Sunday, May 24, 2009

Japanese Katazome Calendars

According to Wikipedia,
"Katazome (型染め) is a Japanese method of dyeing fabrics using a resist paste applied through a stencil. With this kind of resist dyeing, a rice flour mixture is applied using a brush or a tool such as a palette knife. Pigment is added by hand-painting, immersion or both. Where the paste mixture covers and permeates the cloth, dye applied later will not penetrate."
In addition to its use on fabrics, the intricate stencil technique has been employed in printmaking on mulberry paper, as in the page-a-month wall calendars that have been produced regularly in Japan since the 1940s. They may possibly have been intended for Western markets, since the months, as in these examples from 1959, are in English.

The above images are from a set that apparently matches the one that George C. Baxley, one of the few English-language sources on the subject, says is "reported" to be the work of Keisuke Serizawa (1895-1984), a noted textile designer who created a katazome calendar annually for forty years or so.

The next image is an example of the label that would have accompanied each set of prints. This label happens to be an orphan, artist unknown.

This rather nice crab may belong with it, as the dates align correctly with March 1957.

Finally, some images I can't assign definitely to any particular year or designer, although they may belong together. Based on where the days of the week fall they could be from 1959, 1964, 1970, and so on.

When they were given to me a number of years ago, the prints were accompanied by a photocopied page that says, in part, "the Artist for this calendar for 1971 is Mr. Takeshi Nishijima, Professor of Art at Kyoto University. A graphic and textile designer, he has exhibited in numerous one man shows and won the coveted Grand Prize at the Kyoto Art Exhibit." As far as I can tell, however, none of the above examples are from 1971, and thus far I've found very little information on Takeshi Nishijima. He appears to have been active through the 1970s, producing calendars that were published by Wazome-Kogei in Kyoto.

The Japan Society in New York plans an exhibition devoted to Keisuke Serizawa beginning in October 2009. His katazome calendars, even if a sideline to his more important work (he was designated as a "Living National Treasure" in 1956) may well be represented. Yale University Press will publish the exhibition catalog, Serizawa: Master of Japanese Textile Design, also in the Fall.

(I have reworked the above since I first posted it, adding more images and moving one set to a subsequent post.)


joel. said...

these are fabulous. thank you

peacay said...

Great post, thanks Chris.

Tara said...

wow these are gorgeous

Kit said...

Eye-popping, beautiful calendars! I own one from 1971, also purchased from George Baxley. I'm thrilled to hear there will be a Serizawa show in 2009! Worth a trip to NYC! I am a textile artist exploring this fascinating technique in my work. Please visit my blog -- I have a post that features 3 months from my calendar along with some katazome dyed pillows I made recently. I am thrilled to have found your blog!

Chris said...


Thanks for stopping by. I did visit your blog and I love your work -- especially your wonderful egret.

If it's all right with you I'd like to do a brief post and include the egret image as well as the image of the original stencil.

Your links look very promising as well; I'll have to check some of those out at greater length.

Best wishes

anczelowitz said...

Wazome is still in operation today in Kyoto. Founded by Mr.Kuriyama-san who is a wonderful man and our beloved sensei over at awagami+1. Kuriyama-sensei was personal friends with Serizawa and did in fact print these calenders for export to the Western market. Wazome was started after the war and was instrumental in bringing this much beloved craft to those outside of Japan. Craig Anczelowitz designer, awagami+1

Chris said...


Thanks for that information.