For my textile friends, I’ll share a few of the details of what sets Bingata apart from other, similar resist fabric decoration methods. This is what I learned yesterday.
The technique has been around since the 14th century and there are descriptions of the methods used dating from the 1600s. Originally, the rich and powerful wore bingata and more lowly souls permitted to wear it on special occasions only. These dyed fabrics are used in preference to the heavier, embroidered fabrics in Okinawa because of the weight. The lighter cottons are more comfortable to wear in the warmer climate.
Miyaki introduced us to our teacher – Sensei – who was a well respected expert in bingata. She had samples of her work and carefully explained in a mixture of Japanese and English what we were to do. We could choose from a variety of pre-prepared designs which had been applied to small canvas bags.
The stencilled designs had been applied using “glutinous rice glue” and were dry and ready to go. I chose my bag and set to work.
The paints were in traditional colours and we were advised to keep the red brush in the red and so on. The brushes were hard bristle with bamboo handles and the square tips made filling in the detail difficult.
The first step was to lay down an initial layer of colour. Each area of the design needed to be covered at this stage.
The heavy canvas was easy to paint on and didn’t soak up the paint too much. We dried areas from time to time using a hair dryer but even so, the yellow paint bled into the pink, as you can see. Grrr.
Once all the areas had been covered and dried, a second coat was needed and this time, we were advised to use a gentle scrubbing motion to apply the paint, making sure it went well into the fibre.
For the next stage, I was glad to have the support of another Sensei – a charming young man by the name of Mashi. Mashi had studied in Oxford and spoke excellent English. He was also very good at giving lots of positive feedback!
He explained the technique of holding two brushes in one hand for the final painting stage, adding the shading using the darker tones of paint. First, one dips the soft painting brush into the colour of choice.
It’s applied to the outer edges of the area which needs to be shaded
then the harder bristle brush is used to scrub the paint and blend it into the design.
I worked at my two brush technique, getting help and advice from Mashi as I went, and completed my bingata bag in good time. I dried it with a hair dryer and was pretty pleased with the result.
Now it needs to dry thoroughly for three days, before ironing on the reverse side to set the dye. There follows a soaking in lukewarm water to dislodge the glutinous rice, which can be further removed under a running tap. A final press and it will be complete.
I promise to share the end result!