■Kihada-iro [Pomegranate skin + Alum mordant] is derived from the Amur cork tree. In traditional dyes and its use in Japan dates back to the Nara period. However, for cotton the cork tree doesn’t fast very well. The color is made by boiling dried pomegranate skin, paired with alum mordant. The color isn’t a bright cheerful yellow, or quite a cold mustard yellow. It is a yellow you would see falling from a tree or written in a poem.
■Haizakura-iro [Areca palm tree nut + Alum mordant] is a dye that is made from the nut of the Areca palm tree. The ground nuts are boiled in water. This was an imported dye used in the Edo and Muromachi periods in Japan for black garment dyeing. In Asia, this nut was chewed with betel, and would turn the saliva red. The same red matter is what creates the pink tone in this color. At Tezomeya, we use this dye with alum mordant to create this grey-pink color. This ash-cherry-blossom color compliments any woman of any color.
■Ni-iro [Pomegranate skin + Indian madder root + Alum mordant] is created by first dyeing yellow with dried pomegranate skins. Next is the red dye of the Indian madder root. Since ancient times the utilization of two different dyes were the method to create the variety of natural colors. The Chinese character for this color symbolizes red earth, and is the red color for mineral pigment painting. The combination of the mute yellow and charming red is this stoic orange color.
■Toki-iro [Indian madder root + Alum mordant] is the ancient red from the Indian madder root. We boil the madder root and use an alum mordant to make a deep red for silk, and a pastel red for cotton. There are only a few plants that can create a red color. However, unlike safflower and Sappanwood, madder is more permanent and reliable. The word “toki” comes from the Japanese word for the crested ibis, which has this enchanting red color quill.
■Oitake-iro [Pomegranate skin + Wood vinegar mordant] is made from a combination of wood vinegar mordant and dried pomegranate skins. Because of the pomegranate, if we change the mordant we can make several different colors. There are two ways to make green, one, mix yellow and blue. Or two, mix yellow and a little bit of black. For oitake-iro we dye it yellow first, and then add an iron mordant. The resulting color is an ashy tea-green. Translated into English this color means “wilting bamboo”, which certainly describes this subtle green.
■Nibi-iro [Green alder cones + Wood vinegar mordant] is made from green alder cones and a wood vinegar mordant. The color is a neutral grey, and in Japan, it was the customary color for mourning. If you refer to The Tale of Genji, you would see that the darker the Nibi-iro the deeper your relationship with the deceased. There are various shades of this color on Japanese (from thin to thick). The word nibi comes from the adjective nibui, which means “dull” (sword). Compared to western “grey” the color is more yellowish. Even though the process is simple, the resulting color is quite mysterious and complicated.
■Fujinezu-iro [Insect gall + Wood vinegar mordant] is created by using insect galls and wood vinegar mordant. An insect gall is a growth on a plant created and controlled by an insect. In Edo period (1603AD-1867AD) Japan, it was not only used as a dyestuff but also as was fashionable in the day, for dyeing your teeth black. The wood vinegar mutes the color to this refined, “shibui” purple. This color was popular among commoners as a substitute to the other, more expensive purple dyes during Edo period.
■Ebizome-iro [Insect gall + Indian madder root + Alum mordant + Wood vinegar mordant] is a mix of insect gall and madder root to create this lush ashy-wine red. This is another example of how the ancient Japanese used multiple dyestuffs to create a complicated color. When doing natural dyeing, we never mix two dyes together. We dye one color first and then the second. (We do this because if we mix the dyes, the color becomes very dull.) Ebizome is named after Ebikazura, a species of grape. This color has been used since the Asuka period (592AD-710) of Japan and was designated only for “special class”, which meant only the elite could wear this color. To create the somber tone requires careful attention during the insect gall dyeing process. Wood vinegar is used as a mordant.
■Miru-iro [Bayberry tree bark + Wood vinegar mordant] is made from bayberry tree bark and wood vinegar mordant. Miru is a type of seaweed, and looks like a pine tree. The Chinese characters for this color are “ocean” and “pine”. Therefore, like the seaweed, the color is dark green. Since Heian period (794-1185A.D.), people have called this color “miru”. Since the 20th century, this type of color has been used for military uniforms. It is a very useful and casual color.
■Kenboukuro-iro [Indian indigo + Bayberry tree bark + Wood vinegar mordant] is first dyed with indigo. The second dye is bayberry tree bark and finally a wood vinegar mordant is added. These two colors together make this dark black. Natural black is made from charcoal, but this won’t fast and so it isn’t useful as a dye. Since ancient times dyeing black, there have been various sorts of dye mixes to get a dark color. This color was named after Kenbou Yoshioka, the inventor of this color. Kenbou Yoshioka was a sword-master, and inherited his families’ dyeing business. This greenish-black is one of the darkest colors we dye.
■Tetsukon-iro [Indian indigo + Wood vinegar mordant] is India indigo dyed with logwood. Logwood is from central South America and was first introduced to Japan at the end of the Edo or early Meiji period. In the kimono industry, logwood was used for kurozome, which literally means “three times black”. So after only 3 times dyed you can get a black color, this somewhat hints at how difficult it was to dye a black color.
■Hanada-iro [Indian indigo] is the blue of Japan. At our small workshop, we only have space for a hydrosulfate vat of India indigo. The color hananda was used to describe all blue colors dyed by indigo. There are many words to describe the various tones of this color. In Edo period, people began to call hanada-iro “ai-iro” (indigo-color), and soon the word hanada fell out of use. We aim for the darkest hue of hanada-iro.