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What is Shibori?

SHIBORI (she-bo-ree) is an ancient tradition of creating patterns on cloth using multiple techniques to secure it in some way ? tie, fold, clamp ? so as to resist the penetration of dye into those areas.

More than half of the known creative techniques were invented in Japan, and the modern Japanese term ?shibori? describes this tradition practiced all over the world.

Cloth can be shaped in several ways by ingenious methods to create simple or complicated patterns when dyed.  It can be pinched, plucked, tied, bound, looped, knotted, stitched, pleated, crushed, wrapped, clamped, by tightly compressing it with string, thread, rope, boards, clamps, wax, and more before it is dyed.  Single or multiple types of resist, and single or multiple dyeing, result in myriad designs.  Further, the beauty of shibori is the unexpected effects and surprises when the cloth is freed from its fetters.

In India, archeological finds in the Indus Valley Civilization date it to 4000 BC and 700 BC in Peru. The tradition moved with the trade routes: west to the middle east, north, north-west and western Africa; north and east to Central Asia, China (400 AD), Korea and Japan; and to South East Asia.

In Japan, it reached its zenith in perfection in the mid-18th century in the town of Arimatsu, a rest stop on the Edo (Tokyo) - Kyoto Road.  It became the center of inventive resist-dyed indigo cloth. Supreme mastery of these multiple techniques resulted in exquisite kimonos .  With the adoption of western dress after World War II, shibori and kimonos severely declined in popularity.  By 1978, the Japanese public was only familiar with ?kanoko? (dots within rings or squares) shibori.

In 1983, with the publication of the book "SHIBORI" to preserve and document this ancient Japanese tradition, and with the teaching by Yoshiko Wada, shibori has inspired innovation in the vibrant modern art of contemporary Japanese and international artists.

The images in the book, "OPULENCE The kimonos and Robes of Itchiju Kubota"  of his 1981 exhibition in Kyoto, is a vision of color, perfection and breathtaking beauty.

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