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Logical Rain

Rediscovered after 125 years in Dresden: the world’s richest resource of Japanese stencils for dyeing samurai kimonos Proposition II

November 30, 2014 to March 22, 2015
An exhibition by Wolfgang Scheppe with the Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden at the Japanisches Palais

A treasure trove of Japanese craftsmanship has been rediscovered. For 125 years it layed undisturbed in the storage depot of the Kunstgewerbemuseum at Schloss Pillnitz: 92 cases containing more than 15,000 katagami dye stencils for textile printing, never been displayed and remained unknown beyond the confines of the museum’s collection. In this rich resource, Dresden possesses the world’s most extensive holdings of katagami designs. Now, for the first time ever, a selection of 140 of these hand-made, mulberry-tree bark paper sheets, finely cut using highly refined techniques in a lengthy, painstaking process, are to be shown to the public.

Katagami, stencils for printing traditional textile patterns, were used principally for kimono fabrics; as well as geometric ornament, designs also feature masterfully abstracted motifs and patterns representing elements of nature. From the wealth of motifs in the Kunstgewerbemuseum‘s collection, those depicting aspects of rain, which has a particularly significant cultural and spiritual role in a country exposed to monsoon winds and dependent on rice cultivation, have been specially chosen. The uniformity of tiny falling raindrops also seems to be reflected in the aesthetic logic of the repetitive structural designs of the printed pattern repeats. The Designs became more and more refined as the fabrics for which they were created were increasingly being produced for use by the samurai nobility for prestige and ceremonial purposes.


When the first katagami prints arrived in Europe in the 19th century, the highly sophisticated art of Japanese pattern design had a powerful influence on ornament in western fine arts, craftworks, and on the emerging discipline of industrial design. Today, stencil techniques are once again playing an important role in graffiti and street art.

Contributing to the ambience of this exhibition in the Elbe Wing of the Japanisches Palais is a sound installation of randomised computer modulations of the sound of falling rain, developed in collaboration with the Italian electronic musician Renato Rinaldi. The katazome dye technique, which uses katagami stencils in its production process, and which has now all but disappeared due to the amount of work it demands, will also be demonstrated in its results, taking a number of historic kimonos as examples.

Blick in die Sonderausstellung "Die Logik des Regens / Logical Rain", Japanisches Palais, 30.11.2014 bis 22.02.2015, Copyright: Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Foto: Adrian Sauer - Bild öffnet sich in einer Vergrößerungsansicht.