Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Design


Katagami – the Craft of the Japanese Stencil

Katagami – the Craft of the Japanese Stencil

at ULITA – an Archive of International Textiles, University of Leeds

11th April – 7th December 2017

Free admission


Katagami – the Craft of the Japanese Stencil at ULITA – an Archive of International Textiles, celebrates one of the archive’s major collections – of katagami, Japanese resist dyeing stencils.  The exhibition is open from 11th April to 7th December 2017 (summer vacation by appointment).

Through drilling, punching and cutting, a variety of astonishingly detailed and intricate designs were cut into mulberry paper.  These stencils were used for dyeing designs onto clothing ranging from everyday worker’s clothing to the finest silk kimonos.  This exhibition introduces the techniques of making and using the katagami and explores its imagery.  “I particularly delight in the subtle shading effects created by the skill of cutting in a monochrome medium”, said guest curator Dr Alice Humphrey, “but it is also fascinating to see the sewn up repairs and paper patches and appreciate that these were working objects with a long history of use to them”.

Although produced simply as tools, in recent years, the katagami themselves have come to be appreciated as remarkable and beautiful objects in their own right.  The designs on the stencils amount to more that decoration.  Whether it be evoking a season, carrying wishes for longevity and good fortune or containing an entire folk story, every katagami has a story to tell about the fashion and culture of Japan at the time of its creation and use.

Katagami – the Craft of the Japanese Stencil features 40 katagami, including stencils lent by the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDa), which informed the work of the British textile company the Silver Studio, whilst stencil-dyed clothing lent by Leeds Museums and Galleries shows the finishing effects.  The exhibition has been realised with the support of MoDa as part of their Arts Council funded project Katagami in Practice.  The exhibition is written and curated by guest Curator Dr Alice Humphrey, who has worked with the katagami.

The exhibition is curated by Dr Alice Humphrey and Ms Jill Winder.

ULITA – an Archive of International Textiles, St Wilfred’s Chapel, Maurice Keyworth Building, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT

For further information please contact ULITA on:

+44(0)113 343 3919 (Tuesday-Friday); ulita@leeds.ac.uk

Opening hours: Tuesdays to Thursdays 09:30-16:30, Fridays by appointment. Please check the website for closure around bank holidays and during the Summer vacation.

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