Category Archives: inspiration
The commenter was suggesting that I apply to teach my online indigo class at Craftsy. This is not the first time someone has suggested this to me. Now I know that “everyone is doing it”, and before I get more emails asking why I’m not, I thought I’d try to explain my hesitation to do so.
First, it’s not “all about the money”. But then again, it is about the money too. About where the money goes. I prefer it to come directly to me for the work I put into my classes.
Craftsy is great for those who don’t want to or can’t set up their own system of teaching online. They do it for you. And I hear they do a fine job of it. They even do your hair and makeup and send a limo for you. (Somehow, that just doesn’t feel like me being me.) I’ve seen some of the promos and they are pretty slick. Again, that doesn’t really feel like me either. I don’t want to turn my indigo dyeing teachings into something that resembles a morning talk program. I kinda like it the way it is, personal,real, and kinda funky. Shot here in my own studio on my trusty iphone and edited in imovie. Not so slick.
Yes, I probably could sell a lot of classes there. I might even make more money (but like I said before, it’s not all about the money). But then again I might not. I have spent a considerable amount of time and even travel teaching, learning, practicing, marketing my own work and “brand” over the past many years and I’m not so quick to turn that over to someone else to take a cut off the top. I am not so interested in becoming a class in a category on a site offering everything from decorating cupcakes to pizza making and parenting. I guess I’m a little weird that way.
As I look over Craftsy, I see that since their beginning offerings in 2011 they have grown to encompass so many topics- a clearing house of sorts. They make their money by being that clearing house. Online learning is here to stay. That much is sure. Coursera is now booming and their offerings are free!
For some of us that have been at this, teaching craft (or whatever you want to call it) online, for longer than that, I believe we paved the way for this sort of thing. The first one I was aware of was Joggles, where I taught a couple of classes in the beginning as a requirement for having my ribbon sold on the site. It was a fair trade in the beginning. Later down the road, I wanted to offer more (was told that it was impossible to teach dyeing online!) and I wanted to include video so I went solo and started developing my own methods and means. Part of my intention was that I knew there were many folks out there like myself who couldn’t afford the trips to take in-person workshops with great teachers. Whether it was a time or money issue, I thought that teaching dyeing online was a possibility. I also didn’t want to be limited by geography. I wondered. Things were changing. Technology was offering up new possibilities. I just started doing it. I learned as I went and I learned from and with others.
Susan Sorrell stands out in my mind as someone who was in on the online teaching very early on. Maybe as early as 2002 from what I could see on her website! I think my own first online classes were somewhere around 2006. And of course, we include the masterful Jude of Spiritcloth for bringing us classes online that feed our soul, make us wonder, and have helped us in so many ways-stitch by stitch- by just being herself. There are many more I am sure. We each have created a small niche for ourselves that supports us and our families. We are not rich by conventional terms, but we are independent and we are entrepreneurial. We also want to be ourselves. I want to own my own materials, my own copyright. I like being able to add to my class whenever I like-as I learn and grow with the students. Once a Craftsy class is “in the can” it is what it is.
I am reminded of a retelling of a Native American myth that I once read called ”Heron and the Hummingbird” where the two get in a race to see who will own all of the fish in the rivers and lakes. The hummingbird loved to eat small minnows and the heron loved to eat large fish. I think we are the hummingbirds in the story.
I imagine that at some point down the road Craftsy might be bought by some media company larger than itself. Seems that is how many of these sorts of startups go. Big fish swallowing up smaller fish -the way of the world these days.
I just hope that the future will still hold a place for hummingbirds to flit free and enjoy the nectar. Some days though, it does feel as if the odds are stacked against it. Once, when I was in Mexico, I saw a hummingbird laying dead near a large window. I went over and picked it up and to my surprise it started to move. It sat there in my hand for a few minutes gathering itself together and then flew right out of my hand- off and away! It had merely been stunned I guess, running into that large window.
I’d never bet against the hummers out there. We’re colorful, we can take a few knocks, and we keep on zip-zipping around tasting nectar from here and there. Plus, as my friend Peg reminds me, hummingbirds can fly backwards! (thanks for the photos Peg!!)
White. Is it a color? If black is the absence of color (darkness) then is white (light) the combination of all colors in the visible spectrum? As a dyer, this is interesting to me. White is often my canvas when dyeing and dyeing something black takes a whole lot of colors mixed together. Strange.
As a dyer with an eye towards using what is around and available I have collected lots of old cloth that can be dyed. But are they white? Many are what I would call a natural white. They are what they are-ivory, cream, white, eggshell,off-white, antique white, snow white, pearl white, bleached white etc…
Many of you who have taken indigo classes from me recently have received materials kits containing a whole variety of great old fabrics-all natural and of course dyeable in indigo. It’s informative to look at the structure of old fabrics. This cloth that was formally the fabric of people’s lives. Literally- laces, tablecloths, clothing, bed coverings, kitchen towels, even mosquito netting and more. Each type of cloth reveals more about itself when dyed in the vat-it’s thickness, weave, age, and even stains that dye differently from the whole cloth. Next to each other, they can form an amazing array of beautiful blues or whites.
But what if they were left as they are? Left to use in other ways, to stitch together new dreams and aspirations? That is what I see going on in Jude’s new class What If Diaries. Definitely not a craftsy class where everything is laid out for you to make or do according to the plan, but a way to explore much deeper. The class is now sold out but she has others of a similar nature to explore. I like that the cloth is explored more deeply- that students not only connect themselves to the fabrics, the stitches, but that there is always a stream of consciousness floating in the background as a jumping off point to some new or even old idea. It’s kind of like what I imagine the beginning of the universe to be- sort of like a primordial soup of creation.
old battenburg lace- in process
And speaking of creation- last weekend at the JANM (Japanese American National Museum) we had a really grand time. I took a whole silk display and we even reeled silk on the old zakuri. The students were in awe as most had never seen this before. The ingeniousness of the device AND that of the silkworm and it’s cocoon. I don’t think they’ll ever take silk for granted again!
student reeling silk on the old zakuri
And of course we dyed silk- new and old. Itajime was the focus and this was a quick pic of their first pieces of the day. After this, I got too busy to take photos-as usual. Many left class and went straight out to the front desk to sign up for the Aug 31-Sept 1 class.
Saturday, August 31, 201312:00 PM—4:30 PM
Indigo and Shibori Techniques with Shibori GirlIn this 2-day workshop we will focus our intentions on practicing itajime (fold and clamp) shibori on recycled kimono lining silks. Once considered as precious as gold, old silks are being discarded at an alarming rate! Let’s breathe new life into them and improve our understanding of both silk and itajime shibori. Indigo and colorhue dyes will be used in this workshop. Both days: $70 members; $90 non-members, an additional $45 materials fee (cash only) will be collected at the beginning of class, admission is included. RSVP early, 20 students max.
Seems like lately I’ve been in the employ of words ending in -tion and -sion. words like:
instruction, concentration, immersion, connection, destination, impression, revelation, fermentation
and the main one:
All through the recent couple of weeks these words rolled around inside my head and I find that they apply to so many things throughout my day. All of them though, bound up by intent. I am focusing more on intent these days. Maybe focusing isn’t the right word really. At least being more conscious of it, wondering about it, taking it into consideration . Noticing it, within myself and beyond.
I think that the silks that Richard brought over made it ever clear. These fabrics have intent. Working with them I can feel and see it. Even though most were produced many decades ago (and maybe especially because they were) the intent seems clear to me. They are still here. They were saved all this time. The intent was carried on through many hands into their present form.
And over time here, I have been wondering not only about silk, but about indigo too. Last year I grew indigo-cut and dried it, even saved the seed. Eventually I composted the leaves into a claylike mass. Now, I have made a fermentation vat with the homegrown indigo. I think the past is about to meet the future, blending the past with the future, sustainably.
This intention has been brewing in me for a very long time. Some days I think maybe since the dawn. I am only beginning to recognize it as such. I can be a slow learner…
seeds. i’ve written about seeds a number of times this past year. and things related to seeds. seeds are the beginning of things. they contain the wonderful possibility of life, sustenance, beauty and even of freedom. i’ve always been a seed saver. when i was a kid it was fun to collect seeds to play with-to make things with. i remember having great fun collecting nasturtium seeds- so plentiful and easy to gather. all sizes, shapes and colors. string them, glue them, count them, eat them, plant them. seeds.
a couple of months ago i had the good fortune to be in Santa Clara for a family wedding and came across the Luther Burbank home and gardens. if you are ever in Santa Clara try to make time to stop by (the docent tour was also fantastic). I was so intrigued by this man- i bought this book -A Gardener Touched with Genius and have been reading it off and on…so interesting! The place is beautiful, gardens diverse and the house is quaint and wonderfully restored. but my favorite thing was this:
this is how he thought of his seeds. precious. so much so that they were kept in a vault. there also was a small shed with a little window from which he sold his seeds to neighbors and to the public. a walk around the neighborhood reveals that many of the yards still contain plants grown from his seeds. charming! he also had an experimental farm at nearby Sebastopol. i hope to visit it sometime this year. this video really speaks to who he was:
now i have mentioned once or twice before that silk moth eggs are called seeds by the Japanese. and they do look like seeds. i have a fair collection myself in the butter compartment of the fridge. i wonder if and when i will have a chance to raise silkworms this year?
of course i will grow indigo again, in fact it is already growing! seeds that dropped while collecting the flower stems have already sprouted in this mild climate of ours. we had some nice soft rain that coaxed them… i gave away most of my extra indigo seeds -i like to send them out into the hands of those who take the indigo workshops. i wonder how many will plant them?
I am also growing something new this year- madder. i will be experimenting with it. with combining madder and indigo. i thought it might be about time to add a second color to the natural dyescape of my studio. i’m not one to try anything and everything- i like to delve into things fairly deep and that means taking my time with it and not rushing. madder grows rather slowly and it will take couple of years for it to mature to the point where it can be harvested. honestly, i wonder if i will even get to that point with it. but i have some madder root here now that i have purchased and watching some grow will only add to my knowledge base. i was intrigued by madder several years ago when on the silk study tour we visited a natural dyer who showed me his experiments with it and some madder he had grown. he planted a seed in me that started me wondering. it’s taken a while to germinate… i wonder what new things will come of this.
seeds are a good way of spreading wonder i think. that is what i intend to continue with this year. spreading wonder and planting seeds in small ways. there’s a lot to wonder about. may the ground be fertile!
happy new year!
While I was away recently, I was taking notice of some small things. One thing kept appearing so often that I decided to make special note of was…
where feathers fall:
So often it is the small things. And while I was away, I made this:
over the course of many hours, in between wooded walks, between essays in this book, dinners around the table, and some hammock time.
Berry says that we should never have trusted our economy to economists:
“In ordering the economy of a household or a community or a nation, I would put nature first, the economies of land use second, the manufacturing economy third, and the consumer economy fourth.”
I was in a good place to read this book. And a bookmark for it seemed useful.
I posted a picture of it online. Michel spoke up quickly and wanted to have this bookmark and asked its price. Such a difficult question. Some things defy putting a price on them and are best given as a gift. A simple bookmark on the face of things, but so much more to me. As I stitched the tiny x’s I thought of gravesites-one like this I came across in the woods:
an old homesteaders grave in the woods
the spiral stitching of a single strand of silk floss reminded me of the ponds surface broken by the multitudes of dragonflies touching down on its surface.
a patch of x’s and o’s- a little game to represent child’s play
contrasts of light and dark, night and day
layers of intention.
the feather of a blue jay found along a path. a couple of dyed pumice beads in memory of the Miwok who walked here many summers ago.
miwok grinding hole in granite bedrock under the oaks along the stream
I’m sure they noticed where feathers fell (and acorns too).
jude knows a little something about where feathers fall too.
one of the pond’s nesting great blue herons
Shortly after posting a photo on my FB studio page of this bookmark, someone quickly posted their version of it. I never quite know how to feel about this. So much thought and intention inspired a quickie redo of it. I’m glad it inspires but somehow much gets lost in the translation and creates a sort of devaluation of the original . It’s a reminder that although you can replicate an object you can’t replicate what is beneath the surface. Like the soil and what lies below the surface. And I thought some more about it-
do your best with each small detail. craft it with care and intention. be unique and creative. give it meaning, a story, a place and time.
The much appreciated break was welcomed and we’ve now all returned to our places. The garden went a little crazy while I was gone so have been tending to that as well.
Upon returning I discovered yet another HD failure so am working to get things back in order. If you are waiting on me for anything, have patience and mercy-and a kind reminder email would be helpful! I’ll get it back together soon…
Yes, it is true! India Flint will be in Los Angeles to give a 3 day workshop (July 30,31,& Aug 1) at the studio and shop of Claudia Grau in Los Angeles. I don’t know Claudia, but she contacted me to let me know there are still a few spaces left and wondered if I knew anyone who might want to join the workshop. India’s west coast trip has her in the Santa Barbara area giving a workshop there as well but that one sold out rather quickly and hence the LA area workshop was quickly conceived. There really is not much time to ponder it as registration will close on Friday (this Friday!). I hope to attend as well although I will be just finishing up the Long Beach International Quilt Festival and the Houston Silk Exhibit planning team will be in town to meet so time is pretty booked.
For those of you who might not be familiar with India and her work, she is the author on two two books, Eco Color and Second Skin, both books on sustainable dyeing using local windfall to color cloth. She wanders and wonders wherever the trade winds take her, sharing her knowledge, experience, and methods with dyers worldwide. It is a rare chance to be able to have her in Southern California.
Speaking of books, I recently received a copy of a book called Shibori Recreated produced in Australia which features the work of 20 shibori artists, dyers, and makers worldwide. I was asked to participate in this project and found myself in the company of some others whose work I admire greatly- Hiroshi Murase, Yvonne Wakabayashi, and India Flint to name a few. I was also pleased to be introduced to the work of Sally Campbell and Barbara Rogers (among others), two shibori-ists whom I had not been previously aware. The choice of covers for the book (front and back), leave a little to be desired as they don’t convey the topic of shibori very effectively in my opinion. But I was interested in the content. Each artist was asked the same set of questions about their own work, shibori in general-past and present, and the future of shibori in terms of technology and this modern world, among other things. It was interesting to read the artists answers, in their own words, from such a broad and diverse set of folks whose work all focuses on shibori. I found there were several consistent themes running through the answers of many and thoroughly enjoyed reading through them. The only other caveat I would add is that the font style and size that was chosen makes for extremely difficult reading. An odd choice for a book that you want people to read and is actually worth reading. I think it might be a case of getting carried away with design and form over function. But all in all, I enjoyed it.
Back to the workshop- if you are anywhere in SoCal and want to wonder and wander a bit with India Flint, give Claudia a call, an email or click to the link to join in- I hope to be there to join you!
The great abundance of things at our fingertips temps us to forget the value of caring for the things that we do have and the way we can make more of that which we already have in our possession.
Mending can come in many forms. I always admire the ways that jude mends. I’ve spent some time too, really looking at the examples of boro fabrics I have. Recently, I’ve been mending jeans that my son and I wear. Putting lots of different thoughts I have been having into action. And of course I have plenty of my own indigo dyed fabrics and threads which to utilize. And then there is the utility of it all. It seems I just can’t give that up. I want things to be useful. And beautiful. Maybe not universally beautiful, but at least in the eye of the beholder.
We all know that fashion, industry, and media push us towards wanting new and more. But what if we collectively began to desire less and old (used,worn,repaired) and saw the beauty in that? The folks of the Tohoku region in Japan created their boro textiles out of necessity but today we can appreciate and take meaning from this unintended artform and apply it to the new necessity that we have to conserve our modern resources using and reusing that which we already possess.
I also recently listened to an interview with the author of the book “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth Cline. It seems that there are more and more people beginning to consider this. Her blog ”The Good Closet” gives practical tips on how to reduce, reuse, and resist the urges to fill our closets with, well, crap.
What if it simplified our lives, mended our ways, and just used less. Would we be better or worse because of it? Jeans seem a good place to begin. We all wear them. They last. They are very mend-worthy. So with that in mind I offer this:
Now of course, you don’t need someone else to do your mending, but but if you would like me to do it for you I will. I’m just putting out the thought…the idea…and wondering.
More or less, less can become more.
Is it seriously the end of January? I have been remiss…but busy at other things. Shibori things, indigo things, workshop things, organizing things, sales tax things (ick!), among other things. Those of you signing up for the online indigo workshop that starts in march- many thanks. You will receive an email mid February discussing what materials to begin gathering.
We are also having some company this week…some busy hands who were helping me sort ribbons into color piles this morning as I stitched some shibori ribbon flowers for an order. A simple beauty as he discovered each color and opened and closed the pleats. Later on, we did some painting. He keeps his mom very busy and anyone else in close proximity!
The 2 day indigo workshop at the JANM was a real treat- a great group as usual. Some very beautiful fabrics were created. Photos and more on that later in a separate post but there is one more workshop coming up at the JANM March 3-follow the link to sign up.
But the really exciting news is that my friend from Nagoya-Richard Carbin, mandala dyer extraordinaire is coming to teach mandala dyeing at my studio in Long Beach Feb. 18-19. This will be a real treat. The workshop is limited to 4 people as it will be hard to manage more right now. You can read more about the workshop and sign up here.
Here is a small selection of Richard’s mandala work:
Richard and I became fans of each others work via Flickr several years ago and more recently on Facebook. Richard is an ex-pat living in Nagoya Japan with his wife and two boys. Last May when I visited Japan for the Silk Study and the Arimatsu Shibori Festival, we made a pact to meet up and get to know each other better and in person. We visited late into the night (you know how dyers can be…) . He has a unique talent with techniques he has developed over many years and will be teaching his mandala dye technique here in my Long Beach workspace next month. I will assist and add indigo to the mix along with some other surprises.
Way back then I was taken by the beauty and skill of his dye work. I have been doing some thinking lately on beauty and I believe it is at the core of what we tend to think of as art. No matter what name we give it, we humans seem to have a need for it-whether we observe the beauty around us or whether we create it. Beauty calms us, it can capture timeless moments and asks us to slow down and observe. Beauty speaks to a higher order, is captivating, and allows us to see into the heart of things. Richard’s mandalas are like that to me- like I am looking into the core of beauty.
(Check out more of Richard’s work on Flickr here.)