As a way to work through the death of her parents, Denver artist Jolene Fukuhara turned to shibori, a traditional Japanese art form of resist dyeing techniques. “Becoming involved in this particular art form gave me a way to turn uneasy, difficult emotion into a product of color, movement that’s visually satisfying; allowing unpleasant energy to transform in to a positive creation,” she says.
As a sansei or third generation Japanese American, Fukuhara whose “day job” is in data management and analysis, sought to learn an art form that’s not commonly taught or practiced in the US.
The earliest forms of shibori dates back to the 8th century in Japan. Shibori comes from the Japanese word shiboru which means to wring or squeeze. There isn’t an exact English translation of shibori as it encompasses many methods of dyeing cloth that leaves an intricate pattern from stitching, folding, binding, clamping and twisting.
Unlike other forms of tie-dye using wax or paste that leaves a sharp edge resist, a special characteristic of shibori is a soft- or blurry-edged pattern. A shibori artist sees a piece of cloth as three-dimensional by shaping and manipulating the cloth by plucking, folding, plaiting, crumpling or twisting it before dyeing.
Fukuhara uses the “binding cloth with thread resists” form of shibori. “I learned by way of a book published by Yoshiko Wada who is a world renowned expert in shibori,” she says.
Shibori is quite labor intensive. The smaller pieces, called tanzaku and shikishi, typically takes Fukuhara two weeks to complete. On the other end of the spectrum, a full-sized kimono which is hand-dyed and used for home décor can take a month or more to create depending on how much hand work is used in the design.
Fukuhara works out of her studio, “Issui Designs,” located in LoDo. The name Issui came from her grandfather. As is tradition in Japan, her grandfather practiced the art of calligraphy from a master and was given the artist name of “Issui,” which means “one water.” The wood block signature stamp or hanko she uses to identify her art work belonged to her grandfather.
She’s participated in juried art shows on the east and west coasts. The framed pieces cost anywhere from $175 - $225, and the kimonos from $1,800 - $6,000. Locally, her art has sold at East West Designs and Hoff Miller.
Inquiries for shibori pieces or custom picture framing can be made at 303.641.7682
By Erin Yoshimura
Asian Avenue magazine