 6th century AD the kesa followed, a treasured manifestation of the Buddhist dharma. While kesa are unfamiliar to many outside of the Buddhist community, they are in the collections of many museums outside of Japan with five US museums holding upwards of 100 kesa alone. As a fiber artist living in Japan for more than 18 years, I enjoyed the opportunity of basing my studio work on Japanese textile research and in 1999 began a project to create a contemporary kesa for each of the seven continents in the proscribed manner of the Buddhist tradition. With extensive research and planning, seven robes were created from layers of Asian silk, using the resist dye technique of roketsu-zome as well as shishu (embroidery), kata-kinsai (stenciled gold powders) and quilting.. The seven kesa were sent to sites on each continent where they were introduced as a contemporary form of a 2500 year old tradition and used in ceremonies for healing, and peace. The purpose of this research project was to create work that could transform thinking and bring an appreciation of the earth and its peoples, recognize our commonality, and the need for care of animal species at risk of extinction.

World Batik/ Sight and Sound
A dazzling audio/visual presentation of wax-resist dyeing through the ages with focus on the fine contemporary work done on six continents. This was an opening presentation at the World Batik Conference-Boston 2005; “An eye- and heart-opening experience,” “Inspiring beyond words.”

Wrapped in Silk: An Artist’s Story
Thirty years ago I arrived in Kyoto to research Japanese resist-dyeing and kimono history. A life time later my years have blossomed into a play of studio-time in Asia, exhibitions, travel, teaching and writing, all based on my love of the wax line, liquid dye and that ‘thirsty’ cloth. From the kimono industry in Japan, to residencies in Costa Rica, Spain and Bali and a daily life in New England – this lecture shares the training, inspiration, discoveries and present contemplative life of an artist … wrapped in silk … and committed to a desire to benefit all beings.

RO- KATA: Innovative Use of Wax-Resist Stencil Design
Stenciling or stamping images on cloth is found around the world, notably in Indonesia, China, Nigeria, India as well as Japan. The process of stenciling resist onto fabrics been well known in Japan for over 400-years. There it is called kata-zome and is done with paste resist. However, Ro-kata (wax stencil)  is a new 20th century version of this technique, utilizing the wonderful qualities of hot wax and dye to create pattern. The special results are singular and while related to both katazome and the commercial process of silk-screen printing, the textural qualities, ease of cutting and placement gives design possibilities neither of these former techniques can match. The door is open for new exploration and innovation and can be seen recently in kimono, fashion and glorious images on silk.

Global Trends in Contemporary Batik
While batik is the word most English speakers use to identify wax-resist textiles, this is Bahasa Indonesia from the word ambatik: “to mark with spots or dots.” In Japan this is known as rozome, in China it is la-jie and among Chinese minority tribes it is called laran. As a modern contemporary technique for putting pattern on cloth, this process has blossomed in the contemporary field. A number of old and new cycles and trends have come to the fore recently including abstraction, photo realism, political staements, ethnicity, spirituality as well as innovative presentations including mixed media and sculptural, installation work.

Textile Treasures of Japan — Two Thousand Years of History

The historical development of a unique Japanese costume is a direct reflection of geography and the social and political tenor of the times. Highlighting the twelve-layered kimono of the aristocratic Heian Court, the kosode of the warrior elite in the Kamakura era, the extravagances in textile designs of the merchant class of Edo the story will trace the political and social tides of Japan. Full of entertaining asides, the history of textiles starts with the weaving hall of the Sun Goddess and at the door of one of the 20,000 working looms in present-day Kyoto.

Golden Waterfalls, Windblown Pines: The Story of Kimono
The Japanese kimono from its humble origins as workers’ clothing and underwear for the Heian court 1000 years ago to the highest artistic expression of revered ‘living national treasure.’ The development of a unique Japanese costume with its special sensitivity to color, design and symbol echoes Japanese culture, history and way of life.

Color and Costume in the World of the Shining Prince — Heian Period, Japan
The flowering of Japanese culture in the Heian Period (794 – 1185 CE) found a court preoccupied with form color and aesthetics. Using literary references from Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji and Sei Shoganan’s Pillow Book this lecture will help to illuminate the aesthetics, manners and life style of this extraordinary time through an analysis of the literature and emaki, narrative picture scrolls.

Japanese Folk Textiles
Most early Japanese folk textiles in existence today were produced during the Edo and Meiji eras. The clothing of commoners, folk textiles, were used, worn-out, resewn and later discarded. Textile art followed its function of material for wearing, yet a special freshness and directness, a joyous spontaneity makes even functional clothing seem appropriate for a festival. Folk textiles are the work of anonymous people, created for their family, to brighten their lives and their surroundings in an often poor and harsh environment. They were produced from inexpensive materials, usually cotton or bast fibers, woven on home looms during quiet winter months, and dyed in the available indigo vat. They celebrate a love of nature and of symbols. Japanese folk textiles are distinctive for their directness, un-self-consciousness; for their ruggedness, their simplicity, naiveté, vitality, richness, asymmetry; for their harmony and sensitivity to materials and use.

Changing Patterns, Changing Lives: A Historical View of Women, Textiles and Japan
A view of the changing roles of women in Japan society in medieval to modern times from the unique view point of a textile historian. The focus of this lecture flows from the Sun Goddess of myth, to aristocrats and servants of Heian period, to samurai wives, commoners and farmers and to the liberated ‘mo-ga’ of the last century.

Japanese Design

An analysis of the contrasting Yamato and Zen aesthetics that have predominate Japanese design for centuries. Continued examples will include notan, or dark/light composition, symbols, screen and scroll painting, kimono design, architecture, the concepts of wabi sabi, and the aesthetics of tea ceremony revealed in contemporary Japanese fashion, crafts and the current ‘art scene.’

© All images are the property of Kiranada Sterling Benjamin and may not be reproduced in any form without her permission.