Well, I didn’t win the Blog to Japan competition. Thank you so much to everyone who voted on Facebook – I came second.
So I shall continue my studies of shibori in the UK for now. One of the most useful books I’ve found on the subject is Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing by Yoshiko Wada, Mary Kellogg and Jane Barton. It’s a comprehensive collection of different shibori techniques, along with monochrome and colour plates of historical samples and the work of contemporary artists.
I found the brief explanations of how different artists work particularly inspiring. For example, Shioko Fukumoto leaves some of the stitching and binding in, creating fantastic fan structures of rippled pleats and mesmerising movement. Hiroyuki Shindo, who runs the Little Indigo Museum in Miyama, produces fantastic ombre work, with panels and layers that seem to shimmer off the page.
One thing I found very difficult to grasp from the book is how the Japanese use tools for binding kanoko shibori. It includes diagrams of wooden or bamboo tying stands fitted with hooks and bobbins, with explanations of how the cloth is held and the thread is wound, but I still found it difficult to picture.
So I was delighted when I found the DVD Arimatsu-Narumi Shibori: Celebrating 400 Years of Japanese Artisan Design in the library at Morley College. Narrated by Yoshiko Wada, the DVD shows Arimatsu artisans in action, hand knotting with these tools, stitching at a furious rate, and pleating and folding with aplomb.
What I didn’t realise is that each artisan specialises in a single part of the process, whether it is stencilling the design, stitching or knotting, dyeing or unpicking. Unlike me, who is trying to master every stage, they stick to their own specialisation.
Obviously this makes for a more efficient process, but if I’d spent hours stitching a lovely kimono bolt, I think I would feel a little disappointed not to be there when the piece is opened up after dyeing, to see the results of my work. 🙂