Sunday, August 16, 2009


Bingata (bean-guh-TAH) is a textile that is hand-painted in a variety of beautiful designs. Michiko-san, one of my English students, is an expert at bingata and was kind enough to teach me and the rest of the class. I made sure it was still an English lesson by having her give the instructions in English.
Michiko bought these basic patterns for us at a local material store. You start with a piece of fabric that has a pattern on it. It's hard to see in this photo, but there are also some lines of a waxy substance that helps add to the detail of the end product.
Michiko gave us all patterns with suggestions for colors, but you really could be creative and just go by feel. In the above right picture you can see there are 2 copies of the pattern. The top one suggests the basic patterns and the bottom one shows you how to add the "kuma" (details).
Above, Michiko shows us the brushes as Chieko, Yukiko, and Takako look on. The brushes are different than normal paint brushes. They are short and stubby because you don't really use paint strokes to decorate the material. You kind of grind and smudge the color on - almost like you're putting out a cigarette (not that I know from personal experience). In the above picture, the blue bottle is paint, one of the other bottles prevents the colors from bleeding, and the third bottle sets the paint in the fabric.
Here Michiko gives us some final instruction on technique:

After about an hour this is the basic pattern I wound up with:

Michiko showed us how to add the kuma. You use two brushes to add paint and then smudge. I had to use one brush, put it down, pick up the next brush and smudge, but Michiko was able to use both hands and do it at the same time.
This is my fish after the added kuma:
And all of us with our bingata:
You then have to let the material dry for 3 days, iron the back of it, soak it in hot water for 3 hours, swirl it through room temperature water to remove the blue pattern part, and then hang to dry. After all that you wind up with a beautiful piece of art:

Mine is very basic and I love it, but Michiko's are absolutely incredible. They truly look like a machine printed masterpiece - they are perfect. This project was a lot of fun and I'm hoping to talk Michiko into teaching a session for my kids at the Youth Center.


Mandy said...

Well done. Your piece looks so nice. I am envious of all the great things you are getting to try.

Anonymous said...

You are SO lucky to have met those women and they are lucky to have you as a teacher. Do you think she'd teach me and Andrew to make one while we're there? I'd be willing to pay her-what an awesome experience!

Mary and Sean said...

Like Monica,
I'm interested in a lesson as well! Does she teaches classes somewhere?

Btw, did you already do your Fuji trek? How was it? I hope you got sunny and clear weather