Pepa Martin and Karen Davis opened a boutique textile agency called Shibori in 2005. Named after the ancient Japanese craft, the designers draw inspiration from shibori indigo tie-dye techniques to make textiles that are uniquely their own. Their designs are more fluid than the precise nature of the traditional style, and many of their creations are born out of experimentation.
Working together, the Sydney-based pair host workshops and design collections for the Australian fashion and interiors industries. Among others, Karen and Pepa have collaborated with KARMME, a brand of leather accessories by Imby Langenbach. Read Imby’s Maker Profile and shop her capsule collection of totes and clutches which were hand-dyed by Karen and Pepa at the Shibori studio.
The Shibori Studio
I visited Karen and Pepa at their studio in Sydney’s Stanmore neighborhood in October 2014 as they were preparing for an upcoming trade show and a workshop. Their space is filled with shibori textiles, wallpaper, leather, and even dyed rope – which was part of a collaboration with extreme knitter Jacqueline Fink. The studio has the warm and welcoming feeling of a creative space where women gather for workshops.
Each week, Karen and Pepa open their studio doors to host shibori workshops providing instruction and creative encouragement. Participants learn to tie, fold, and wrap cotton voile in a variety of shibori techniques. They then dip their fabric bundles into the indigo dye, rinse, and unfold the fabric to reveal the pattern. Shibori is a resist-dye technique and the areas that are in the fold, tied-up, or under a tight rubber band remain white while the rest of the fabric turns blue in the dark indigo vat. Pepa demonstrates this process the photos below:
Workshop participants take home freshly-dyed shibori fabrics of their creation – and often something else. Karen proudly shared stories of participants – who are primarily women – finding new creative confidence. She smiled as she remembered an accountant who was inspired to pursue a new careen in art after spending time at the studio. Karen and Pepa sell an indigo dye kit that consists of synthetic indigo, sodium hydrosulfite, and soda ash for participates to take home and continue experimenting with.
Shibori for Fashion and Home
In addition to hosting workshops, Shibori makes commercial-grade fabrics and wallpapers for the trade. To begin, Karen and Pepa first create a shibori pattern by hand. Once they are happy with a design, they then scan it and make a repeat for digital printing. They stressed the importance of preserving the handmade feel in the pieces that are printed. Shibori’s Italian leather collection is all hand-dyed with stunning, one-of-a-kind results.
Inspired by Karen and Pepa’s work, Imby from KARMME uses their hand-dyed leather to create clutches and totes, which are available below and in The Kindcraft Shop. These two collections – the indigo group and the monochrome black and white group – were designed so that the mini clutch fits inside the clutch, and the clutch fits inside the tote. Everything has its place, but each piece can be used separately. Each KARMME clutch is a piece of original Shibori art given functionality.