Last year I had a bit of fun running a small shop in the village where I was apprenticing to an indigo dyer. It was more a source of experience than money and ended up paying for itself (most months). I was learning the ins and outs of various indigo patterns and wanted a place where I could sell the results and get some opinions about my work. One of the patterns I was trying to get the hang of was something I had seen on a Motohiko Katano postcard and my early experiment at it ended up being the entrance curtain to my little shop.
It turned out that a mutual friend from the village saw it and liked it enough to approach me about making a much larger version to cover his shoe-shelf in the entrance of his house. It would be the first thing people would see as they entered and a mirror opposite it would reflect it into the house too. 1 meter by 2.5 metres. I had just come across a roll of rather peculiar fabric with just the right dimensions. It was only after I fell in love with it and bought it that I looked closely and realised that the warp and weft were comprised of different fibres: a thick fluffy warp of hand-spun unbleached cotton and a lighter but stiffer weft of fibrous hemp. Perfect. Insert coffee, plot and stitch mode engaged.
The extra strip of fabric temporarily stitched to the sides will ensure cleaner edges and leave more of the main fabric to be evenly dyed.
The resulting block of cloth is surprisingly heavy after being soaked in water and compressed by pulling the stitch threads. An afternoon by the indigo vat and the cloth is opened back up to reveal the pattern inside.
A cut in the middle, some extra fabric to reinforce the inner edge and a folded piece at the top for the hanging pole to go through is all it takes for the transformation to narrow shoe-box curtain.
As for my shop entrance curtain it now belongs to Tohei – my good friend, mentor and boss. It turned out that working as a kitchen assistant for a renowned potter turned pizza chef was just as fundamentally important as being an indigo dyer’s apprentice. I’m told that he has good taste so the fact that he kept asking me for the Katano shop curtain should be taken as a compliment. Maybe one day he will finally get around to turning it into a vest.