Bingata is a traditional Okinawan dyed cloth made by using stencils and mixed dyes, and dates back to the Ryukyu Kingdom period. The dyeing process takes influence from Javanese, Indian, and Chinese dyeing.
It’s really fun to make, though it’s a bit time-consuming. When I went to do make this bingata bag, the art teacher at my school already finished putting on the stencil outline of different designs on the bags. The brown rice paste, which had hardened into a wax-like substance, held the design, so I didn’t feel weird about painting outside of the lines. I had a little bit of trouble understanding the process through a short Japanese lecture until she visually showed us.
The hardest part about coloring the bingata, especially for non-artists, is putting down the base layer. The base layer is the lightest layer, and if you put in a dark layer first, there is no way of lightening it. If you want a yellow flower with shading, you’d have to paint in the entire flower in yellow first. Once all of the colors have been painted in, the cloth is dried (we used a hair dryer). After drying the cloth, the second layer of painting is added, and it’s more time-consuming than the base layer. I used two different brushes, a regular painting brush and a flat short-bristle brush specifically for dyeing.
This second layer is fun to do, in my opinion. Using the regular brush, I put a dot of color and quickly rub the color in a circular pattern with the other brush. It’s easy to do, but if you have a lot to shade, it takes a little while. Good thing I picked such a small design! Some teachers had trouble doing this part because putting too much paint down wouldn’t shade in the design but completely cover it. Once all of the shades have been made, the design is ironed, and later, washed under cool water for 30 minutes. The rice paste comes off, revealing the actual design (normally flowers, birds, and animals).
It’s good for me to learn about processes like this because I can use these techniques in different mediums.