Born in Vietnam and raised in London and Kent, Lola Lely is breathing new life into shibori in the 21st century. Originating in Japan as early as the 8th century, shibori is a resist dyeing technique used on textiles that many people in the West might know more commonly as tie-dye. Contrary to popular belief however, shibori and tie-dye are not one and the same.
Our first encounters with tie-dye often take place in primary school, and involve a newspaper-laden floor and basins of coloured water. Tying bunches of fabric before dipping them in the dye, we later untie the material to reveal beautiful patterns, lines and shapes of un-dyed cloth. This particular strain of shibori was originally known in the East as Kanoko; just one of six popular techniques.
Other approaches include Miura; a looped binding technique, Kumo; a pleated and bound resist, Nui; a stitched shibori, Arashi; a pole-wrapping method, and Itajime; a shape resist technique. Lely’s approach to this intricate craft fuses these time-honoured traditions with her own personal and contemporary twist. Working with creative thinkers from completely different industries, Lely emphasises storytelling and collaboration through her shibori; creating work alongside anthropologists, boot makers and pop artists to name but a few.
Keeping with tradition, Lely’s main dye is indigo. Up until the 20th century however, fabrics in Japan were generally left un-dyed until indigo, madder and purple root became more widespread with thanks to the goods donated to the Todai-ji in Nara by Emperor Shomu. Once the materials spread, inevitably, so did shibori. And thanks to contemporary makers like Lely, it can continue.
Lola Lely will be hosting a Moody Blues workshop in the Selvedge Studio in London on 24 February.