Technology Transformed by Creativity

International Shibori Symposium

Nine years ago, when I was a new mother up to my elbows in diapers, I took a few precious days off to attend the 6th International Shibori Symposium in the prosperous market town of Harrogate, England.

This periodic conclave of textile artists and scholars, organized by Yoshiko Wada of the World Shibori Network, had previously been held in Chile, Japan, India, and Australia, and had built a reputation as being an important gathering of artists who use traditional textile ideas and techniques in exciting, contemporary ways. And for me, the 6th ISS was as inspirational as advertised.

Highlights included hearing Joan Morris speak about designing her outlandish, shibori-dyed costumes for the Broadway production of The Lion King, sharing sandwiches with Catharine Ellis, who developed woven shibori and later wrote a book about her technique, and viewing the several spectacular fiber art exhibitions associated with the symposium.

And now it is time once again for this transformational event.

The 8th International Shibori Symposium is being held from December 28, 2011 to January 2, 2012 in Hong Kong, a city that is both a crossroads between Asia and the West and a major center of technology that also has deep connections to the textile traditions of China.

As ever, Yoshiko Wada is at the helm, bringing together an array of artists and scholars into a melting pot that is intended to lead to collaborations and creative inspiration that will continue to develop for many years to come.

Co-hosted by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which specializes in high-tech approaches to textiles, the theme this year is “Technology Transformed by Creativity.” I think if myself as a very low-tech – even anti-tech – artist, but I find myself intrigued by the possibilities that this ISS might open up for me.

Kinor Jiang, chair of the textiles department at HKPU, will demonstrate his cutting-edge technique of “metalizing” fabrics to create supple iridescent metallic finishes that are truly astounding. This is not a do-it-yourself-at-home process, but it will be very exciting to learn about and observe.

Experts including Michel Garcia, the renowned French natural dye chemist, and Jorie Johnson, the Kyoto-based felt artist, will lead the workshops. There will a fashion show, a trunk show, and several exhibitions, both juried and open call. It promises to be a feast for the senses and the mind.

Speakers will include Matilda McQuaid, curator at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum; Jack Lenor Larsen, the legendary American textile designer; Makiko Minagawa, Director of Design at Issey Miyake Design Studio, and Feng Zhao, Director of the China National Silk Museum, who is an expert on ancient Chinese textiles. I don’t yet know what synergies and insights they will share, but I trust from my experience in England many years ago that it will be worth it.

And so, I have paid my fee and bought my plane tickets, and I will be at this year’s International Shibori Sympoisum, soaking up all the information, connections, and experiences I can. I have even signed up for the post-tour with Dr. Tomoko Torimaru to visit the Silk Road in Northwest China. I can’t wait, and I hope you’ll join me this winter in Hong Kong.

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Christina Conklin is a textile artist and teacher who lives in Half Moon Bay, CA.



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