Japan House, London recently ‘wowed’ the London design scene with a forest of colour in an exhibition focussed on natural dyes and the art of ‘kasane’ – the creation of Japanese colour combinations through layering.

The exhibition provided the opportunity to journey through the seasonal shifting of colour exploring soft shades and vivid bursts, with the sounds of the Yoshioka Dye Workshop setting the scene.

Highlighting the work of the Yoshioka Dyeing Workshop in Kyoto, the current Master of Colour, Yoshioka Sachio, is the 5th generation to head the 200-year-old family run company.  Abandoning synthetic colours, he favours plant-based dyeing techniques.

Japan has a long history with colour and by using pigments harvested from the natural world, Yoshioka has revived Japan’s historic colours and methods of making, keeping the age-old craft from the brink of extinction. Using pre-19th century historical documents and textile samples, Yoshioka has been able to recreate the palette of the Japanese court. His expertise has been applied extensively including the restoration of national treasures and historically significant temples and shrines.

A concept introduced from the Heian period (circa 794-1195), kasane was employed by female courtiers of the highest rank in the form of a ’12 layered robe’. These kimonos comprised of layers of silk cut to different sizes to produce offsets at the neckline, cuff and hems, with colour combinations employed to explore the changing seasons and inspired by organic elements.

All the silks and washi paper on display were hand-dyed, using only natural materials to demonstrate the intensity and variety of colour that can be achieved using plants.  The beautiful graduations and compositions created from roots, petals and stalks, transformed Japan House into a temporary sanctuary of colour.

May 2019 at Japan House