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Chiba Ayano

Chiba Ayano 01.jpg
Romaji Chiba Ayano
Kanji 千葉あやの
Location Kawakura Valley, near Sendai
Year Born 1889
Known For Traditional dyer and hemp weaver
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Chiba Ayano (1889-1980) was a traditional indigo dyer who grew her own indigo and hemp, wove the cloth on a manual loom, fermented her own dyes, and dyed the cloth by hand using traditional methods. She was designated a Living National Treasure in 1955 for her preservation of shōaizome, indigo dyeing.


At age 14 Chiba Ayano began weaving hemp cloth as taught by her mother and grandmother. Her mother did all the indigo dyeing of the finished cloth until Chiba was 34, at which point she began to dye her own cloth. She lived her entire life in the Kawakura Valley, near Sendai, where she was born.

Chiba's life was tied to the agricultural calendar and she performed the same tasks her mother and grandmother did at the same times of year. In April, she planted her indigo plants and covered them with straw to protect them against the frost. When the plants matured she would harvest the seeds and sundry the leaves. She fermented the leaves into indigo dye in the winter. Dyeing took place in the summer. To make the design, Chiba used wheat paste and katazome stencils prepared for her by a professional. The finished cloth was dipped into a dye bath multiple times until the desired depth of color was achieved. The bolts were then rinsed in the river, an all day process that required the help of her entire family. After drying, Chiba liked to store the cloth for a period of up to six years during which the color would evolve and deepen.

In August, she harvested the hemp crop. The fibers were split by hand then boiled to soften them. The fibers were then spun into thread by hand by Chiba and her daughter. Spinning took place all year long. Using this traditional and labor intensive process, Chiba and her daughter were able to spin enough thread for 4 or 5 kimono bolts a year.

Chiba would weave the thread they spun on a manual loom, every day, starting at sunrise using the natural light.


Chiba's daughter was her apprentice.



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  • National Geographic's Living Treasures of Japan (1979)

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