Shibori & indigo dyeing textiles workshop in Fujino (Part 1)

Posted on October 26, 2018 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

indigo textiles workshop

 

Lately, I have beein trying to recall when I first became interested in textiles, initially I thought it was after seeing a Japanese textiles exhibition at MOMA years ago. But then I remember how I used to draw/sketch historical costumes after seeing them on TV drama series, and this made me realise that my interest in textiles and fashion began long before I was even consciously aware of it.

After running a solo business for over 6 years, I was feeling mentally exhausted and unispired. I was desperate to take a long vacation. I also wanted to go back to creating and making things – which I have missed after starting a business. I have done many short textiles courses on and off for years, but I have always considered them as my 'hobby'. When I finally decided to take my 6-month sabbatical, I wanted to learn crafts that I have always been interested in, and shibori was high on my list. After some research on the internet, I found Canadian textiles artist and teacher Bryan Whitehead's blog and I contacted him to enquire about his textiles workshop. Originally, he told me that all his workshops were fully booked until next year (!), but then about a month later he informed me that some people have dropped out and there were spaces available.

The 10-day indigo dyeing and shibori textiles workshop turned out to be the most intense, eye-opening, overwhelming and yet satisfying experience. Even though I have done some shibori before, it was pretty basic, hence I felt quite out of my depth at the beginning. I felt like I have jumped into the deep end of the ocean but somehow survived. I have never done so much stitching in my life and was shocked by how much I managed to achieve in such a short period of time. Looking back now, I can say that this workshop has led me to a new path, and it was the beginning of my indigo dyeing and shibori journey.

 

fujino  fujino

fujino

fujino

fujino

 

Bryan and his partner, Hiro (an ikebana artist and amazing cook), live in a 150 year-old traditional farmhouse surrounded by mountains in Fujino, Kanagawa (about 1.5 hour from Tokyo). This area used to be known for its silk farming, but this has ceased and now it is more notable for its tea plantation and art village.

About one month prior to the workshop, I received a box of 'homework' with instructions, materials and tools to be completed before the workshop. I was busy planning my 5-week trip and I completely underestimated the amount of work that was required. I also misread the illustrations and ended up stitching on bullet trains and in ryokans late at night trying to complete the rather long piece of textile.

 

fujino  img_1286

ikebana

fujino

fujino

cat  dog

 

Bryan has lived in Japan for almost 30 years, and since he moved to Fujino, he got to learn silk farming from the local villagers, but sadly he is the only silk farmer left in the area now. Besides silk, he also grows and harvests tea and indigo. I am amazed by how he manages his time – he weaves, dyes, and teaches, yet he was always full of energy during our 10-day workshop.

 

fujino  fujino

fujino

shibori  shibori

shibori  shibori

 

I had no idea what to expect before the workshop, and to spend 10 days with 10 women from different parts of the world could have been quite challenging. Luckily, we all got on pretty well and even set up a whatsapp chat group after the workshop.

Over the 10 days, we stitched and dyed endlessly. We even had to go to the river to bash the textiles like people did in the ancient times, but then I woke up the next day with a sore and stiff neck. Luckily, Bryan's excellent acupuncturist was called in and cured me from my textile-bashing injury!

 

fujino textiles workshop  fujino textiles workshop

indigo vat

shibori  fujino textiles workshop

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fujino textiles workshop

 

One thing that struck me at the workshop was how time-consuming it is to do stitch shibori and dye with indigo. Everything we did required time, patience, and focus, and we could not rush anything. I honestly was a bit clueless before. My final piece was dipped 16 times, and I was working on it until midnight on the last night... I must have spent more than 50 hours making that piece from scratch! The experience totally changed my view on shibori and indigo dyeing, and I now understand the true value of handmade and handdyed textiles.

 

fujino  fujino 

fujino

fujino

fujino

 

Another highlight of the workshop was the amazing food freshly prepared and cooked by Hiro. He applied his flower arrangement skills to his food presentations, and every meal felt like a journey of the senses. Not only does he grow vegetables in the garden, he also goes foraging nearby. One day, he took us up to the hill at the back of the farm house to look for bamboo shoots, and hours later, we got to taste the freshest bamboo shoots on our plates!

On the last day, Bryan invited his 99 year old Japanese neighbour/student to make udon from scratch for us, and it was the best udon that I have ever tasted. Although Bryan and Hiro live in the rural countryside, they are never short of visitors, and there seems to be a a strong sense of community spirit. To me, their way of living and ideal, and I hope that I can live like that one day.

 

fujino  bamboo

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salad

fujino

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udon  udon

udon

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img_1488

 

To be continued...

 

 

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This post was posted in Food & dining, Travel, Nature, Anything Japanese, Japan, Textiles, shibori, indigo dyeing and was tagged with nature, Japan, Food & dining, textiles, shibori, indigo dyeing, Japanese craft, Fujino, Japanese textiles

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