Large panel of silk organza with print of branches and leaves in black, light blue, red, orange, and other colors

December 16, 2022
Contemporary Interpretations of a Traditional Japanese Artform Highlighted in Spring Exhibition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, December 15, 2022—Presenting contemporary visions of a unique and historically significant Japanese textile-dyeing process, the exhibition Katazome Today: Migrations of a Japanese Art will be on exhibit at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, Feb. 11 through June 11, 2023. Co-curated by Seiko A. Purdue, Professor in Fibers/Fabrics at Western Washington University and Amy Chaloupka, Curator of Art at the Whatcom Museum, the exhibition will feature seven national and international artists who share fresh perspectives on a centuries-old artform.

The artists in Katazome Today present a range of pictorial imagery, and non-traditional expressions such as large-scale installations and freeform 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.

Traditionally used for kimono dyeing in Japan, 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.

“It has been such a pleasure collaborating closely with Seiko and the seven artists worldwide on this exhibition and to see it come to fruition here in Bellingham,” states Chaloupka. “Each artist interprets the katazome process in their unique style and through vastly different approaches, whether through graphic narrative, painterly abstract works, or experiential installations to name a few. Katazome was fairly new to me when I embarked on the research for this exhibition, and I hope visitors dive into the richness of both its history and contemporary artistry as I have enjoyed so thoroughly.”

Artists featured in Katazome Today include Akemi Cohn (Chicago), Melinda Heal (Australia), Fumiyo Imafuku (Japan), Cheryl Lawrence (Washington), John Marshall (California), Yuken Teruya (Germany), and Mika Toba (Japan). A 48-page exhibition catalog will highlight the artists’ work in depth and will be available for purchase at the Museum Store.

Long horizontal artwork with various colored prints of shapes, people, a car, and a horse
Yuken Teruya; Parade From Far Far Away, 2014; Bingata technique on Linen; 15 x 535 in. (44.5 feet long). Courtesy of the artist and Piero Atchugarry Gallery, Miami.

The Museum will feature a variety of related programming to complement the exhibition. On Sat. and Sun., Feb. 11 and 12, Chicago-based artist Akemi N. Cohn will lead participants in a katazome workshop, teaching a paste-resist technique with Indigo dye and Sumi ink.

Visiting from Hyogo prefecture, Japan, artist Fumiyo Imafuku will be in Bellingham for several days of public engagement. On Sat. and Sun., March 25 and 26, Professor Imafuku, will lead a workshop, teaching participants how to use natural dyes on silk to create delicate katazome designs. On Thurs., March 30, Imafuku will give a free public talk discussing the themes and processes of her artwork. Hosted in partnership with Western Washington University, the talk will be held on Western’s campus at 5:30 p.m. More information will be posted at

Also on view in the Lightcatcher first floor hallway during the run of Katazome Today is a selection of katazome works developed by Purdue’s students. Central to sustaining the traditions of this technique are the relationships built between mentors and students, an idea Purdue cultivates in her classroom studio at Western. Purdue states, “I love that my students have started using this technique in a totally unexpected way! I hope that more people will continue practicing katazome and integrating their own unique approach.”

In addition to these special programs, the Museum will host date night prix fixe dinners at Bar Cicotti followed by curator tours of the exhibition. Volunteer docents will lead gallery tours most Thursdays and Saturdays through the run of the show.

The Museum will also host a spring Family Activity Day inspired by the exhibition and celebrating Japanese Children’s Day. The event will take place Sat., May 6, Noon – 4 p.m. and will include katazome-style craft activities, performances, and exhibition tours. More information about related events can be found on our events calendar.

Support for Katazome Today is provided by the Whatcom Museum Foundation. Funding for new work by Yuken Teruya is provided by Toshiaki Ogasawara Memorial Foundation, and funding for new work by Melinda Heal is provided by ArtsACT. Additional support provided by a City of Bellingham Tourism Promotion Grant.