On November 11, we met all the people who would attend to the Indigo Shibori course at a hotel in the center of Tokyo. After dispatching our luggage to the mountains, we traveled by train to Fujino. A couple of hours to the south of Japan between forests and mountains.
Our residence in Fujino was in our teacher's house, Bryan Whitehead. His home, a typical Japanese house of more than 150 years old, was built on wood, with sliding doors and decorated with exquisite taste. From the windows of my room, I had an extraordinary view of the mountains, and the tea plantations, the sunrises from there were glorious.
Bryan was our guide in Tokyo in the textile museum and places we visited. He was our translator. With his more than 30 years of experience in Japan, we couldn't have a better teacher. He welcomed us in his home and made us felt comfortable and well-received. Our chef, Hiro, not only delighted us every day with tasty, colorful, and varied dishes but also with his floral arrangements that surprised us at every step.
There were so many beautiful details in Bryan's home that I couldn't describe.
Our days began very early with the tasty aroma of Hiro's coffee that permeated the entire house. At 9 am we started our classes with Bryan.
The first thing we had to do was to show Bryan our homework. Bryan sent each of his students from Japan a box with fabrics, threads, orchid ink pencils (which disappears as soon as the fabrics get wet) and persimmon paper (Katagami) to make templates or stencils.
Every day was intense, distributed among informative talks, cutting and folding fabrics, giving hundreds of stitches, learning to differentiate Japanese textiles, techniques and much more.
Bryan's teaching was rich in so many ways. Any question we asked him could lead us to unexpected surprises, like seeing his impressive collection of Japanese fabrics or, to be dressed up with his luxurious kimonos and obis.
Usually, very early in the morning or after lunch, we would go for a walk into the mountains, or simply take advantage of the time for completing our multiple tasks.
On November 15 we went to the river to wash our first indigo-dyed fabrics. Bryan has two humongous containers of 130 liters of an indigo vat, where we dipped our fabrics up to 10 times in groups, then we rinsed them with running water and, the last wash was in the river. Needless I have to tell you that the experience of the river was unique. We had to descend to the river by a metal ladder and remain barefoot in the icy winter waters of the mountains of Japan, hitting the textiles against the stones. The idea was to remove the loose indigo pigments from the textiles and thus achieve sharper whites.
Some days we traveled to see art galleries, visit pottery masters, artists specialized in jewelry, or simply to have dinner in different places.
On November 16 we went to Mr. Noguchi's workshop, a six-generation teacher, specialized in indigo Shibori and katazome, in Hachioji city.
Mr. Noguchi showed us the whole process of katazome (a paste based on rice flour that serves to block some parts of the fabrics before dipping into the indigo vat)also, allowed us to do our own katazome, using his tools, katagami, and dye in his underground indigo vats. What a luxury!
Our time in Fujino flew and we ended up with our hands colored blue and tons of new knowledge and experience. That's how November 21 came and was the time to return to Tokyo.
Our Indigo Shibori course had come to an end and, in our suitcases, we were carrying plenty of textiles (the result of incalculable hours of sewing, folding, dyeing, washing and, cutting threads).
This was an intense course where we could see first hand the millenary world of the Japanese Indigo Shibori and its many secrets.
Personally, despite my experience working with these techniques for more than a year and a half, I discovered new forms and styles that are not included in books, techniques, tricks, formulas, and secrets that were new for me.
Fujino classes, a fantastic experience that I would happily repeat!
View from my bedroom.
Green Tea Plantation. Fujino.
Mr. Noguchi's workshop.
Bryan Whitehead and his indigo vat.
Doing Katazome at Mr. Noguchi's studio.
Bryan's outdoor shower and bath.
Thanks Lois. It was a memorable experience.
Lee, I truly recommend having a workshop with Bryan Whitehead.
I am a novice dyer, and would like to participate in this workshop someday. How accomplished does one have to be to get the most out of this workshop? How can I learn more about it?
This writing of your experience mirrors my own at this beautiful place only I can’t put it into your beautiful description. It was a wonderful time and will remember always. THANKYOU Bryan and Hiro
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