Indigo blue panels with white flying birds printed in a circular pattern

Katazome Today: Migrations of a Japanese Art

February 11, 2023 - June 11, 2023

Lightcatcher Building

Katazome Today presents contemporary visions of a unique and historically significant Japanese textile-dyeing process. Traditionally used for kimono dyeing, katazome involves the application of a rice-paste resist using special stencil papers with complex designs. Both the techniques of katazome, and those of the intricately hand carved stencil papers (katagami), have been passed down through generations of artisans over several centuries.

Although there is less demand for katazome products in Japan today, many artisans still practice it in its traditional form. The technique is increasingly gaining attention globally as contemporary artists explore katazome in new ways and see it as a form of artistic expression.

In this exhibition seven national and international artists share fresh perspectives on katazome through their current interpretations. They present a range of pictorial imagery, and non-traditional expressions such as large-scale installations and free-form painting techniques, relating katazome to themes of personal identity, shifting environments, and the globalization impacting the cultural landscapes of their home countries. The works preserve an endangered traditional technique while envisioning endless possibilities for dynamic cultural exchange.

Artists featured include Akemi Cohn (Illinois), Melinda Heal (Australia), Fumiyo Imafuku (Japan), Cheryl Lawrence (Washington), John Marshall (California), Yuken Teruya (Germany), and Mika Toba (Japan). Katazome Today is co-curated by Seiko A. Purdue, Professor in Fibers/Fabrics at Western Washington University and Amy Chaloupka, Curator of Art at the Whatcom Museum. A 48-page exhibition catalog highlights the artists’ work in depth and is available for purchase at the Museum Store. A print and digital version of our gallery guide is also available for more information.

Top image credit: Cheryl Lawrence; Snowstorm (diptych details), 2011. Katazome with indigo pigment on silk; 44 x 35 in. each panel. Courtesy of the artist.

vertical fabric artwork panels hanging on a long, gray wallAlso on display:

Daidai: Generation After Generation
Lightcatcher building Lighthall
Check out artworks created by Western Washington University’s Department of Art, ART360, Fibers & Fabrics class, led by Seiko A. Purdue. This collection of work is made using the traditional Japanese process of katazome and presented in the spirit of Daidai, a concept that expresses an appreciation for handing down valued techniques from generation to generation.

Support for Katazome Today is generously provided by Jean Andresen, the Whatcom Museum Foundation, the City of Bellingham, and Museum members. Funding for new work by Yuken Teruya is supported by Toshiaki Ogasawara Memorial Foundation, and for new work by Melinda Heal by artsACT project funding from the ACT Government. Additional support from a City of Bellingham Tourism Promotion Grant. Media sponsorship provided by Cascade Public Media KCTS-9.

Black circle logo with three black diamonds inside and the words Toshiaki Ogasawara Memorial Foundation to the rightCircle logo in black with a building and plant design and the words ECT Government to the right