Tomoko Nawa independently started her own brand ’Bingata Nawachou’ in 2007
Words by Natsumi Yokoyama
Charmed by Bingata
Okinawa prefecture is in the south part, on the western edge of Japan. The Ryukyu Kingdom used to govern here, accepting not only the culture of main land of Japan but also the continental culture. This environment has fostered unique Okinawan culture. Among all, a dying product called Bingata expresses the unique sensibility of Okinawa by its vivid colors and patterns. Tomoko Nawa is one of those who was charmed by Bingata. She was born in 1981 in Tottori prefecture and one day she found Bingata in a magazine by chance. She decided to move to Okinawa in 2003 because she really wanted to make Bingata works by her own hand. After she learned about Bingata at two studios, she independently started her own brand ’BIngata Nawachou’ in 2007. Furthermore, she set up a manufacturing group ‘Cococo koubou’ with other genre’s craftsmen such as pottery and photo. She is further expanding her activities holding personal exhibitions both within and outside Okinawa.
Ideas come from daily life
Originally, in the time of the Ryukyu Kingdom, only royal family and nobles could wear this special cloth, Bingata. She tries to create good works that doesn’t harm its elegance, but suits modern life. This concept is not easy to express as design. Every day she is looking for something gives her inspiration such as plants, animals, nature in and out of Okinawa, and even in other countries. She takes pictures of things around her and gets inspiration from them. Good example is this; when she was traveling in Korea, she conceived of an idea to make a Bingata work inspired from traditional Korean sox, poson. Parents in Korea have their baby to put on poson, wishing his/her good health. She create a three dimensional work designing poson in Bingata, using a real poson. This work looks like a collage because of its manifold manner.
The beauty is strongly associated with patterns, colors and sensibility
Some Bingata works don’t use stencils. However, with stencils, you can see stronger lines and distinctive patterns. Bingata has many complicated processes such as shaping stencils, starching linen. Tomoko says,”every step is interesting, but the happiest moment for me is when I gets satisfied with the condition of the dye work. Because it is said Bingata is a dying that expresses the sun of Okinawa, vivid and colors are often used. However, Tomoko’s works are little bit different. She uses quieter tones and her works give soft impressions. “Of course it must not lose Bingata taste, but I want to express as I felt about Okinawa,” she says. Her sensibility is directly reflected in her works. She started with small things first, and now she makes tapestries. She wants to make kimono and obi (belt used to wear kimono) dyed by Bingata method someday. That’s because when she went to other countries, she realized once more that Japan’s formal dress is kimono. “It may be difficult to spread kimono throughout the world, but now I’m trying to get used to wearing kimono in order to inherit this important tradition,” says Tomoko with a will. Her ambitious to pursue great Bingata works has no limit.