Joan Morris began using shaped-resist dyeing in her studio practice in 1983, after many years of working with dyes, paint, and fabric. That year also marked the beginning of her work as master-dyer for the Theater Department at Dartmouth College, where she dyed and created textiles for more than one hundred productions. Her art works have been exhibited and awarded prizes nationally and internationally, and she has received grants for her work from the Asian Cultural Council, the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Community Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, Dartmouth College and private foundations. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (Smithsonian Institution) in New York, the Museum of Art at RISD, Takeda Kahei Shoten in Arimatsu, Japan, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, and the Ballinglen Museum of Art in Ballycastle, Co. Mayo, Ireland. Barney's New York featured her one-of-a-kind shaped-resist dyed shawls and scarves in the fall-winter collections of 1990 and 1991.
In 1996 Morris completed a project for the US Army Corp of Engineers. The five-year project involved translating four environmentally significant remote-sensed images into resist-dyed imagery using stiched, pole-wrapped, and capped resists, as well as newly invented forms. An image from this series was selected as the cover for Memory on Cloth: Shibori Now, by Yoshiko I. Wada (Kodansha International, 2002). Morris's paper on the translation project was presented at the International Textile and Science Conference in the Czech Republic. A paper on the diffusion of shaped-resist dye methods was delivered at the 3rd International Textile Symposium in the Republic of Georgia in 2001, and her work in the field of textile modification for theater has been presented internationally. Joan Morris has been a panelist and invited artist at the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th International Shibori Symposia in India, Chile, England, and Japan, and was an invited artist in the Kimono Project at ISS '92, in Nagoya, Japan. In recent years, she has designed and fabricated the shaped-resist textiles for "The Lion King" on Broadway as well as for the Japan, UK-Continental Europe, Canada, South America, Australia, China, Mexico, Los Angeles, and road show productions.
In 1995 Joan Morris began research on the incorporation of mechanical resist and precious metal application into the shaped-resist process. In 1998 she began a collaboration with fellow artist Michèle Ratté on a washable precious and base metal printing invention for textiles and other substrates. They own the United States patent for their invention. Morris continues to make work that merges dyeing, drawing, painting and printing in her studio practice. She was a fellow at the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in Ireland in 2017 and 2019.
*The Japanese word shibori means "to compress" or "to squeeze." Shibori is a 1400-year-old Japanese shaped-resist dyeing process whereby cloth is shaped by stitching, folding, wrapping, or pleating, and bound into those shapes by tying or clamping. Once dyed, the cloth visually registers the shape it was in before it is returned to flat form. Many cultures worldwide have developed methods for shaped-resist dyeing. The earliest extant samples are from the Chavìn culture of the Andes (c. 700-c. 200 BC).
Teaching cloistered nuns in Vardzia, Georgian Republic, 2005