Whisper Plant Dye Silk Scarf | Maito

Pure Plant-Dyed Silk Scarf: Japan's True Colors

Japan Plant Dye Artist Mr. Maito With Bright Green, Orange, Indigo Blue, Pink Silk Scarfs

- To understand the secrets of the vivid colors of the Whisper Silk Stoles-Scarf, you must first look to nature herself, because she is the keeper of the secrets.

So, for we mere humans, it all starts with a recipe. A recipe to capture the bright colors of nature’s life force.  A recipe that combines human ingenuity with the ingredients of the earth:  twigs, buds, bark, leaves, grasses, roots.

Bringing nature’s vivid colors to life is what makes Maito Design Works,  Mr. Maito pictured here, together with Yumezaiku Dye Studio, unique.  Though Japan’s hand-dye culture may invoke images of dull earthy browns and grays, literature from Japan's Nara and Heian periods (710-1185) contain lengthy descriptions of a vibrant,  color-rich past.  A past that speaks of bright, vivid colors in everyday life and celebration.  Heian Period literature, “Tale of the Gengi,” in fact, references about 80 different names of colors!

Today, a renewed interest in Japan's color-rich dye history motivates contemporary, plant-dye artisans to draw from the past and experiment with new combinations as well.

Not all plant-dye studios have such dedication to the craft.  Some, in fact, superficially and deceptively enhance colors with chemical dyes!  Maito Design Works and Yumezaiku Dye Studio, however, remain true-to-craft relying instead on experimentation and persistence to achieve the bright colors using only 100 Percent natural ingredients – the authentic recipe that brings nature’s colors, and Japan’s bright colors, to life.

The Amazing Discovery of Sakura Pink

Pink Sakura Flowers in Japan Used to Dye Silk Scarf

In Japan, the pink bloom of the Sakura (cherry) tree signals the arrival of spring.  In the past, however, a sakura-like pink dye, was typically derived from other plants.  Extracting the soft color from the tree itself had always remained a lofty goal -- difficult, elusive – until now.

Yumezaiku Dye Studio is the first in Japan to reliably produce soft, Sakura Pink using 100 percent material from the Sakura tree. But finding the tree’s hidden color and perfecting the “recipe” took much effort, persistence, and countless trials and errors that true-to-the-craft activities demand.  What part of the tree would produce the color – the bark, the leaves, flowers, roots?  What methods and techniques would consistently and reliably draw it out? 

The gentle sakura color was finally found only in the tiny twigs closest to the maturing cherry buds. Yearly weather, the nuances of a particular tree, water used in the dyeing process, the swish of the textile through the dye, and many other factors all play a role in the quality of colors produced as well.

To extract the color, the twigs are alternately simmered, then cooled, in a process lasting around 40 days.  The resulting solution is then aged up to another 90 days.  The textiles (such as 100 Percent silk) are then, one by one, hand-dyed to produce the Studio’s signature color of spring:  Sakura Pink