Walking into Michael Kane‘s studio is like entering a kaleidoscope: all throughout the room are silks, shirts, dresses and wall décor that are art collages in themselves. But first you have to get past the small gate that blocks the door. Kane fashions his designs with his companion Kobi, one of his dogs — hence the fence.
“I’m really happy to be here,” says Kane, who moved from Mars Hill to West Asheville, and recently opened the studio at 735 Haywood Road. “Up in the mountains was nice and there was a lot of solitude, but down here I get customers, I get feedback and I just have more room to work with in the studio.”
The art of Shibori
Each piece is hand-dyed, discharged, and/or airbrushed by Kane using various types of Shibori. The Japanese dyeing technique is a method of binding fabric with pipes, board clamps or stitches so that the restricted areas absorb the dye to make irregular patterns and shapes. Kane begins with black or white silks and uses acid dyes and hand paint with bottles. He says that often more than one process is used per panel to create visual depth in his clothing.
Building the final product can be done in a number of ways, Kane says. Apparel can be pieced together, layered with floating pieces in between, or raw, with the edges unfinished. The designer says that he alone handles the work, and each piece can take a few days to be completed.
The results of the Shibori dyeing, Kane says, can look like moving water, wood, and all different kinds of textures. He even adds painted prints from leaves on to his fabrics at times. “There is so much that you learn from nature about color theory,” Kane says. The designer compares the inspiration of nature to the feeling of walking through a park, enjoying the nice day.
Kane’s early career
Originally a painter, Kane got into dyeing while living in Kansas City, Mo., and has been doing it ever since
. “I saw a big old coffee table book about Shibori,” Kane says. “I just went nuts on it.”
A self taught artist, Kane did not go to art school or take classes to learn the Shibori technique, or even painting for that matter. “It was just so cool and so creative, and I literally started tie-dyeing T-shirts and taking them to River Market to try to sell,” he says. “Then things just gradually became more sophisticated.”
With a partner, Kane started presenting clothes in American Craft Counsel shows. Then he opened Atelier Designers Showroom in New York City, and worked there for 11 seasons. Though it was costly to have the shows in New York City, expensive gowns were popular at the time, and Kane’s Shibori clothing would often times sell out within a day. “Everybody was like, ‘What are they doing? How are they doing this?’ and we would just make one-of-a-kind everything,” Kane says.
When the economy declined in 2008, Kane says dressy clothing went down the tube. Wealthy customers who once could afford the expensive items were losing their homes. Women started purchasing clothing that they could either dress down or dress up, wearing outfits that could be for fancy or causal occasions.
Entering a new world of possibilities
After a 1998 fishing trip to Mars Hill, Kane returned home, gathered his belongings and moved to that town. “I turned around, ran up to the house and didn’t even go back,” he says.
Most of his last 15 years of business have been in wholesale and galleries, but when space opened up on Haywood Road, Kane made the move to West Asheville. “Just somehow it clicked,” he says. “I have lots of artist friends who have done the same thing in other places — Massachusetts, San Francisco — where they were just tired of schlepping in the art show circuit and they set up shop and are happy with life.”
Even though it has not been open for very long, Kane has been enjoying working in his new studio. He has high
hopes for its future and, since he has received requests for men’s apparel, he would like to start working on a men’s line in the near future. “The back of my mind just said, ‘do this,’ because having an artist shop where you have free will to do whatever you want, the people are just going to love that,” Kane says.“Love art! It’s what makes the world go round.”
For more information, visit the Michael Kane Studio online at michaelkanestudio.com or at 735 Haywood Road, West Asheville, Tues.- Sat. at 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m – 5 p.m..