Among kimono afficionadoes, Edo Komon is one of the most revered fabrics in Japan. You only have to stand back a small distance and the characteristic pinpoint patterns are all but invisible so that the kimono appears to be one flat color. These rather somber pinpoint designs were a trademark of the elegant Edoite. The workshop of a dyer, where the art of the Ise Katagami is still being brought to life by the dye artist uses the most subtle of Edo colors. When people visit dyeshop to witness the actual dyeing process of this art in which all those tiny little 1-mm dots have to be faithfully transferred onto cloth without missing a single one.
The stencils are made at a place called Shirako in Ise where specialist paper cutters "carve" out the tiny holes. Then these stencils go to the Edo dyeshops, where they are used to dye cloth for kimono. The dyer also needs to be absolutely in tune with the stencil cutter's intentions so that the pattern will emerge as envisaged. In fact, both the cutter and the dyer expect a lot from each other. "The stencil cutter will only commission his work to dye shops he knows will do his designs justice," says a dyeshop owner. And the dye shops also choose the stencil makers that they trust. "With each new design they tease each other about being able to do the job," and neither wants to let the other down or be shown to be less skilled. "Their pride won't let them be beaten." So, this is what leads to the excellent workmanship of Edo komon. You only have to stand back a short distance and the Edo komon appears nothing more than a flat color. It is the kind of cloth that only reveals its beauty to those with eyes to see it; a private kind of beauty that gives the wearer secret pleasure. Now this is a cloth about which you can truly say you do not know how amazing it is until you wear it.