The textile is dyed with a particular red-dye extracted from the Beni flower (Safflower). "Beni" means rogue or red, and "some" means dyed in Japanese. The original process of making the dye was a long and arduous one. First, flowers were harvested, fermented, and molded into the shape of a ball. Then, the balls of the flowers are preserved until they are ready for extraction. It was extracted from the fermented flowers in the heart of winter, and the textiles were dyed outside in the cold. The best beni-some were produced in the Yamagata prefecture in the northern part of Japan.
These days Safflower is mainly cultivated for oil production. The original way of producing the Beni-some dye has been extinct since around 1914-15, coinciding with the War. Later, a few individuals in the Yamagata prefecture did start making beni-some textiles again. Still, they introduced chemicals to hasten the fermentation process, control the color, and keep producing all year round.
This small piece of Beni-some textile was made some time towards the end of the 1800s with the old Yamagata method. It lay forgotten in somebody's storage space for over a century, and the portions exposed to air are discolored. The result is this stunning textile with a color that could not be reproduced today. It is a poetic, utterly ethereal mixture of red hues, and I am honored to be the steward of this stunning piece until it finds its new home.