Back in April, I went to Kyoto to experience several traditional crafts, including yuzen dyeing. There were a couple of places that offered it, but honestly, neither of them are true yuzen dyeing. It takes years of experience to get to that level. I chose Kodai Yuzen simply because I liked their designs better.
I’ve actually been struggling to write this post ever since. I wanted to write one post that would describe the process of yuzen, and my experience trying it out, much like I did with aizome. However, because it wasn’t a true yuzen experience, I found that I couldn’t connect the two. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a fun experience, but it really doesn’t tie into the true process of yuzen. So, I’ve decided to treat this post as more of a review of a Kyoto attraction than a post about the process of yuzen.
To start off, we phoned to make reservations and was pleasantly surprised to find that they offered English language support. We showed up and were surprised and excited to discover a true yuzen artist working on a kimono in the waiting area. His stand was incredible. The kimono was stretched over our heads in three different layers and the artist could move the fabric to any place that he chose. The area where he worked had a heat source underneath to dry out the fabric. It was incredible watching him work as we waited.
Once our appointment time came around, we were shown into the workshop. It was a large room with a private class happening in the back corner. If I lived any closer, I would want to take this weekly class that teaches you genuine yuzen techniques!
We got to choose our item, and then the design. And there was a huge variety of designs to choose from. I chose a tumbler. We were also able to customize our designs to a certain extent. For example, I didn’t like the black leaves that were originally on the pattern I chose. I was able to change them to blue. I just had to keep track of which stencil piece the leaves and hair were on and only use the black on the hair pieces.
Our base fabric was laid out on a board and secured with tape. Then two reference points were marked on the board to line up all the stencil pieces. Each piece was laid out, we were given a brush with the correct color, and got to work brushing in the dye. Honestly, when I was looking at my progress, I wasn’t that impressed. After the last stencil I was starting to doubt it. It looked like blobs of color that only just resembled my original design of a woman in a juni hitoe. But then, magic happened. The gentleman helping me placed one last stencil on with white stuff on it (sorry, I can’t think of a better way to describe it), scrapped it over the stencil, and suddenly, everything was outlined in white and looking beautiful.
Was it fun? Yes. Was it yuzen? No.
It’s up to you if you want to experience it. And it does make for a really unique and cool souvenir.