Needless to say, while I was in Japan I was seeking interesting textiles and I discovered the Kyoto Shibori Museum.
It was not a large public institution. It seemed more like the passion of a group of public spirited individuals and practitioners. On arrival I was offered a damp hand towel (which was a relief in the heat and made me a safer person if I touched anything!) I was shown a video about shibori in Japan, its history and techniques. Then I was allocated a guide who accompanied me around the exhibits and into the shop where items made by the people who run the museum are for sale, including bolts of indigo dyed shibori fabrics. My guid came from a family of shibori dyers and there were photos of his family, and some of his grandparents’ tools on display in the museum. I wish I could show you photos but–it was not clear that photographs were allowed and this was one of the early places I went in Kyoto. I was just too shy to ask, and too uncertain of whether communication had been achieved because, let it be said–my Japanese is extremely limited, and politeness Japanese style is very different to the customs I have grown up with. Sometimes I had an impression of agreement that just wasn’t borne out in action. I struggled to understand. I did not wish to offend. But I was informed and amazed and there were many beautiful and interesting things to be seen. Also, having a guide all to my non-Japanese speaking self was deeply embarrassing to me! The museum offers shibori experiences for a fee (where you dye a small item) and with pre-booking.
I also came across a high fashion shibori shop: Katayama Bunzaburo.
My friend and I bought scraps of their fabrics which were for sale crushed into cellophane bags, and I bought some traditional cotton fabric woven in Japan that was inexplicably (and quite cheaply) for sale here too. But the shibori was the main feature and it was extraordinary. Some of it was more sculptural than a dyeing effect, and there were quite a few lamps showing off the shaping that shibori can create.
There were some very beautiful, elegant garments for sale but I’m afraid between the partial English of our hosts and our scraps of Japanese; their enthusiasm for having me try things on and my efforts to mime how beautiful the garments were but honestly, not made for a heffalump of my proportions–I quite forgot to take any photos!
Here was shibori as scarves, wraps, jewellery. In silks and in synthetic fibres. And the people running the shop were able to show how to wear these pieces in numerous different gorgeous ways. They were so kind and generous. Finally my friend’s 60th birthday present was found and purchased! And, the final triumph of the shop: a display piece in their little courtyard which I think I understood was called “Jellyfish”–as tall as I am and quite awesome to behold.