Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing


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Informative and beautiful text.

Field of Interest/Specialty: Studio Art & Art History
Posted On: 12/09/2014

Reviewed by Kachina Martin, Studio Art & Art History instructor at Muhlenberg High School; grades 10-12
This text is an invaluable resource to the studio teacher or world history teacher who is interested in learning more about the intricately patterned fabric characteristic of many Japanese textiles. As one quickly learns through author Yoshiko Wada’s informative introductory chapter entitled “Tradition,” shibori was a wide-spread textile art. The intricate patterns created by this process were worn by both servants and emperors for centuries and was so valued that the finest examples were accepted as a form of payment for taxes. The word shibori has no direct English equivalent; the term encompasses a wide variety of ways in which to manipulate cloth through binding, stitching, twisting or tying, creating areas of resist to make an endless series of patterns. The chapter takes the reader from the Asuka and Nara periods – from when some the earliest examples of resist dyeing are preserved – to present day, when the author began to record and revive what was becoming a lost art. This section of the text is highly readable, with numerous drawings, fiber samples, kimonos and woodblock prints showing how the use of shibori was both widespread and common throughout Japanese history. This text might offer a unique and interesting way to introduce Japanese history to students through the study of these textiles, which speaks directly to the values, economy and history of Japan. For more information on textiles and the Japanese economy, refer to Everyday Things in Premodern Japan: The Hidden Legacy of Material Culture by Susan B. Hanley.
As a studio teacher currently teaching a course on fiber arts, I started my year with the students with the study of Shibori. I began with a lecture using images from the text, first showing the class a wood block print as an introduction (Kunichika “Narumi,” page 31 in the text), asking students to consider what was happening in the image and to discuss the use of the elements and principles. As I had hoped, students were interested in learning more about the patterned fabric that is found throughout the image as well as what the woman was doing. She is, in fact, binding cloth. What a wonderful way to offer students a sense of history, illustrating that they are taking part in a centuries old tradition of creating pattern on fabric.
After the introductory lecture, I demonstrated the following patterns: tazuna, kumo, mokume, ori-nui, and maki-nui, enabling students to create examples of both bound and stitched shibori. I introduced each technique with images of finished samples from the text as well as samples I had created; students worked on pieces of fabric measuring approximately 8x10 inches, allowing students the choice of where pattern would be placed. The lesson took about four weeks, and the final project was the adornment of a pillowcase. Students were required to use a minimum of 3 shibori patterns in their composition. Both the final piece and samples were dyed once, however, if time allowed, the instructor could use multiple dye baths to create layered patterns.
This text is best suited to use by the instructor, however, I did have two students borrow the text to find other patterns of interest to them to emulate. I highly recommend this text – it is one of best references in the field of Japanese textile patterns, with clear diagrams and instructions to create the patterns shown. My only wish would be for more of the text to be in color, however, the black and white images are clear and offer the reader the opportunity to closely examine the patterns. Wada’s second book, Memory on Cloth: Shibori Today, is an excellent resource as well; those interested in shibori should also reference the World Shibori Network at