Ryoko Haraguchi's works are a beautiful union of Indian traditions with Japanese dyeing processes

Creativity knows no limits. Japanese textile designer Ryoko Haraguchi's effort of bringing together the Indian silks and traditional weaving with Japanese dyeing techniques in her creations can most simply be described thus. For the past 18 years, Haraguchi has been collecting Indian silks from across the country which are then worked upon by the Indian craftspeople, and finally the material is dyed with Kakishibu overdye.

Mesmerised by the variety of fabrics Haraguchi saw on her visit to India, she felt compelled to work with them and revive the ancient Japanese dyeing technique on the verge of extinction in her country. While she sells out of Japan where she has a studio called Gallery Sind, Haraguchi, with her first exhibition ever in India, titled “Sindh Haath Heart”, starting today, is poised to begin her innings in the Indian market. Whereas at the India International Centre (IIC), people will be able to see fabrics laid out in abstract arrangements, another exhibition at Hotel Claridges will give textile enthusiasts an opportunity to buy finished pieces like one-piece dresses, tops, pants, etc. done in her unusual method.

Handmade paper bags

A novel item on display there would be handbags made of Japanese handmade paper, Kozo. “The handmade paper clothing used to be popular during the Edo period, but is now on its way out. The fibre is very strong and it can withstand chemical treatment,” says Haraguchi who, in collaboration with paper maker Richard Flavin, is working on a new brand ‘Jion' designing garments and bags using handmade paper and Indian silks.

The paper is dyed thrice using Kakishibu and then crumpled. Finally the Indian craftsmen work upon it, employing techniques like stitchwork.

The Kakishibu dyeing method is central to Haraguchi's work. It is a natural dye prepared from the fermented juice of unripe persimmons, a Japanese fruit. “It not only gives very deep colours but also makes the material water-resistant so the colour can't wash out,” says Haraguchi. Most of the garments or fabrics designed by her are overdyed in Kakishibu. “Initially, I would take the finished garment/fabric back to Japan and get it overdyed there, but now I send persimmon tannin powder to my agent who keeps it in workshops and gets it done by the workers here,” explains the designer showing a shawl made by using Itajime Shibori and Indian dyeing method.

Itajime dyeing is another regular in her repertoire. The designer has brought the technique outside the realm of kimonos, for which it is mostly used back home in Japan, and created shawls and shirts with it. The material to be dyed is sandwiched between two patterned wood blocks which are tightly clamped together and submerged into the dye vat. The colour penetrates only the carved out areas, resulting in beautiful patterns.

The Indian part of her work is not just restricted to the material procured from here but extends to the inclusion of embroidery, stitching, crochet, knitting, block printing, and dyeing processes like batik and bandhej. This work is sourced out to craftspeople settled mainly in and around Delhi and Jaipur. Her maiden show ‘Sind Haath Heart' is also a tribute to the hands of all those craftspeople that created these works.

(The exhibition will be on at IIC annexe till December 10)

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