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Shibori Guest Post: Cathy Ward

We received the following email from Cathy Ward: “I am very excited about the indigo class on Saturday! I went back to look at my blog post on when I visited the town in Japan that is famous for their shibori and I thought you might enjoy.” Well, we did — so much so we asked for her permission to “guest blog” for us, and she agreed. Thank you so much for sharing the experience and your beautiful photos with us, Cathy!

Streetscape from the town of Arimatsu, Japan. Photo by Cathy Ward

Arimatsu & Shibori

by Cathy Ward — ma vie trouvée (My found life: Traveling, eating, and creating art!)

The quaint town of Arimatsu is one of the most famous locations for shibori in Japan. I had read about it, so three of us “trailing spouses” hopped on the local train and headed about forty-five minutes outside of Nagoya for a visit. Eight families settled the town in 1608 and they have been creating this type of fabric ever since.

Shibori fabric scraps purchased in Arimatsu, Japan. Photo by Cathy Ward

Shibori is the Japanese word for the different ways of embellishing textiles by binding, stitching, folding, or twisting and securing it with string before dyeing – basically a form of tie-dyeing. The fabrics shown here are scraps I bought created in this style.

In Japan, the earliest known example of cloth dyed with the shibori method dates back to the 8th century.

Shibori was originally an art of the poor. People could not afford to buy new clothing, so they would repair and dye their old clothing using the shibori technique. The intricate pattern hid stains well, as in the example pictured below.

Shibori fabric detail. (Photo by Cathy Ward)

Eventually it became a technique of the rich, as a way to decorate the silk used for kimonos. There is a wonderful little museum in the town, Arimatsu-Narumi Shiborikaikan, where you can watch women creating many of the complex designs.

The basic technique of shibori is to draw a design on a piece of fabric (usually silk or cotton), then tie very tight knots with thread around points of the fabric. These women are so skilled they no longer need a pattern.

Shibori techniques demonstrated at the Arimatsu-Narumi Shiborikaikan museum in Japan (Photo by Cathy Ward)

Which technique is used in shibori depends not only on the desired pattern, but the characteristics of the cloth being dyed. Also, different techniques can be used in conjunction with one another to achieve even more elaborate results.

Shibori tied fabric ready to be dyed.  (Photo by Cathy Ward)
A completed example of shibori. (Photo by Cathy Ward)

I can’t image the time it takes to create one piece of material. Above is what it looks like just before dyeing…

Since the dye does not penetrate the knots, when they are untied there is a pattern of dyed and un-dyed areas. The fabric pictured at right is similar the pattern she was making.

These women were not young to be sitting all day in what is called “seiza position” (literally “proper sitting”) while they worked.

Shibori techniques demonstrated at the Arimatsu-Narumi Shiborikaikan museum in Japan (Photo by Cathy Ward)

Pictured above, this woman is actually folding the material in a fan pattern before wrapping the thread around it. See the water bottle? She sprayed the fabric periodically, probably making it easier to fold.

Result of fan folding and wrapping shibori technique. (Photo by Cathy Ward)

Her fabric will turn out like the one pictured above They did not speak English, but were able to communicate through their art. We also saw a video on the process, which was in English and very helpful.

Here are a few samples of different fabric in the museum. Indigo blue with white is the most traditional color, but today it is made in many of colors.

Indigo samples from the Arimatsu-Narumi Shiborikaikan museum in Japan. (Photo by Cathy Ward)
Indigo samples from the Arimatsu-Narumi Shiborikaikan museum in Japan. (Photo by Cathy Ward)
Indigo samples from the Arimatsu-Narumi Shiborikaikan museum in Japan. (Photo by Cathy Ward)
Indigo samples from the Arimatsu-Narumi Shiborikaikan museum in Japan. (Photo by Cathy Ward)

Pictured below is a scarf I bought — love the colors and the texture. It was made from linen, not silk.

Shibori scarf. (Photo by Cathy Ward)
Shibori fabric scraps. (Photo by Cathy Ward)

Pictured above are more scraps I bought. You know me, always collecting!

Shibori fabric scraps arranged into the start of fabric collages by Cathy Ward. (Photo by Cathy Ward)

I am starting to see collages with the scraps I purchased!

My last item to share is pictured below: a small purse I purchased that was made from some of the shibori fabric. This is the style they carry with kimonos.

Purse sewn from shibori fabric.  (Photo by Cathy Ward)

I hope this post inspires you — maybe you can wrap and dye some fabric using this special technique and see what you come up with. And be sure to share it with me!

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To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia

Ikat from the "To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia" exhibit at the he Freer|Sackler

I was able to run into the Washington DC one rainy afternoon and find a parking space close to the Freer|Sackler. Unheard of!

The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery — together, the Freer|Sackler, are the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art. These galleries are under-appreciated among the more well-known giants such as the Air and Space Museum and the Natural History Museum etc. But it was my destination for this visit because they had a wonderful exhibit featuring ikats from Central Asia.

To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia is a feast for the eyes. Within the exhibit there is documentation about Uzbekistan and the Fergana Valley creating the world’s most beautiful silk ikats. I will have to agree!

As a weaver in my previous art life, I can tell you it is pure magic to see these Warp and Weft Ikat in silk. I would have enjoyed seeing a loom set up — a missed opportunity by the curators in my opinion. In the gallery below (click to see larger versions) I’m sharing some of the photos I took, both of the textiles as well as garments, with meaning both couture and cultural.

To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia is on exhibit at the Freer Gallery of Art until July 29, 2018, and there are some wonderful entertainment and educational events planned in conjunction with it. If you are local, or visiting the Washington DC area for a summer trip, please take some time to visit.

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Revisited: Dye. Layer. Collage. Art.

I’m doing some springtime travel: presenting my Batik Adventure lecture and trunk show to the Colorado Quilting Council on Saturday, April 28, and also teaching my Woodblock Printed Collage Art Quilt for the group on Sunday, April 29. (FYI, this class will also take place May 19 at Artistic Artifacts.)

Lady with Brooch mixed media art quilt by Judy Gula

The workshop will take place at the Cottonwood Center for the Arts, in Colorado Springs, also home to Textiles West and my oft-mentioned friends Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution and Ruth Chandler, who are both are on the Textiles West board. I’m reminded of a Colorado visit nearly eight years ago, teaching a class titled Dye. Layer. Collage. Art. at a Textile Evolution Retreat. The quilt I made there is pictured above, my “Lady with Brooch.”

Art and inspiration are timeless, so while my original blog post about this 2010 event is no longer available, I wanted to share again, this time including additional photos taken by Liz.

Dyeing fabric in Colorado, Textile Evolution Retreat 2010The first day of class we were immersed in making what I called “bits,” the base materials for our creations. We began with dyeing fabrics, vintage linens, trims and more. In the high-altitude Colorado climate, we could dye in jars, set out in the sun for three hours, rinse and line dry, and use in our quilts — all in the same day! (While the process is not that speedy on the East Coast, I have several Dye Days on the schedule now that the weather is warming.)

Show and TeJl at Textile Evolution Retreat 2010Day one also found us using fabric, tissue paper and paints to create fabric paper. You can download Making Fabric from Paper by Beryl Taylor, a PDF tutorial from the Cloth Paper Scissors blog to learn how youreself. During the retreat we would finish out each day with show and tell, and in this photo (right) you can see finished sheets of fabric paper and piles of hand-dyed fabric being passed around. It was fun to see what students in the other classes were up to each day!

Judy Gula demonstrating making silk paper at Textile Evolution Retreat 2010

In addition to the daytime classes, each evening the instructors would take turns doing another fiber arts related demonstration and hands-on activity. Pictured above, I demonstrated making silk paper using silk fibers, Angelina, Jo Sonja Textile Medium and more, adding to our stash of bits to use. (View my tutorial on creating silk paper on the Artistic Artifacts website)

Lady with Brooch art quilt by Judy Gula, detail

The 'bits' used in  the Dye. Layer. Collage. Art class by Judy Gula at Textile Evolution Retreat 2010The above detail photo of my Lady with Brooch quilt shows some of the fabric paper and dyed trims, as well as the vintage brooch referenced in my title.

The second day of class, my students had a choice of continuing to make bits (a glimpse of which are pictured right; including some of the student work begun), or to immediately start in on designing their quilts. They had to do so without pencil, paper, or preplanning — just letting the materials speak to them.

This was scary for all, but thanks to Cass Mullane and Laura Cater-Woods, every retreat attendee was issued a ‘permission slip’ to try something scary!

Students beginning to design their collaged art quilts

By beginning with an inspiration item such as a pin, photo or found object, they all were able to create a small art quilt that could be easily finished (if necessary) after the retreat concluded. Above you can see students beginning to experiment with layering fabrics and textiles to find the design they wanted to complete.

Student work from Dye. Layer. Collage. Art class by Judy Gula at Textile Evolution Retreat 2010

I was very proud of my students — they all stepped into the scary land of intuitive designing! Unfortunately I didn’t capture all of the work, but they all did a fabulous job. Above and below, student work experimenting with possible layouts.

Student work from Dye. Layer. Collage. Art class by Judy Gula at Textile Evolution Retreat 2010

Below, Cathleen “Cat” Mikkelson’s collage composition.

Cat Mikkelson’s student work from Dye. Layer. Collage. Art class by Judy Gula at Textile Evolution Retreat 2010

Cat’s inspiration was a “Famous Woman Card” that was included in the retreat Goodie Bag and her newly dyed fabrics.

Ruth Chandler at work designing her fiber collage art quilts

Above, Ruth Chandler at work composing two different pieces.

Ruth Chandler’s student work from Dye. Layer. Collage. Art class by Judy Gula at Textile Evolution Retreat 2010

The beginning of another piece by Ruth Chandler from Dye. Layer. Collage. Art class by Judy GulaRuth’s inspiration was the beautiful dyed and surface designed fabric she created combined with the photo, one of many I brought with me for student use.

Here you see more of Ruth’s fabric, but for this piece, the inspiration was a 12 in. × 12 in. piece of scrapbooking paper! Other Artists who taught at Textile Evolution Retreat 2010 were Laura Cater-Woods, a wonderful art coach, artist and friend and Carol Sloan.

This was the first time I had met Carol and I wrote then that she was “a new friend who draws wonderful designs, creates very cool rusted fabrics and loves found objects… wonder why we get along!”

My mother Pat Vincentz accompanied me on the trip to the retreat. While I was busy teaching, she took Carol’s two-day mixed media class Scraps, Fragments and Artifacts. She enjoyed herself, met new friends and then surprised me with the most wonderful quilt ever!

There was a photo of me and my mom holding it, me sweaty and sobbing. With my first blog post, I wrote that my readers were to “Keep in mind this quilt was a surprise and I was crying like a baby! I also had been working outside in 90 degree sunshine…you are supposed to be looking at the quilt!” This time around, I’m going to spare myself that embarrassment and just post the beautiful keepsake.

Pat Vincentz student work from Scraps, Fragments and Artifacts by Carol Sloan at Textile Evolution Retreat 2010

You can see my mom used some of Carol’s rust dyed fabric in her quilt. I used a wonderful piece too in my quilt; the detail photo below shows it as well as the free motion thread painting/quilting I used. I now sell my own Rusted Fabric Collage Pack — it adds such a great touch to fiber projects!

Lady with Brooch art quilt by Judy Gula, detail

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk down memory lane and are inspired to create your own art quilt!

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“The Lady in the Garden” Art Quilt

The Lady in the Garden, an art quilt by Judy Gula using hand-dyed and vintage materials

If you’re like me, one of the things you admire with the arrival of spring are the beautiful shades of green as new growth emerges. I focused on green with this art quilt, which I titled “The Lady in the Garden” and featured four years ago on this blog. I wanted to revisit it and again share insights into my process for creating a fiber collage/art quilt.

Over the last few years I have worked a lot with batiks and batik panels, to the point where I think some of my newer customers don’t realize my first and true love: working with vintage items! Many times a vintage photo is all it takes to spark my imagination. The Lady in the Garden, currently on display in the shop, began with a vintage black and white photo that I found and instantly loved.

Beginning with a inspiration vintage photo and beginning to assemble materials

I scanned it and then modified in Photoshop (you could also use Photoshop Elements or any photo editing program), choosing to colorize the photo with a green hue. I could have left it as is, but since I had visualized wonderful spring green leaves, I wanted to work monochromatically. You can do the same using your own favorite color with any favorite black and white or sepia photo. Once I had colorized my image, I printed it onto Transfer Artist Paper (TAP, developed by fiber artist Lesley Riley — unfortunately due to manufacturing changes this product is no longer available) and then transferred it to 70 wt. Lutradur. You could also print directly onto the Lutradur, or use another of the many products available to print a photo onto fabric. My final colorized image, ready to sew, is shown above, as well as a hint of materials that I thought I would incorporate into this art quilt.

Continuing to refine  my stash of possible materials

I begin my design process by tossing the fabric and embellishments around. I knew I wanted to work with my hand dyed fabrics, and my vintage Trims and Laces. I just pull materials and lay them in a sorted pile. Then I walk away from it. Thus when I come back it after a break, I make my next choice with fresh eyes. Sometimes I have to do this several times each, adding and subtracting new fabrics and trims, until I finally see an arrangement that “clicks” and makes me smile.

Embellishment possibilities for my art quilt

My next step is to finalize my choices of embellishments. Some materials are selected very early in my process, while others are chosen after my main fabrics have been selected. Pictured above I have pulled materials including a mixture of green beads, pearls, vintage millinery trims, and hand dyed vintage trims pulled from one of my Inspiration Packs. Artistic Artifacts sells some great ribbon, including the popular Web Weave seen at the top of the above photo — a great way to add texture and color to any fiber or mixed media project. A substitute for the leaf trim shown above could be our leaf vine ribbon, available in regular or jumbo sizes.

Beading on fabric example and supplies

Another art quilt in progress that featured beading. Beads come in such a variety of shapes, sizes and colors and add the perfect touch to fiber &mixed media projects.

And whenever possible I love to add some form of beading to my art quilts (detail of another project shown here). Beautiful beads add the perfect touch of color, shine and texture. The bead soup mixtures sold at Artistic Artifacts are the same ones that I use in my artwork and are an easy, inexpensive way to guarantee yourself a variety of bead sizes, styles and shades to enhance your jewelry, fiber and mixed media projects. These are favorites of Liz Kettle of Textile Evolution, author of First-Time Beading on Fabric: Learning to Bead in Nine Easy Lessons, my first recommendation for those who want to learn to embellish their quilts, decor and garments with beading. (Don’t let the “First Time” in the title fool you; this is a great resources even for those who have beading experience!) My favorite Tulip needles also come in beading versions of various sizes, flexible and easy to thread, with a rounded tip that does not split thread.

Focal point of quilt mostly completed

At the stage pictured above, I had worked on the focal point of the art quilt. At this point everything was stitched down in the center. My original decision was to not stitch the background, and I came to believe that I goofed by not doing so. Lesson learned, and I now know stitch the backing before layering my photo. In this project I did add quilting… but it would have been easier to do it earlier.

Detail photograph of quilt elements that changed through the design and creation process

As I continued working, there ended up being differences from the materials I originally started with and thought I would use, which you can see in my completed art quilt photo at the beginning of this post. You can also view a larger image to see additional detail.

As pictured here, the vintage millinery used turned out to be beige, not peach. I used turquoise-colored beads, not green. The trims are darker than my original lighter choices. (Of course any unused materials aren’t discarded but go back into the stash, waiting for another project.)

I find that many times you can become paralyzed by the number of options possible when creating, and therefore end up completing nothing at all. There could have been a million options on how to create an art quilt with this —or any — photo as a a focal point. You just have to choose one and begin! As you see from my example, you may end up changing things along the way, but your end goal should simply be that you’re happy with your final product.

And I am! I like the essentially monochromatic color scheme, and The Lady in the Garden still makes me smile when I look at it. One of the key things I love about art quilts is that there are no rigid rules, except maybe just one: begin! Pick an inspiration point, take a look at your stash, and see where the creative process leads you.

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The “We Are Somebody” Quilting Program

Christine Vinh and Artistic Artifacts owner Judy Gula present Roy Mitchell's quilting students with three bolts of Indonesian-made material for their classroom.

Christine Vinh (left) and Artistic Artifacts owner Judy Gula present Roy Mitchell’s quilting students with three bolts of Batik Tambal Exclusive Batiks for their classroom.

We Are Somebody Quilting Program presents Just 4 U sign

The Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival is always a good event for Artistic Artifacts. Because it takes place in Hampton, VA, we see lots of local friends who have made the trip. And we are always grateful for our many repeat customers who seek out the Artistic Artifacts booth to see what we brought along with us. We are inspired by the works many of our customers have in the show and pieces they bring along with them to show us.

This year a particular highlight was meeting up with Roy Mitchell, Jr. and three of his quilting students, young men incarcerated at The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice’s Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center. We have met Roy in the past when he brought the young men to the show for inspiration, but this year was special. Mitchell’s students had their own special exhibit in the show, We Are Somebody: Quilting Program presents Just 4 U. The use of color, design, and workmanship of the 19 quilts by these young men deserved their place in the show, and we’d like to share our photographs of some of these beautiful works.

Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

From the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival’s description of its 2018 Virginia Quilt Guilds special exhibits: “The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) quilting program, believed to be the only quilting class in the country in a male juvenile corrections setting, teaches not just the hard skills involved in this difficult craft — planning, design, measuring, geometry, sewing — but also critical life skills such as goal-setting, patience, frustration management, public speaking, and the value of precision. Instructor Roy Mitchell, Jr. instills the notion that ‘You Are Somebody’ to all his students. Hundreds of quilts made by DJJ residents have been given to hospitals and homeless encampments, and featured in art galleries in Virginia, Michigan and California.”

Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

We took the opportunity to talk with Mr. Mitchell and his students — who learn his class mantra “I am somebody” when they enter his classroom — upon seeing them in the exhibit area near our booth. The pride and joy on their faces was enough to bring us to tears. When we asked who did the quilting of their pieces, one of the boys was quick to say he was the quilter.

DJJ Quilting Instructor Roy Mitchell lifts a quilt to reveal the intricate detail work on the back.

DJJ Quilting Instructor Roy Mitchell lifts a quilt to reveal the intricate detail work on the back. He has been teaching quilting since 2012.

We encouraged them to take full advantage of the skills they have learned in the quilt classes. We were so impressed that we presented several bolts of our Batik Tambal Exclusive Batik fabric (pictured at the top of this post) for use in their classroom to the group, with a promise to stay in touch and make future donations. By the end of our conversation Mitchell was planning a road trip to Artistic Artifacts with some of his students to spend a day with our local quilters.

Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

The boys also give back to their community, and recently Mitchell, accompanied by Deana Williams, director of post-secondary programs at Yvonne B. Miller High School, took 35 of the students’ creations to the Third Street Bethel AME Church in Richmond to give to homeless people who were waiting outside the church for a meal. Participants in the program have created quilts that have been exhibited throughout the country and have also created a Virginia-themed quilt that now hangs in the lobby of the Patrick Henry Building in downtown Richmond.

Square in a Square, 46 in. x 80 in., by L.R --Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

Square in a Square, 46 in. x 80 in., by L.R

Visit the Sewing With Nancy website to watch a video of Nancy Zieman’s January 2017 interview with Roy Mitchell, which includes a view of the Virginia-themed quilt — an impressive 10 feet by 12 feet — from the Patrick Henry building. You’ll also learn he has very stringent entrance requirements for this special program. (At least one Artistic Artifacts staffer is certain she would flunk the math exam!)

Fading, 78 in. x 88 in. by J.M. -- Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

Fading, 78 in. x 88 in. by J.M.

We look forward to their future visit to Artistic Artifacts and hope to support them in their quilting endeavors. We also hope you are as inspired as we were by the creativity and workmanship shown by these young men, and by the dedication of their instructor, who has taught quilting to 200 participants with a 0% recidivism.

Something Out of Nothing, 43 in. x 61 in., by B.B. -- Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

Something Out of Nothing, 43 in. x 61 in., by B.B.

Flower in a Garden, 55 in. x 55 in. by D.H. -- Quilt from the We Are Somebody Quilting Program exhibit Just 4 U at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival

Flower in a Garden, 55 in. x 55 in. by D.H.

7 Comments to “The “We Are Somebody” Quilting Program”

  1. Sharon

    Loved learning more about this program and Nancy Zieman’s interview of Roy Mitchell. A heartwarming story… and the quilts are impressive!

    Reply
  2. Karen S

    What a terrific program! I hope I can meet this teacher and his students when they visit Artistic Artifacts.

    Reply
  3. Susan Cavanaugh

    Wow….I am so impressed with the quilts by these young men! I also have been teaching a quilting program in an adult detention facility in No Va. for the past four years. We are lucky to get in 2-3 hours a week so I can imagine what they would be able to accomplish in 8 hours a day. I would be interested in contacting Roy and learning more about his program.

    Reply
  4. Kay

    The quilts made by the young men are so amazing. The quilts are all very unique and special. Thank you for sharing such a feel good story.

    Reply
  5. Jennifer Emry

    Is there a way to donate to this DJJ program? I have books, tools (many scissors, rotary cutters, etc), fabrics.

    Reply
  6. CHRISTINE VINH

    These young men were certainly inspiring and most likely know far more about quilting than most of us. Mr Mitchell is a god send at their time of need.

    Reply

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