The Beauty of Indigo – The World of Japan Blue

February 11, 2010

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the 2010 Tokyo International Quilt Show. I was looking forward to this show not only for the beautiful work but also for the chance to see a special exhibit – “The Beauty of Indigo – The World of Japan Blue.” I traveled up from Yokosuka with my friend Val and was met by two Japanese ladies, Hiroko and Kayoko. We moved inside the Tokyo Dome, which is home to the Yomiuri Giants, to find the baseball field transformed into a huge exhibition hall containing some of the most inspiring quilts I’ve had a chance to view.

Before the crowds became too intense I said the one and only thing I really wanted to see was the Indigo exhibit, everything after that would just be icing on the cake. As we were moving around the exhibit I could not help but notice a very enthusiastic and animated Japanese lady, dressed in a traditional kimono, giving a lecture. Drawn to her I realized she was Shizuko Kuroha. I had read about her work prior to the show. She is well known for collecting antique indigo textiles and transforming them into amazing works of art in the form of quilts and is the author of more than 30 books. I was so fortunate to have Hiroko and Kayoko there with us – they acted as our translators – as Shizuko Kuroha in rapid-fire Japanese explained the different techniques she used in creating her work.

Shortly after stopping to listen to Shizuko Kuroha there was another group forming at the opposite end of the exhibit. Here Ranshu Yano, a master Indigo dyer, was giving a demonstration on the traditional Edo period dyeing technique still being used in Tokushima. I wished yet again, that my atrophied brain could pick up the Japanese language a little bit faster (I promised myself I’d sit down at Rosetta Stone the next day) – he was explaining the Indigo dying process and while I did understand some of it from my class with Hiroko Andou, I was left full of unasked (English) questions.

After looking at the quilts from Shizuko Kuroha and the beautiful displays of the Indigo works I was happy to follow my friends out into the wider world of the quilt show and immerse myself in endless eye candy.

For more on the quilt show you can visit my blog

I am still trying to figure out how to imbed my slideshows into WordPress … just when I figured out my blog in blogspot, now I have to go and try and learn more technology! Check back in when you can – hopefully I’ll figure this out before my brain implodes … j.

Check out my Slide Show!

February 11, 2010

Azamino Shibori Exhibit

February 11, 2010

In November, I had the opportunity to go and see an exhibit of Shibori work in Azamino. This exhibit showcased work by a Master Shibori sensei, Hiroko Andou, and her students. The works were primarily dyed in indigo – there was one exception where the artist had used a root to form a natural dye (see the photo of the red shibori work). I was able to speak with this artist and she said she was going to have the cloth made into an obi. I also learned that to make a Kimono out of Shibori fabric takes 17 meters!

Earlier that morning, as I was walking out the door, I grabbed a few pieces of fabric that I had dyed using different shibori techniques and shoved them in my backpack. Even though I speak very little Japanese (I’m working on it!), the language of fabric overcame the barriers and it appears that my desire to learn and my enthusiasm for this beautiful art has earned me the right to study with Hiroko Andou once a month in Tokyo. I am thrilled to have this opportunity, she has been teaching shibori for more than 40 years. The friends I were with translated the class title and it’s “100 Shibori Techniques.” It will take a lot for me to get through all 100 techniques before our time here in Japan ends. Some of these students have been studying with Andou-san for over 30 years! I do not have that luxury, but I am always up for a challenge and will see how much I can learn in the nearly 3 years I have left here.┬áCheck back in to see what I am learning.

For more on my adventures in Japan you can check out

What is Shibori?

February 21, 2009

What is Shibori? I get that question a lot when people ask me about my art. When I launch into the accepted definition by the World Shibori Network I usually get a blank stare – when I say “think of it like sophisticated tie-dye” I see the lighbulbs go on. But just for the record Shibori is defined as the Japanese technique for shape resist dyeing through the manipulation of 2-dimensional fabric into 3-dimensional shapes either through stitching, tying, folding, or wrapping around a core (i.e. Americanized core = pvc pipe). The artist then applies dye to the fabric and a pattern emerges where a resist has been created through one of the above techniques. Shibori is an ancient Japanese technique and the Shibori artists in Japan can study for 10 years before attaining the title of Master.

I will put this disclaimer out there from the get-go, I am not a Master. I am an artist currently working in fiber art. My focus has been on exploring and discovering the many different techniques of Shibori. I have had the good fortune to take a class from Christine Zoller who introduced me to the technique of pole wrapping. From there, I went out on my own and have been primarily self-taught, heavily referencing SHIBORI The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing by Yoshiko Wada, Mary Kellogg Rice and Jane Barton; Memory on Cloth by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada; and Shibori by Karen Britto.

I love color, I love nature – particularly leaves and I love Shibori. I hope you will join me in following my journey as an artist. Check back weekly for new posts.