Japanese Katazome


A little introduction to our TEXTILE TALK AND TEA

on Katazome

with MARY PAWLCYN (Indigo Minneapolis),

on May 3rd, 11 am at Spring Finn & Co-

I first discovered Katazome on paper when I was designing Alma Hotel. Thanks to Mary, I found the vintage Serizawa Calendars at Indigo Minneapolis. Year 1957 is in Room #1 of Alma Hotel and the 12 months of year 1962 cover the back wall of Café Alma.

Cafe Alma-

Cafe Alma-

In 1956, Serizawa Keisuken was designated “Living  National Treasure” artist in Japan for his katazome stencil method; his folk-art productions included kimono, paper prints, wall scrolls, folding screens, curtains, fans, and calendars.

Samples of Serizawa calendars from the 50’s-

Samples of Serizawa calendars from the 50’s-

Katazome: Kata means pattern.  The pattern sheets are made of ‘washi’ – traditional handmade Japanese paper, which is coated with astringent persimmon juice, processed in this way washi becomes very strong and waterproof.

Katagami is the stencil paper that results from pasting multiple layers of the thin washi paper together. The paper is cut with a combination of knives and punches. Gami means paper.


The Origins of Katazome:

SARASA comes from the Portuguese term calico (used by Europeans to refer to cottons exported from India), imported to Japan during the Edo period.

During the 16th century, the Portuguese merchants imported the calico fabrics from India to Japan. The multicolored textiles exotic motifs became very quickly popular with the rich samurais and merchants, being so different then the hemp and indigo cotton that Japan was used to.

After the expulsion of the Catholic Portuguese traders in 1639, the protestant Dutch traders succeeded to the position of providers of these goods, but supply was short and prices very high. In addition, sumptuary laws prohibited ordinary people from wearing upper garments of colorful imported fabrics.

As a consequence, Sarasa was often valued in small pieces, used to create precious objects such as bags or scrolls for the tea ceremony, Tabaco pouches, or a carefully hidden piece in a Kimono.

Already used to creating beautiful textiles (tie dying or embroidery), the Japanese quickly figured out how to reproduce the expensive Indian calicos with their own style and production methods. Although a direct connection is difficult to establish from documentary evidence, a hand painted dying art arose in the first half of Edo period in Kyoto and was stimulated by the encounter with printed and painted Indian textiles.

The major Japanese invention which highlights a difference between the Indian Chintz was the use of paper stencils. Inspired by Indian floral, seashell designs the Japanese weavers started using the katazome method of coloring the fabrics in order to create Sarasa, with flowery and geometrical designs that were typically Japanese. One attraction of katazome was that it provided an inexpensive way for over-all patterns similar to expensive woven brocades to be achieved on cotton.


There is so much more to say, but I leave that to Mary.

I hope this gets you curious and you will stop by on Friday May 3rd 2019, at 11am.

Looking forward to seeing you.



A Bibliography tip on a much vaster subject that has always fascinated me:

“The Spinning World, A Global History of Cotton Textiles, 1200-1850” by Giorgio Riello and Prasannan Parthasarathi.


Talin spring