BY WENDY GOLDEN-LEVITT
Glennis Dolce makes shibori ribbons and changes young lives
As a companion and teacher, Glennis Dolce trusts her creative process. She is a maker of shibori dyed textiles, and brings a refreshing and focused standpoint to her work: “. . . just wonder and it will come to you what to do next.” For Glennis that process of “wondering” is the bridge between imagination and soulful making.
Glennis spent most of her life making things. As an adult she learned the alchemical process of creating porcelain, and completed a cycle of experimentation creation within the last ten years with porcelain buttons. Greatly influenced by the miracle of nature’s abundance and everyday life, Glennis tuned more deeply into her own “wonderings,” and began to feel the resonance of her childhood years in Japan.
Her experience of many Japanese art classes as a child left an impression. Years later, as an adult and with her two sons, Glennis re-visited Japan. Once again she opened to the sensitive, inspiring, humble, and natural arts of the land around her. A classic and revered aspect of Japanese makers is a respect for the spaces in between the making. The everyday practicality of the creative process is honored. The slowing down of the breath, as a tool, is picked up and readied for use. It becomes a sort of posture one develops for checking a vat of indigo dye being lulled into color by sun and moon, or for coming to know the subtle skills learned from old masters seen and unseen. If your posture is open to what they can give, you are enriched as person and maker. Sit down at a George Nakashima table or write a letter with the light from a paper lamp of Isamu Noguchi, and one may, over time, feel the joy of the sacred in the ordinary.
Glennis discovered this joy five years ago. This was the time she set in motion the process of “wondering” with regard to all her fabrics she collected from Japan and elsewhere. Her interests transformed throughout a year’s sabbatical where she began the study of shibori, a Japanese method of dying cloth with patterns by twisting, folding, stitching, binding or compressing. Glennis slowly discovered the colors she loved and brought them into the Japanese silks she worked with, and began creating flowing streams of exquisite shibori dyed silk ribbons.
One look at the photographs on her website, Shibori Girl Studios, and you find yourself wondering about beauty. Wondering how the wisdom of this one maker could create the grace and inspiration one feels when seeing her ribbons. Glennis’ shibori dyed ribbons are an example of how one maker can create peace. That is exactly what most experience, after feeling the joy of her work. The state of peace creates a pause, and with the next intention, one can become inspired and supported for following their own creative instincts.
There is something else that occurs within the silk and cloth. It is the quality of change one goes through upon touching or seeing her shibori material. The true imprint of this maker is revealed by combining what she has learned and the wisdom of surrender to the unknown. It has its own quiet momentum. Glennis rejoices in the unexpected outcomes of her shibori dyeing. The marks made, the shades and folds of colors placed into the cloth, resonate with her underlying motivation: All people can be makers. Everyone. It is this strong belief that allows her work to be part of teaching and healing children and adults all over the world.
Her material has given children a chance to explore their own creative spark, and opened the hearts of those who are healing through traumas. Glennis is passionate about teaching kids. She feels the negative impact upon them when schools close their art programs. She observes children becoming stressed, ill and angry because they are told to study for the purpose of their regional and national test scores, which in turn can keep their schools funded. Glennis sees the fallout from children who are encouraged only to develop their intellect and study for reasons that ignore their own well-being. She sees kids growing up without the light in their eyes from the profound lessons of creating and making something born out of their own inner life.
Glennis sees children who are coming up in the world, full of caring for the earth and their future, but have limited resources to deal creatively with these issues. She refuses to stop teaching kids, even if the programs have shut down in the face of narrow minded politics. She offers classes to children in the California community in which she lives. Other community members seek her out and invite her to inspire young people through the making of shibori dye projects. The children immediately become engaged with her presence and attitude toward learning. One of her earliest pupils told her she was, “such an inspiration and great teacher because she let him make mistakes.”
Glennis continues to be opened and inspired by the making of indigo dye and its profound beauty when used in her shibori work. She says, “Oxygen is the life force of indigo, like a baby taking its first breath of air, it comes alive.” Her vats of indigo are constant experiments and the delight of other artists around the world who incorporate her indigo dyed cloth into their own work. The variety of indigo shading and design reflects the depth of her own capacity to hold questions and answers with equal value. This enables her to leave wide open spaces for the energy of both to interact. She stands in the middle, mediating the relationship between design and its need for expression.
Glennis understands the treasure of the old makers of shibori dyed cloth and brings their voice through her contemporary textiles. She is grateful to Karren Brito who wrote, Shibori: Creating Color and Texture on Silk and the field of artists throughout the world who have been influenced by her work. Glennis’ generosity of thoughts expressed in her blog and the breathtaking photographs can be a threshold for all of us. She shares her process of making with a vulnerability and confidence that creates and supports the practice of being curious. Glennis calls herself a maker. She says it is simply what she does and prefers this term rather than artist.
Glennis Dolce is a treasured mentor of shibori dye techniques. She teaches us how shibori is boundless and grounded all in one effort. Her love of music, art, and nature inform her decisions and help her move through any obstacles that may arise. The transformational quality of “wondering if . . .” and her dedication to working slowly have served her well. The joy of her shibori ribbons and silk panels imbued with the vitality of nature have been known to bring out the good in all those who come in contact with the work. Wait until you see her indigo moons.
To learn more about Glennis Dolce visit her blog.