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I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, January 5, 2018

O Glory! Shibori!

My journey through the art underground surely
must come to a close...or not?!
I have enjoyed a break from the easel...almost enough
that I lust to return...I'm almost there.
Bear with's gonna be a 
Happy New Year!

Shibori  has been around since the 8th century and predates the more familiar "tie-dye" by centuries.  As with most ancient art techniques, this Japanese art of indigo dyeing has morphed and changed over the years. While the traditional use of pulled threads to provide a resist pattern has given way, in some cases, to rubber bands and clothes pins, the results are still lovely and hypnotic.  It is almost addictive: fold, clamp, dye and await in wonder the design that emerges.

Of course I had to try, did you ever doubt it? and not just once but enough times to wonder what the heck I will do with all this gorgeous printed cloth I have made.  But that's a puzzle for another day...

The easiest way to experience the joy of shibori is to go to the Dharma Trading Company website and invest @ $9 in the kit above.  It will provide all you need to get started.  They even have some instructions on site.  If you are a Pinterest fan or love search engines you will also come across myriad ways to approach the fun.

The basic plan is to fold, tie and clamp your white fabric in such a way that the indigo dye reaches some portions of the fabric while avoiding others.  The way you fold will cause the pattern to repeat itself often in differing depths of color.  I would say it is more art than science except that there is a lot of chance involved depending on your fabric choice, the amount of fabric in any one fold and your ability to dye it over and over again before succumbing to the desire of the "reveal."

 These are piles of dampened white cloth folded and awaiting the "vat."  My buddy Barbara chooses the traditional method of threads to gather designs while I hit the rubber bands and clamps.

Indigo is a fascinating dye as it reacts differently than others.  The mixing is specific and it sits and "blooms", then when ready, pieces are submerged, agitated and removed sporting a florescent green color.

As the fabric sits the dye will oxidize to the deep blue color.  Both stages can be seen on the left.  Now note the folded piece on the right.  I have added resists via the popsicle sticks, a couple rubber bands and some clothes pins on the bottom.  It leaves the pot greenish in color.

When it is fully oxidized (flipping it over is important) as in photo on L, I rinse it in clear water and then remove the resists.  What I get is the design on the right. Note the parts that have not hit the air yet.

 Resting while the air works its magic, the entire piece emerges a deep indigo and white with a cool design that is repeated around the folds.  As I got better in relating the folds to the amount of fabrics I realized that too tight a bundle allowed very little dye to get inside and make a design.

But really, there were no "bad" pieces.  The reveal is such a thrill...we oohed and ahhed with each unfolding.

For this "event" Barbara had suggested we work with bandanas (24 x 24) which we easily ordered from Dharma as well.  Who doesn't need a do-rag for a gift?  But as we worked we realized these could be cut apart and used for patches, a quilt or sewn with backings to make bags.  Barbara even gave me the idea of making a tablecloth and napkins out of the results.

It was hard to stop experimenting!  And of course, now that we had experienced the traditional indigo dye we had to play around with...RED!

procion dye, warm red
more bandanas
Did we have fun?  

So the take away for me is that (1) I loved the element of working together, Barbara and I giggled and traded lots of good ideas.  This is not always the way a painting works but it is an excellent outlet for stimulating ideas.  Also, (2) I loved the fact that I could not always predict or control the outcome - can I carry this joy of random results into my painting?  Can I let go and be happy with surprises?  And finally, (3) I loved the high contrast.  The sharp color against the stark white....the definitive lines coupled with the more blurry ones... the repeat pattern against the loss of pattern...

Not bad for a day of fun and creative fellowship.  Order a box, find a friend and dye!!

Dyeing for Color,

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