June 1-2, 2013- from Japan

The past two days were spent at the Arimatsu shibori festival.  My friend Richard took a booth and we sold both our work there.  His Japanese language skills are great since he’s lived here for over 21 years but it really was a stretch for me.  I got by, but by the end of the day my brain hurt.  Even still, it was fun and informative.  We were a curiosity to be sure.  We were the only foreigners selling shibori (maybe I should restate that- the only caucasians selling shibori-and making it ourselves at that).  The saddest part to me is that the festival seems to have been buried under a mountain of imported chinese made shibori. As such, much of what I really love about shibori is missing.  To me, shibori is about invention.  But in today’s world, those would be inventive types have left shibori families seeking higher ground- or you might also say their survival instincts took over and they sought out jobs where they could more easily support themselves and their families.  These days, most of the shibori you will see here at the festival is tied in China (or even somewhere else) and *maybe* still dyed here in Japan.  That’s not to say there are not artisans spread throughout Japan here and there doing fine, innovative, and high quality work-it’s just not showing up at the festival.  Then again, it is a street festival and you can’t expect folks to pay gallery prices at a street festival.  All that being said, it is still a fun and exciting summer street festival.  It is really fun watching the shibori fasion show-probably about half the people don some sort of garment or shibori accessory.  Here are some highlights:

arashi shibori- indigo on cotton early showa period-about 80 years ago.

arashi shibori- indigo on cotton early showa period-about 80 years ago.

I think this is possibly the best piece of arashi I have seen.  And in indigo!  Not typical of arashi-note the diamond effect that in my experience can be created by twisting the fabric as it is pushed up the pole.  The consistency of this piece is amazing.  AND it was a nearly if not completely full bolt-10 meters.  A great find. Not by me but by this fellow:

shibori collector

shibori collector

for some reason, he came over to me and in halting English told me he was “all shibori”. He pointed out his kimono (mokume), his under kimono (tegumo shibori), and all the accessories.  All shibori. All vintage or antique and all top quality.  This guy had an eye for the best stuff.  When I showed an interest, he started pulling some finds out of his bag.  He had found some excellent shibori and the above piece was only one-but my favorite.  He said he had been collecting for 10 years.  Before that he said he collected Japanese porcelain for 25 years.  I’d love to see that collection too.  He gave me his information and I intend to follow up!  Just for the education.  I can only imagine.  I was glad to see someone there who had a real love for the art form collecting like that.  And wearing it.  Very cool.

Moving on-

shibori homework!

shibori homework!

These kids were collecting information on all the different kinds of shibori and how they were made.  It was a homework assignment and I was happy to help! Remember when our kids had to study shibori and traditional crafts in public school?  ((!!))

master of tegumo shibori

master of tegumo shibori

I was glad to see this lady was still there.  I think she is the oldest one demonstrating on the street.  Her hands fly!  Later, I will post a video of that.  It’s on my phone and right now my access is strictly cable internet.  Later on that.  I did get a chance to chat with her on the street though early in the morning the next day before the festival opened.  We were both looking over the ¥500 pile of fabrics at the antique sellers booth and I was able to tell her how much I appreciated her skill.  She was looking over an old kimono and remarking that it was a shame it was selling for ¥500.

shibori festival float

shibori festival float

One of the two shibori festival floats. These floats are about 400 years old as I understand it and they are brought out only at the festival.  They are large and heavy and moved by a crew of men who carry them out and turn them around in the street 2-3 times each day.  Again- video on that later.

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