Learning Shibori Dying

Getting my hands dirty is something I look forward to. Dying my hands blue….well, that was new for me until recently. I took a Shibori dying class this weekend, and as always, learning something new and unrelated to anything else I’m involved with, tends to inspire me in unexpected ways. Not only did I learn about the historical significance of indigo, but also practical information about working with natural dyes. I can admit this now, after the fact, that I didn’t realize indigo was a plant. I guess I always assumed it was a mineral or chemical compound, but it’s actually a crop, one that’s making a major comeback on American farms. Who knew! Well, you might have known, but I certainly didn’t.

The class was organized by The Maker’s Collective, taught by Catherine Cross of the Summer Blues Indigo Dying Workshop, and hosted at Knack here in Greenville, SC. Our group spent the first hour watching demonstrations of different techniques, learning an overview of Shibori dying, followed by two hours of our own hands-on experiments. We used clothespins, rubber bands, clamped plywood, and lots of other random stuff to resist the dye in certain areas, creating all sorts of interesting and unpredictable patterns on test fabric, and eventually “real” stuff like clothing. I brought some white leather scraps from my studio, just to see if it would work, and was thrilled with the results. It was such a blast!

 A few of my finished pieces

A few of my finished pieces

Some of my pieces turned out beautifully, but most did not. I couldn’t get the dye to do exactly what I wanted, but it’s nice to give up control sometimes. Here’s why my so called failures are actually good for the health of my creativity:

I need freedom to fail sometimes. I need freedom of process, to experiment with new mediums that may or may not complement the work I do for my handmade business Once Again Sam. My average day is filled with production, making finished items to fulfill orders, all of which have to look a certain way. My business is booming, which is exciting, but I don’t often have time to just dabble and screw around in the studio like I used to. I have to be diligent with my time and make make make, otherwise by business might fail.

The thing is, my business won’t fail just because I took a few hours one Saturday afternoon to go learn something cool like Shibori dying rather than working on orders. It’s healthy to get out once in awhile and try something new, just for fun, just to keep my creative juices flowing. Experimenting with different mediums is how my business started, and I have to step back and remember that, and choose to pursue more of it, because it will help me grow. Afterall, I’m a maker (who currently has blue hands), not a factory.