True Shibori is one of the earliest textile art forms. It involves wrapping, tying, dying and drying pieces of fabric in order to create beautiful, one of a kind patterns. It’s the ultimate, upscale tie-dye, but so much more, as well.
While there’s some discussion about Shibori’s actual origins, it is most closely associated with Japan. Examples of the technique are historically found in China as well, and in Buddhist temples in various parts of Asia.
The word Shibori means “to wring, squeeze or press” in Japanese, and that is a literal translation of how these gorgeous textiles are created.
Intricate pieces of Shibori are much more than that, though. They’re highly prized works of art, created by skilled textile artisans whose signature patterns and ways of working can be individually recognized by collectors.
These highly desired and elaborate art pieces are often displayed in one long piece – to decorate a wall, for instance – or to create special kimonos.
The earliest surviving pieces of Shibori are housed within the Todaji Buddhist temple in Nara, Japan. They were created using various techniques, including folding, waxing, clamping and binding. But even these items don’t have a clear Japanese provenance, as most of the other items in the collection are Chinese. Still, Japan is widely considered the home of traditional Shibori, and the culture has certainly done it’s part in preserving and promoting the art form.
Skilled Shibori masters can create patterns and even complete pictures using specific folds and tying patterns, but the pattern most commonly associated with Shibori is a series of web-like shapes created using the kanoko technique. This involves tying tight threads around bundled fabric, sometimes after first folding the material.
The result is a series of circular patterns that, during the tie-dye craze in the West during the 1960s, were popularized on caftans, tee shirts and wall tapestries. But it’s important to remember that tying and dying fabric is a sophisticated Asian art form, not simply a color wheel associated with music festivals and flower crowns.
Kanoko Shibori shapes lend themselves to the kind of repeating pattern necessary for bolts of fabric or rolls of wallpaper. Kanoko was the inspiration for SmithHönig’s Shibori collection of wallpaper and fabric. The repeat achieved with the pattern means you can upholster a couch or wallpaper an entire room with a seamless print and, since it’s available in a durable cotton linen fabric and a peel and stick wallpaper, it’s easy to use, clean and care for.
The most traditional color of Shibori is indigo blue, as the indigo plant was used to create early dyes. The blue and white of Shibori Indigo is classic and sophisticated. On a wall it can go playful as well, depending on how it’s accessorized.
But we love how Shibori looks in non-traditional colorways as well. The Hyacinth colorway is beautiful as window treatments in this home by design influencer Kathy Baugher of Up to Date Interiors. Now based in Fort Worth, Texas, Kathy loves how the pattern reminds her of the years she spent living in Asia.
Another friend, Jewel Marlowe of Jeweled Interiors, chose Shibori Hyacinth for a tablescape project. The gorgeous orange trim really sets these handmade napkins off and ties them into the sumptuous, colorful dining room that Jewel designed. In this case, Shibori has gone glam and we love the color play.
Shibori fabric in Moss makes a beautiful tablecloth, styled here for an intimate picnic on the beach.
You can also find the fabric in a subtle, beachy Sand colorway, which could lend itself to any number of uses.
The Shibori pattern adorns SmithHönig poufs, pillows and outdoor pillows, as well. See below for how our friend Sara Raak uses two Shibori Indigo Poufs in her colorful home office for some additional seating.
Want more inspiration for how to mix Shibori into your own decor? We’ve got you covered.