Of infinite possibilities
The verb shiboru means "to wring, squeeze and press" in Japanese. While the word shibori is often associated with the famous style of fabric dying particular to Japan, it in fact encompasses a wide gamut of fabric manipulation and dying found worldwide.
Shibori has come into popular usage to cover this full range of techniques and styles because there is no English equivalent. "In fact, most languages have no term that encompasses all the various shibori techniques, nor is there any English terminology for individual methods, which often have been incorrectly lumped together as "tie-and-dye."
Three terms for separate shibori methods have come into international usage: plangi, a Malay-lndonesian word for the process of gathering and binding cloth; bandhani, an Indian term for the same process; and tritik, a Malay-lndonesian word for stitch-resist. However, these three terms represent only two of the major shibori techniques. In this context, the word shibori seems the most useful term for the entire group of shaped resist textiles." Source: World Shibori Network
Shibori can also be defined by what it is not: shibori as a technique for dying cloth differs from that of ikat where the thread is dyed prior to weaving the fabric, and from techniques like batik, ajrakh, mud cloth and tsutsugaki which make use of resists and mordants painted onto the cloth, such as wax, mud or rice-paste.
The ancient art of manipulating cloth through tying, stitching, knotting or otherwise securing it, and then dyeing it to achieve specific coloured patterns binds cultures across space and time: from the earliest surviving examples of tie-dye found in Peru dating from around 500 AD, to the clamp-and-dye practiced in Japan, zha-ran of the Bai ethnic group in China, bandhani from the Indus River Civilisation and leheriya in Rajasthan, to plangi and tritik in Indonesia, nambu tigma in Tibet, to the tie-dye in West Africa and Berber communities, and to the psychedelic tie-dye of Western hippies.
Though each group has their own methods and styles, and final patterns and colours differ greatly, the overall technique is common to all.
This technique is called shibori.
“Many different types of shibori techniques have existed in the world. The oldest examples – pre-Columbian shibori alpaca found in Peru and silk found in fourth century tombs along the Silk Road in China – are from regions where the shibori traditions have not survived to the present day.
Shibori traditions existed for centuries in the Middle East and in the Indian subcontinent. Presently, active production in great quantities continues in western Africa, in southern China by minority people, and in the western regions of India. A lesser degree of production continues in northern Africa, the Middle East, Indonesia, and in the Himalayan region.
The materials and methods found in different shibori traditions vary widely, reflecting environmental, economic, and social specificities. The fibers may come from alpaca in the highlands of the Andes, sheep in the Himalayas, cotton grown in southwestern China, or from abaca grown in the jungle of the Philippines. The basic concept of shaped resist dying is apparent throughout a wide range of aesthetics, which are manifestations of cultural diversity.” Source: World Shibori Network
There are countless ways in which fabric can be manipulated to create shibori - it can be bound, folded, twisted or compressed; stitched, clamped or knotted. Each method results in different patterns, determined by how the fabric absorbs and resists dye; thus the intensity of the dye bath and the fabric composition and thickness are equally as important to the end result. But part of the mystery and magic of shibori is that the artist can never be sure of the final look. An element of surprise is always present.
"Perhaps it is the lack of control one has in using the shibori technique that creates its allure. It is a meticulous process, and yet, there is an element of