Category Archives: japan

marking time

Seasons mark time like nothing else.  The visual signs all around us are unmistakable.

fall

persimmon

-the feel of the air in the morning and again in the evening. Sounds also turn the corner into fall.

And here at my desk I also must mark time.  The time that orders must ship, the time that show prep begins and materials must be sent off.  Schedules for next year are already filling in.  I do that as if I know how things will be when that time rolls around.  I laugh.  Ha!  What if?  We don’t know at all but here we are making plans.
The world seems so uncertain.

Just in case,  Richard and I are planning a new in-studio workshop (details coming), I’m planning dates for shows and other workshops in the new year.  And also a couple of trips are in the works.  I’ve been asked to coordinate two adventures in Japan next Spring. One is a private group of friends returning to the past in a way- sharing old memories and getting to know each other again in the present.  A reunion tour.  I hope to make it a very special time for all.
The other, is coordination of a short extension tour for Maggie Backman‘s Cross Culture Tour.  I have to say, when and if I get to be Maggie’s age, I hope I have her enthusiasm, energy and spunk.  This is an idea she has had for some time now.  It grew out of her love for sharing Japan, silk, and learning with others.  For quite a number of years now we have realized that while we are introducing gaijins (foreigners) to Japan through our own “Silk Road” via the Silk Study Tour to Japan, there were an equal number of Japanese who were interested in what we were doing.  And while Maggie was bringing in teachers from Japan to teach in the Silk Experience classroom at the Houston Quilt Festival and while Japanese visitors to the show were signing up for silk classes…she wondered…

-what if…? What if she organized a tour that combined US teachers and Japanese teachers and included both Japanese and American/foreign students in a bilingual workshop in Japan.  So here is what she has put together:

Cross Culture Tour to Japan

My job is to lead and coordinate the tour extension but I will also be around to lend a hand when needed during the workshop portion.  The US teachers are Katrina Walker and June Colburn.  Japanese instructors are Masako Wakayama and Noriko Endo.

So take a look and wonder…and imagine marking time between now and then.

weaving motifs into cloth (and life)

There are certain motifs that have always captured my attention.  Of course you know the moon is one of these motifs but the other two that captivate me are water and cloud imagery.  Who hasn’t laid back and watched the clouds move across the sky, felt the sun come and go across our skin…listened to the waves, a nearby stream, a roaring river or waterfall…seen the moon rise and fall?  I like that these motifs are universal and shared across the globe regardless of where or who you are.  It reminds me of life’s beauty, and our connectedness to each other. These things give me perspective.

I think this is why these nature based motifs have been given so much regard in design over time and space.  Often each motif is imbued with a special meaning or symbology. I enjoy studying all the meanings behind the motifs and the cultures which bestowed these interpretaions.

I recently was very taken with old silk which had these images woven into the design.  I purchased a couple of rolls of these silks from second hand shops recently with a few things in mind.  First, to study them and then to create something out of them.

japanese vintage silk damask -indigo dyed

japanese vintage silk damask -indigo dyed

Aside from the cloud and water motifs, this one has bamboo, maple leaves and what looks to be cherry blossoms.  Sort of covers it all!  Originally, this sort of fabric was used for nagajuban -the ankle length under kimono which used the softest and finest silks worn next to the skin.  The weight and design complexity of this silk suggests that it was to be used in a nagajuban worn for a very formal occasion. It has a beautiful hand and a lovely drape.

I saw moons in it of course…

silk moons for the supermoon

silk moons for the supermoon

flowers on the moon-indigo and silk

flowers on the moon-indigo and silk

I used a piece of this fabric for a nice indigo dyed scarf with diagonal ends and hand stitched hems- ombre dyed on one side. I think I will add an interesting bead to the two points…

indigo scarf

I finally completed a little shop update that includes the following items- enjoy! Most items ship free with any other item.  Now back to the studio to finish up a couple orders that need to go out asap!

mon 紋 もん

itajime mon indigo

mon are emblems used in Japan to identify groups or individuals.  also know as Japanese crests, Wikipedia states that mon

may have originated as fabric patterns to be used on clothes in order to distinguish individuals or signify membership in a specific clan or organization.

some indigo itajime pieces i have been working on remind me of these mon.  perhaps a shibori no ai mon 藍搾り纹 is in order. will be wondering more about this.  i think they would make nice pillows…

these pieces are an outgrowth of what i have learned from Richard, who is due to be here shortly.  we will have some more time together, standing on common ground, and under the same moon.  we have 2 spots still open if you are in the neighborhood…

meanwhile, Susan over at ito de has been incorporating thoughts of kanji into her work.  lots of good posts over there.

Silk Study Tour to Japan 2013

Just a quick post today to give you the link for the 2013 Silk Study Tour to Japan.

If you are interested in seeing a few photos from previous tours, you can visit a Silk Study tour flickr set where I have posted a small number of the many photos I have collected over the years. This next year will be the 3rd biennial tour. We will learn more, visit new locations and this year we have arranged to have a day long workshop in the studio of a natural dyer whose family has been dyeing for several generations.  When we were there this past May he showed us the most magnificent indigo dyed silk! It was dyed with fresh leaf indigo and I was stunned at the beautiful color he achieved. He tells us he only dyes seasonally and locally, meaning he collects dyestuff from surrounding areas and only when they are in season. This is not a new idea to him although it is an idea that is currently getting more attention these days.

fresh leaf indigo dyed raw silk

Of course there will be so many things to discover and learn, friends and memories to make and keep.  Inspiration to last a lifetime.

This month will be keeping me busy teaching a couple of classes at HGA’s Convergence followed by the International Quilt Festival here in Long Beach.  The Houston Quilt Festival catalogs have gone out and you can start signing up by mail now.  I think you will be able to start signing up online in a couple of weeks. For now, you can order the catalog by mail here.

I’m even more excited about Houston this year as I will be teaching two classes that are firsts for me there- an all day indigo silk dyeing class and also a silk mawata making class.  I am also part of a team organizing a special silk exhibit on the convention’s exhibit area.  A lot going on…but now must get back to making.

Mata-ne!

the very industrious silkworm

So today was the big day. Time to stifle the cocoons.  I know- some of you are squeamish about this so perhaps you want to click away to the kittens right NOW!

Turns out I have about 800 cocoons-actually 794 to be precise. Since I didn’t order the eggs but used my own from the last rearing I wasn’t sure.  I guessed around 1000.  Not a bad guess as you lose a few along the way.

794 cocoons

There are a preponderance of yellow cocoons so apparently most of the eggs were from the reverse silkworms.  This year, I separated out a few of the best cocoons into two separate boxes for mating  purposes in case I want to do this again next year in a more controlled manner.  Last year it was pretty much an inter-racial silk moth sex party.

cocoon detail

I also saved out a few cocoons for more fresh reeling.  I need to get to these tomorrow before they emerge.

So, continuing on, it was time to stifle the cocoons so they can be stored and used later.  I used Michael Cook’s instructions as before for this which involves drying them out in a low oven over a couple of drying sessions.  A little toast (no, not that kind) was made in their honor (coffee, mind you as it was morning) and the drying is in progress.

Just so you know, once the moths emerge, they will live for about 10 days (they do not eat during this time as they have no system for this) mating and laying eggs (female only of course) and then they die.  Left to their own, the eggs will hatch (500 per female!!) and if not fed they too will die.  So it’s a service they do for us- to create cocoons which then we can harvest and use.  If you want some eggs, let me know.

Also , I have been playing with the cocoons a bit-

white cocoon flower

Also, the pocket squares for the London wedding are completed and ready to ship tomorrow, the mandala class is now tying their mandalas, and other orders accumulated while I was away are ready to ship out.  I had to catch up on a little indigo today as well and I have to say the fermentation vat is just stellar right now.

wearing many hats …and colors

To order solid shade hand dyed indigo cotton, go here.

For other indigo items, try here. I just restocked some of the items.

Next up on the “to do” list- making silk shibori ribbon, silk reeling, and mawata making practice, and of course indigo dyeing on some really great fabrics I brought back with me to try.

wow! back from Japan and catching up-

zakuri

zakuri gears

zakuri maker mark- from Omiya

What a time I had!  So much to tell and so busy with things to catch up on.  Not to mention the Mandala Workshop which is posting and uploading as I write this.  Back and forth on two blogs- multitasking…

OK- a few high points just to get things started:

I was very lucky and found an Edo period zakuri. (Edo was the shogun period when Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa family, 1603 to 1868.)   This is a silk reeling machine all handmade out of wood-even the gearing!.  There were literally thousands of them made in the later part of this period for the purpose of encouraging the cottage silk reeling industry in Japan-according to Michel Cook of Wormspit. Mine is in quite excellent condition and was found in a flea market at a very fair price.  I have to mention that before I arrived in Japan my intention was to find one of these.  I didn’t know if I would succeed- I didn’t even know what they were called!  But I had seen them in museum displays on earlier Silk Study trips to Japan.  Seeing as I am collecting a fair amount of my own hand raised cocoons I really wanted to have one- for practical purposes-reeling my own silk.

My friend Makoto likes to visit flea markets on the weekends looking for various things and so the day after I arrived in Kokubunji, we went to the first of 4 markets I was to visit during my remaining stay.  At the very first one, at the very front of the market, there it was!  I was kind of astonished.  I thought, maybe I better walk around a bit and see if there are any more to compare it with.  It was front and center in the small space of an older fellow who also had some other nice and quite interesting items (but no textiles).  I decided to wander the rest of the market first wondering if I would find another.  I did find a few small boro pieces and saw some other very nice textiles quite out of my budget but no more reeling machines.  I went back to the fellow and asked if there was a rocker arm which seemed to be missing. To my surprise- he dug around and came up with it! We bargained a wee bit but since it was such a fair price I accepted his first offer of  サビスです(a sort of complimentary service of a price reduction).  Makoto also found a very nice porcelain piece for his collection and a good indigo kimono with hand loomed cottons and a bit of boro.

Fortunately as well, I bought it because I did not see another one of any sort at any of the remaining markets or temple sales I ended up visiting.  I suppose it had been waiting for me.  Since I had traveled lightly to Japan I was able to find a box and boxed it up as my second bagage to return home at no extra cost. It arrived in fine shape and there are 1000 silk worms finishing up their cocooning  in egg cartons on the bench next to the piano…(i’ve decided that the silkworms prefer piano to drums, which are in the other room-always improvising around here…)

 

i like the music book on the piano- improvise. kind of a mantra around here…

Speaking of silkworms- “cat momma” Delia and sons did a great job of watching over the silkworm farm in my absence and upon returning they are all mostly spinning-some done and a few last ones just getting into it.  I am hoping to try a little fresh reeling with some of them…Thank you Delia!

So here’s a little video from today-

 In other news, mom survived my absence. My sister checked in with her while I was away. Only (??) 2 other mobiles burned down in the park in the past 10 days- no one was hurt apparently.  They last one she reported to me tonight that they ate pizza while watching the firemen respond-there are a few other hoarders in the ‘hood but rumor is that they were “cooking incidents”. Also, her longtime cat Mr. Orange died while I was gone. He was showing some signs of something before I left so we set the mobile vet up to go for a visit-  he had a “mass” and had to be put down. Yay for mobile vet services- a great help! After that sadness, someone presented her with two small kittens. Oh dear! Will keep on top of this one. She also managed to screw up her banking so have implemented strict restrictions on that after sorting things out. So, for the moment, peace has been restored!

Tomorrow, the garden will be surveyed and dealt with.

frolicking in blue fields…

she came upon and frolicked in, fields of blue flowers while gathering sansai (mountain vegetables)

while gathering sansai...

when her basket was filled, aiko returned home and on the way came across a simple buddhist temple and a great buddha image. it reminded her of her home and the great daibutsu in kamakura…she left a few coins in gratitude of her abundance, said a quiet prayer and lit some incense in memory of her ancestors before continuing down the mountainside.

aiko visits the great mountainside buddha