The first ten meters of silk produced by a silkworm is not really silk at all. Rather, it’s a coarse, uneven fibre called kibiso that resembles something between twine and waxed dental floss. Compared to its more fully-developed self, kibiso is decidedly un-silky and has for most of silk-making history been discarded as useless. 

After decades of working with silk organza and metal to create transparent and translucent sculptures, I recently discovered kibiso, the coarsely textured first strand of silk a silkworm produces. Long considered a waste product of the silk spinning industry, kibiso was once discarded from silk factories. But the recent environmental movement encouraged manufacturers to reconsider the possibilities of kibiso, so they distributed it to artists and designers. Because kibiso was different from the soft, fine silk I worked with for years, it intrigued me. I started to paint it with dye and weave the coarse threads as if they were fine silk.

I immediately appreciated this material, seeing its roughness as metaphor for the beginning of any new practice. Kibiso is a remnant, so the threads need to be connected and disconnected. As my own life shifted with a relocation from New York to Virginia, I began using kibiso to articulate my personal experiences with disrupted and reconnected relationships and as a symbol for my own crossing from North to South and to a different way of life.

Kibiso and Choshi are by-products of the silk industry and are supplied by Tsuruoka Fabric Industry Cooperative in Tsuruoka, Japan.