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10th International Shibori Symposium Exhibitions

10th International Shibori Symposium Exhibitions

This is a guest post by Kim of Flextiles. She recently attended the Tenth International Shibori Symposium and I thought you all might to get a glimpse of what she did and saw there. Thanks Kim!

My previous post about the 10th International Shibori Symposium (10iss) in Mexico last November focused on some of the workshops I attended. This time I’m going to report on some of the inspiring exhibitions and beautiful work on show.

Several of the exhibitions were in the Centro de las Artes de San Agustin (CASA), around 45 minutes’ drive from the centre of Oaxaca. It’s a former cotton mill that was converted into a stunning arts centre by local artist Francisco Toledo in 2000. Its hilltop location gives amazing views, and it has two exhibition halls and smaller rooms for running workshops.

Here there was a wonderful exhibition, curated by Yoshiko Nakamura and Consortium Arimatsu Narumi, of historical and modern Japanese indigo-dyed kimono from Arimatsu and Narumi in Japan.

Another exhibition here showcased 12 pieces of clothing designed by Mexican designer Carla Fernandez, highlighting connections between the Mexican and Japanese traditions of ikat (known as jaspe in Mexico and kasuri in Japan).

The contemporary garments were wonderful, combining Japanese silhouettes and designs with traditional Mexican rebozo patterns.

The main exhibition hall at CASA was given over to a wide range of contemporary shibori artworks and wearables, curated by Yoshiko Wada and Trine Ellitsgaard. Unfortunately, the evening viewing I went to was quite dark, so I found it tricky to get decent photos, but here’s a flavour of some of the pieces on display.

A short walk downhill from CASA is the paper making cooperative Arte Papel Vista Hermosa, also founded by Francisco Toledo. Its members use bark, plants, flowers, cotton, hemp, silk, linen and pieces of shiny mica in their products. As well as seeing the artisans at work, visitors can have a go at making paper themselves.

For this exhibition they worked with artist Kiff Slemmons to produce some stunningly intricate paper jewelry. And yes – I did end up buying a piece! 🙂

Back in town, the Textile Museum of Oaxaca was, unsurprisingly, the main exhibition focus. One of the most eye-catching was an installation of bandhani flags by Christina Kim. This was a collaboration between artisans in Kutch in Gujarat and the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad to employ women displaced by the 2001 earthquake in Kutch. Fluttering against the blue sky, the flags were a stunning sight.

The second exhibition was an interesting cross-cultural comparison of shibori and ikat techniques from around the world. While I know something of the Japanese and Indian traditions, I was less familiar with jaspe, the Mexican equivalent of ikat.

Ikat is the process where (usually) sections of the warp threads are bound with threads before dyeing, forming a pattern that will show after weaving. Sometimes the weft threads are dyed, and sometimes both warp and weft – this is known as double ikat (or patola in India).

It’s immensely disciplined because you have to know exactly where the dyed threads will end up in the final piece – no changing your mind (or pattern) once you start! The resulting designs tend to look a little “fuzzy” around the edges.

Shibori pieces on display ranged from a Japanese kanoko shibori jacket to raffia- stitched fabric from Africa.

Finally, there was a fascinating exhibition on the plumed weavings of Mexico. In the 1980s, a fragment of fabric woven with a mixture of cotton and duck down was found in a flea market in Puebla. The technique seems to have been unique to Mexico, and the exhibition displayed work by modern weavers incorporating duck down.


There is a website here explaining the process, but it is all in Spanish.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment and Kim will answer you. Thanks for the post Kim!


Indigo and Shibori by Kim Winter

Indigo and Shibori by Kim Winter

Today’s post is by Kim Winter of Flextiles. Kim lives in London, UK and has been blogging about her textile experiments since 2011 after taking creative and experimental textiles at Morley College. I follow Kim’s blog and have found it very interesting so I asked her to write an article for us.

Type “tie dye” into Google and a mosaic of fluorescent spirals and sunbursts leaps out of the screen.

tie dye - Google Search

But try “shibori”, and the results are more subtle, largely (but not entirely) blue and white.

shibori - Google Search

Yet both are similar techniques – folding, binding, twisting or compressing the cloth so that parts of it are not exposed when it is dyed, resulting in very distinctive patterns.


The Japanese, as with so many craft forms, have developed the techniques even further, wrapping the fabric around poles before binding, using special devices for looping the thread around the cloth, or pulling up rows of stitching very tightly to resist the dye. And the dye often linked with shibori is indigo, which explains the dominance of blue and white designs.

“Like old men’s pee”

I was introduced to shibori and indigo dyeing at my local adult education college in London when I signed up for evening classes in textiles a few years ago. It was a great course, providing an introduction to different techniques over three terms, including wet felting, hand and machine embroidery, and soft basketry.

In the summer term our tutor heaved a large black plastic vat into the room, removed the lid, and I got my first glimpse of an oily, shimmering surface with flecks of froth. It didn’t appeal to everyone – one student described it as “smelling like old men’s pee”. But after a couple of dips, I was hooked.

I’m not going to go into the detailed chemistry here, but a well-maintained indigo vat is not blue – it’s greenish-yellow. Indigo turns blue only when it is exposed to oxygen, so when you remove a piece of fabric from the vat, it changes colour from green to blue before your eyes. It’s quite magical – and very addictive!

It also has the advantage that you don’t need a mordant, so it’s relatively quick compared with some other forms of dyeing. However, to build up colour fastness it’s best to dip several times and leave the fabric to oxidise well between dips.

Shibori obsession

I started off with conventional shibori techniques:

• stitching (nui shibori)


shibori cushion 001

• binding (kumo shibori)

shibori samples 003

• pole wrapping (arashi shibori)

shibori samples 013

• clamping with a resist (itajime shibori)


And pretty soon I became obsessed – the experiments in a Kilner jar by the kitchen sink graduated to an increasing number of blue-stained buckets and bowls cluttering up the garden and kitchen, provoking gripes from (otherwise) Ever Supportive Partner!


oct2013 scarves4

Then I started experimenting with shibori in other processes.

• Shibori and screenprinting – stitching the fabric before screenprinting over it, then opening the stitching.




• Shibori and felting – binding or wrapping the felt or nuno felt before shrinking in a washing machine or steaming it.




• Shibori on paper – taping the paper to a pipe, wrapping string around the paper, dipping, then adding more string and dipping again.


• Shibori in a heat press – stitching a pattern in synthetic fabric, then putting it with a sheet of disperse dye paper in the heat press.


I also signed up for shibori indigo courses with specialists – an online course with Shibori Girl and a summer school in Norfolk with Jane Callender – where I learnt an incredible amount.

But, as with most textile techniques, there is still so much to learn and experiment with – one day I hope to grow indigo from seed, and produce a naturally fermented indigo vat (not easy in a cold London house). And ultimately I would like to spend some time in Japan, learning more about the whole culture and tradition that surrounds this entrancing dye.

Sustainable scarves

In the meantime, I’ve taken to upcycling scarves from charity shops and vintage sales using shibori and indigo dyeing. This has several advantages:

• It’s more interesting for me, as each scarf is different (colour, size, fabric, pattern) – so I don’t get bored.

• It’s obviously more sustainable – around 500,000 tonnes of clothes get sent to landfill every year in the UK alone, yet many of them are perfectly wearable.

• Because the cost of my raw materials is lower, the price buyers pay is lower too – whether the scarf is made of silk or cashmere. What’s not to like? 🙂


Some of these scarves are available from my Etsy shop; others I sell at various markets around London.

I’ve also started experimenting with natural dyes such as onion skins, coffee and tea.


But I think that indigo will always be my first love. It can be a bit temperamental to work with – the alkalinity has to be quite high, and you mustn’t slosh it around too much in the vat or the dye will oxidise and you have to recharge it too frequently.

Yet every time I unstitch, unclamp or unbind a new piece is like the first time – the sense of wonder at the range of blues I can get from a single vat, the colours changing and developing in front of me.

I even like the smell! 😉

fq-spiral-angleKim Winters

You can find Kim at her blog Flextiles or at her Etsy shop. Thanks for sharing with us Kim!

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