Sunday Visit: Botanical Colors’ Lead Dyer, Kentaro Kojima

For this week’s Sunday Visit we catch up with Kentaro Kojima, Botanical Colors’ Lead Production Dyer. Kentaro is the color magician behind many of the projects we do with fashion brands and he’s also multi-talented. In addition to being born into a textile and dye family, he has carved his own artistic niche as a stone sculptor, educator and curator. We’re so proud to have someone as talented and kind as Kentaro on our team.

Let’s learn more about him…

Can you tell me a bit about your background as an artist and how you landed at Botanical Colors?
I am actually a stone sculptor by training. But, because my father was a student of natural dyes, I was exposed to the art from early age. Also, my mother was a weaver and had studied Guatemalan weaving extensively, so that had influenced my aesthetics as well. It didn’t hurt that I grew up in Guatemala, where the traditional weaving is very active and people wear their huipils daily.

My father was instrumental in bringing back indigo growing as an industry in Salvador. After years of teaching, sometimes 100 classes a month, and balancing the demands of the crafts people and the farmers, he had put together a natural dye conference of sorts in Salvador and Kathy and he met there. Years later, when he was visiting me in Seattle, he asked if I could contact Kathy, the most prominent natural dyer in Seattle at the time. Fast forward several more years and Kathy calling me to see if I could help Botanical Colors with indigo dipping. After I started with Botanical Colors, I realized that natural dyes were FASCINATING! I still can’t put my finger on why I find it so intriguing, but it is and I am running with it.

What is a recent project that you were excited about and that pushed you as an artist?
The most recent would be the Noren project. Noren is a traditional Japanese fabric divider hung between rooms, in doorways, or in windows. I was asked to go a step beyond craft and edge closer to an art piece. It was for a very high end Japanese restaurant. The architect that commissioned the work had seen my other work on social media and was definitely pushing me to come up with something unique, strong, and aesthetic. I came up with the design and the product, they loved it, and ended up ordering another one.
Projects that I have to use every ounce of my knowledge and experience to come up with something expressive are the projects that excite me the most.

As Botanical Colors’ Lead Dyer, have you seen a shift over the years in customers and why they want natural dyes?
I feel like the fashion industry in particular and society as a whole is longing for things that feel more rooted. Maybe we want to feel more connected to what is around us, like what we wear and use. Maybe there is an unconscious longing to what had been familiar to us for millennia (after all, artificial dyes have been around for less than 200 years). My father had seen this trend decades earlier and started teaching about natural dyes to Guatemalans and Salvadorans. This trend will only accelerate, I feel. 

How do you see yourself as part of the positive change in the fashion and textile world when it comes to natural dyeing?
Natural dyes have been with us for so long that I feel like some of our aesthetics are based on it.
For example, the fact that all natural dyes are compound colors means that when they fade, they don’t just become a paler shade of itself, they shift colors. For example, indigo has a lot of  red in it. So, when it fades, it shifts to a warmer blue. There is something familiar and relaxing about this.
I feel like it is on us, people that love and work with natural dyes, to educate people about this transient nature of natural colors as something to be celebrated. I would LOVE to use natural dyes as a bridge to have a lot of cross pollination between cultures and aesthetics.

What’s your favorite color and why?
Very hard question because I have to say one color is less for me than another…
Currently, I feel moved when I see indigo blue and sage/olive colors. Don’t know why.

Interested in doing production with us and getting to know Kentaro even better? Head to our dye house page to learn more.

Save 20% when you shop all indigo dye bundles here.

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