Kakishibui came about as a serendipitous crossing of paths 3 years ago at a flea market in Kyoto, Japan. A booth displaying cloth of richly organic colors caught my eye. Between the proprietors meager English, my poor Japanese, pantomime and intuitive translation, I discovered that the source of all this lovely color was kakishibu - the fermented juice of unripe persimmons. That day, I purchased a bottle.
It was several months after my return to the US that I was finally able to start playing with it. Pleased with the results and the dyer friendliness of the materials, I showed it around to my fiber friends. My announcement that it was kakishibu was met with blank looks. No one had heard of this dye. Further research revealed that kakishibu is primarily known in America to handmade paper artists.
Surprised that the fiber community knew nothing of this totally natural dye that yielded such beautiful color, my husband and I decided to return to Japan so I could study kakishibu and introduce American fiber artists to this ancient dye.
I lived in Kobe, Japan and spent a year and a half traveling, interviewing, studying and observing kakishibu artists, craftspeople and producers. I had the great fortune of living in the same area and studying with Masamichi Terada, Japan’s only kakishibu instructor, and owe him deep gratitude for his kindness and generosity.
Kakishibui was born of the desire to make this unique dye available to a new world of fiber artists, so they can discover the culture, beauty and creative potential of kakishibu.
What Does it Mean?
Kakishibui is a combination of 2 Japanese words – kakishibu and shibui.
Together, these two words mean the dye made of the fermented juice of unripe persimmons.
The meaning of shibui is a little more difficult. It is one of those concepts that exists in the cultural psyche of the Japanese and defies simple definition.
In Japan, people think of beauty in levels—from blatant, brash, and bold to the ideal of beauty: Shibui. Shibui means the type of beauty that doesn’t need announcement; its quality speaks for itself. It involves the maturity, complexity, history, and patina that only time can bring—like a fine vintage wine. Shibui objects have a history which they convey. They speak of understated elegance, utility (each piece serves an important function), rare beauty, and unobtrusive sophistication. Shibui brings a deeper meaning to our lives, and we hope to share that richness with you.
"Throughout your stay in Japan you must have heard the word shibui uttered frequently. It is impossible to translate this word accurately into English. 'Austere', 'subdued', 'restrained', 'sombre' - these words come nearest to acceptable substitutes. Etymologically, shibui means 'astringent', and is used to describe profound, unassuming and quiet feeling. ... this simple adjective is the final criterion for the highest form of beauty."
"Folk Crafts of Japan", Soetsu Yanagi
"A certain love of roughness is involved, behind which lurks a hidden beauty, to which we refer in our peculiar adjectives shibui, wabi and sabi. .. It is this beauty with inner implications that is referred to as shibui. It is not a beauty displayed before the viewer by its creator .. a piece thay will lede the viewer to draw beauty out of it for themselves. The world may abound with different aspects of beauty. Each person, according to his disposition and environment, will feel a special affinity to one or another aspect. But when their taste grows more refined, they will necessarily arrive at the beauty that is shibui."
"The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty",
Soetsu Yanagi, Bernard Leach
Wabi and sabi are two of the key Japanese aesthetic concepts. Their definitions are not exact, but one can get a sense of them from a short discussion of them. Over time, the two have been combined to form a new word, wabi-sabi, meaning an aesthetic sensibility which includes these two related ideas.
Wabi means things that are fresh and simple. It denotes simplicity and quietude, and also incorporates rustic beauty. It includs both that which is made by nature, and that which is made by man. It also can mean an accidental or happenstance element (or perhaps even a small flaw) which gives elegance and uniqueness to the whole, such as the pattern made by a flowing glaze on a piece of ceramics.
Sabi means things whose beauty stems from age. It refers to the patina of age, the concept that changes due to use may make an object more beautiful and valuable. This also incorporates an appreciation of the cycles of life and careful, artful mending of damage.
"Wabi is the quality of a rustic, yet refined, solitary beauty. Sabi is that trait, be it the green corrosion of bronze, or the pattern of moss and lichen on wood and stone, that comes with weathering and age."
"Reflections of the Spirit: Japanese Gardens in America"
"Originally, the Japanese words wabi and sabi had quite different meanings. Sabi originally meant 'chill', 'lean' or 'withered'. Wabi originally meant the misery of living alone in nature, away from society... Around the 14th century, the meanings of both words began to evolve in the direction of more positive aesthetic values. ... Over the intervening centuries, the meanings of wabi and sabi have crossed over so much that today the line separating them is very blurry indeed."
"Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers"
"The word wabi ... does not lend itself readily to translation, for it can mean a number of things: loneliness, desolation, rustic simplicity, quiet taste, a gentle affection for antique, unostentatious, and rather melancholy refinement."
"The Classic Tradition In Japanese Architecture: Modern Versions Of The Sukiya Style"
Teiji Itoh, Yukio Futagawa
"... Kobori Enshu, the man widely regarded as the designer of Katsura Palace. Enshu's style as applied to architecture and gardens was a synthesis of the elegance and grace of the imperial court tradition with the austere rusticity favoured by Sen no Rikyu. This combination was by no means as far-fetched as it sounds, because Rikyu's sabi- an aesthetic ideal connoting seclusion, quietude, pastoral simplicity, and closeness to nature - was akin to a certain escapist element that had long been a prominent feature of traditional Japanese culture."
"Katsura: A Princely Retreat”
Akira Naito, Takeshi Nishikawa
"Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional. ... The closest English word to wabi-sabi is probably "rustic". ... Things wabi-sabi are unstudied and inevitable looking. .. unpretentious. .. Their craftsmanship may be impossible to discern."
"Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers"