It’s been an exhausting five days, with 7+ hours of meetings every day, followed by lengthy (until 1-2am) evening social events with our CEO and German coworkers. Between the full schedule and jet lag, I didn’t get much sleep, so when I finally got home last night, I collapsed into bed and slept the sleep of the thoroughly exhausted.
(In case you’re wondering what I do for a living, by the way, my background/experience is in software project management, but I’m mostly doing business process re-engineering for my current company. Basically I analyze what people in a particular division are doing, what tools they use, etc. and identify areas where we can make things more efficient, easier, and/or better. I also act as an unofficial ombudsman, taking people’s suggestions, concerns, and complaints, anonymizing them, and informing the executive team of anything that appears to be a systemic problem. It’s a really interesting position, since it means that I get to poke my nose into what every division is doing, and solve a diverse array of problems. One month I’ll be looking at customer service, the next month I’ll be solving some problems in marketing, or establishing a new analyst position. For a generalist like me, who is good at solving complicated, poorly-defined problems and hates being boxed in, it’s an ideal position. It’s also unusually far-sighted of the executive team to have someone in this position, as the company, while growing rapidly, is only about 200 people. Usually you don’t see someone in my role until the company grows considerably larger.)
Anyway, for obvious reasons, not much art got done amidst all the work and partying, but I learned a lot and had fun meeting everyone at the German office. I also spent a little bit of my free time reading up on shibori techniques and the different dyes I could use with shibori.
What is shibori, you ask? Shibori is tied-resist dyeing, which mostly comes in two forms: wrapping the fabric tightly with thread or string, or sewing a line or lines through the fabric and pulling the thread tight. Then the fabric is dyed. The dye can’t penetrate to the tied/sewn areas, so those portions remain their original color, producing a pattern controlled by the dyer. (Karren Brito has written an excellent book, Shibori, that covers some shibori techniques and also has excellent technical information on fiber-reactive and acid dyes. She details how she makes her scarves, which are mostly arashi shibori, here.)
The main drawback to some forms of shibori, especially stitched shibori, is that they are quite slow: after all, sewing takes time, and if you are trying to cover a large area it can take quite awhile to finish even a relatively small piece.
Enter woven shibori! Woven shibori speeds up the tying process by weaving the ties directly into the cloth, using a supplemental warp, weft, or both. The supplementary warp/weft is not an integral part of the cloth; instead, it is pulled tight to create the resist, then clipped out and removed after the dyeing is complete. (You can read more about the technique in Woven Shibori by Catharine Ellis.) This allows creation of complex patterns, especially allover patterns, in far less time than it would take to sew them.
I see several opportunities in woven shibori. It offers me a way to merge the flowing, shaded work of dyeing with the rectangular grid of weaving, which is important to me since I feel these will form an important part of my artistic expression. Because I can clip out ties before dyeing, I can form larger patterns by removing the ties in certain areas, helping me break out of the limitations of shaft looms. And by playing with dyes, adding and discharging color, I can do some remarkably complex work.
Here are just a few of the possibilities/techniques/variables:
- Discharging color from pre-dyed fabrics to create complex color gradations
- Using two sets of ties to dye in a double pattern (using the ties either simultaneously or one after another)
- Using two different fibers and then dyeing with a dye that only affects one of them
- Clipping out some of the ties, so I can make imagery in the fabric
- Color and value in the piece
- Dyeing different areas with different colors
- Dyeing top and bottom of the tied fabric different colors
- Choosing the weave structure/pattern of the base fabric to complement the patterns of dye. (Most of Ellis’s examples in her book involve plain weave background, and I can see why – complex structures tend to disappear – but the few examples she shows of more complex weaves are intriguing.)
I’m significantly more excited about the possibilities in woven shibori than I am about tied weaves (at least for the moment), so when I return home I think I will cut off the taquete I’ve woven and rethread the loom in a threading appropriate for tied shibori. (Double two-tie threading with a 1:1 ratio turns out to be one of the few threadings that positively doesn’t work: the ties guarantee that there won’t be any long floats, and long floats are exactly what’s needed to create the folds of woven shibori.) I do need to test the black warp first, though, to find out whether it will discharge and if so to what color.
Simultaneously with this, I think I will explore some “regular” shibori, using some lengths of commercial silk fabric from my stash. It will give me an opportunity to learn about what can be done with shibori without laboriously hand-weaving fabrics, and if I stick to small pieces and the simpler forms of shibori, can probably be done fairly quickly.
How I’m going to fit that in with drawing, design, and possibly painting is not entirely clear, but I expect it will resolve itself in the usual way: things that I find boring fall by the wayside, things that interest me get more of my time and attention.
Meanwhile, chocolate season is coming, so I am starting to think about flavors…