World Shibori Network

Celebrating the visual languages of PEOPLE, COMMUNITY, CULTURE, and ENVIRONMENT through the global practice of resist-dye traditions and innovations, keeping in mind authenticity, reciprocity, and networking.

Exhibition:: Somé: Dyeing the Australian environment

MajorMitchellsWildflowers2012Major Mitchells Cockatoos (2012)

The Japan Foundation, Sydney presents a synthesis of Australian and Japanese culture in an exhibition by Canberra-based textile artist Melinda Heal. Titled Somé: Dyeing the Australian environment, Heal’s solo exhibition will feature Australian flora and fauna-inspired textiles, hand dyed using centuries-old Japanese techniques.

The Japan Foundation, Sydney
Level 4, Central Park (access via lifts)
28 Broadway, Chippendale NSW 2008

WHEN: August 15 – September 17

Monday – Friday: 10am – 6pm
Select Saturdays (Aug 20; Sept 10, 17): 10am – 3pm
Closed Sundays & public holidays

ENTRY: Free admission

Katazome postcard dyeing workshop – August 13 
Two sessions available: Morning and Afternoon (TBC)
Admission is free. Bookings essential.
Enquiries/RSVP: / 02 8239 0055


Melinda Heal practices resist-dyeing processes, known as katazome and yuzen, on silk, cotton, linen and hemp textiles. These centuries-old techniques are often used to produce the exquisite patterns found on kimono and yukata (summer kimono). Although both methods rely on rice paste to set apart specific areas for colour dyeing, the application method differs. In katazome, the paste is applied through hand-cut stencils, whereas yuzen is a freehand process which involves more time and detailed work.

Heal’s works add a uniquely Australian twist to a quintessentially Japanese craft by paying homage to the Australian landscape. She shares, “We can often take our straggly sunburnt Australian surroundings for granted—what could be more ordinary than a eucalyptus or prickly weeds? But I think there is beauty in these too.” Her use of local flora and fauna also extends beyond visual motifs to become a source of dye pigment, such as the subtle earthy dyes extracted from local eucalypts.

Melinda Heal says, “My work is not just about exploring the subtle balance between Japanese techniques and Australian imagery, it is also about portraying the details in the natural world around me. The unusual colours and natural forms of birds, gumtrees, weeds, native flowers—these all interact and overlap with one other to form the landscape. Airy dyed fabrics are a tactile way for me to capture both the energy and fragility of the natural environment. I hope these works will encourage viewers to pause and notice the details and complexity of our local species, some disappearing, others flourishing.”

The results are beautiful, gentle and playful contemporary textile art at the cross-section of Australian and Japanese culture.


Melinda Heal graduated from the Australian National University with a double degree in Asian Studies/Visual Arts in 2009. She spent four years living and studying in Kyoto, Japan, funded by a scholarship from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). In 2015 she completed a Masters of Visual Arts in Textiles at Kyoto Seika University, focusing on the traditional techniques of katazome and yuzen dyeing. Her works have been exhibited in Japan, New York and Australia, including the 2016 Enlighten Festival in Canberra. Heal is currently living and creating works in Canberra.


Katazome is a centuries-old Japanese resist-dyeing technique for fabric and paper. The design is first turned into a stencil, and a natural rice paste is spread onto the textile’s surface through the holes, blocking out areas to form the design. The fabric is either immersed in dye pots or hand painted using natural dyes, pigments or synthetic dyes. Yuzen is a technique, traditionally used for dyeing kimono, which originated in 17th century Kyoto. Like katazome, it uses rice paste as a resist, but both paste and colours are applied freehand to emulate a more hand-painted look. The fabric undergoes a steaming process to set the dye.


The Japan Foundation, Sydney is the Australian arm of the Japan Foundation, which was established by the Japanese government to promote cultural and intellectual exchange between Japan and other nations. It runs a diverse range of programs and events, including exhibitions, talk events, grant programs and Japanese language courses for all levels from beginner to advanced. The Japan Foundation was established in 1972 with a global network of 24 offices in 23 countries. The Australian office was founded in 1978.


2 comments on “Exhibition:: Somé: Dyeing the Australian environment

  1. Lily van Ryswick
    6 August 2016

    Are you repeating this in Melbourne?

    • WSN
      9 August 2016

      Hi Lily,

      We recommend contacting The Japan Foundation, Sydney for information about the exhibition:

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This entry was posted on 5 August 2016 by .
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