We recommend a lot of demos on Art Dog in the hopes of providing useful resources. While demos can be exciting and inspiring, I know the challenges involved with scheduling, finding space in your store to teach and engaging with your community on top of running a retail store. In order to gain some perspective I gave myself the task of teaching a workshop on a product and technique that I have never worked with, in my apartment, with limited time to prepare, in hopes of learning from the experience and sharing my successes and mistakes with you.
Developing The Workshop
- Flour Sack Tea Towels by RagLady 30×36 or Flour Sack Towels Heavy Weight 30×30! (2-4 per person). Use the promo code ARTDOG through April 30 for 10% off!
- Plenty of rubber bands
- Binder Clips
- Zip Ties (reusable zip ties are the way to go, they are easy to release from the fabric. Thanks to Lynn Busch at Preston Arts for that helpful hint!)
- Gloves (latex-free options available)
- Indigo Dye
- 2 buckets per every 4 attendees
- One additional 5 gallon bucket to mix and store dye.
- Plastic Grocery bags to transport wet fabric home
Outreach: Getting Students
I advertised on my personal Facebook page about ten days in advance asking for students. I was curious to see who would reply, as I have a very interest-diverse friend group. I received six out-of-state “Wish I could come!” comments, and five RSVPs for the event. The RSVPs included: Yasmin, a vocalist with the Salaam-Shalom Music Project and Recruiter, Stephanie, the executive director of a Chicago theater company, Sheridan, a development associate for an Opera and Artistic Director of her own theater company, Carolyn, a pharmacist, and her wife, Caitlin, hiring manager at a catering and event company.
Who didn’t RSVP? My artist friends! This was a great lesson for me. My attendees were all novices overwhelmingly excited to be artistic outside of their daily grind and learn something new.
From Preparation to Final Steps
Note: this was not my planned timeline, but how I would teach it in the future.
The Week Beforehand
- Spend an hour or two reading as many articles and watch as many YouTube videos as you can on the history of Shibori, different folding and fastening patterns and techniques, and the history of indigo dye. Not only will this give you the opportunity to practice folding, it will give you a knowledge base on the product to educate your students while they fold.
- It goes without saying, but just in case: practice! Use a piece of paper to practice the folding techniques, and to use while demonstrating for your students. Above: four folding techniques (see below for detailed steps).
- Teach a fold or history lesson to a friend or co-worker and get their feedback on what they don’t understand.
- Pre-wash your towels using free and clear detergent; do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets.
An Hour Beforehand
- Mix dye bath, set up one bucket of clear water and one bucket of water with a laundry detergent per every 4 students. Note: anything with dyes or scents is no good. It will attach to the fabric and coat the fibers so the dye won’t penetrate.
- Ensure you have a place for the finished towels to dry. I used my fence, but you can easily hang up a clothesline using some twine and strong Command Hooks.
- Set up containers with binder clips, rubber bands, wood pieces, zip ties and string on your demo table.
- Set up each seat with a pair of gloves (have a latex free option available) and 2-4 pre-washed and folded tea towels.
Have information about the history of Shibori on the table. If possible, have examples of dyed (and washed) fabric available for students to feel and see while they get settled. Have examples of once dipped, twice dipped, and thrice dipped fabric to demonstrate how deep the color can get.
Teaching The Workshop (1 – 1.5 hours)
- Ice-Breaker (10 – 15 minutes): Go around the room and ask everyone to introduce themselves (Name, occupation and something fun like a favorite book…this is a social activity after all)
- Background Info (3-5 minutes): Give a brief history of Shibori, its cultural significance, and how it differs from modern dying techniques.
- Folding (30 minutes): Dive in! Start with a simple folding pattern and fold it step-by-step along with the class participants. Graduate to the more difficult patterns as you progress. On the final technique, allow your students to make their own design if they wish (by now, some will be comfortable enough experimenting on their own, but you will very likely have students that want direction every step of the way.) Remember that perfection isn’t the goal. The goal is to teach a skill that they can perfect at home.
4. Time to dye! (20 – 30 minutes) We used the Jacquard Indigo Dye kit. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and demonstrate the entire process for your students before having them try. Don’t forget your gloves!
- Step One: Submerge your tied fabric in water.
- Step Two: Squeeze out excess water, continue to squeeze fabric as you submerge into the dye. This part is to continue pushing moisture out so when the fabric “breathes-in” again, it’s sucking in dye for deeper, richer color.
- Step Three: Hold fabric under the surface (but don’t let it drop to the bottom!) for 10-20 seconds, squeezing and working the fabric.
- Step Four: When the fabric emerges, it will be bright green. Talk about the oxidation process of Indigo and remind your students that the final blue color appears darker while the fabric is wet.
- Step Four and a half: Once color deepens, re-dip your fabric in dye if you want a darker color.
- Step Five: Submerge dyed fabric in the clear water bucket and remove any excess dye (ensure everyone has completed the first step of wetting their fabric before you add dye to this water).
- Step Six: Once all pieces are dyed and rinsed, take off binding to reveal the patterns:
- Step Seven: Submerge finished pieces in the detergent water, rinse again, then hang to dry (this will allow your students to throw their finished project in the wash when they get home. Be sure to encourage them to wash with dark colored fabrics or jeans the first time.) If you don’t have space or time for the towels to dry, offer plastic grocery bags to transport the wet towels home to be rinsed and laundered.
After my workshop I asked the attendees to give me some feedback on what they found most exciting or could have used more instruction on.
- Don’t skip the welcome warm-up. My guests didn’t all know one another, and though we found places in the workshop to learn about one another, folding in silence is kind of awkward. Having that introduction time would have given a more natural flow to conversations around the table.
- Practice your folds! When rolling fabric, the innermost part of the roll will receive very little dye: this is great for an Ombre effect. Be sure to give pressure to the creases in your fabric for crisper lines.
- Remind everyone about the importance of gloves. I invited my guests to bring any jeans they wanted to re-dye to class. After the instructional part, poor Caitlin dipped her jeans with bare hands and went home with blue fingers.
- The reveal is the most fun! Having your attendees untie their fabric all at the same time allows for lots of “oooh and ahhhh” moments at the end of the workshop, leaving everyone with a warm fuzzy to end the afternoon.
- Colors appear darker when wet. Unless the student wants a light blue, I encourage dipping twice, if not three times.
- Allow your students to bring jeans, t-shirts, or anything to dip. You will have extra dye if you have less than 15 people attending.
- What would they pay? The four attendees, when asked what they would pay to attend this type of workshop out in the world said between $25-$40.
Submit to Ruff Draft Demos!
Itching to try a demo but not sure where to start? Curious about a specific medium? Demos can take a lot of time and energy. Let’s get a head start with Ruff Draft Demos. Submit a demo request to Art Dog and I just might try it!