Tag: Indigo

Lives Well-Lived: Hiroyuki Shindo (1941-2024)

Hiroyuki and Chikako Shindo portrait
Hiroyuki and Chikako Shindo at browngrotta arts Sheila Hicks, joined by seven artists from Japan exhibition in 1995. Photo by Tom Grotta

We first met the talented and charming artist, Hiroyuki Shindo in 1995. Shindo was one of the artists in the east-west textile dialogue that Sheila Hicks crafted at browngrotta arts’ original location. Entitled Sheila Hicks, joined by seven artists from Japan, Shindo was one of the exhibition artists who created, in Hicks’ words, “strictly abstract, nonfolkloric works … Major statements in modest formats. Livable art. More than livable — inspirational and elevating, magnets of meditation.” Shindo and his wife, Chikako, came to Wilton, Connecticut from Japan, as did artist Chiyoko Tanaka, to install the exhibition with Hicks. Shindo served as an invaluable translator and witty raconteur. We learned about the virtues of cold sake, offerings made to the indigo gods, and his adventures in Broken Bow, Nebraska. (He had travelled, he told us, to Nebraska because it was where Sheila Hicks was born.) 

Indigo Thread Balls, Hiroyuki
Indigo Thread Balls, Hiroyuki Shindo, linen, cotton, indigo dye, 1995. Photo by Tom Grotta

We also learned in 1995 about Shindo’s remarkable art process. Shindo worked with indigo, which he first encountered as a student at Kyoto City University of Fine Arts in the late 1960s. An older artisan had told Shindo that he was the last of 14 generations of indigo dyers — Shindo was determined to prevent this art form’s extinction.

Hemp & Cotton, Hiroyuki Shindo
21hs Hemp & Cotton, Hiroyuki Shindo, linen, handspun and handwoven, indigo dye, 82″ x 44″, 1998. Photo by Tom Grotta

Shindo used only natural indigo for his work, which involved an elaborate ritual of his own formulation. He would first ferment the dye, pour it into a cement pool that contained pebbles. Next, he would move pebbles in a trough into the configuration he liked. Finally, he would press linen or flax into the trough of pebbles and dye, revealing the shapes and blurred edges he envisioned — from areas of nearly black to nearly invivible blue shadows. Shindo also made fascinating “thread balls” of wound thread where certain areas were highlighted with dye. As Hicks described the result, ”He is painting. He is sculpting. He is creating entire environments.” The white was as important to these works as the indigo Shindo believed. “If the white is not brilliant enough, or the undyed portion is not the right proportion, the balance is broken, and so I insist, white is as important to my work as is indigo.” Once dyed, the balls were placed in a nearby stream for rinsing, a process that is beautifully filmed in the video Textile Magicians by Cristobal Zanartu.

Wall Hanging, Hiroyuki Shindo
2hs Wall Hanging, Hiroyuki Shindo, linen and handspun and handwoven, indigo, x 12″, 1995. Photo by Tom Grotta

Shindo’s work has been exhibited widely. At the North Dakota Museum of Art, he created a series of panels responding to the flat landsape of the plains. He was among the artists included in Structure and Surface: Contemporary Japanese Textiles at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and Textile Wizards from Japan at the Israel Museum of Art in Jerusalem. His work is in a large group of museum collections including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, New York, and Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City. In 1997, he became a professor and head of the textile department at the Kyoto College of Art. 

Two Large Indigo wall hangings by Hiroyuki Shindo
Two Large Indigo wall hangings by Hiroyuki Shindo. Photo by Tom Grotta

In 2005, Shindo founded the Little Indigo Museum, in an old thatched-roof house, in the village of Kayabuki-no-Sato, north of Kyoto. This private art museum includes examples of indigo works not only from Japan, but also from Asia, Africa, Europe, and Central America — a representation of indigo dye culture from all over the world. The collection features indigo textiles found by the artist among discarded belongings, collected during field trips, and pieces received “from people along the way.”

Hiroyuki Shindo Large Wall Hanging detail.
Hiroyuki Shindo Large Wall Hanging detail. Photo by Tom Grotta

We are among the people he met along the way. He will indeed be missed.

Process Notes (Part I): Eduardo Portillo and Maria Dávila

This week’s Process Notes offers an intimate view of María Dávila’s and Eduardo Portillo’s artistic approach. In this post, the artists, based in Venezuela, share the wide-ranging journeys they have taken to India, China, and throughout Venezuela to advance their artistic practice and technique. They also give us insight into the ecological and cosmic preoccupations that inspire their work. They first presented these remarks to the 20th European Textile Network Conference, Codes: stories in textiles in February 2023 Lodz, Poland.

María Dávila's and Eduardo Portillo family
María Dávila’s and Eduardo Portillo’s family in the mountains, 2014.

“We live and work as a duo in Mérida, Venezuelan Andes.

We believe that our work purpose is to find and develop ideas from the perspective of textiles. When we find an idea and intend to relate it with textiles our main task is to understand the essence and the implications that gravitate around it, we start from the acknowledgment and admiration of peoples and places where the materials and processes that we use are born.

Our first textile idea was to produce silk in Venezuela, to understand the world of silk we went to study for a long time in China and then in India, upon our return we established a mulberry plantation and created the facilities to produce silk on a vertical integrated model in Mérida. After many years we found the textile fibers from Venezuela and this experience led us to travel our own country, to question our vision of life and to find a new purpose in weaving. At the same time, the fascination for natural dyes and especially for the blue of indigo led us to fantastic places of production of this color in Thailand, India and China, afterwards working with metals and textiles opened up a new three-dimensional world for us.

indigo experimentation
María Dávila experimenting with indigo

We are immersed in the search and discovery of an imagined Cosmos in the Southern towns of Mérida. The transversal axis of all these projects is the journey, the traveler’s surprise at what has never seen before and the acknowledgment of ourselves in the other. The result of all these searches is an accumulation of experiences and thoughts that we intend to materialize in textiles.

A brief of our textile journey
Venezuela is a country located in the north of South America that is overlooking the Caribbean Sea and it is also part of the Andes mountain range.

After many years of work and moved by the results observed with silk, we participated in various experiences in Europe, Asia and North Africa, we worked with social development projects with the Italian cooperation for the Andean countries and we dedicated ourselves to weave a world around silk. However, something was missing, probably the connection with our own country, so we started to travel around Venezuela.

On a trip to the Orinoco river we were inspired by Yekuana’s basketry, great weavers from this region, we developed a body of works that pay homage to the Yekuana cosmology, we talked about the turtle back, the monkey, the bat, the jaguar´s face, the rain and the stars. This work was shown at the exhibition From Silk to Venezuelan Fibers but again, something was missing, without knowing it, we were in search of our own identity.

indigo detail
María Dávila’s and Eduardo Portillo Atardecer (sunset) detail. Photo by Tom Grotta

In a second journey to the Orinoco´s Delta, a new world was opened for us when we understood that after traveling so far through many countries in search of silk, we had not seen what was nearby, what was evident, what is sometimes there which we don’t see, and so we found the Venezuela textile fibers.

Venezuela’s vegetable fibers come from vines, palms, agaves, bromeliads, shrubs and tree barks. They are little known to most Venezuelans but have a great importance to the communities that process them due to the immediacy of their use and their cultural and economic value. They use them for basketries, ropes, hammocks, roofs, ritual objects and many other purposes. Most of these fibers are collected, few are cultivated, each one contains specific information about its origin and the culture of the people who transform them.

indigo tapestries
María Dávila’s and Eduardo Portillo’s Amanecer (sunrise) and Atardecer (sunset) tapestries. Photo by Tom Grotta

We found not only materials that would allow us to broaden the spectrum of our textile ideas, we also found a diversity of people, customs and ways of life that we didn’t think would exist. We were amazed by so much cultural richness. It made us reflect on such an abundance of natural resources. Once we came back in the studio we experimented with them, we tried to understand their textile qualities and to find a way to fuse them with other fibers as silk, wool, linen and cotton, trying to preserve the characteristics of each one and allow their differences — this has helped us to merge the most traditional processes with contemporary textiles.

At the same time, we worked with natural dyes and devoted a special time to the indigo culture. We were looking for blue in our landscape and realized that we can only find it in the sky since we live in the mountains. We decided to merge all our previous projects, the silk, the vegetable fibers, the natural dyes and we created a mosaic of different layers of experiences for a body of works called Azul Indigo that was exhibited in 2012.

We recreated the hours of the day, the sunrise, the noon, the sunset and the night, the night’s shadows, at dawn and others times in which we explored our interest in the blue color depending on the intensity of light according with the hour of the day.”

In two weeks, we’ll share Part II, including the artists’ experiments in bronze and their continuing search for ways to illustrate the imagined Cosmos.

Art Out and About: Spring 2023

US or abroad we’ve got lots of suggestions — 10 in fact — of exhibitions you can visit in June and beyond.

1) Christine Joy and Sara Mast: Passage 
Yellowstone Art Museum 
Billings, MT 
through July 16, 2023

Christine Joy Connecting to the Sky sculpture
Christine Joy, Connecting to the Sky, 2016. Photo courtesy of Christine Joy


Christine Joy and Sara Mast explorethe mystery of nature through the transformation of materials, texture, and form.

The large, twisted willow forms by Christine Joy are the result of a rhythmic process beginning with the hunt and harvest of willow in autumn — followed by sorting, bunding, and storing. Joy began rug braiding in the 1970s. Over time, Joy moved on from rug braiding, leading her to a period of experimentation, and ultimately to reclaiming and reorienting her love of gathering and process with willow, grounding her to the earth. Sara Mast, a descendant of miners from Cornwall, England, resides on the site of Storrs, Montana, an early Anaconda Company mining town. Today, she incorporates PEM (plasma enhanced melter) glass into her work. PEM is a byproduct of plasma gasification, an advanced waste management technology that turns any kind of trash into inert, non-toxic glass and clean fuels. Mast writes, “PEM glass is not just another art material, but represents a profound paradigm shift in using technology to heal our environmental dilemma by keeping waste out of landfills and greenhouse gases out of the air. My use of PEM glass is one way I am able to reclaim a healthy relationship with the earth.”

2) International Linen Biennial in Portneuf (BILP)
Heritage sites throughout Deschambault-Grondines 
Quebec, Canada
June 18 – October 1, 2023

Blair Tate, from the 10th Linen Biennial in Quebec
Dialogue, detail, Blair Tate, from the 10th Linen Biennial in Quebec. Photo courtesy of Blair Tate

Anneke Klein (the Netherlands) Blair Tate (United States of America) Stéphanie Jacques (Belgium), Carole Frève (Québec) will all participate in the upcoming biennial of Linen — the 10th in Portneuf. The biennial will feature two exhibitons; the work of 20 professional artist; 20 emerging artists; multiple mediation activities and a day of converences. 

3) Couples in Craft
Craft in America Museum
Los Angeles, CA
through September 24, 2023

Jim and Veralee Bassler
Jim and Veralee Bassler at the opening of Couples at the Craft in America Gallery in LA.

Couples in Craft highlights artist couples that specifically work in fiber and ceramics, either collaboratively or independently. While very different in their physical qualities—malleable and rigid, vegetable and mineral—both media require methodical construction processes that can take years to master. Many of these artist couples met during their formative educational years and thus share a lifelong dedication to each other and to their respective craft. These partners support and inspire each others’ extensive pursuit of mastering materials and continued exploration of their potential. Their intuitive knowledge of process allows for layers of meaning to become integrated into the works as they are made.

Among the artists included in this exhibition are Veralee Bassler and Jim Bassler. Veralee Bassler graduated from the UCLA Art Department with a concentration in ceramics. She shared her passion for creativity, teaching, and ceramics with the students of the Los Angeles School District for 25 years. Jim Bassler graduated from UCLA with an MA in Art in 1968 and later served there as professor and department chair between 1975–2000. Jim, recipient of the American Craft Council 2022 Gold Medal, is a renown weaver whose work adapts ancient Peruvian techniques and explores a range of materials and concepts. Veralee and Jim live and work in Palm Springs, CA.

4) At Own Pace: Włodzimierz Cygan 
7th Riga International Textile and Fibre Art Triennial
Mentzendorff’s House 
Grēcinieku iela 18, Riga, Latvia
through July 27, 2023

Włodzimierz Cygan Fiber Optic weaving detail
From the series Between the LinesDetail, Włodzimierz Cygan, Linen, optic fiber, weaving, artist’s own technique. 2021. Courtesy of the artist. 


Baiba Osīte: Exodus
7th Riga International Textile and Fibre Art Triennial
Art Station Dubulti 
Z. Meierovica prospekts 4, 

Baiba Osīte. XXX. 1993.
Baiba Osīte. XXX. 1993. linen, cotton, wood, artist’s own technique. Collection of the Latvian National Museum of Art. Publicity photo

Jūrmala, Latvia https://www.lnmm.lv/en/museum-of-decorative-arts-and-design/news/programme-of-the-7th-riga-international-textile-and-fibre-art-triennial-quo-vadis-139

The 7th Riga International Textile and Fibre Art Triennial,  QUO VADIS? unites 79 artists from 30 countries who were selected by an international jury from 237 submissions. Responding to the motto of the triennial, QUO VADIS? (Where Are We Going?), the authors, through their works, partake in conversations about the evolution of art and this particular field today as well as global geopolitical and social problems, engaging in self-reflection through the perspective of their time and art form. 

The Triennial features an exciting solo exhibition by the internationally acclaimed Polish guest-artist Włodzimierz Cygan at the Mentzendorff’s House in Riga and one featuring Latvian artist Baiba Osite.

5)  Ferne Jacobs: A Personal World
Claremont Lewis Museum of Art
Claremont, California
through September 24, 2023

Origins by Ferne Jacobs
Origins, Ferne Jacobs, 2017-2018, Craft in America, Metro Madizon


Ferne Jacobs: A Personal World at the Claremont Lewis Museum of Art presents the work of Ferne Jacobs, a pioneer in fiber arts who creates unique three-dimensional sculptural forms using ancient basket-making techniques. Ferne Jacobs: A Personal World features a broad selection of her sculptures as well as books of her psychological drawings and collage diaries. 

6) Jane Balsgaard
Galleriet Hornbæk
Hornbæk, Denmark
Summer 2023


Paper Ship by Jane Balsgaard
Paper Ship by Jane Balsgaard. Photo courtesy of Jane Balsgaard

Jane Balsgaard’s work is available this summer at Susanne Risom’s Galleriet Hornbæk in Denmark.

7) Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890 – 1980
Milwaukee Art Museum
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
through July 23, 2023


Scandinavian Design and the United States, 1890–1980 is the first exhibition to explore the extensive design exchanges between the United States and Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Iceland during the 20th century.  It includes works by Helena Hernmarck who moved from Sweden to the US, and Lenore Tawney, who studied with noted Finnish weaver Martta Taipale at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina.

8) Indigo 
Denver Botanic Garden
York Street Location
Denver, Colorado
July 2 – November 5, 2023 

Synapse indigo weaving byPolly Barton
Synapse, Polly Barton, to appear in Indigo, at the Denver Botanical Gardens. Photo by Tom Grotta


Rich and alluring, the striking blue color known as indigo has inspired weavers, dyers, designers, and sculptors across the globe. This exhibition, which  contemporary artists from the United States, Nigeria, Japan and South Korea Includes several works loaned by browngrotta arts  from artists Polly BartonEduardo Portillo and Mariá DávilaChiyoko TanakaHiroyuki Shindo, and Yeonsoon Chang.

9) Shaped by the Loom: Weaving Worlds in the American Southwest
Bard Graduate Center Gallery
New York, New York
through July 9, 2023


Shaped by the Loom: Weaving Worlds in the American Southwest invites you to explore the world of Navajo weaving. This dynamic gallery and online experience presents never-before-seen textiles created by Diné artists. These historic blankets, garments, and rugs from the American Museum of Natural History are situated alongside contemporary works by Diné weavers and visual artists, such as Barbara Teller Ornelas and Lynda Teller Pete.

10) Expressing Cloths: Oceanian Modeling and Shigeki Fukumoto/Shigeko Fukumoto
Aomori Contemporary Art Center
Aomori, Japan
through June 14, 2023


This exhibition features Fukumoto, who has pursued an expression that can only be achieved through “dyeing” through his insight into the theory of craftsmanship in Oceania and Japan, and handcrafted fabrics that have been handed down since before textiles, such as tapa (bark cloth) and knitted fabrics from Melanesia in the South Pacific. In recent years Shioko Fukumoto has developed works using old natural fabrics that were made and used in rural life and labor. Three works. By group, we will think about the expression that can only be achieved with cloth, and the possibilities of cloth as a medium of expression. Both Fukomotos have visited Papua, New Guinea on more than one occasion.

Influence and Evolution Introduction: María Eugenia Dávila & Eduardo Portillo

Patina II byMaría Eugenia Dávila & Eduardo Portillo. Photo by Tom Grotta

Patina II by María Eugenia Dávila & Eduardo Portillo. Photo by Tom Grotta

We are in full preparation mode for our spring exhibition, Influence and Evolution: Fiber Sculpture then and now, April 24th – May 3rd. Among the artists whose work we will be featuring are María Eugenia Dávila & Eduardo Portillo of Venezuela. You can see the artists’ work in

Amanecer by María Eugenia Dávila & Eduardo Portillo. Photo by Tom Grotta

Amanecer by María Eugenia Dávila & Eduardo Portillo. Photo by Tom Grotta

New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft and Art in Latin America at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City through April 6th. Featuring more than 75 designers, artists, craftspersons, and collectives, New Territories explores several key themes, including: the dialogue between contemporary trends and artistic legacies in Latin American art; the use of repurposed materials in strategies of upcycling; the blending of digital and traditional skills; and the reclamation of personal and public space. http://browngrotta.com/Pages/calendar.php

Venus I.Detail

Venus I detail (woven bronze) by Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, photo by tom Grotta

We are excited by the experimental approach Dávila and Portillo take to all aspects of their work — sourcing, technique and materials. They have spearheaded the techniques of rearing silk worms in Venezuela, weaving with locally sourced fibers and dyeing with natural dyes. They were inspired to work with natural indigo by visits to Orinoco and the Amazon.


Atardecer.Detail by Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, photo by tom Grotta

The artists spent several years in China and India studying sericulture, or silk farming, and since then their research has taken them worldwide. In Venezuela they established the entire process of silk manufacture: growing mulberry trees on the slopes of the Andes, rearing silkworms, obtaining the threads, coloring them with natural dyes, and designing and weaving innovative textiles. We will include an example of woven “mosaics” from their Indigo series—metaphors for moments of the day —

Encontrada by Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, photo by tom Grotta

Encontrada by Eduardo Portillo & Mariá Eugenia Dávila, photo by tom Grotta

in Influence and Evolution. Recently, they have been working on incorporating copper and bronze into their work, and also using textiles as inspiration for works that are cast in bronze and that work will be represented in Influence and Evolution as well. You can learn more about the artists, their process, inspiration and exquisite work by watching them on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/102751766. For more information on our exhibition, Influence and Evolution, or the catalog that will accompany it, check: http://browngrotta.com/Pages/catalogs.php

25 at 25 at SOFA NY Countdown: Chang Yeonsoon

Matrix II-201011 Detail, Chang Yeonsoon, photo by Tom Grotta


“Encountering the real self through meditation is at the core of my work,” explains Korean artist Chang Yeonsoon. Yeonsoon is one of the artists that browngrotta arts will feature at SOFA New York. She was Artist of the Year at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul in 2009. Four works from Yeonsoon’s Matrix series will be displayed at SOFA. The works in the series “derive from the oriental perspective that observes the human mind and body as unified. These fiber artworks  represent my own Korean formative language. In them, I minimize my body while my mind fills with abstract ideas. To transform the abstract idea into a three-dimensional structure requires a 12-step process that includes starching, ironing, cutting and sewing sparsely woven abaca fiber after dyeing it with indigo. The process of production involves an extreme level of concentration and a training of mind and body. As the work emerges, I feel myself being purified as I become one with the abaca fiber.”

Matrix Series by Chang Yeonsoon, photo by Tom Grotta

Yeonsoon’s work has been exhibited extensively in Asia and the US, including at  the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea (artist of the year exhibition); Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Insa Art Center, Seoul, Korea; Dowaru Gallery, Fukuoka, Japan; Museum of Ewha Women’s University, Seoul, Korea; Art Center for The Foundation of Korean Culture & Arts, Seoul; Moyer Arts & Crafts Center, Seoul, Korea; Museum of Arts & Crafts, Itami, Japan; Pittsburgh Arts Center, Pennsylvania; Daegu Convention Center, Korea; Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii; Marronnier Art Center, Seoul, Korea; Cheongju Crafts Center, Korea; Korea Economic Daily, Seoul, Korea.