Shumei Kobayashi

Shumei Kobayashi (b. 1950)
秀明 小林

The elemental powers of water, fire, air and time are the only assistants in the work of master dyer Kobayashi Shumei. In a world created by art legend Soetsu Yanagi, and mentored by a number of Living National Treasures from a variety of practices, a young Kobayashi discovered a talent for traditional Japanese dyeing practices and a critical intellectual approach to the identity of the artist.

At eighteen years of age Kobayashi Shumei heard a radio broadcast about a father and daughter who specialized in cotton dyeing techniques. The man was Living National Treasure, Motohiko Katano (1889-1975), later to become Kobayashi’s teacher and mentor. Katano espoused the idea of original thought and individual creativity as opposed to the studio system and division of labour of Japanese tradition. Eschewing the traditional Japanese practice of the studio, Kobayashi is the only practitioner of the 400 year old ‘tsutsugaki’ dyeing process who is master of the entire process from concept to final artwork.

Using the traditional Japanese noren, hanging curtain, as the canvas for his individual designs, Kobayashi has transformed the form into contemporary textile art: Some works are sewn together to become tapestry wall hangings; some are left open to retain the provocative mystery of the partially obscured space.

Originally used as a protective barrier against wind and sun, the noren also provided privacy and became a physical manifestation of the division between outside and inside space. Its design reflected the status of the business as well as a sense of fashion and style and an appreciation of culture.

With many accolades and prizes throughout his illustrious career, Kobayashi has been the subject of several documentaries in Japan, has led workshops and seminars in Australia sponsored by the Japan Foundation, and is a frequent lecturer and demonstrator of traditional dyeing techniques at Japanese museums and professional institutions.

Gracing the walls of world renowned chef Tetsuya’s Sydney and Singapore restaurants, Kobayashi’s works carry the thread of tradition into today. His many lectures and workshops in Australia and elsewhere see this thread weaving its way into the future.: “with a final rinsing, there are the lines of my design, the clarity of the background…and the manifestation of my creative soul…so then, today, tomorrow, what fabric, what design?”

1950   Born in Osaka, Japan
1970   Mentors Motohiko Katano (LNT), Soetsu Yanagi, Tatsuaki Kuroda (LNT), Uzan Kimura(LNT) Shin Kajiyama
1971   Receives award at Ist Hokuriku Dyeing Design Competition
1973   Selected at All Japan Textile Design Competition
1974   Graduates from Craft Department, Kanazawa University of Arts & Crafts.
Joins Toyobo Textile Company as staff of Design Section
Receives Encouragement Award at All Japan Textile Competition
Yearly solo exhibitions at Japan’s major department stores in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Sapporo…continuing
1978   Receives three awards at All Japan Textile Competition, wins the greatest number of awards
Cotton Section Grandprix Award
Interior Section Grandprix Award
Apparel Section Award
1979   Tsutsugaki Noren Exhibition at Blackfriars Gallery, Sydney
Receives award at All Japan Textile Competition
Lecturer at Nakanoshima Arts College, Osaka
1982-86   Several exhibitions in Australia
1986   Receives award at Asian Textile Design Competition
1987   Opens independent studio Design Studio Shumei
1989    Creates five large Noren tapastries for Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, Hawaii, using Tsutsugaki Yuzen techniques, commissioned by Tokyu Railways
1991   Selected as one of 100 Dyers, Japan, presented by Kyoto Prefecture in cooperation with the Japan Kimono Association and the Kyoto Textile Chamber of Commerce
Exhibition at Kyoto Cultural Heian Museum, Kyoto
1992   Recording of NHK Television Broadcast The Revival of Umezome, the Roots of Kaga Yuzen
1996   Exhibition Tsutsugaki Yuzen Dyeing by Shumei Kobayashi at the Japan Foundation, Sydney and the Canberra College of Arts Lecture and Workshop at the Canberra College of Arts
1999   Exhibition Tsutsugaki Yuzen Dyeing by Shumei Kobayashi at Craft Victoria 
Lecture at the University of Melbourne 
Creates large Noren tapastries and framed works for Tetsuya’s and Azuma restaurants
2000   Lecture and demonstration at Fukagawa Edo Museum, Tokyo
Commission Noren tapestry for Tetsuya’s restaurant Sydney
2001  Lecture History of Natural Dyestuff at the Kanazawa Institute for the Renovation of Cultural Properties.
Involved in the revival of Umezome
2002   Exhibition Tsutsugaki Art Exhibition by Shumei Kobayashi at Tetsuya’s restaurant Sydney
2003   Tsutsugaki Art Exhibition by Shumei Kobayashi at the Japan Foundation, Sydney, including lecture and demonstration
2004   Recording of NHK Television Broadcast Oto no aru Fukei
2005   Lecture and demonstration Japanese Classical Hand Dyeing Method as a visiting artist at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales
Third Tsutsugaki Art Exhibition by Shumei Kobayashi at the Japan Foundation, Sydney
2007   Exhibition Furoshiki – Reviving a Dying Art at the Japan Foundation, Sydney 
Tsutsugaki Exhibition Shumei Kobayashi at Silk Love Gallery, Tokyo
2008   Commission Tetsuya Restaurant Sydney screen size work
2010   Commission Tetsuya Waku Ghin restaurant Singapore Marina Bay Sands
Solo show Yamaki Gallery Osaka
2011   Japan Foundation Sydney Lecture and Workshop
Australian Academy of Design Melbourne Master class
Commission Azuma Restaurant Sydney largest work to date





Shumei Kobayashi
Lesley Kehoe