Studying Shibori & Indigo Dyeing in Japan


It was a late afternoon on a weekday this summer when I decided to randomly search "indigo workshop Japan" on Google. I'd recently returned from Oakland after studying for three days with master dyer Aboubakar Fofana, and I knew I wanted to continue my studies badly. I also knew I wanted to travel to Japan. This had been on my list for a very, very long time.  

Could I really make both of these dreams come true? 

I figured it was a long shot, but I emailed master dyer Bryan Whithead to see what his workshops were all about. He got back to me fairly quickly with a beautiful itinerary explaining the details of his workshop in addition to the sad news that everything was sold out through 2018. 


I wrote back saying that it looked incredible, and to keep me posted if anything were to randomly open up. 

At the time, I was still working in radio,  had no vacation days left, and figured a trip like this wouldn't be feasible in 2017 anyway. So it was really no big deal to wait. Perhaps something would open up late next year, and I could make it happen. 

A few days later, I got another email from Bryan stating that someone had canceled, and if I could get him the deposit for the course, I could take their spot. 

It was July. This workshop was in October. No chance. Right? 

I asked for a couple of weeks to figure some things out and he obliged (I'd learn later that this is very much in line with Bryan's personality. Accommodating, caring, wanting to make things work for his students) and I got to work on making this dream come true. 

I spoke with my husband, asked if I could borrow from our savings account (I'm working on paying that one back still) and started looking up plane tickets. If I could actually make this a pretty reasonably priced trip, I would book it and sort the rest out later. I found a round trip plane ticket for $450 from Los Angeles, booked hotel with points on my credit card, and the rest is history. 

While all that was happening, I left my job and started Elara Blue. 

Fast forward to October and I was freaking out. I'd never traveled internationally alone. I was leaving my husband for two weeks and the nerves started to kick in.

Was I insane to do all of this? 

Luckily for me I'd been practicing pushing through fear for the past couple of years, and I packed my bags, got up at 3am and left for the airport. Off I went on the adventure of a life time. 

I arrived in Tokyo after about 24 hours of travel, and it was literally everything I hoped it would be. Bright lights and color adorned every building. Well priced, DELICIOUS sushi was everywhere I turned. Amazing fashion, polite people. I felt right at home the minute I got there. 

I spent the next two days exploring, eating amazing food, taking mini tours around the city and getting my bearings before meeting up with the group I would be with for the workshop. 

Our meeting spot was on the 20th floor of a hotel about 3 minutes from where I was staying, and I remember going up the elevator thinking "I hope this is real. I hope l didn't just pay money for something that isn't real. Please let there be other people up there too." 

And they were. All of them. It was real. OMG. 

We chatted for awhile, got on the train to Fujino, and immediately began working. 

The next ten days were magic. I can't really figure out how else to describe it. Each morning we woke up, Bryan would give a wonderful and informative lecture on something we would be doing that day, and then we would work. 

His home is filled with incredible art, vintage textiles from 100s of years ago, machines passed down to him from known national treasures and his adorable animals. Not to mention all of the incredible garments he has made. It's hard to put into the words how it feels to wake up each day and be in awe. 

Our group was incredibly lucky in that all of us were passionate artists who wanted to learn as much as we could while we were there. We soaked up the information Bryan gave us, supported each other to get our projects done, and just generally had real love for one another that grew in such a short amount of time.


And our sensei? Well, Bryan is the kind of person you want to be best friends with the minute you meet him. He is kind, wildly knowledgeable, passionate, and I think everyone found themselves just wanting to be around him as much as they could. The love he and his partner Hiro put into these workshops is felt in every moment. It was 10 days of bliss. 

Oh and there was also a typhoon that came through, but that's a story for another day. 

The art I made there is the best I have ever done. I've taken the skills home with me and adapted them to create designs for Elara Blue that I can share with you both in the clothing I make, and the workshops I lead.

I hope to travel back to Japan next year to continue my studies. It is a place I see myself visiting many times throughout my lifetime. And if this trip is any indication of what can happen if we just go for it, I think I'll be back there again soon. 

Much love, and thanks. 

- Sasha