Amateur Practice of Traditional Crafts in Japan: Okeiko and Stencil Dyeing





stencil dyeing, traditional crafts, Japan, amateur practice, cultural heritage


The paper focuses on the amateur practice of Japanese traditional folk crafts, in particular stencil dyeing using resist-paste made of rice, or katazome. The amateur practice of traditional crafts or okeiko, requires a serious commitment to the practice and to the philosophy and tradition of the craft. Okeiko implies training in an atelier within a group for a considerable period of time. Of more than 80% of the population reportedly involved in some type of leisure activity, the amateur practice of traditional crafts represents less than 3%. The breakdown of this percentage into various traditional crafts, such as traditional folk textile dyeing is not available. This study is the first attempt to investigate such practice through the insider views of the members of an amateur group in Japan. The study uses 19 semi-structured interviews, four oral histories, a survey of 37 amateur dyers, participatory observation, and documentary analysis to collect and generate data, which are analyzed using a framework built from the fieldwork. The amateur dyers started their practice out of their admiration for the works of Serizawa Keisuke. Joining an amateur group contributed to their self-realization, through the acquisition of new skills and the creation of what they considered to be beautiful things. Okeiko led to social interactions and camaraderie relationships permeated by femininity. The dyeing work produced related to cultural heritage, and to the notion of national identity. Further studies would consolidate knowledge about the impact of these amateur groups on the continuity of traditional crafts in Japan.     


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