Shibori at Bryan Whitehead’s Farm Japan

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Stitching techniques for shibori, we learned, could be very labor intensive. Bryan Whitehead gave us “homework” that involved extensive stitching to create designs. We also learned to fold and stitch to create repetitive patterns. We used a post card book to look at possible folding and stitch patterns and, then, tried to recreate these design.


The post card book was of Arimatsu designs and I picked up a few copies at the Craft Museum in Tokyo.

The patterning provided a surprise for the novice and I found it to be a fun part of shibori surface design work.

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Arimatsu Shibori is a comprehensive book showing the results of different stitching patterns. There are beautiful plates of shaped resist dyeing samples in this 153 page book, printed in Japan in 2008. An essay by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada expains the world history of shibori and discusses contemporary fiber artists at the forefront of this process.

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Both these books provide a glimpse into the possibilities of stitching for Indigo (or other) dyes.

The Complete Japanese Tie-Dyeing

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Spending 10 days at a workshop at Bryan Whitehead’s farmhouse outside Tokyo, Japan, I learned some basics of indigo dyeing and surface design techniques. I was particularly interested in the books that Bryan used for reference in learning patterning techniques. One day this book was sitting on his work table and I could hardly wait to obtain a copy.


If you can’t go to Tokyo soon, here is one of the best books on tie dying, indigo techniques. The book gives examples/directions for most indigo related surface design work. The book is divided into sections: Close-Wound Binding, Stitch Techniques, Techniques Using a Binding Stand, Techniques Using the Right-Angle Hook, Bound Dots, Techniques Using the Folked Bamboo Stand, Pole-Wrapping Techniques, Innovative Dyeing Techniques, Special Techniques.

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The Complete Japanese Tie-Dyeing (Shiborizome Taizen) by Hiroko Ando is a Japanese publication. Even though the text is in Japanese there are photographs that show each step of the dyeing process and a picture of the results. This is not a small book. The book is 270 pages of techniques for tying, sewing, wrapping cloth for indigo dyeing. I have heard it referred to as the “Bible for Shibori”.

More of the books recommended, during this workshop, by Bryan will follow from this post.

Wandering through Art Book Stores in Tokyo

Kinokuniya Shinjuku Main Store

The main store of Kinokuniya Bookstore has 8 floors of books. The 6th floor has foreign language books with excellent architecture, art and photography.
The 4th floor has art/craft/photography books in Japanese. This is the place to find photography books on Japanese photographers, interesting books on textile crafts, design books, and art books on Japanese painters.

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When the store opens the associates greet the customers as they come into the store on every level. It is a very kind gesture.kuni-greeting

The Shelf

On the way to the Watari Art Museum is a unique photography bookstore specializing in new and hard- to-find photography books on international artists. This small bookstore is full of surprises that range from unique artists books to definitive monographs on photographers. The owners have owned the store since 1994.

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Watari Museum


The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art is right around the corner. The bookstore in the museum has a personality all its own. The first floor carries cards but not just greeting cards (although there are plenty of those). The museum store features cards, carefully divided alphabetically, with photographs of artists or artists’ work. The file takes up one side of the room sharing the space with plenty of unique gift items.

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Downstairs is a great art bookstore that includes a cubbby-hole where artists are working on funky creations, reusing existing materials. This is the T.R.I.P. store within a store.

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The bookstore carries new and used art books on unusual and hard to find artists, photography books and books on architects.


Cow Books

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Cow Books is in the Meguro neighborhood of Tokyo. This small and intimate bookstore focuses on counterculture, poetry and beat generation books. However, out of print, unusual photography books are also abundant. Some of the rare photography books are in locked cases or on shelves. There is also a surprising and interesting assortment of small artists books. The bookstore, itself, is an example of minimalist architecture. Glass doors open to a long library table where one can study the books or find/buy/write on old travel postcards. The neighborhood is on the Meguro River and one can meander through elegant boutiques and restaurants.

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Photo Art Komiyama Tokyo: Jimbocho



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The Jimbocho area of Tokyo has a neighborhood of bookstores, blocks long. The books spill out in alleyways and sidewalk kiosks. Hoards of booklovers frequent the many stalls and stores intent on finding their particular brand of books treasures. I always head for my favorite art bookstore: Photo Art Komiyama Tokyo. There are 3 floors of art books with a fourth floor of original artwork and prints. The first floor has an amazing collection of photography books. The second floor specializes in books on painters and art genres. The third floor specializes in books on fashion and textiles. Minutes can turn into hours looking through the unusual books available in this store. The number of people on a Friday in the Jimbocho book area is astounding and a heartwarming reminder that the small bookseller is still relevant.

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Jimbocho Street Scene



Dorothy Caldwell

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A few lucky students were able to participate in Dorothy Caldwell’s workshop, Human Marks, held at Maiwa Textile Symposium, September 2015, in Vancouver BC. When I visited, there was a air of excitement and productivity as the students were viewing a slide show of Caldwell’s extensive travels and inspirations. Strips of paper, mark making examples done by the students, were hanging from one wall.

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Examples of Kantha embroidery were spread on tables.

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There were beautiful examples of mark making, on paper, using subtractive techniques.

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For those not able to take a Caldwell workshop, there is a new book, “Silent Ice/Deep Patience”, that has been published by the Art Gallery of Peterborough. This is a Catalogue for the traveling exhibition, held at the gallery, from March 21 to June 22, 2014, at the Idea Exchange, from January 16 to March 1, 2015 and at St. Mary’s University Gallery, from March 21 to May 17, 2015. This extensive, 62 page catalogue, explores the connections between Caldwell’s mark making and her travels and sense of place. This particular exhibition is the result of her travels to the extreme landscapes of the Australia Outback and the Canadian Arctic. According to the foreword “Dorothy Caldwell continues to be interested in our ways of “marking” our landscape; from the delineation of property to the marks and tracks that develop in the still wild regions. These marks accumulate, building a sense of place and molding the memory of all that has occurred on the land; the natural phenomena and the human interactions. Caldwell has been drawn to textile as the medium that can best translate her observations into an art form”. An example of her work published in the catalogue is called “How We Know when It’s Night? (2010).

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Other than her inclusion in the excellent series “Art Textiles of the World: Canada” and some rare, out of print catalogues, this is the best resource for information on Caldwell’s work.

Slow Stitch


Claire Wellesley-Smith has just published an exciting new book on textiles: Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art. The excitement I feel about this book is partly about presentation and partly about a new philosophy Wellesley-Smith imparts to textile work. The book is about materials and techniques, cross cultural inspirations, and activities to help the reader explore a reflective and mindful stitching practice. The book has beautiful plates with examples of Wellesley-Smith’s work to illustrate key issues around sustainability, reuse of materials, natural dyeing techniques.

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Also included are artists that exemplify this “slow stitching” movement such as Lotta Helleberg. Helleberg uses local plants to make fabric dyes for natural printing processes. Her concern is with the fragility of the environment. Through her use of natural material and hand stitching, she creates art quilts, textile collages, artists’ books, and other objects.

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Another artist featured in this book is Alice Fox who creates a sense of place in her work. Using printmaking and mark making techniques, she builds up layers of marks. The piece featured in the book has been made with bottle tops found in the street in various locations and is called, appropriately, 25 Beer Bottle Tops.

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Part Four of the book discusses ways to have a contemplative sewing practice by making sewing journals (a regular practice), stitching in community, using nature by walking and mapping.

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This is a beautiful book in every way; from the cover design, illustrations, text, thoughtful organization and content. It is a book to have on a library shelf, to take down to read and re-read, for philosophic thoughts and ideas as well as textile inspiration.

Arashi Shibori




The cover of Yoshiko Wada’s book “Shibori: Now” displays work by Jan Morris. This book and another book by Wada (Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing) are the most important books on the historical and practical practice of the Japanese creation of shaped-resist patterns on cloth. These books discuss the way fabric can be “tied, clamped, folded, or held back during dyeing, to keep some areas from taking color.”

Jan Morris recently offered a class on Arashi Shibori through Botanical Colors in Seattle. Botanical Colors, owned by Kathy Hattori, sells natural dyes and accessories.


Hattori invited Morris to run a workshop in the Sunset Hills, Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Jan Morris, in this excellent workshop, taught 12 students the practicalities of making a variety of indigo dye pots, and techniques for different types of Arashi Shibori and Karamatsu Shibori. Working on five hot days, the students learned to wrap fabric on PVA piping in a technically correct manner to produce a variety of designs.


The way the fabric was wrapped and re-wrapped produced a variety of designs. Fabric samples were dipped in the different indigo dyes, numerous times, unwrapped and washed to unveil magnificent designs.



The class also learned to tie samples to make Karamatsu Shibori. Incorporated with the Arashi Shibori, beautiful designs were produced by the students.



Kathy Hattori had prepared large “garbage can” pots of indigo where students could dye their “poles” in groups. Arashi

Apparently Jan Morris will be returning in a few years to teach with Botanical Colors again. The class, in August, was full with a waiting list. There were twelve lucky participants from across the US. An interested student of surface design should get on the Botanical Colors mailing list for this class and others. Meanwhile, the books are a wonderful source of inspiration for the student of shaped-resist dyeing.

Lamerto Vitali on Giorgio Morandi

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Dipinti: Catalogo Generale Volume Primo 1913/1947 and Secondo 1948/1964. Boxed set. Electa. 1994.

When I started ordering books on Morandi, I would send to Italy and take a chance on the quality of the books. I soon learned to order books written by Lamberto Vitali. The quality of the book and reproductions would always prove to be excellent. Now I know that Lamberto Vitali was a contemporary and friend of Morandi. Vitali was also an art critic and very early collector of Morandi’s paintings. He published the definitive Catalogue Raisonne of the 590 paintings of the artist. Volume Primo includes the years 1913/1947 and Volume Secondo, the years 1948/1964. The volumes are housed in a colorful slipcase and published by Electa. The first edition was published in 1977, the second in 1983, and a third in 1994.

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The evocative introductory essay (in Italian) by Vitali “warns” about the logistics of the “system” he uses, in the catalogue, to keep track of the paintings. It is still a system used by scholars to keep track of the work. Morandi only used the title “Landscape” (“Paesaggio”) and “Still-Life” (“Natura Morta”) to title his works so a numbering system became imperative. There is a scaled drawing (beside each numbered black and white reproduction of the painting) showing the work, to scale, against a meter square. Each work is numbered according to the year of creation, where the work was exhibited and in what years, the provenance of the painting and a biography of books that include the work.

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Occasionally there is a large scale, close up, of a painting showing an accurate example of the color and paint-style used by Morandi. For the serious Morandi student or collector of his work/books these volumes are invaluable study guides. Lamberto Vitali has (as associate, life-long friend and accomplished art critic and writer) accurately documented the progression of the work through the years . The few color plates that relate to the black and white examples, show the lushness and spontaneity of the paint. The two volumes are a loving tribute to the friendship of the two men.



Books on Giorgio Morandi


Georgio Morandi: The Art of Silence. Janet Abramowicz. Yale University Press. New Haven and London. 2004.

Books on Morandi are plentiful. Because they abound, it is difficult to decide which of the many books is valuable to a reader/artist/student. Many books are written on Morandi’s work with plentiful and lush photographs of the paintings, watercolors and prints. Some of the biographies are surveys of work done in certain periods of Morandi’s life or are documents of some of the genres in which he worked or complete catalogues of his work. Janet Abramowicz’s book, The Art of Silence, is, in my opinion, the best way to start a survey of the work of this important artist. It is a very quiet, cautious, careful book; much like the paintings she describes so well. Abramowicz became Morandi’s teaching assistant and subsequently visited his house daily, watching his work evolve, and learning his history. She became intimate with his working methods and thought process. After Morandi died, she continued her friendship with Morandi’s three sisters. Having unique access to Morandi’s correspondence, she is able to trace the history of his friendships, the development of his paintings and etchings and the history of significant Italian art movements. Particularly interesting is previously undocumented information about Morandi’s political involvement in the days of Mussolini. Because Morandi only titled his work as “landscape”, ”sill life”, “flowers”, Abramowicz explains how Lamberto Vitali (friend and author of the catalogue raisonne) devised a numbering system of Morandi’s work which, in subsequent study, resolves confusion. This book is amply illustrated with works to illustrate her essays. The “selected biography” is helpful to the beginning student trying to understand Morandi’s work on an intellectual level. There is a good and helpful “index”. The book includes 41 color and 71 black and white illustrations and is 267 pages. Abramowicz writes beautifully, concisely and with authenticity as she draws a portrait of Morandi as an engaged and intellectual individual. She dispels the myth of Morandi as a lonely recluse. He did, however, choose to live in the same house with his sisters for a lifetime (choosing to go to the country house in later years during the summer months). She does not comment on the stability of this choice or whether he was drawn to another lifestyle. The more emotional side of his personality still remains a mystery. Other than commenting on disappointments or disagreements the reader is left wanting to discover more about the maker of such quiet poetic pieces.



Punk by Junko Oki

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Junko Oki has created a beautiful and inventive new book called: Punk. I have seen images of her work on the internet and wondered how she does her stitching. This book answers that question with images reproduced in close-ups that show her labor intensive, free style embroidery work in vivid detail. The book, itself, is wonderful to hold; designed by Hiroki Ban on flat, medium paper, with exposed binding, and housed in a cardboard slipcase.

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The images in this book show how the work is finished and displayed. There are photographs of flat work and her more sculptural pieces.

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And then the surprise feature of the work. There is a thumbnail image of each item at the back of the book with a poetic and personal narrative about the piece. Oki writes: “In this book, there are 115 short narratives attached to each of the works included in this collection. As I wrote the narratives, I looked attentively at the photos I took of my works and went on a trip deep inside my conscious mind. Collectively, the works were none other than a reflection of me, maybe even embarrassingly so. I desired to expose myself even more through my works; I wanted to be true to myself. What else matters? That is the one thing that I know I am good at. I remember the faces of people who have crossed my path. Will you keep watching me throughout my journey?”

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Yes. I will keep following Junko Oki and hope she will keep sharing her work and her thoughts.

Books on Sati Zech



There are a variety of books published about the Berlin sculptor Sati Zech. The energetic red or black, collaged and reconstructed, cloth and paper pieces vibrate with a unique rhythm and strong visual language.


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. The collages, of canvas or paper, are glued and stitched together in multiple layers. The artist started creating “domes” or “mounds” in 2001 which are usually painted red and called “Bollenarbeiten”. Dr. Fritz Jacobi explains in the book “Rauschrot: Sati Zech”: “”The simplification of the elements of detail as mound-like, bush-formed or egg-shaped—always capped on one side by a straight line—permits a flexible playing with segments and an unencumbered disposal over the entire expanse of each individual work. Nevertheless, the rows and bisected forms take on a more strict, measured treatment, which brings to mind the irregular ornamentation of heraldry. References to gradation, stratification, landscape and earth are embedded in the layers” ( page 39).

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Sati Zech’s early collages, (plates in exhibition catalogues from the 1990’s), show her affinity to cloth which she eventually started using. The muted earth tones and strong blacks give way, in the current work, to her use of reds.

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Sati Zech Im Roten Kafig: Arbeiten 2001 – 2006 is 92 pages and published by the Galerie Berlin. This book is filled with close-ups of the collage/paper work. There is one fold-out page that shows the installation of the work and a wonderful photograph of the studio and working process.

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