The long road to "Umezome Yuzen Plum Dyeing"
Mr. Yamamoto entered the world Kyo Yuzen dyeing when he was still a teenage. Whilst studying all about hand-dyed Yuzen, he gradually started to have doubts. "how could scientific dyes be used on silk from valuable natural cocoons...?” After becoming independent, in order to establish his own style, he sought a route into a world using natural dyes and came across the "Umezome " plum dyeing method, which was popular during the Muromachi Period. “After checking thoroughly, I discovered the so-called roots of the Yuzen dyeing I had been involved in for so many years. This is it, I thought.” However, that does not mean that their were any masters to teach this skill, and so he had to rely on old documents and trial and error, repeatedly everyday. Eventually, Umezome Yuzen plum dyeing saw the light of day, but he recalls that “it was a different color to people's general perception of a plum color.”
At that time, a turning point was reached. This was when he went to visit Kitano Tenmangu shrine, a sight famous for plums near his home. When he happened to come across the pruned red plums,
he noticed that the cross-section of the freshly cut branches was a bright reddish color. Soon after that, the pale red color that he had long sought after became a reality.
Kind to the environment, ecological dye
"Despite the need for the branches to be fresh, this does not mean that they have to be cut. Umezome dyeing is a very ecological form of dyeing that does not damage the environment"
More often than not, deleterious substances are used in the mordant that is necessary for color fixing and color production, but here the burned lye of branches from which pigment has been extracted is reused as mordant, meaning all the materials being used are natural.
As Mr. Yamamoto is the sole leading expert of Umezome Yuzen plum dyeing in Japan at the present time, he successor is being developed. Also, a suitable environment is required for the Umezome Yuzen plum dyeing and so he set up a new workshop in Takashima, Shiga Prefecture, an area rich with nature. “The color of plum dye is a gift from nature. So, whatever the color, all are equally great. This is not the pursuit of color, but rather making the very most of it. That is my mission.”
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