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Ana Lisa Hedstrom’s Shibori

Whether it’s paper, silk, wool felt, or digitally printed polyester, artist Ana Lisa Hedstrom has worked with it all.  With forty years of experience, she’s a genius in dyeing textiles and experimenting with different effects and techniques to create something new.  However, much of her experience and experimentation result from one dyeing technique: shibori.

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Ana Lisa Hedstrom: the Susan-Cooley Gilliom 2019 Artist in Residence

In the 1970s, Ana Lisa discovered shibori, a resist-dyeing technique that involves folding, pleating, scrunching, sewing, and then binding textiles before dyeing them, which creates a pattern from the areas that have resisted the dye and a uniquely textured surface.  Shibori encompasses numerous variations of its methods, each with its own name and association with a particular pattern style. For example, arashi shibori involves wrapping fabric around a pole, binding it with thread, then squeezing the fabric into a crinkled mass at the end of the pole, which creates diagonal lines that resemble a rainstorm.  Other methods include nui shibori, in which the fabric is sewn with a straight stitch and the thread is pulled tightly before dyeing, and kanoko shibori, which produces small circle patterns from the fabric being gathered in small sections and bound with thread.  

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Arashi Shibori technique

Since shibori methods are complex and often labor-intensive and time-consuming, shibori is regarded highly among Japan’s traditional arts, and has a history of producing desirable textiles.  Hundreds of years ago, the elite of Japan’s imperial court used fabric with shibori designs for their ornate kimonos, some of which were entirely covered with kanoko shibori and could require hundreds of thousands of tiny bound circles for one kimono.  The elite were so enamoured with shibori textiles that sumptuary laws were passed forbidding the merchant class from owning them. With such widespread appeal, shibori remained a favored textile method for centuries and it wasn’t until the 20th century that interest in it started to decline.  Luckily for shibori, the 1960s brought the dyeing technique international attention in the form of tie-dye T-shirts, which led to artists and hobbyists in Japan and the U.S. learning the traditional forms of shibori.

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As shibori increased in popularity, artists like Ana Lisa Hedstrom learned the methods and began to experiment with shibori in their artwork.  In Ana Lisa’s case, her art is still inspired by traditional Japanese aesthetics and embraces all aspects of resist-dyeing, but in ways that are far from conventional.  Her recent installations, “Origami Folds: Patterning Paper Kimonos” and “Folded and Flat: Revealing the Geometry of Paper Airplanes,” feature work she’s done with paper that is folded and dipped in indigo dye on both sides to create a series of striped, geometric patterns that she repeats to create a larger pattern from the dyed paper.  When asked about why she turned to paper as a medium for shibori techniques, she said: “I often tell my students that shibori is a conversation between the substrate or material, the process, and the dye. The possibilities are endless. I love the indigo blue for my folded paper pieces, both aesthetically and technically.”  

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From "Folded and Flat: Revealing the Geometry of Paper Airplanes"

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Visitors at Ana Lisa's Open Studio Hours

Attendees of the indigo and shibori workshop at Blue Line Arts on October 16th and 17th got to see for themselves just how endless the possibilities are when using shibori techniques with indigo dye as they worked on their own samples under the tutelage of Ana Lisa Hedstrom.  The workshop area was arranged to show students different examples of shibori techniques, including arashi shibori, nui shibori, and itajime shibori (a technique that involves folding the material, pressing it between two boards, and clamping it together). These samples provided colorful inspiration for everyone in the workshop as they used shibori techniques on their small fabric pieces, resulting in striking patterns and textures. 

Working on small fabric samples allows for experimentation and practice, which is something Ana Lisa recommends to all beginning dyers: “To develop a personal signature, it does require a lot of practice. I tell my students to follow their own work, finding the fabric that speaks to them, then experimenting and experimenting. There are endless discoveries.”  

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Hedstrom's textile exhibition on display through October 26th

If you are interested in shibori, natural dyes, and Ana Lisa Hedstrom’s art, make sure to visit Blue Line Arts to see Ana Lisa’s solo show in the Coker Family Main gallery until October 26th or sign up for her next workshop on Natural Dyes and Shibori on October 25th and 26th. 

For more information on Ana Lisa Hedstrom and her art, visit her website,  https://analisahedstrom.com/

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Ana Lisa Hedstrom and Co-Director MaryTess Mayall

Article & Photography by Alisa Sakakura