Shibori comes from the Japanese verb root shiboru meaning “to wring, squeeze, press”. It is an ancient technique of creating patterns through resistance -- be it binding, stitching, folding, twisting, or compressing. While it is often associated with indigo dye, the shibori technique can be used with a multitude of dyes. Modern methods employ poles, ropes, hardware pieces, clamps, and rubber bands to create a variety of patterns and designs without the meticulous laboring of hand-stitching.
These methods of resistance dyeing are not unique to Japan, but also seen throughout Africa (batik), India (handhani), South America, and Asia (tritik and plangi). The techniques have been used by a variety of cultures for centuries.
The indigo plant, indigofera tinctoria, is grown all over the world in tropical landscapes. The plant leaves are fermented in a lengthy process to create its signature deep blue dye — the most widely used natural dye in the world. Fabric is dipped into dye and when removed and exposed to oxygen, the yellowish green color of the liquid dye turns blue.
While the resistance techniques of folding and stitching can be exacting, there is always an element of surprise when unwrapping the bound fabric, each item its own unique piece of art.
To learn more about exquisite art form, visit Seattle’s Asian Art Museum’s Indigo exhibit running through October 9th. Recommended reading: INDIGO: The Color That Changed the World by Catherine Legrand.