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Shibori: Gorgeous results achieved through wrapping, dipping and dyeing

| Friday, May 19, 2017, 8:57 p.m.

The eight women attending a recent Shibori workshop at Ligonier's Main Exhibit Gallery and Art Center watched carefully as instructor Susan Novak led them through the process of coloring small wine bags and silk scarves, then lined up to try the craft themselves.

They knotted, twisted, clamped and wrapped their fabric. Using pots of dye in various hues, they transferred color through dipping and basting, then ironed their finished products to set the shades and dry them.

The bags and scarves were hung and draped, their shimmering pops of turquoise, lemon and magenta brightening the classroom.

Shibori is a centuries-old art form poor Japanese once used to give new life to faded clothing. Using dye and objects like tree branches to create patterns, they could make the old appear new.

Its adoption by some clothing and houseware designers is making more mainstream the method of transferring color and pattern through tying, binding, stamping, even sewing.

Sometimes compared to tie dye, Shibori often is described as a more methodical and planned technique.

“It's a similar process, but more complex,” says Novak, 55, of Johnstown.

“You typically start with white fabric, but you can use a process where you remove solid color,” she says.

“The basic principle is resisting. What is folded or tied or hidden won't get as much color as what's exposed,” says Novak.

An artist does not know how the finished product will appear.

“That's the beauty and challenge of it,” she says.

Mary Colaianne of Penn Hills attended with her sister, Linda Hall of Cook Township.

“This was my birthday present from my sister,” Colaianne says.

“This would be awesome to give to someone. It's homemade, American made,” she says of her scarf.

“I would do things like this every week if I could,” she adds.

Diane Dilworth of Greensburg says she and a friend had fun reliving their “tie dye days,” but worried about how their scarves might look.

“They are beautiful,” she says.

Linda Whipkey worked alongside her daughter, Laurel Ross, both of Ligonier.

The women enjoy numerous crafts, and Ross gave Whipkey the class as an early Mother's Day gift.

“It's really fun. I'm a big rubber stamper and beader,” Ross says.

“It's very therapeutic, good for the psyche,” Whipkey says of crafting.

One form of Shibori is Arashi (the Japanese word for “storm”), where the cloth is folded or wrapped around a pole, bound, scrunched and dipped, leaving the appearance of a rain-driven pattern of lines.

Other designs can be imprinted by items in a “junk drawer,” Novak says, from PVC pipe to clothes pins to marbles.

“You are always inventing new ways of binding or folding,” she says.

A rostered artist with the PA Council on the Arts, Novak teaches for the council in various school and community settings.

Her specialties include traditional Chinese brush painting and silk painting. She also is a board certified art therapist, certified trauma therapist and certified peer specialist.

Novak also holds a master's degree in counseling.

She recently completed an after-school arts program for elementary students in the Jeannette City School District.

The Shibori class was her first for Main Exhibit Gallery owner/operator Mandy Sirofchuck.

“I've loved her shop for years. Now they have space for classes, so I sent her a synopsis,” Novak says.

“With Shibori, you don't need any particular skill and it's accessible to any age,” she says.

“I think the fact that beginners can achieve early success in such an art form helps those who do not necessarily consider themselves artistic to grow in confidence to try other art forms later, too,” Novak says.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Linda Hall of Cook Township and instructor Susan Novak with a completed Shibori scarf during workshop at Ligonier's Main Exhibit Gallery and Art Center.
A collection od silk scarves,
Aztec ribbon candy print
Mary Pickels \ Tribune-Review
Diane Dillworth of Greensburg dips her scarf in dye during a Shibori workshop at Main Exhibit Gallery and Art Center in Ligonier.
Mary Pickels | Tribune-Review
Shibori instructor Susan Novak works on a sponge design imprint for her recent workshop at Main Exhibit Gallery and Art Center in Ligonier.
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