Organic whole soybeans are used to make soy milk for applying ochres and pigments to cloth. For complete instructions on the traditional Japanese method of using soy milk, see John Marshall’s book Salvation through Soy.
Did you know that you can paint with pigments and soy milk from organic soybeans? Learn how in these instructions from the Textile Arts Center. Then pick up organic indigo which can be used in this method.
John Marshall is an American fiber artist specializing in natural dyes and the traditional Japanese techniques of katazome (stencil dyeing) and tsutsugaki (cone drawing). He is internationally noted for his use of color and line to create truly unique one-of-a-kind art-to-wear. He turns traditionally inspired aesthetics into contemporary treasures for daily life. As a teacher, he is recognized for his ability to adapt traditional recipes and methods to suit local climates, resources, and temperaments. John is also recognized for his ability to distill complex techniques into easy-to-understand steps.
“I have had a life-long love of things Japanese. I grew up in a small rural town in California, Florin, just outside of Sacramento. It is amazing how happenstance can play such a large role in the development of anyone’s life. When I was in fifth grade I was fortunate enough to wind up in a class taught by Mary Tsukamoto. That year we had two older students from Japan, who did not speak English, move to our community. They were placed in our class so that Mrs. Tsukamoto could help them transition into our school. At the same time she decided to take a chance and teach our class Japanese.
In our community is a large Jodoshinshu Buddhist Church. Buddhist churches in California are known for offering Japanese language classes and cultural programs. I was twice blessed in having the Tanaka sisters take me under their wings, in particular Myrtle Furukawa. Mrs. Furukawa was my first real Japanese language teacher. She has continued to inspire me as a role model all these years later.
Eventually I made my way to Japan, pretty much on a wing and a prayer. I saved by earnings from mowing lawns, babysitting, and delivering newspapers. I wound up in the home of Emon and Katsuko Kanematsu in Tokyo and started in on my studies. Katsuko Kanematsu is Edoko (eighth generation Tokyo-ite), and a poet with national standing. She is keenly interested in Japanese clothing and textiles, and it was she who taught me traditional Japanese sewing techniques.
Early on, I was able to secure a position with Kunio Ekiguchi, best known in this country for his books on Japanese wrapping techniques, published in English through Kodansha, International. He, in turn, introduced me to the teachers I needed in a variety of disciplines centered upon traditional doll making techniques. Matsuyou Hayashi, my bingata teacher, was one such person.
Matsuyou Hayashi had entered a pivotal point in her life. She dismissed all of her apprentices just prior to taking me on as an apprentice. For the next several years she concentrated all of her energies in sharing her knowledge of dyeing with me. She died five years into my studies. It was at that point that I returned to the States.
Risking so much time and effort on a foreigner was a chance she took. I liken it to a custom practiced by Japanese school children wherein a paper packet of flower seeds is tied to a balloon and released into the wind. Who knows where it will land? But what a joy it is to imagine that next year some passerby will come upon the flowers in bloom and delight in their beauty! In her eyes, I was the seed packet. It is my joy and obligation to share what she has entrusted to me, expand upon her teachings, and learn from what others have to offer.
Since returning home to the States I have taught untold numbers of classes through guilds, museums, and universities. I have exhibited my work through galleries, boutiques, and private showings. Additionally, I have had exhibitions sponsored by Kodansha, the Embassy of Japan, and the US State Department. I am as happy lecturing to a sewing circle as I am to a gathering at the Textile Museum in DC.
Once again, I find myself living in a rural area of California in a town called Covelo. Covelo is in the most remote corner of Mendocino County, nestled in the Yolla Bolly Mountains. It is a quirky town, with many eccentricities of people and culture. I own an old flourmill on an acre of land in the center of town. It is actually the town square with a large bandstand and a large wisteria arbor. It affords ample space for my various projects as well as the classes I hold annually in my studio. I don’t know how I lucked into this space. But here I am, and here I’ll stay!
All of these fortuitous occurrences have brought me to this spot in my life. I hope my teachings will be of some interest to you. And if so, that you will share what you deem valuable with others.” -John Marshall