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Studio Tour

Studio Tour: Karen and Pepa’s Shibori Studio in Stanmore, Sydney

by Sabrina Smelko

Karen Davis and Pepa Martin met while they were both studying textile design in 2004. In a time of screen prints and clean white walls, they found a mutual interest and love for hand-dyeing and traditional Japanese textile design.

Since those days roaming the hallways at school together, Karen and Pepa have been developing their textile brand, Shibori Studio, located in the heart of Sydney’s inner-west neighborhood of Stanmore. With an emphasis on experimentation, Karen and Pepa blend heavy fabrics — such as linen, hessian, leather and suede — with the fine art of shibori, which has led them to collaborations with artisans spanning the globe. Their inquisitive minds also have them working with wood, glass and a range of wallpaper and leathers.

Located just 10 minutes from the big city, Shibori Studio is walking distance to both Karen and Pepa’s homes, which was a definite selling feature when they were studio-hunting two years ago. When they first toured the space, it was very rundown, but they both saw potential in its street frontage, ample space for teaching and creating, and its neighboring location to a popular café was a plus. Since then, their studio has evolved and benefited greatly from decorating and the help of a few friends, “the highlight being a beautiful knitted rope hanging to divide the shop from the workspace,” Pepa says. “[It was] made by Jacqui Fink of Little Dandelion [and it] draws people in every day!” That is, of course, if they aren’t overcome by the special smell of their indigo dyes!

Though Karen and Pepa dream of one day exposing the wooden beams in the ceiling, their priority is continuing to foster a space that’s practical, adaptable to suit all parts of their business, and reflective of their collective styles and tastes. “We are so fortunate to have a studio space in Sydney,” Pepa says, “rent [is very] high, and if it weren’t for the local support [we get] and the love [of] the craft, we wouldn’t have a place in this great community.” Today, we’re getting a peek behind the curtain — or should I say, knitted rope wall-hanging — into Karen and Pepa’s gorgeous textile studio. –Sabrina

Photography by Amanda McLauchlan

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Karen and Pepa's Shibori Studio shop-front, painted in indigo by Sibella Court from The Society Inc.
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Pepa Martin (left) and Karen Davis (right) posing with some pieces from their gorgeous line of products.
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Upon walking into the studio, this is what you see. It may be small, but their shop display is only a fraction of their studio space. To the right beyond the knitted wall divider, you'll find Karen and Pepa hard at work hand-dyeing fabrics, painting, or designing in their notebooks.
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Resting on shelves against the Shibori-stripe wallpapered wall, you'll find leather and fabric cushions, a beautiful handmade wooden boat by Ellise Cameron Smith, a weaving by Lisa from We Are Scout, and their soon-to-be-released Shibori Candles by Palm Beach Collection.
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A roll of Shibori wallpaper printed in Sydney by Milton and King. Wouldn't it just be gorgeous in an entryway or bathroom?
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Hand-dyed Shibori linens hang against Jacqui Fink's knotted rope hanging.
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Karen and Pepa gather inspiration from everywhere. This is what their typical mood-board looks like.
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Behind the wall-hanging, their creative space allows room for a big wood table to work at, sinks for their frequently needed wash-ups, and plenty of shelves on the walls for storage. Pictured on the table are some hand-dyed Shibori leather hides.
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Their work bench, or "dye bench" is host to many well-loved tools, color swatches, pots and a glimpse of the indigo vat.
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A close-up reveals some arashi poles, pots and ink droppers.
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Myriad jars litter their studio holding different indigo dyes.
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Karen hard at work.
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A few pillows from their hand-dyed collection.
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Some of their commercial grade fabric offerings; Lucy In The Sky Indigo, Red Velvet and Shibori Brick.
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Tools of Karen and Pepa's trade.
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