Shibori Influences

Many things are influencing my year-long “shibori intensive” (see the “About…” page for more info), including a trip to the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in Pasadena this past spring.  It is unreal to think, as you stroll along the 120-acre idyll, that ONE PERSON created it all and ONE family utilized the estate as their home.  Poor things.  🙂

Walking along the “Japanese” portion of the Huntington Gardens has informed my artwork and given me a deeper respect for what I am doing with shibori dyeing.  Many believe that shibori was solely a utilitarian way for the peasant class to keep their clothing in good repair–peasants dyed old clothing, or pieces of clothing, then re-assembled them into a “new” apparel item.

While this is certainly true, what is less-known is that the first shibori examples were found in 749 AD, located in a wooden storehouse, known as a Shoso-in, that belonged to Emperor Shomu.  These examples are posited to have been royal gifts from the Chinese Emperor to Emperor Shomu.

If you look carefully at Japanese art screens, woodblock prints, or even Shogun warrior costume, examples of resist-dyeing, or “shibori,” can be seen throughout them all.  Yoshiko Wada, who I consider to be the worldwide expert on all things shibori, asserts that shibori was a technique that crossed class lines, becoming a part of Japanese culture from the royal class all the way down to the peasant class throughout its rich history.  If you are interested in reading (what I consider) the definitive guide to shibori, pick up a copy of Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing by Wada et al.

Bridge at the Japanese Garden of the Huntington Library Botanical Gardens, Pasadena.
Bridge at the Japanese Garden of the Huntington Library Botanical Gardens, Pasadena, taken by me, spring 2016.

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Brett Barker

Brett Barker is a painter, textile artist, art/design instructor, and writer whose career spans more than 25 years. Originally from New Mexico, she now resides in Redondo Beach, California. She has taught fine art, artistic design, and textile design to numerous individuals, art guilds, and organizations throughout the U.S. She has a Master's Degree in Art Education from the University of Nebraska. Her artwork sells throughout the U.S. and is available on her website, She is currently undertaking a year-long investigation of Japanese shibori dyeing that will culminate in a trip to Japan to study under a master shibori artist in September of 2016. Her shibori blog can be found at Her surface and textile designs can be found at

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