Memories on Cloth: at Mendocino.

Now that I’m working more with shibori, I figured it might be a good idea to sign up for one of Yoshiko Wada’s workshops instead of stopping her at office and asking ad-hoc questions! So, last weekend I signed up for a 3-day intensive ‘Memory on Cloth’ workshop at the Art Centre in Mendocino.

Yoshiko started the session by stressing that it’s essential to thoroughly understand the material one is working with, in order to know why certain processes take place and at times they don’t. I don’t recollect her exact words but it was something like this – ‘Acknowledge and embrace your limitations (referring to limitations in materials and in a larger context, in ourselves). That is the first step in developing your technique or yourself.’

One of the first things she had us try, was de-gumming silk organza. This exercise was to help us learn how different proteins in the same fabric react differently. Silk organza is made up of fibroin and sericin. Using a process like Itajime, one can selectively degum the fabric to reveal the softer, shinier and opaque fibroin as against the crisp, darker sericin. When used on a dark coloured silk organza, some of colour runs out leading to an interesting interplay of colour and texture.


We also set up a natural indigo vat using Michel Garcia’s 1-2-3 fructose recipe. Coppery metallic sheen, clear brown reduced dye and lots of ‘hana’ and we were good to go.

brown reduced vatYoshiko also showed us how to prepare an anti-oxidant-rich veg stock, using scraps and peels. She advised us to use this solution for maintaining the vat and for not making it, simply because it’s difficult to gauge how much fructose is actually there in the stock. It differs based on the kind of scraps used. However, this serves as a great refresher for the reduction process while maintaining the vat.

peels and scrapsTwo shibori techniques we touched upon in the class were boshi and kumo. Yoshiko shared a lot of trivia about how different regions ( like China or Central Asia) use locally available materials / resources for the same techniques. She also explained how to dye yarn for ikat weaving ( that just went over my head as I’m not a weaver)

The Art Centre  was showcasing a natural dye exhibition (juried by Yoshiko) and we all were invited to attend. It was then that I realised, some of the exhibiting artists were actually my classmates in the workshop! Here are a few pieces I liked and could take pictures of. It became too crowded later on…

The final day was spent in going over a lot of  Yoshiko’s personal collection of textiles to understand how they’d been made as well as appreciate different sensibilities.As always, there were beautiful boro samples for us to feast on.

If you had the patience to read thus far, thank-you. But you may have noticed I really haven’t shared any finished work from the class. That’s because Yoshiko’s class focuses on understanding the context of materials and processes rather than practicing/mastering techniques ( I do have lots of test pieces resulting from different experiments). It’s attempting to understand the ‘science’ behind the shibori (as she puts it) or unraveling the ‘why’ rather than the ‘how’. So, for most parts of the three days, I was vigorously scribbling away notes but I did manage to try the ‘yanagi’ or the ‘willow’ pattern.



2 responses to “Memories on Cloth: at Mendocino.

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