SHIBORI refers to an ancient textile resist-dyeing technique that has been practised in many parts of the world. "Shibori" is a Japanese word used internationally nowadays to denote the technique. It consists of protecting selected areas of a fabric before dyeing it. The cloth is manipulated by folding, sewing, clamping, binding and/or knotting to prevent the dye from reaching the fibre. The result is a negative image, where the obstacle imprint is the figure and the dyed cloth the background (this is of course reversed in the discharge process).
The effects vary from the sharpness of a line to the softness of watercolour. Blurred outlines are obtained where the pressure is weak, whereas sharp outlines occur where a perfect barrier between colorant and fiber has been achieved. In shibori there is always an element of surprise, since the process cannot be totally controlled. Each piece is unique, and cannot be duplicated. Trying to find a balance between control and chance is particularly challenging. The artist must be able to anticipate the results and yet be responsive to the unexpected. The work created has a life of its own.
WASHI is the Japanese word for the traditional papers ("wa" meaning Japanese and "shi" meaning paper) made from the long inner fibres of mainly three plants, all native to Japan: kozo (paper mulberry), mitsumata, and gampi. In this series all the work has been created using kozo papers. It is the most widely used fibre, and the strongest.
To make the paper, branches of the bush are trimmed, soaked, the bark removed, and the tough pliant inner bark laboriously separated, cleaned, then pounded and stretched. The addition of the pounded fibre to a liquid solution, combined with tororo-aoi (fermented hibiscus root) as a mucilage, produces a paste-like substance when it is mixed. It is this "paste" which is tossed until evenly spread on a bamboo mesh screen (called a su) to form each sheet of paper. The sheets are piled up wet, and later laid out to dry on wood in the sun or indoors on a heated dryer.
These pieces were created by applying a shibori resist and immersing the paper in a dye bath. Although fragile when wet, washi will recover its strength when dry. Unlike cloth, it will keep the folds intact, creating a three-dimensional surface. Washi fibers accommodate the pressure of a clamp resist by stretching and contracting, resulting in a richly textured, embossed surface. The paper changes through the dye process and it becomes stiffer, and acquires a new shine.