Weaver, writer, and all-around curious person

Kakishibu: Traditional Persimmon Dye of Japan

by Chris Conrad

90 pages, Copyright 2008, Chris Conrad

Kakishibu is an amazing substance fermented from the juice of unripe persimmons. It's a natural dye that requires no mordant, and darkens over time. Sunlight deepens the color, providing all kinds of sun-resist design possibilities. By adding pigments you can extend Kakishibu's color range into a variety of rich earth tones.

But Kakishibu is more than just a dye. It also has preservative and adhesive qualities. In Japan—in addition to textiles—Kakishibu is used to reinforce paper, preserve wood, and clarify sake.

A chance encounter in Kyoto's Toji Temple flea market introduced the author to Kakishibu. After moving back to the United States, she began to experiment with the substance. Unable to find any books on Kakishibu in English, Chris moved back to Japan where she studied with Masamichi Terada, the world's foremost expert in this ancient art. Several years of research and experimentation later, she shares all that she's learned in this wonderful reference.

The book is a thorough reference on Kakishibu, covering its history and cultural relevance in Japan, the types of Kakishibu, how to create it from persimmons, how to modify its color with pigments, preserving wood, strengthening washi (japanese paper), and the heart of the book: using it on fiber. In the textile section of the book, the author gives illustrated step-by-step instructions of dyeing with Kakishibu, shibori techniques, surface design, screen-printing, using Kakishibu's sun-resist properties to create designs and much more.

The book is well-written and illustrated with numerous black-and-white images. There is color gallery in the back of the book that shows stunning images of items enhanced and decorated with Kakishibu. The author's enthusiasm for Kakishibu comes shining through, but she is even-handed in pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of the dye in different applications and techniques.

If the question is, "What can you do with Kakishibu?" this book is the answer. This book would be a treat for weavers interested in natural dyes and/or traditional Japanese textile techniques.