Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Maiwa Workshops In Vancouver

I've had a few emails after mentioning that I will be in Vancouver this fall giving three workshops at Maiwa. They have pretty much been planned out. Maiwa hasn't posted the workshops yet. They run such first class textile workshops I am honoured to have been asked. To make it worth their while, (plane tickets from Japan are not cheap) I will give two two-day workshops and a single day workshop as well as a lecture with wine etc. I'll also be having an exhibition nearby at Diana Sanderson's Silk Weaving Studio. Maiwa allows the workshop leader's to sell their work at the workshops however, I do not think I will have time to prepare anything. Missed opportunity approaching ...grrr.

Japan is not that far away from Vancouver, just over the ocean if you think about it.   It would be delight to meet any blog readers in person. I haven't spent more than a few days in Vancouver over the past 25 years. Beautiful city but I never thought I would see the skies above it again. Charlotte, the owner of Maiwa just does such a mind-boggling wonderful work creating and preserving and supporting textile culture, I wanted to see first hand what she has accomplished and take a small part in her vision.

The lecture will be on my experiences with silk farming here in Japan and some stories of working in the remote area of Laos with development projects concerning silk. I'll have some pictures etc.


Here is the rough run down; (Sorry for a quick cut and paste from my correspondence with Maiwa.)
Outline Japanese Indigo Workshop
Saturday and Sunday October 5th and 6th 10am - 4pm
Maiwa East 16 students

Introduction of indigo. Different kinds in the world with a brief history.
History and use in Japan.
Japanese aesthetics and indigo.
Okinawan indigo is different.
My background in Japanese indigo.

Show samples of indigo dyed Japanese cloth and discuss them.
From seed to dyepot explanation with pictures and samples.
Japanese craftsmanship ideals and indigo.

Dye a gradient piece of indigo. Small linen piece or something from Maiwa, (pending advice).
Dye skeins of cotton, linen, degummed silk, natural silk and wool. Discuss indigo quality on different materials. Advice for dyeing thread skeins in indigo.

Brief history of shibori and it’s affinity with indigo. Look at Motohiko Katano’s work. Use him as an example of a quintessential Japanese craftsman.
Shibori preparation. SImple mokume. Folding triangles.
Dyeing the shibori.
Katazome demonstration and brief talk. Show samples. Each member will dye a small katazome piece of linen.

Discussion of indigo in Japan now. Contemporary Japanese indigo craftspeople.

The second two day workshop will be on under-dyeing with indigo.

The goal of the workshop is for the participants to experience the possibilities of under-dyeing with red, yellow and gray to get subtle colors when combined with indigo.

There are no natural green dyes in nature. You have to use a shade of yellow in combination with indigo or another blue dye to achieve them.  The depth of the green is determined by the amount of dips in the indigo. The shade of green is determined by which yellow/orange tone is created with a particular natural dye and particular mordant.

Shades of purples are created by under-dyeing with a red dye. Madder is the most stable but lac and cochineal used with iron or alum can create an almost endless spectrum of reds and purples. Tuscan reds, eggplant and dark plum etc. I will just use madder for the reds in the workshop at Maiwa.

The Indigo pigment doesn’t make a chemical bond with the material, simply a mechanical bond so it is weak to abrasion. (Blue jeans fade because the indigo is worn and washed off.) This is important to consider when combining indigo with other dyes, especially on silk where the initial bond of indigo and fibre is not strong to begin with.  The occasional tendency to fade should be incorporated into the textile from the start. The dyed piece can be expected to ‘age’ to a certain degree. The students need to understand this well.

Over the two days of the workshop the students will dye pieces of silk (and perhaps cotton) cloth with gardenia pods to get a vibrant yellow, onion skins to get a rusty orange, and madder to get a red. Those pieces of cloth will be divided into eleven sections. One section will be left as the original color. The remaining sections will be dipped and dyed from one time until ten times in the indigo to get a gradient of purples and greens. The cloth will then be divided up so that each member will return home with several  sample cards with the gradient colors attached.

I will thoroughly explain the propensities of wool, plant fibres, and silk with indigo and how the under - dyeing processes differ in technique and result. I am afraid we will be pushed for time but will prepare some skeins of each material to give a visual back up to the explanation if time allows.

Each student will dye a silk scarf to take home using the technique learned.

I am debating with myself to use cotton (in addition to silk) or not. Impregnating it with a protein may simply be too much information for the workshop members. I will talk about it, and perhaps bring some pre-dyed sample pieces to dye with the students. I will run through the exact workshop with my students here in Japan in the spring to ensure it runs like clockwork. Then I will know if I will have the time to add material or have to reduce the amount of time spent on dyeing.

The third workshop will be:

The first hour will be spent on talking about the process of making cocoons and what can be done with them. Different classes of cocoons and how the waste silk leftover from the reeling process is used. I’ll bring thread samples and photographs.

Since it takes several hours to boil cocoons in an alkaline solution to make floss we will immediately start boiling the cocoons after the initial introduction. They will be ready to use after lunch.

After lunch we will reel cocoons in different ways to produce different threads. The students will take home the thread and floss and a few cocoons. The goal of the workshop is to show how different threads are made and why some threads were made in traditional Japan


  1. Absolutely fantastic to learn that you will be coming to Vancouver to teach and share at Maiwa. You will be very well received, I'm certain. I'll definitely try my very best to get into one of your workshops - the lineups are long on the first day of registration. But I shall try.
    Your blog is wonderful - I have learned so much by following your writings. I even tried to grow indigo plants, last summer - they grew well, but didn't release much of their indigotin to produce much dye. Oh well, our 49 degree N sun is different than your's. I live in North Vancouver, only a half hour to Maiwa - want a volunteer to help you during your teaching? I would very willingly help. Maiwa will ensure you do have a volunteer with each course you teach - helps to make things run more smoothly. Looking very forward to meeting you and hopefully having the opportunity to participate as a student or volunteer in your indigo dyeing workshops.

  2. Hi Jennifer, I will keep you in mind definitely. I lived down on 3rd not far from the quay many years ago.

  3. I hope to see you there. Seriously! I will be front and center with J. Mitchell - hopefully!

  4. Replies
    1. These workshops sell out so quickly. I wanted to get Jean in through the back door because she lives so close by but I was politely told...NO. Shucks.

  5. So sad there is only 16 spots. People will probably camp out over night to get into your workshops. Hopefully you will come back a second time for those of us who won't get in.

  6. Thank Judith. If no one signs up I will feel great!
    Their standards are high. I'll have to come up with a good idea to be invited back.