Honing in on Hikizome: a new perspective on traditional technique

Hikizome (brush dyed textiles), translated as pull dying is a technique used as one step of the dying process to make Kimonos, a traditional Japanese garment. Requiring carefully controlled environments and steady stroke patterns to brush the dye onto the fabric, Hikizome is considered well done if the final product leaves no traces of the strokes upon drying. However, Takeshi Nakajima, a young craftsmen based in Kyoto is bringing a fresh take on tradition, testing the boundaries of traditional design. 

Entrance of Nakajima’s workshop
Nakajima in his workshop

With experience working as a graphic designer as well as having lived in the United States, Nakajima came back to Japan with a newfound appreciation and awareness of Japanese art and culture. This new perception of his home country allowed him to see that the deep consideration and passion for creating was what made Japanese design so captivating. In creating his own brand CommonBridge, Nakajima has been able to make things with more thought and intention, the epitome of that being making things by hand. 

What makes his process of Hikizome distinct is that he retains the  footprints of the brush unlike traditional fabrics where there are no traces of the brush strokes remaining. By leaving the technique to be visible, he captures the sense of a moment in time that the fabric was dyed, and leaves the mark of the person who dyed it for the user to see. What was once seen by traditional hikizome dyers as “reject products’ ‘ might now be the new fashionable way to dye fabrics, adding individuality to each piece. 

In his exhibition and pop up stores, Nakajima displays his custom noren curtains, upholstery fabrics, furoshiki wrapping cloth and original design bags. Since Hikizome cloth is used for so many everyday products, for Nakajima it was one of the best days to familiarize people overseas with the art of Hikizome and the process of hand dyed fabrics that Japan is known for. 

As the market becomes saturated with more mass produced goods, handmade crafts will continue to stand out, with inherent value that stems from the heart and soul that goes into making each piece. Feeling that a product appreciates with age, these hand dyed fabrics not only represent Nakajima’s story, but the story of many generations of craftsmen that preceded him.

Wall ornament by Nakajima at Maana Homes (read our previous article about them)

With more and more craftsmen looking to work outside the past frameworks with the demands for modernity, it is not an overstatement to say that the new generation of craftsmen are going into uncharted territory for Japanese art and design. 

Find out more about Nakajima and his brand Commonbridge at takeshi-nakajima.com and his Instagram.

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