Saiun-do Kyoto Nihonga Mineral Pigment Set, Blue Iris


Following our comprehensive set of Japanese mineral pigments (see more information regarding the background company and technical information here), we are pleased to offer this set of 13 mineral pigments devised specifically to paint Japanese blue irises. 

Today the flower is known for its strong association to Japanese Gardens. Digging deeper, Irises have a more complex significance, less based on their flamboyant looks, rather, one relating more to Japanese Shinto folklore. The story goes that irises were used to decorate roofs, eaves, and bathtubs with 'sweet flags' on the occasion of the Boy's festival (the 5th day of the 5th month), a celebration for expressing the hope that each boy in a family will grow up healthy and strong. By association, Irises leaves, as sharp as a sword would cut through evil, protect and fend away danger. Perhaps this would explain why the cultivation of irises was taken up by the Samurai class as a quasi-martial art, one imbued with dignity and luxury.

An unbeknown consequence of the rapid westernisation during the Meiji era with the adoption of the Solar calendar standard (vs the Lunar) was that the Boys festival moved forward by a month, irises no longer were in bloom for the occasion, eroding the tradition and symbolism of irises, slowly disappearing with indigenous traditions.

With the above background, perhaps it is food for thought to reflect on Irises' more humble origins, not as colourful show stoppers, but as a representation of inner strength radiating protective power. Early cultivars were indeed much less showy, and in perfect Japanese wabi-sabi philosophy, it is the the less obvious shades, the more complex nuances of the iris rainbow which are the most beautiful.

Consider Issa's (1763-1827) Haiku:

Irises --
from which that rainbows 

Of course there is no strict prescription for this set, only a desire to give inspiration, but the set will lend themselves to other matters where blue is the dominating feeling: hydrangeas, morning glory, seascapes, tropical birds are all possible suggestions....

This set includes a gold pigment which can serve for the background, much like a  religious icon or more aptly a Japanese screen. 

To transform the powdered pigments into usable paints, mix these with the nikawa liquid to your preferred consistency. Consider that preparing your paints is as much a part of the Nihonga practice and artists' ritual as the painting itself. To mix pigments into paint please purchase this this gelatine glue-based binder available here. We also stock a number of ceramic mixing palettes to use with.

A beautiful video of how these pigments could be used can be viewed on one of our customer's Youtube channel here and here, and you can read our full interview here. (please note this is video is not a formal instruction video and should not be interpreted as such)

Ingredients: Suihi-enogu, gofun or calcium carbonate (made from crushed shells) based and mixed with pigment. Individual recipes are the makers secret and are both natural or synthetic in origin, varying according to colour. 
Included: 13 colours in presentation box, gift-wrapped.
Binder sold separately - please go here to purchase.
Vegetarian: yes
Vegan: No (some pigments contain gofun which is derived from shells)
Made in Japan

Here pictured is David Bowie at the Saiun-do shop (photograph by Masayoshi Sukita taken in 1980). 

The irises depicted are part from "Shohoen Kusagi Illustration", Tenri Library Collection. A picture scroll consisting of three volumes created by Sadanobu Matsudaira in the Cultural Years of the late Edo period.

Other material by PearFleur