The founder of Yotsume Dyehouse, Toyokazu Ono, was born into a traditional textile dyeing family in Hiroshima. Being the eldest son, Ono was expected to inherit the century-long family business. He studied graphic design, hoping that the sales, product development and promotional skills he gained would help out the family business. After apprenticing at Yoshida Hataten in Gifu Prefecture, Ono took over the family business. But when the time came for him to take over, he wasn’t able to fulfill his full potential. He wanted to create and dye his own designs, something that was not possible at the family business.
Ono opted for a change of scenery and started his own practice on the Kunisaki Peninsula — an area home to the most exceptional shrines and temples. Ono’s Yotsume Dyehouse specialises in a traditional Japanese stencil dyeing technique called katazome.
Katazome is a very time consuming craft; some steps of the dyeing process require great attention to detail, while others require physical strength. Ono first carves his designs into a stencil. After applying the sha, a thin layer of mesh, he slathers a natural rice-based glue over the stencil to resist the dye. Once the glue hardens, he carefully applies the dye and dissolves the excess. The entire process is executed by hand. The katazome pieces recount a story of patience and persistence.
Before modern printing changed the industry, katazome methods were used everywhere — in everyday textiles, kimonos, flags and religious banners. Nowadays the craft is slowly disappearing. Yotsume Dyehouse is finding new ways to apply the technique by creating new products. The dyehouse is praised for its striking use of various colours, shapes and materials in their handcrafted pieces. Ono defines his crafts as “ornaments for everyday life.”
As his career continues to take off, the craftsman continues to pay tribute to his family and artistic roots
Despite leaving the family business, Ono honours his roots through his work. The name Yotsume alludes to his family crest back in Hiroshima and he mirrors his family’s dyeing techniques in his work. As his career continues to take off, the craftsman continues to pay tribute to his family and artistic roots.