Ise-Katagami is the Japanese craft of making paper stencils for dyeing textiles. The prefix Ise is used so not confuse the name with a city in the Akita prefecture in Northern Japan. I found out the difference whilst attending the opening yesterday of a unique exhibition curated by Dr Alice Humphries for ULITA (University of Leeds International Textile Archive).
This gem for textile enthusiasts and researchers alike, ULITA is found in a converted chapel just outside the main Leeds University campus but attached (usefully) to the University Business School. I say usefully because the Archive was able to use the adjacent facilities for a brief lecture given by Dr Humphries as part of the opening event.
My only experience of this approach to pattern design is through reading about ikat resist dyeing in Jack Lenor Larsen’s The Dyer’s Art where stencilling sadly only gets the briefest of mentions. Next stop, and prior to visiting ULITA, was Google Arts & Culture, who provide a stunning on-line introduction, a collaboration between Ritsumeikan University and Kyoto Women’s University. This introduction, focusing on a permanent collection at Textilemuseum St Gallen, puts the ULITA show in some perspective. It shows what’s missing – for example some video footage about the actual craft itself (readily available I discover on YouTube), and a proper display of the tools. But as a small-scale introduction, using the very limited exhibition space available, it will be, I think, most valuable for the inquisitive textile enthusiast and enquiring student alike. Take away the application of stencilling for resist patterns and we have a technique and pattern culture that has much relevance for today’s burgeoning interest in ‘paper-based art’.