Shibui South

Durham, North Carolina · 819 Sales


Shibui South

Durham, North Carolina 819 Sales On Etsy since 2015

5 out of 5 stars
Anna Nickles Nolan

Contact shop owner

Anna Nickles Nolan


East Meets South

The inspiration for Shibui South began with my BFA Honors Thesis when I returned to school in my early 30’s. Being raised in the South, I've spent a lifetime surrounded by handmade textile goods made lovingly by the women in my family. During my studies, I was drawn to the textile traditions of Japan, China, Korea, and India and was always struck by how many elements felt familiar. So many things were made with the same fabrics, colors, processes, or style as the textile pieces made by my own family. My research thesis explored the connections between two specific textile traditions- “Gee's Bend” quilting techniques of rural Alabama and the Pogaji/Bogaji piecework technique dating back from 14th century Korea. During my research, I continued to find many similarities between Asian and Southern textiles. It seemed only natural to create a company that explored and celebrated these connections through the lens of my own aesthetic and style.

It starts with research, a part that I love as much as creating. I'll find a shared element that I want to explore (say, Linen) and I'll research the history behind it in both cultures (difficult to grow in the South and easy to grow in Japan, hence it was valued in one and considered common in another). I'll then source the right fabrics for the job (linen from Lithuania, England, and Italy) and play with fabric weights, colors, and weave structures. The finished products are current and modern, while hopefully hinting at the historical significance.

The Japanese word ‘Shibui’ is in reference to the creation process and nod to historical significance. Shibui is a nuanced, untranslatable Japanese word that describes a specific aesthetic. The literal translation is something bitter, like biting into unripe fruit. This idea is used by the Japanese to describe classic, timeless items that appear simple yet are made with great attention to construction and use. Shibui items are made to grow more cherished and loved with age. This concept motivates me the most during design and construction.

I've worked to make my process as natural and intuitive as possible. I'm constantly sourcing fabrics and experimenting to find their best use. Most of my products are based simply from need- mine, my friends, and my customers, just as textiles have been produced for centuries. I'm the type of person that will hold out until I find just the right thing and I love creating things that serve the perfect purpose.

I do frequent custom work for designers, weddings, and installations and love using tradition textile methods to problem solve modern projects. Contact me and let's create beauty.

++ Anna Nickles Nolan

Shop members

  • Anna Nickles


Shop policies

More information

Last updated on May 1, 2016
Frequently asked questions

What was the inspiration to start Shibui South?

The inspiration of exploring Asian and Southern textiles came from my Honors Thesis while pursuing a degree in Textile Design. At a conference, I attended a talk by Korean artist Chunghie Lee on the Korea textile tradition of Pogaji (or Bogaji). The colors, compositions, and history of the process made me instantly think of the quilts made in rural Southern communities, most famously those in Gee'd Bend, Alabama. Both traditions came from a need to repurpose scraps of fabric into everyday items. Both traditions used mainly bold bright colors, specifically lots of reds and yellows. Both traditions used similar arrangements of shapes, including variations of the "Log Cabin" quilting pattern

What does Shibui mean?

Shibui is a nuanced, untranslatable Japanese word to describe a specific aesthetic. The literal translation describes something bitter, like biting into unripe fruit. This idea is used by the Japanese to describe classic, timeless items that appear simple yet are made with great attention to construction and use. Shibui items are made to grow more cherished and loved with age.

Our favorite explanation, however, comes from our friend Momo: "Shibui? That's the word my mom uses for cool."

What happened to Esse Quam Videri and EQV?

It just got a new name! While I still love the name Esse Quam Videri, it was a tricky one for people to spell and pronounce (not like Shibui isn't...). I also wasn't able to originally get the URL and social media names, so it meant that people ran into difficulties finding me in this big world. Also, since Esse Quam Videri is the North Carolina state motto, it didn't quite fall in line with the message behind the brand. Shibui South honors both the Asian and Southern influences of the company and better expresses the intention behind each piece.

Where do you get your fabric?

Sourcing fabric is easily my favorite part of the production process. The fabric for the hand dyed items is repurposed from a local fabric printing company. The fabrics for the Chambray and Linen lines come from a number of sources, all American companies that manufacture most of their fabrics overseas. I always look for domestically manufactured fabrics first to meet production needs, but occasionally run into limitations of availability. Once the fabric reaches my studio in North Carolina, each piece is cut, washed, and sewn by hand. If you are a domestic fabric manufacturer or supplier, please get in touch!

Do you sell your fabrics?

Yes! Contact me for information on purchasing the hand dyed fabrics. Chambray and Linen purchasing depends on availability.

Do you do custom orders?

Limited custom ordering is available January, February, March, and July. Please send your ideas and specifications in a convo and I can let you know about availability.

What type of dyes do you use?

The majority of the hand dyed fabrics are dyed with low-impact MX dyes. These dyes require less water that natural or traditional dyes and can be activated (the chemical that makes the dye bond with the fabric) with household washing powder. Once the dye is has been used up (or "exhausted") it can be safely poured down the drain. I plan out my dye runs in order to maximize the dye usage and minimize the amount of water needed to dye, soak, and wash our fabrics.

At the moment I don't use natural dyes except for Indigo, as most require metal mordants to activate the dye. However, I'm always experimenting with new dyes and open to anything that is sustainable and leaves as small an impact as possible.

Can you teach me to do Shibori and hand dyeing?

Sure! Locals of the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area ask to receive information about upcoming classes in our studio. Stores and groups outside of the Triangle interested in hosting classes can convo to coordinate classes with my seasonal market schedule.

I sent you an email/convo/message on social media and you haven't responded. What's the deal?

Owning a business has made me terrible at correspondence. Please know that it's me and not you. Most likely, I'm working on finding space in my schedule/workload/studio to accommodate the wonderful opportunity you are offering. Thank you so much for your patience and kindness.