September 2019, I had the pleasure of visiting the workshop of artist and printmaker Mr. Masonori Sonobe in Kyoto. Although we rarely introduce print to our collections, I specialised in printed textiles at Chelsea School of Art and printing techniques still fascinate me.
Now 80 years old, Mr. Sonobe shows no signs of reducing his output, working 8 hrs a day with his two assistants. As agile as ever, he moves quickly around the print room dunking huge reems of paper and cloth into dye vats full of marbled liquid.
In 1956, Mr. Sonobe began studying under the dyeing artisan Kozo Ogura. Ogura was a revered recipient of the Traditional Crafts Technological Distinguished Service Award and his practice inspired Sonobe to launch his own workshop in 1970.
Upstairs from the print room is another workshop set up for screen printing, complete with a space specifically housing Sonobe’s collection of hand-made brushes. We sit drinking tea with Mrs. Sonobe and look through their archive of Kimono silks. As the day draws to a close over Kyoto, I leave knowing that I’ve made a friend.
After many years refining his unique skills, Mr. Sonobe started on his own journey of personal technological innovation and established a marbled pattern method, based on The Mardley Dyeing technique (known as norinagashi-zome; which translates to paste-dyeing).
Nick Wakeman is the Founder & Creative Director at Studio Nicholson