Shibori Girl Has a Passion for Handmade Crafts

The fruits of a recent shibori class at JANM. Photo by Dr. Tsuneo Takasugi.

As “Shibori Girl,” Glennis Dolce offers several shibori (resist cloth dyeing) workshops a year at JANM. If you’re not familiar with the art of shibori, check out our earlier blog post on the history of the craft. Dolce’s workshops are always very popular; in fact, this weekend’s Indigo Vat Making and Shibori Technique workshop is completely sold out. We decided to sit down with Dolce to learn more about her background and her practice.

JANM: You’ve said that you think of Japan as your first home. Can you explain your connection to that country?

Glennis Dolce: I grew up in Yokohama, Japan, as a result of my father—a naval architect—taking two back-to-back assignments at the Yokohama Naval Shipyard. We lived there from 1965 to 1972. We lived both on and off the base and had the opportunity to take in many wonderful locations, absorbing the enriching culture and beauty of Japan. I went to the two base schools in Yokohama (Richard E. Byrd Elementary and Nile C. Kinnick High School) as well as St. Maur International School. In 1995, I went back to Japan for the first time after moving away and realized that I had come back “home.”

Glennis Dolce leads a shibori class at JANM, flanked by samples of resist cloth dyeing.
Photo by Tokumasa Shoji.

JANM: How did you first encounter shibori? What captivated you about it?

GD: I must have seen and even worn some shibori as a child at summer festivals in Japan, where we dressed in yukata (summer kimono) with obi age (sash), but back then I did not know what it was. During the late 1990s, I was a vendor at the Houston Quilt Festival, and it was there that I started to pick up small bits of Japanese textiles. Later, I realized that most of what I had collected was shibori. I was intrigued by its unique patterning and the texture that was sometimes imparted to the cloth by the process. I wondered to myself, how was it made? And that’s how it all started. I studied the fabrics, read many books, and eventually began practicing on my own. As I learned and practiced more, my love for shibori grew with the understanding that each piece is unique and has limitless possibilities. This in itself is a view of life that I enjoy passing along when I teach.

Glennis gives advice to a workshop participant. Photo by Dr. Tsuneo Takasugi.

JANM: Describe your artistic training.

GD: I was fortunate to attend a new and experimental high school in Virginia that was very progressive and had full-on art studios in painting, sculpture, ceramics, metals, textiles, and printmaking. It was fantastic. I had access to materials and equipment, and I had a passion for working with my hands. Following that, I attended UC Davis and CSU Long Beach as a ceramics major in the late 70s. I chose ceramics because I thought I could make a living with clay and I wanted to work with my hands. I started a porcelain company while I was at CSULB and worked in porcelain for over 30 years until I closed the company around 2002. I consider my primary training to be the ongoing day-to-day operation of my business, my love for materials and process, and the challenge of making a living outside the constraints of being “normal.”

A workshop participant examines his work. Photo by Dr. Tsuneo Takasugi.

JANM: Besides teaching, you also run an online store. Can you tell us more about the store?

GD: Yes, I actually spend more time making and selling my work than teaching; I enjoy both. I have been blogging since 2006 and over time have created a following for my work. I have always enjoyed making and selling things that others can incorporate into their own work—being a craft supplier if you will. My online store often features my unique silk shibori ribbon that people all over the world buy to use in their own creative projects. I also sell indigo and plant-dyed cloth for others to incorporate into their own work.

I believe that making things by hand is valuable and even necessary for people. It can provide stress reduction, increased life satisfaction, and even improved brain function, according to some studies linking motor skills with cognitive processing. I enjoy creating things that make people wonder. As a child, I realized that making arts and crafts made me feel better. It still does. I started teaching as a way to educate people about my own work as well as encourage them to incorporate hand-making into their own lives.

Another happy customer. Photo by Dr. Tsuneo Takasugi.

JANM: Do you have other creative pursuits besides shibori?

GD: I do like to share my interest in Japan and silk textiles with others in the form of my Silk Study Tour to Japan, which I offer every other year. It is a tour devoted to seeing Japan through the eyes of a silkworm; understanding the industrialization of Japan and its connection to the silk trade as well as the many textile, craft, and cultural traditions there. I get lots of enjoyment from sharing the beauty and grace of Japan with others through this tour.

I have many creative interests—gardening, cooking, writing, marketing, sewing, watercolor painting, calligraphy, and more. I believe that we can inject creativity into almost anything we do!

The next available Shibori Girl workshop at JANM will be Shibori Mandalas, taking place Saturday–Sunday, February 4–5, 2017. Be sure to reserve your spot early!

Legends of Hello Kitty

This replica of the first-ever Hello Kitty product, a 1975 coin purse, will be on view at JANM as part of Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty.
This replica of the first-ever Hello Kitty product, a 1975 coin purse, will be on view at JANM as part of Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty.

There is more to Hello Kitty than cute stuff. An entire body of lore lies behind the origins and development of this global phenomenon and her parent company, Sanrio. These stories are familiar to devoted Sanrio enthusiasts, but if you are a relative newcomer to this world, read on to learn some fascinating, and surprising, tidbits.

1) Sanrio Started Out as a Silk Manufacturer
The globally known maker of cute products began its life as Yamanashi Silk Center Co., Ltd., founded in 1960 by Shintaro Tsuji. Its direction began to change due to the popularity of a simple rubber beach sandal decorated with a flower. Tsuji realized that the addition of a decorative element like a flower or strawberry could transform a simple dry good into a value-added, branded product. Sanrio—whose pleasant-sounding name was inspired by the Spanish words for “pure river”—was born soon thereafter.

In honor of Sanrio’s origins, Shibori Girl Glennis Dolce will lead a one-day, Hello Kitty-themed silk-dyeing workshop at JANM on Saturday, December 6.

2) The First Hello Kitty Product Sits in a Protective Vault in Japan
The Hello Kitty character first appeared on a small, clear vinyl coin purse in 1975. The purse was priced at less than a dollar. Although many replicas have been made over the years—including a recent makeup bag by Sephora that pays homage to the iconic piece—only one of the original purses is known to exist, and it is kept in a secure vault at Sanrio’s headquarters in Japan.

This fall, Hello Kitty fans will be able to view the legendary coin purse when Sanrio flies it in for display at the first-ever official Hello Kitty Con, taking place at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA October 30 through November 2. In addition, a replica of the original purse (pictured above) is included in JANM’s Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty exhibition.

3) How Sanrio Started Giving Out Small Gifts with Purchases
During a busy holiday season in 1975, a Sanrio store clerk was wrapping a purchase for a customer when she discovered that she was out of bows. Quickly improvising, she decided to use a small bell that she picked off the store’s Christmas tree. The customer was so delighted with this little bonus that he left the store with a big smile on his face. Happy with this result, the clerk started adding bells to all wrapped gifts. When Sanrio founder Shintaro Tsuji heard about this, he made it the company’s policy to give out a small gift with every store purchase.

You can learn more about Sanrio’s “Small Gift, Big Smile” philosophy at a panel discussion with Sanrio representatives on Thursday evening, November 20.

Enjoyed these stories? More fun discoveries are coming your way beginning October 11, when JANM opens Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty. View 40 years of Hello Kitty artifacts, 40 contemporary artworks inspired by Hello Kitty, Hello Kitty outfits worn by Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, and much more. Timed entry tickets are available now!

First 2-Day Shibori Workshop – FANTASTIC!

Last month, JANM held its first two-day shibori workshop with Shibori Girl that focused on indigo dyeing. Students had unlimited access to vats of both natural and synthetic indigo for two days of intense shibori immersion. A dream come true for some of us. Glennis Dolce, Shibori Girl herself, provided each student with an assortment of natural fabrics for experimentation and taught both basic and intermediate shibori techniques.

On the first day, students were a bit timid about trying the different shibori techniques and the dyeing process. But by the second day, students had transformed into passionate avant-garde artists dyeing everything from pieces of leftover string to their own clothing while experimenting with the various stitching, tying and clamping techniques.

Bounty from the Two-Day Workshop






There’s this wonderful aspect of shibori – you really don’t know what your piece will look like after all that stitching, binding, clamping, and dyeing. The process of unwrapping your fabric and seeing the finished piece is magical. Whether hours were spent hand-stitching an intricate pattern or the fabric was quickly folded and clamped, each project seemed to turn out beautifully.

Thank you Glennis for a fantastic weekend workshop! And thanks to the shibori classmates who were not only inspirational but really fun. More fun please.

♦ ♦ ◊ ♦ ♦

Our cultural art and cooking workshops feature excellent instructors like shibori artist Glennis Dolce and food writer Sonoko Sakai and attract a wonderfully eclectic group of students – and the most devoted – some traveling from Northern California, Palm Springs and even Michigan!

The next Shibori Girl workshop will be held on Saturday, March 3 featuring silk and color dyes. The next soba making workshop will be on Sunday, March 11 with Ms. Sakai. Reserve a spot by calling (213) 625-0414.

Upcoming Color Shibori Class!


Two-Day Shibori Class in Jan 2012

To all you crafters and artists out there, JANM will be presenting our first two-day indigo dyeing workshop with Shibori Girl on the weekend of January 21 & 22, 2012. Glennis aka Shibori Girl, has a jammed pack itinerary scheduled – talk about an immersion program.

If you have taken any of our past shibori classes with the Glennis, you know that this is a fantastic dream come true. These workshops are for all levels so dive in if you have always wanted to learn more about shibori. You can call it a holiday present to yourself.

Check out our Calendar of Events for all the details.

Shibori Class!

Shibori Girl taught another incredible shibori workshop at the Museum this past Saturday. The workshop was close to full and students of all levels had a fantastic time experimenting with their shibori and indigo dyeing projects. Glennis, who is Shibori Girl, just returned from a month-long trip in Japan where she attended the annual Arimatsu Shibori Festival and brought samples of gorgeous vintage and contemporary shibori samples for everyone to covet.

Indigo Shibori Samples


Instructor’s Tombo Sample
Stitching the Tombo Design

For this workshop, the goal was to create a tombo (dragonfly) image on indigo using basic shibori stitching techniques. Seemed like a daunting project at first but it turned out to be a very simple task and the results were impressive. I’m sure it was a breeze only because of Glennis’ expert step-by-step instructions. After mastering the tombo project, students were able to experiment with different techniques for the rest of the workshop. The three hours zoomed by and students were still scrambling to squeeze in yet one more project into the dye vat.

Glennis with a Small Indigo Vat


To illustrate how much this group of students enjoyed the workshop: There was a loud collective groan when Public Program Manager, Koji Sakai said that there wasn’t another shibori workshop scheduled until 2012. “That’s too long a wait!” There was grumbling. So now there is talk about have a two-day shibori workshop next year. What do you think? Any past workshop attendees out there reading this blog? Weigh in and email Koji your thoughts about the two-day workshop at or post your comments on this blog.

If you have ever been tempted to take any of the shibori classes the Museum offers, please, just jump in and sign up when you see the next one being offered. You will not be disappointed – Glennis is a generous and knowledgeable instructor who leads an excellent workshop which gets you back in touch with that inner-artist in you and leaves you craving to create more and more shibori pieces. Warning: Shibori and indigo are extremely addictive.

Thank you Glennis!

Students' Finished Tombo Projects!


Photos taken by K Doi