We had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Marie Jo Hughes, one of Pottery Barn’s lead designers, regarding our Spring 2016 collection, in particular the rich textiles that are dotted throughout. Our Spring 2016 collection was inspired by the concept of the ‘Collected Home’ – the layers of treasures we surround ourselves and decorate our homes with. It’s those collections that imbue life, warmth and vitality to our surroundings and allow us to call it “home.” Marie Joie and her team used this as their steward and created a collection of textiles that combine the richness of indigo and the beautiful craftsmanship of Japanese and Indian dyeing practices. The results are a set of pillows, bedding, table goods and even art that capture of the essence of these ancient practices.
What is shibori and why was your team drawn to it for Spring?
Shibori is a very fine tie dye technique. The patterns are created by tying knots. Typically we associate it with Japan but India has a deep history with the technique. In India it’s not called “shibori” it’s Bandhani- which is where “Bandana” came from. Indian cotton prints are the great-grandmother of the Western world’s cotton prints. India was the first to print on cotton and therefore change world economics for centuries. I could write you a whole dissertation on how Kalamkari’s (the original floral “chintz patterns from the Coromandel coast) changed not only Western History but also Asian and African history. The trade of these valuable prints led to rise of Colonialism and slavery.
Was there a particular reason you chose indigo/blue for the textiles?
We wanted to work with the masters of the craft. One of the world’s indigo dye masters lives in Bagru. Bagru is one the oldest indigo printing villages in Rajasthan and have been printing as well as dying with indigo for over 1000 years.
During our talk you called shibori a “dying craft”. Why?
Shibori is a gorgeous technique and a dying craft. All hand-made textile crafts, not just shibori, are becoming extinct. Not because of the internet and technology, but because the craftspeople are a dying breed and their children want better paying jobs. So the craft is not being passed down. The children can make more money as a barista than they can creating a one of a kind textile that has a legacy of 2000 years. It’s a very sad fact and I have spent time in Bagru. The poverty is overwhelming, but so is the pride of the craftsmen who still create textiles the same way they did hundreds of years ago.
You focused on India but is shibori suffering the same way in Japan?
Now in Japan, craft = ART and therefore is priceless. Japan is one of the last cultures to still appreciate art as a form of immortality and thus a treasure. Real shibori in Japan is extremely expensive. The knot work in Japan is incredibly fine and time-consuming. Again, not a ton of younger people are running out to learn how to do it, so chances are it’s going to be come even more exclusive and an endangered art form.
Any final thoughts?
I could go on and on, but I hope this gives a glimmer into to the importance of supporting the dying crafts. They are special, they are one of a kind, they are not cranked out by a machine but made by someone who spent years of training and will spend their lives creating. We need to continue to support these crafts. I always tell people textiles tell the stories of who we are. We are at risk of forgetting our story. Shibori is one of our stories.