Shibori and Indigo Workshop with Yoshiko Wada

The Contemporary Textile Studio has been host to a number of talented visiting international artists, and this spring saw the acclaimed artist, author, curator and teacher Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada host a workshop on indigo and shibori.


Shibori techniques have been an important means for communicating “memory on cloth” (Wada, 2012) for centuries in Japan. Contemporary Japanese textile and fashion designers have integrated technological advancements with this traditional cultural knowledge, resulting in inventive and imaginative textiles. Think of Issey Miyake and his Pleats Please, which transformed new materials using traditional techniques, resulting in awe-inspiring new designs.


Yoshiko has worked with Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo, Kenzo & many other designers, pushing the possibilities of traditional methods within contemporary design. She is a preeminent expert on shibori and indigo in contemporary design. As president of the World Shibori Network, Yoshiko brought her wealth of knowledge to our Toronto studio. Her workshop was a world of inspiration that has continued since her visit, and which we will explore in later posts.


Participants learned four main shibori techniques: binding, stitching, folding and pole-wrapping. Yoshiko often spoke about how in shibori the material undergoes a dimensional transformation. We begin with a two-dimensional, flat piece of fabric. We then fold, gather, stitch and block, experimenting with various shibori methods to transform fabric into a smaller, manipulated, three-dimensional shape. The transformed cloth is then dipped in the indigo vat where its exposed areas are dyed. The resulting print, or two dimensional fabric that emerges once un-bound, can embody wonderful qualities of strength or subtlety, playfulness or boldness: the possibilities are nearly endless. The resulting dyed piece has always an element of the unexpected:

Yoshiko-Workshop_Textile_Studio7 Yoshiko-Workshop_Textile_Studio10Yoshiko-Workshop_Textile_Studio13


“All the variables attendant on shaping the cloth and all the influences that control the events in the dye vat or pot conspire to remove some of the shibori process from human control. An analogy is that of a potter firing a wood-burning kiln. All the technical conditions have been met, but what happens in the kiln may be a miracle or a disaster. Chance and accident also give life to the shibori process, and this is its special magic and strongest appeal” (Wada, Rice & Barton, 1983, p. 7).

Two wonderful books from Yoshiko Wada to explore and learn Shibori techniques:

“Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing”, by Wada, Rice & Barton.

“Memory on Cloth: Shibori Now” by Yoshiko Wada.


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