For the past two weeks, I’ve been on the cloth road with friends in Japan. My long-awaited visit to the shibori town of Arimatsu, a former post town on the feudal Tokaido Road, had finally arrived. Since the early Edo Period (1600s), this has been a center for shibori. With more than 100 types of patterns, these skilled artisans take three years of fundamental training to learn the basics.
Upon arriving, we wound our way to the Shibori Kaikan (hall) following the concrete posts, street banners, and shop signs all made from shibori techniques. Stores filled with high-end to little gifts products beckoned us but we hurried to our appointed time at the museum-like Kaikan.
These two women have been creating shibori for most of their lives. Suzue Nakashima is now 95 years old and has been practicing for 80 years. Sumie Fujiwara, 76 years old, has been tying for almost 50 years.
Our final treat was visiting the workshop of modern shibori master, Tsuyoshi Kuno, who creates fabrics for international couture, interior designers, and performers. Following a tour of his workshop and dyeing facilities, we learned a folded-resist pattern created by clamping the fabric between wooden blocks and dip dyeing parts of it.
Our visit here was too short but isn’t that always the case when traveling to a country so rich in textile traditions. When I return to the States, and not writing a blog on the go, I promise more details on our Arimatsu visit. Until then, shop for the season at Clothroads.com. There is no better gift than one made by artisans’ hands.