Encyclopedia of niime

The interview with Ms Iwamoto, a member of the 'Dye team' about this year.

2021 . 04 . 20

It’s been over a year since I interviewed the ‘Dye team’ last February.

Since then, the pandemic has spread rapidly, making dramatic changes to society and everyday life. In response to the Emergency Declaration, ‘tamaki niime’ also made quick, significant and flexible changes. They developed a new product, ‘Tamask’, set up online shopping, and opened direct stores…

They accomplished more changes in a fast, productive year than ever before. I asked Noriko Iwamoto, one of the ‘Dye team’ members, about how they have changed.

About this time of last year, we were making masks, stopping works with dyes. I was not very good at sewing, but the sewing staff taught me how and assigned me to sew the more manageable parts. A month later, I could go back to my work because they provided more workers for ‘Tamask’. For a while, I worked with dyes in the morning and worked on sewing in the afternoon.

It was the early days during the Emergency Declaration for tamaki niime’s creations to build up ‘Tamask’ branding. All of the staff gathered to work on making masks.

With the trigger of the Corona pandemic, ‘Tamask’ is the frontier of new creation. Even the ‘Dye team’ tried new dye methods for making mask variations through trial and error processes.

As one method of *’dye play’, the team discussed using plant material dyes because the masks cover the mouth.

*’dye play’ combines traditional tie-dyes and “the board dye”, which presses cloth between boards. In the dye team, each staff dyes each item with free ideas by hands.

The creation of ‘Botamask’! The mask is made with botanical materials, such as indigo, madder, pagoda and logwood. It is a reversible mask where you can enjoy both sides due to the design and fit.

We first dye with indigo threads and weave them. We dye threads first and use them to make cloth. We also weave with an unbleached fabric first and dye it later, which creates a tie-dye like design. The dyed cloth is also used for the mask laces, which are knitted later.

—— That sounds so much fun.

‘Botamask’ is the first announced product that uses a botanical dye-post-dyeing method in ‘dye play’. It costs more but has excellent needs, which we would continually develop to make other products. They have both pre and post dye methods.

Due to the great demand for masks in the pandemic, they created ‘Botamask’, which significantly opened up more possibilities for dyes. Using adversity as a springboard, tamaki niime was driven forward by challenges towards great success.

—— (Watching the computer screen showing the products displayed on the website) Looking good! After developing the ‘Botamask’ product, you have created products that use the post-dye method of ‘dye play’.

Using leftover cloth, we have developed masks and hair accessories called ‘Atamaki’. There are three dye methods; weaving cloth with pre-dyes, post-dyes with unbleached fabric, dyeing after making unbleached finished products.

—— I see. There are three ways: dyeing threads, dyeing materials and dyeing after sewing.

We dye threads and go over to see all the processes until the products are accomplished; however, people may change the image of the final product. The products have to go through all the processes and different people, such as displaying dyed threads or weaving, but, as for dyeing after sewing, we can take care of the final product.

—— Please tell me how excited you are about that.

I think we can have fun because of the one item products only ‘tamaki niime’ offers. It goes through experiments in the creation process. In the post-dyes, it’s fun to see accidental final results, which happens by making colours by soaking with vegetable dyes.

—— I see.

Having many experiences, we could imagine how the designs look like. (looking at the photos of the creations) For this one, we had two processes; first, we have the ‘board press’, and afterwards, we used a barbecue net to sandwich cloth and soaked them in random solutions.

*It is called ‘board press’ or ‘board dyes’. It is the way to fold the cloth nicely to be dyed and sandwich between boards and dyes them. The parts which are not attached to the board can be dyed. You can have different variations by changing how it is folded or how it is spaced between the boards.

Dyeing with vegetable dyes is new for ‘tamaki niime’ who wished to do but didn’t try. A year ago, they dyed products with chemical dyes and sold them to wholesalers through Business to Business distribution. ‘Botamask’ became a pioneer. I am dyeing the materials, thinking of how it looks with different patterns. We could make many one-item products. The front and back designs can be different and reversible, and we can have many extra colour laces.

—— It’s possible to have various combinations. Making designs by dyeing cloth with post-dyes doesn’t make the same designs even though you cut the fabric.

The natural dyes produce unevenness, which is different from the chemical dyes. We could take advantage of that.

—— I see. What do you think of enjoying the unexpected natural results of dyeing?

We now have two dyeing processes with pots and hands. In hand dyeing, we can control colours but can’t control how much the dyes soak through. So we see how they come out accidentally. We are planning to randomly dye from now on. We placed ‘kase’ (a hank of threads) nicely but have changed to put them in a mess. As far as getting colours, we could guess to get nice colours by knowing what colour mixtures work. As for designs, we leave them to chance as to how they come out.

—— You have fun seeing natural, accidental results.

Even for the ‘Weave team’, they don’t know how they look until they weave them. But basically, I think that’s what our company asks for. When we see the finished weave, I feel confident that products are pretty good. (laugh)

With repetitions of dyeing, or until weaving, you never know how they look. ‘tamaki niime’s’ products have such an adventurous method which may excite you.

When I had an interview with Ms Iwamoto a year ago, she mentioned trying hard or ‘playing hard’ for dyeing one-item dye products and would go to observe or read to get ideas for dyes for the ‘only one’. I asked her about it again.

I can’t stop.

—— You have been continuously searching.

Yes, if I have to stop, that would be when I quit. I can’t make one-item products anymore if I stop.

—— Dyeing is the first gate for making one-item products.

That’s right.

—— As a motto of the ‘Dye team’, “We don’t create the same colours”.

It isn’t fun to make the same colours every day. We enjoy different colours each day. As far as colour goes, we try having different colours.

—— Do you have any other new challenges?

Since winter, the ‘Knit team’ has started using the threads with speckle designs, making different looks for final knitting products. Before, we used them when they weave and knit with primary colours. Adding speckle spots would spice things up.

—— Do you make changes by communicating with the ‘Knit team’?

We sometimes ask them to use the dye samples we made without request. Or we are requested to dye with specific atmosphere colours. I believe we can do it because the company provides all processes to accomplish the products, and we work next to each other with different task sections.

I heard each team tries to make creations by taking down the walls.
It’s started working.

—— Making ‘tamask’ with all the staff may be the trigger, right?

I think that was a significant influence.

—— You sound like you are searching for experimental dyes daily, more like ‘tamaki niime’ styles.

We do the works which only our company can do. That’s the meaningful advantage that we can work with dyes at ‘tamaki niime’. We have to have some room to work with dyes because the products go through each team until they are finished.

—— Other people need more room to play with the creations.

The ‘Knit team’ show us the knitted products using certain dyes, or the ‘Weave team’ show us how they look using the threads with speckles.

—— I see.

Definitely, our goal is to make products that excites customers. With that in mind, we are encouraged to work with dyes if the other teams have good experiences creating cool or exciting products.

—— I see, I see.

If they ignore that, we wonder why we are working so hard. (laugh) Sharing the same feelings or excitement will motivate us to work harder.

—— You look like you are sharing the enthusiasm of the unexpected results with the other teams.

It looks like it.

—— Are you purposely doing that for them?

I don’t know about that.

—— Does the other staff know that?

I guess they have realized because they come to tell us. I have never asked them what they think. If they are insensitive to the attractiveness of this work, they are not qualified to work for ‘tamaki niime’.

—— I see…

We need to work from the basic experiments, via the creators idea.

In each of his words, I can feel her seriousness about dye creativity, accepting and immersing herself in the ‘tamaki niime’ one-item creation spirit.

By always inquiring and keeping an experimental spirit, beautiful colourful dyed threads become the starting point for extended creativity to the ‘Weave’ and ‘Knit’ teams, transferring the excitement of the-only-creation.

Like running a relay between teams, the experimental creativity of ‘tamaki niime’ runs through them. The first runner must be the ‘Dye team’.

That’s how I feel about them after finishing the interview with Ms Iwamoto.

Original Japanese text by Seiji Koshikawa. English translation by Adam & Michiko Whipple.

Original Japanese text by Seiji Koshikawa.
English translation by Adam & Michiko Whipple.