Noguchi Indigo – 7th Gen. Indigo family
I had the immense pleasure of visiting the Noguchi family yesterday. A 7th generation family of Indigo Wizards (although grandma had a baby on her back….8th gen., perhaps?). We went in prep for a tour we’ll be doing at the end of January. Below, I’ll give you a very breezy intro into the process of dyeing a simple Katazome, but please do more research.
He cuts these insanely intricate stencils using a knife and all kinds of punches. Then he dips it in magic persimmon juice, and does his special incantation and voila, you have a stencil that will last for about 20 rolls of kimono fabric, depending on the design. The paste he uses is made from Mochigome, or Nuka (both made from rice), to which he adds a red dye so that he can see the print on the reverse. That is the thing about Noguchi work that is so ffffing beautiful. The designs are sharp as a pin on both sides, because he matches and stencils BOTH SIDES of the fabric perfectly. Angels of alignment. Totally Bonkers.
Noguchi the 7th works on his stencils in an ancient wooden house with no insulation or heating aside from two gas stoves. When I asked him about his favorite season to work: “Winter is the best season for working, although our hands get cold. Our products are made with natural things like rice and plants, so it’s like working in a fridge. Everything stays fresh and is malleable.”
He has all kind of little tools and really has his own way of doing things. I like his little bamboo pokey-sticks- the things he hooks on the top and bottom of the handkerchief to hang it on his drying poles. Note the bubbles on the top of the indigo; He says that the bubbles tell him if the dye is in a good mood. Also, he uses two vats and when I ask him why he just says “because I want fresh dye”. hehe okay old man.
The vats were put in just after the big earthquake in 1923, and suffered no damage in March 2011. His family has been living in this house, dyeing beautiful fabric for almost 180 years. They used to have their stencils done by someone else, but a couple generations back the business started shrinking and they started doing it themselves. Ooooh he had some beautiful fabric that he had dyed using Pine charcoal/ash but I forgot to get a photo. Use your imagination, please. Please keep in mind that this blog post contains only 0.0001% of the information you need to be able to even have a beginners understanding of Indigo.
It looks green until the air hits it and starts the oxidization process.
Noguchi Dye does not have a website, and cannot be privately contacted. However, if you would like to contact them about a tour, or to arrange the use of their facility please don’t hesitate to ask and I can ask them for you. You can find their fabric in high-end department stores for sale in Kimono shops.