Yuko Tamanaha was born in 1936 in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture. In 1996, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his 'bingata' dyeing work.
Bingata is a splendid dyeing craft that symbolises the culture of the Ryukyu dynasty. Its color reflects the colors of Okinawan nature. Professional artists compete with each other to succeed and pursue these traditional skills. And Bingata is a dyeing craft that is unique to Okinawa.
Tamanaha studied dyeing under Eiki Shiroma, the 14th in the Shiroma family and one of the three head families of Bingata. When he was 34, Tamanaha began to send his work to exhibitions and received many prizes for excellence.
His career is brilliant but his work is a steady repetition of tasks. The handiwork requires finesse and endurance and considerable effort leads to beautiful work.
Tamanaha is now engaged in making bingata with his family at his studio: the Tamanaha Bingata Institute in the village of Yomitan.
Yayoi Amo was born in 1948 (Showa 23) in Tokyo. She is a traditional craftswoman of Nanbu lozenge embroidery, and lives in Aomori Prefecture.
In 1977, she started learning Nanbu lozenge embroidery by herself and, in 1988, she opened a lozenge embroidery school called the 'Plum Flower Studio'. In 1999, she held an exhibition in Paris with a French ceramic artist.
The history of lozenge embroidery dates back to the Edo period. The number of the geometric pattern is more than 400 and the pattern is sewn on hemp cloth with cotton yarn. Lozenge embroidery exists in the towns of Sannohe, Gonohe, Hachinohe and Kamikita to the south of Aomori. In olden times, farmers were allowed to wear only hemp kimonos and they sewed patterns on light indigo hemp cloth with navy blue and white cotton thread, which made the cloth stronger and warmer. The lozenge embroidery is beautiful and practical at the same time.
Ms Amo composes lozenge embroidery with her hand-made hemp cloth and her dyed cotton thread. Each work has a unique pattern. She says, 'I would be happy if someone wearing my work feels a warm heart.'
Omi-jofu is a hemp fabric made in Echigawa, Echi, Shiga Prefecture. The clean waters of the Echigawa River, the high humidity and the success of the Omi merchants led to the development of fabric manufacturing here in the Kamakura period.
In the Edo period, the cloth market grew under the patronage of the Hikone clan. Since then, cloth-dyeing techniques have evolved greatly. Later, a unique and sophisticated designed 'Omi' cloth was woven. The name 'jofu' (direct translation = 'upper cloth') was used because, during the Edo period, the cloth crafted in this fashion was used by the nobility.
The characteristic feature of Omi-jofu is that, after the dyeing of threads, it uses a typical method called 'shibotsuke' to dwindle the threads. Another imporant feature of hemp-cloth is that it absorbs moisture easily and is cooling to the wearer.
To conclude, it could be said that Omi-jofu is a traditional fabric that has evolved over time along with the spirit of the craftsmen.
A type of dyeing and hand-weaving technique based in Jyoukamachi-hirose, Yasugi City, Shimane Prefecture, hirose-gasuri has been handed down from the 7th year of the Bunnsei period when Sadako Nagaoka, the daughter of the town doctor, brought back the gasuri dyeing and weaving techniques from the town of Yonago and taught the techniques to the women of Hirose. Soon after, the high quality of the gasuri caught on, and from the end of the Edo period to the early Meiji period, hirose-gasuri came to compete with kurume-gasuri in skill, fame, and reputation. Prior to the development of the gasuri, ordinary clothes were made of linen, so the smooth texture and design of the gasuri motivated the people of Hirose to learn its skills. Its distinct characteristics lie in its making, in which persimmon juice is brushed over rice paper, and a large peculiar paper mold is used to enlarge the long vertical designs. The gasuri is famous for its large picturesque designs, in which the fabric is weaved in such a way that the design can be seen clearly. It is designated as a Traditional Hometown Handicraft.