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StartUp FASHION On a mission to help independent designers make a living doing what they love. In one of our previous articles in our global textile series, we mentioned rozome, a Japanese wax resist technique used to create the beautiful images on kimonos.
When ready to print, the fabric (usually cotton) is stretched flat, and the stencil is placed where the image will be.
Recently, textile designers Takeshi Matsunaga and Chie Takai teamed up to create Kata Kata, a collection of fabrics that have been designed entirely using the katazome technique. Jessica has been trained in a wide variety of textile and fiber processes, traditional as well as computer-aided, which she uses in both her design and sculptural work. With the development of economy and progress of industrialization, more and more machine-made cloth has been taking the place of calico, home-made and hand-imprinted and dyed in the country. But the answer to my question above is actually not Japanese at all – it is Chinese nankeen, stencilled and dyed in an indigo bath.
Ironically, while the upper classes in Europe were wearing nankeen, in China it was the fabric of the rice farmers, who used it for warm padded winter clothing.
Liza and Claire had been friends since high school and kept in touch, planning to go abroad for work in response to the poor economy in the United States. The technique for making nankeen is a rice paste stencil resist technique almost identical to that of Japanese katazome. Both techniques use a paste glue to cover the open patterned area of a stencil, keeping it from absorbing the dye.
The base cotton is no longer hand loomed, but it is still very size limited based on the traditionally sized dying vats. The fabric is finished by using frosting-style knives to scrape away the paste after printing and then the fabric is put through a wash cycle with no soap and dried. Their patterns have been inspired by historical patterns in An Overall Collection of China Blue Calico Vein Patterns compiled by Wu Yuan Xi, although not everything in the book is a traditional pattern (zebra anyone?). They have been extrapolating and changing the old prints and ironically that has helped them build guanxi as it shows their respect and appreciation for the process.
Their gorgeous website shows all their products and they also have a lovely lookbook with great styled shots. I had stewed on it endlessly, but still had no ideas on how to manage some kind of smaller improvement to the space. I keep thinking I can ignore the floor and shower tiles and think of them as a neutral background, which would work, except for the fact that they come around and line the area behind the sink, rising high to about 4 feet. And everyone had been talking about stencils including the second issue of newish online shelter magazine House of Fifty. I also came across this extremely pretty Nichola wallpaper by Mally Skok, which feels both 18th century and modern at the same time and is less expensive than the Les Indiennes paper. Luckily for me, there is no tile on the far side of the bathroom behind or around the toilet! Here’s a little mock-up of the area over the toilet with the Nichola wallpaper sample and some pink lusterware cups on a vintage display shelf alongside my favorite Jo Malone Red Roses summer mixers. And while the shelves are not fully built yet, I couldn’t resist styling a few accessories for a sneak peek in there. Thanks to K, I can report that others out there besides myself and my readers are katagami (rice paste stencils) crazy. For more on this topic, see my previous post Katagami…Perfect Thank You Present Found. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. These traditional stencils are works of art in themselves; many of them are displayed in the collections of museums around the world. However, instead of applying ink or dye, such as in silkscreen, a paste made from rice flour and bran is used to print the image. Therefore, blue calico, as a work of folk art, has been gradually losing its practical value. Originally, the word nankeen was used to indicate the very dense and unrefined hand-woven cotton fabric itself, but over time has come to be used interchangeably with its patterned and colored counterpart. Selling pillows, napkins, place mats, tea towels and bags, all made from the custom hand dyed fabric in their versions of traditional Chinese patterns, it is good to see others taking up the banner of preservation, while innovating at the same time. Just like the two countries currently arguing over the Senkaku Islands, they also argue over whose technique it was first. It is also quite difficult to work with screens beyond a certain length so the largest screen possible is 32 inches and the rolls of fabric are 12 meters long.

While Claire and Liza want to starting designing their own prints, the nankeen artisans will have none of it until the women build up more guanxi (relationship currency). A perfect example is the Flower pattern, which was too small and tight as it appeared originally. It sticks out so far it actually makes a shadow over the sink and you bump your head into in when you lean over to spit out toothpaste.
You have to open the door inwards to enter the bathroom, then move all the way towards the shower in order to close it to get near the toilet. And then, voila, just like that, I stumbled across this photo in my files of a bathroom decorated by the renowned Phoebe Howard and it gave me just what I needed. Her mom runs a small antique shop in the old icehouse attached to The Gatehouse Country Inn in Shawnee on Delaware, PA.
In trying to simply ignore the tile work, I need a wallpaper with a white background, and some soft pink. Our first priority upon taking possession of our house last summer just could not be wallpapering a perfectly good bathroom.
Courtney over at Style Court had actually block printed a pillow by herself, and it came out beautifully.
I had huge dreams of the best DIY project and post for the summer of 2011 but life got in the way. I adore Skok’s entire line of fabrics and wallpapers and promise a full post in the new year!
If I wanted to stay with dark wood, something like this simple Schuyler Samperton elegance would be ideal.
The softly colored marble might neutralize the ugly tile work on the wall, although it doesn’t provide the practical storage I need.
Additional design ideas include using my bits of pink lusterware and pink depression glass that I have managed to acquire over the years. I am loving Mally Skok’s Nichola so much that I am considering fabric in another colorway for the renovated downstairs bathroom. None other than Crate & Barrel is working with artist Robin Bradford to produce a series of five new stylized framed katagami. Mainly used to create repeat patterns on fabric, it gained popularity in Japan as a simple, inexpensive way to mimic the look of woven brocades. The rice paste acts as a resist (no color can penetrate the area when it is dyed), much like the wax in rozome. The dyed colors are so bright and solid they look as though they had been silkscreened or digitally printed! Often referred to as blue calico, it was the main component of peasant clothing in China for centuries and in its plain form came to be an important export. One day they came across bits of old blue and white Chinese fabrics that they found in a tiny shop at end of long alley way – one of those magical moments that if we are lucky, we stumble across a version of, sometime in our own lives. Frankly, I think it truly originates elsewhere in Asia, but I am not about to enter the scrum. This automatically insures that all LuRu Home’s pieces are small batch made and variations are part and parcel of the product, depending upon the whims of the dyer and even the weather for drying. For those of you unfamiliar with my house, it is a simple Victorian beach cottage, full of pale soft colors, vintage furniture and thick white original moldings. Now this bathroom was entirely new construction, so there were other options when building it, such as a pocket door. So here is the usual pitch I always give people – save inspiration photos whenever you find them. I have to skip the mounted bowl sink as it is powder room friendly, not master bath friendly, and sweet husband has used his rare veto.
There were serious things to fix first, including changing the bathroom door to a pocket one, which does actually involve tearing out the sheet rock and would need to be done before the wallpapering. These lustreware displays are from my files, I assume from Martha Stewart Living, but I can’t find the credit. Like rozome, katazome is also a method of resist dyeing, however, it uses a few different ingredients, and the process itself is what makes it distinctive.
To create a stencil, mulberry leaves are layered into a sheet, and then sealed with persimmon juice for water resistance. Once the paste has dried, dye is painted onto the fabric, or the piece is put into an immersion dye bath. The adorable images cut into the stencils are much bolder and more whimsical than the usual thin, wispy florals.

Hand-dying is a dying art everywhere, and we are lucky when people like Amy step up to help keep it alive.
A staple of British clothing from the late 18th century onwards, any Jane Austen fans among my readers will recognize it as a common fabric used for half boots worn for walking, as well as for mens breeches and pantaloons – the modern-day equivalent of chinos.
The store was jam-packed with textiles, many sun bleached around the edges, and they came home with a few individual meters, recent but vintage.
Boy, that is a laborious waste of time!” While the Japanese use rice paste, the Chinese use soybean and lime paste mixed with water.
So for now, they are going to continue playing with tradition and plan to introduce a new pattern every season, which is twice a year, by adding one and pulling one, keeping 6-7 prints available at all times. If you like LuRu Home on Facebook, I will enter you in the giveaway a second time, doubling your chance to win. While I am no real fan of the pocket door, if ever a space called for one, than this is it. In this photo you can really see clearly how silly the vanity is and how much space is wasted. I carried the photo around all winter and ran right into John Derian‘s as soon as I got home to see it in person. His further point centered on the practicality of very expensive wallpaper in a bathroom with no window or ventilation.
In my bathroom, the tile work extends up the wall behind and to the side, so ideally I would like to remove it. Once the dyeing is complete, the resist paste is washed out, leaving behind a beautiful textile pattern.
They can ship to the winner anywhere in the world as they have stock in both the USA and China. The hall bath is simple white subway tiles and small blue and white checkerboard floor, with white fixtures – just right for the period of the house and my taste. I hit my head on the door edge all the time, when turning from the sink to move towards the toilet, and not realizing the door is partially open. But when it comes to bathrooms, I am a white tile and fixture kind of girl and I have just not been nor continue to be sure what to do with this mish mash. There is simply no way to pull it all out as it is new and clean.
They give visual language to unformed ideas and can clarify and communicate thoughts that would otherwise be impossible to relate. But I am not looking to slavishly copy this photo anyway, just to use it for exactly what I have named it for – inspiration. When I checked with the contractor, assuming it would be easy, he pointed out that it created a chain of events, all the way to having to take out the shower doors, cut new tiles and locate some extra bullnose tiles. They found they had passion for the fabric and as they investigated the printing process, a desire to rejuvenate the industry and bring patronage back to the artist. I have also renovated the downstairs bathroom in a similar fashion, with white hexagons and a vintage pedestal sink.
One of the immediate practical improvements is the mirror sits directly against the wall and does not get in your way or cast a shadow.
That seems to be getting awfully close to actually re-doing the bathroom, which is what I was trying to avoid in the first place. But the big question is when do “small” fixes cross the line in effort and expense? And if nothing else, it goes stylistically with the vanity below, unlike the former modern mirror. Would I be better off leaving it and living with it and going whole hog at some later date?
I wrote this post, more for myself than you dear readers, in the hope that it would clarify these issues, but I am still unsure.
While the bland colors and finishes are there, it is harder to see the silliness of the design, so I am going to try to draw a literal and a verbal picture for you. First, in terms of function, there is an unnecessarily small vanity with no counter space and about six inches of unused and therefore wasted space on either side.
It has 3 ridiculous little drawers, each cut out in the center to accommodate the plumbing, so no real storage to speak of, even though it is a reasonable size cabinet.

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