She's an indigo maven teaching Angelenos the art of shibori, katazome, and marbling. Recently, she teamed up with Venice-based retailer Late Sunday Afternoon for a workshop series. I interviewed her to learn more about her background and the magical workshops she leads through Los Angeles, and most recently, in Ojai.
What is your first memory as an artist?
My grandmother was an artist. Whenever she visited us from Poland, we would sit outside and do plein-air watercolor paintings. I remember packing up our watercolor kits and venturing out to find the perfect spot to set up our easels—these are my fondest memories of childhood. I learned to notice the beauty around me, appreciate spending time with those I love, and the gratification of creating something new.
Recently, I had the chance to see photos of her textiles from the 60’s and 70’s (she used to be a textile artist as well), and I was struck by the similarities in our passions. It’s in my blood!
(See images above of Agnes' grandmother above where she is seen wearing fabric she painted by hand.)
What do you love about being an artist and creating?
For me, it’s essential, like eating and sleeping. Ever since I was old enough to hold a crayon, I started making things. I studied art every chance I got, and when I got into RISD (Rhode Island School of Design}, it felt like heaven on earth. From one day to the next, I learned a new skillset such as a new photo developing process or bookbinding.
What led your interest in the art of indigo dyeing, textiles, and stenciling?
It started when I was getting my MFA from RISD, where handmade arts were encouraged. I enjoy making things with my hands in a variety of mediums, from labor intensive oil painting to experimental photo processes and silkscreens. I prefer creating things with bolder gestures and abstract moves.
I took my first shibori class five years ago in Echo Park, and loved every moment of folding fabrics in perfect geometric forms and dipping them into rich indigo, which yielded totally unexpected results. It was pure magic and totally addictive. I wanted to dip everything in sight! From there, I kept enrolling in classes, meeting new people, and experimenting with new techniques. I like the juxtaposition of crisp geometrics with the fluid nature of indigo dye. It’s structured and organic, maybe like my personality.
Shibori is slow. It takes time, and has been around since about the eighth century. The word comes from the Japanese shiboru, meaning to wring, squeeze, or press. The technique involves twisting, tying, crumpling, stitching, or folding fabric (usually silk or cotton) in various ways, transforming the two-dimensional material into a sculptural, three-dimensional form. This sculptural shape is then traditionally dyed, originally using indigo, although a variety of colors and dyes are used now.
When the wrappings are removed, the folds and creases where the fabric resisted the dye form distinctive patterns, much like tie-dyeing. There’s a sense of timelessness and calm to modern shibori works, and a renewed focus on workmanship and functionality.
^ An example of katazome stencils with indigo dye.
^ Textured edges of textiles dyed using shibori and katazome stencils.
Is that what led you to study in Japan?
I was invited by a colleague who was organizing a trip to study under a Shibori master of 20 years. I wanted to be totally immersed in the Shibori experience, and had to opportunity to live on his farm, eat meals together, and learn a series of new techniques in his 150-year-old farm house.
While in Japan, I was also taught katazome, the art of kimono stenciling. Katazome is a Japanese method of dyeing fabrics using a resist paste, which is applied through a stencil. We were taught under a third-generation kimono master who let us use his 100-year-old stencils. The process resembled a form of indigo printing I learned in India a few years back, where mud was used as the resist when printmaking on fabrics.
What inspired you to create your own workshops back in Los Angeles?
I wanted to share my love of handmade crafts and global textiles to create a community. Through the workshops I’ve taken over the years, I’ve made lifelong friends, regardless of cultural differences. Creating forges a unique bond within a group.
I also know that food brings people together, so I partnered with Anna Patrikian, who makes delicious fare for our communal meal. We start out each workshop that way, so we can get to know one another before creating. I want to share my love of art, travel, and friendship, one afternoon at a time. Crave Workshops are accessible to everyone, regardless of their skill level.
What led you to partnering with Late Sunday Afternoon for your workshops?
Our original workshop location was down the block from Late Sunday Afternoon, so it was a serendipitous event where I walked into the store before my first workshop.
I immediately loved the aesthetic and vibe of the interior. It showcased handmade global goods in a beautiful space. It’s the type of space I wanted to hang out in, chat with friends, and make something new. The shop is a melting pot of cultures, with rugs and textiles from Morocco, Turkey, and other areas of the world. It felt very symbiotic with my intention of learning my craft from global masters sharing their knowledge with a curious community. I reached out to Thomas and Matthew afterwards, and now we’re going to launch a workshop series this summer.
About Agnes Pierscieniak
Local artist, Agnes Pierscieniak was introduced to art and textiles by her grandmother during her childhood, an interest that was re-ignited when traveling to India and Japan.