Chinatsu Nagamune converses with her materials. She observes the indigo and cloth, learning from them, moved by her findings and feelings. As she experiments with cloth and dye she is able to understand the nature of the fibers and the microbes of her indigo vat. The conversations are revelatory – listening to the materials helps her understand how to work with them. She hopes that others too, will take the time to relax, listen, and learn. To gain inspiration from nature, time, and the beauty of all that cannot be controlled.
Chinatsu utilizes traditional Japanese katazome technique. With rice resist paste and hand cut stencils, she imparts patterns onto cloth which she then dyes in her indigo vat. Her original patterns and designs are inspired by her day-to-day findings.
Respect for craft traditions, alongside experimentation with technique, is an important element of Chinatsu’s relationship with indigo. She has studied indigo deeply, recognizing the importance of understanding traditional techniques so that this knowledge may be passed to future generations. She has studied a range of techniques through her travels across Japan, India, and Southeast Asia. She was able to see different crafts, learn from artists and artisans specializing in indigo, stay with them, and connect over shared interests. Elements from the many people and places she has learned from are incorporated into her practice.
Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Chinatsu now lives in the Massachusetts countryside. She lives in a shared home, with a garden and her studio space. The garden is a source of nourishment from which art and the household community grow. She tends it with those she lives with, indigo and dye flowers growing amongst vegetables for cooking. Her life and art are deeply intertwined — the dyeing, growing, and cooking all integrated. The art is not separate, but part of the larger fabric of intention, time, and action that make up a life and community.
From a young age she was a collector, gathering small treasures from her surroundings. Her collections, ranging from bugs, to papers, to cloth, served as a record of the world around her and a way to understand it. Chinatsu has been fascinated by indigo since she was a child. The blues are the colors she felt most drawn to. She would walk through antique shows to collect small pieces, many of them made with indigo, captivated by the age of the items and the ways in which a piece of indigo dyed cloth shows its wear and decay so beautifully – history and time made visible in the fading shades.
Chinatsu’s designs feature elements from her collections and surroundings. Presently, she has been collecting marks – traces of human movement and presence through photographs and objects. One of the stencils she is currently working on holds the patterns of various stitched cloths that she has collected over the years, including some she has held onto since childhood. She traces the stitch marks onto her stencil, which she then meticulously cuts out. The process is slow and soothing. Each pattern is from a different place, coming together to create the larger design. It is a gathering and a record – of moments, of places, and of the people who stitched.
Chinatsu captures the layers of a moment. Each dip into the vat imbues the cloth with the spirit of the indigo. It is transformed and her designs revealed, glowing amidst the blues. When she washes the rice resist away, she sees it as a harvest. She seals the moment. It is a conclusion and a beginning, as the fabric starts its new life.
Chinatsu will be teaching katazome at Tatter’s Textile Retreat in beautiful midcoast Maine this summer. Join us June 19th-24th for this deep indigo dyeing learning experience. For more information, visit our new Tatter Textile Retreat website.
Chinatsu Nagamune is a fine artist and expert dyer. Born and raised in Tokyo she began codo ceramics + textiles with her husband Andy. For the last 15 years, Chinatsu has been a graphic designer and slowly shifted into textile design and production.
After a long journey through India and Japan, apprenticing with many dyers, Chinatsu now occupies a studio surrounded by woods and animals in Leverett, Massachusetts.
Her focus is making objects that are used on a daily basis and sharing opportunities to appreciate the beauty of weathering and decay. She is usually inspired by her dyeing materials. Through a conversation with the materials, she decides how she wants to dye and make designs.
Chinatsu and her husband have been selling ceramics and textiles together since 2016.