Thursday, 9 August 2012

Thoughts on Teaching Shibori

In elementary school, my fifth grade teacher told the class as we rubber banded t-shirts to tie-dye about Japanese tie-dye techniques. "They take it to heights beyond imagination." Hmmm. She rolled her eyes and shuddered a little.

 When I picked up Yoshiko Wada, Mary Kellogg Rice and Jane Barton's book on Japanese shibori techniques , 'Shibori the Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist  Dyeing'  20 years ago I shuddered as well. That book has launched more than a few careers in Shibori for certain. I read a few pages at the back of the back at the back of a crowded bookstore in  Shinjuku. It was about an old woman who grew her own indigo, fermented it and dyed cloth in Japan. I am a fast reader so it must have taken me two minutes to read the article. I shut the book, walked to the cash register with a cheek muscle ripping smile and eyebrows up to my hairline in enthusiasm. (The hairline was much lower than it is now.) I knew in that instant that I would spend the rest of my life as an indigo related craftsman. Decided. No more searching for a path.

Now I have Tine, a bright  young woman from  Belgium living here in Japan with a Japanese husband. She is burning with that indigo/shibori fever and some heavy responsibility sits on my shoulders. She will return to Brussels in two years and wants to open a shop selling indigo goods she has made and small school teaching Japanese shibori techniques.

She comes on Saturdays and we submerse ourselves in Shibori, history, philosophy of Japanese crafts etc. How long does it take to master something? How long does it take to really get a hold on indigo and shibori well enough that your products can stand the market with pride and you can confidently teach students? I'll try to impart as much as I can and encourage her to go to Arimatsu/Narumi the traditional shibori towns in Japan to polish up and get her 'Japan Creds'.

 Once she has some tunes in her repertoire she should find some very impressive cloth and start making large pieces for an exhibition several years down the road. She should know a few dozen traditional techniques and be able to expand on  them and innovate her own style. The exhibition will give her a goal to work towards, material to promote herself with, and experience in producing work to sell.

Not to waste any time I have her try several variations on a technique on a single piece. (Above Katano shibori slight variations.) Like anything it is 90% hard work and 10% inspiration.

On top of this she has to get a good grasp on how indigo vats work.

 A lot of work ahead. Gambatte Tine!


  1. me too, me too.the wada-rice book was a revelation (that long ago??)

    you follow the true sensei path.

  2. that katano shibori is breathtaking! i can only imagine what marvels you are capable of.

    oh, and what an amazing journey tine has before her. i envy your lives and opportunities.