May 24, 2018
Looking back on 5 years of teaching shibori
By Jennifer Fong
Pleating technique still wet and oxidizing from the vat.
I realize I’ve been teaching for over 5 years and thought it’d be fun to look back on all the great student work I’ve seen come through the classes.
Sometimes people ask me what shibori is. I always tell people that Japanese shibori is like “fancy tie dye”. Everyone always goes: ohhhh”.
In the beginning, I started out teaching shibori at Handcraft studio school in 2012. I was teaching each technique separately, doing a deep dive into pleating, stitch and binding. Each technique has such different characteristics. Pleating is quick and bold, stitch is more illustrative yet takes a bit longer and more planning and binding can go really big and impactful, or can be small scale too.
A beautiful setting inspires beautiful work at the Russian River
Then I started teaching at the beautiful Russian River. For 3 years, Johnson’s Beach generously hosted my workshops. My friends had bought the place and was trying to expand their customer base. I’d approached them and suggested a shibori retreat could be a great way to activate their space during summer months.
Retreats at Johnsons were a success, bringing friends and families together for a weekend of DIY crafting.
Upcycled duvet cover, Johnson's Beach July 2016
Shibori is one of the best ways to upcycle clothes without sewing. On top of that, everything the students make matches because they use one color, indigo! It ties together a perfect summer wardrobe in blue. It’s such a great way to use old clothes creatively.
Woven shibori by student
18 yards of fabric for a table cloth
Students brought amazing ideas to the shibori retreats. There was woven shibori, an 18 foot table cloth, and a 100 napkin project for someone’s wedding! I was super touched that the bride-to-be invited her aunt, her mom and her mom-in law to be.
Just look at all the blue hands and happy faces!
Finally after the third year, I decided to limit teaching to my garden studio. It was a lot of work to haul all the supplies up to the river. Now it’s less packing and planning to host with all my supplies and tools in the studio. I can teach in a more spontaneous way and go with the flow when our ideas occur. Each workshop is limited to 10 with plenty of space to move around.
I also started teaching with Michel Garcia’s 1-2-3 fructose indigo vat method. It requires heating up the water and a tiny bit more pre-planning in the fermentation stage, but wow, the color you get. It’s a more red cast blue and a much deeper shade.
Shibori in the garden studio, Berkeley, CA
Seeing what students bring to the classes is the most rewarding part of teaching for me. That, and sharing the magic of indigo dyeing as fabric oxidizes from green to blue. It never gets old. Once the pattern bundles are dyed, the unfurling and the reveal is always amazing.
If you’ve taken a shibori workshop from me, I’m curious to know if you have any questions or if you’ve continued to your shibori practice? If you’ve never done shibori before, I’d love to know what you might want to upcycle. Or if you’re a collector of textiles around the world, I’d love to see what inspires you. Please post in the comments below.