Category Archives: japanese textiles
Hello. That’s a good place to start. Yes, I’m back. Here. Houston almost seems like a dream! A wonderful show and ever so busy for me on all accounts. My sincere thanks to everyone who came, who sent in pieces for the silk exhibit, and who took my workshop. We did have a great time!
Let’s start with a little slideshow of the silk exhibit…
Having never curated and organized an exhibit before I was pretty much winging it but in my mind’s eye I had an idea of what I wanted to communicate to viewers of the exhibit. It was also interesting to work with the exhibit staff at Quilts Inc. and see their process for receiving materials, setting up, breaking down, and returning items for the exhibit at large. Many thanks especially to Ginny and her crew who were assigned to this exhibit (they confessed that when the various exhibits were assigned they drew the short straw! in the end it wasn’t as bad as they thought-just different than the basic quilt exhibit). Thanks Ginny and crew! I got to learn a lot through organizing this exhibit.
a couple of shots of the booth-
Unfortunately, when I returned I got the flu- put me a few steps back and then it was off to see my son Trevor’s senior recital-wow!
-and then back home where I am still catching up on emails and orders. Also many proposals and fees for next years events are due any day now. Yikes!
Oh, and another great indigo workshop at the Japanese American National Museum last weekend-
Glenna came with her own wonderings-about temari. She played and devised a way to indigo dye the base for a temari. Quite inventive. I can see the possibilities now! If you are looking for a new craft to spend some serious time at check out the possibilities of making temari! I even want to try my hand at it-at least once just to gain a basic understanding. She gave me a lovely sample of her work as a gift-I love it!
The gift of home grown cotton was actually from the Houston workshop-got it mixed into the wrong set- but it is beautiful and has seeds that I have separated out- I want to grow a couple of plants just for fun.
The indigo is all cut and each participant at the JANM workshop received a seed packet in their materials kit. Perhaps some indigo will be grown in spring! As for the rest, some was bagged for gifts, and the rest of the seed was collected for next years crop. However, it looks like there may already be some dropped seed sprouting out back already! We’ll see…
More to tell, but must end it here for now- have a wonderful holiday full of thanks and giving, of friends and family.
Again, another post sparked by a series of emails with a customer and reader of the blog. No details as the specifics are not important, but in the end it came down to the topic of the evolution of ideas, of creating, and remaking an idea into something you can call your own.
This morning I woke up and for some reason the word revolve was in my head. I believe it is because of this conversation with Emily and even a post a few back and a very good comment by Cyndi who said:
I used to attempt to copy a very spiritual artist’s work because her paintings were beautiful, yet seemed so effortless. My work was pretty but unsatisfying. After struggles and deep pain entered my walk, I looked at her work with fresh eyes. It meant far more than brush strokes and technique.
The risk of putting something out there is that we can’t dictate how every individual will experience it. For some it may appear a simple craft to replicate or an effortless painting of pretty mixed colors. The journey stops in mere practice for them. However, the beauty of the connection of the feathers and their place in a greater context is priceless. For all those who may copy your work, you have touched something within them with the desire to create. For others, they may go for a walk on the path less chosen and find feathers and blessing enough to make a pair of wings.”
So, another reminder and thank you to both Cyndi and Emily – teaching and learning are like chickens and eggs.
It appears that I am in a (r)evolving phase in other things as well. It’s left me feeling kind of blue and a little bit deranged. I have lots of work to do and will be updating the shop with some indigo in a few days. Trying to catch the last of the summer indigo…you never know when summer starts and stops around here.
i’m still listening to this one…
Also taking some time is the upcoming silk exhibit in Houston. Here is some information on it:
I’ve never done an exhibit before and am feeling my way through much of it. If it ever happens again, I’ll know what to improve on for sure. It’s not over yet. The folks at Quilts Inc. have been very helpful and supportive as has both Maggie and Katrina. But I feel the pressure for sure. These things all sound good and exciting in the beginning but there is always a point (for me) when I begin w o n d e r i n g . . .but I think it’s pretty well under control now.Phew!
There are many exciting pieces in the show- John Marshall was kind enough to lend this silk shibori piece-
yardage tied and died and shaped into a decorative lobster. likely a wedding gift. and a kimono using the same fabric. thank you John Marshall!!
craft to industry, guild to union, cottage to factory. this is what is generally considered as progress.
sometimes, progress has a high price to pay. some things become streamlined, simplified. other things become automated, even people become cogs in the automation (and consumption) wheel. other things become lost and forgotten. do we stop to think of what these prices extract from us?
i am still reading. speaking of SustainAbility, the current essay asks the question “how have we been able to sustain such unsustainability for so long?”. a good question
i think it helps to know the history of this. how did we get here? the earth is plentiful in it’s bounty but we are poor and careless consumers of it’s offerings. in his essay titled “The Historical Production (and Consumption) of Unsustainability: Technology, Policy, and Culture”, Benjamin Cohen restates a cultural axiom of technology and risk this way:
“The more we seek to control nature, the more risk we create.”
hmmm…i think we can all think of some pretty big examples of this. some might say Monsanto, others might say Fukushima, or monoculture. most of this progress has distanced consumers from producers. a move over time from the qualitative to quantitative gave rise to more human control over the natural world.
by distancing ourselves from the gathering of energy materials and water sources, the growing of food, the making of product in far away places extracts a toll not only on those locales and their culture and environments but on us physically, morally, and spiritually.
ah…such big thoughts for such a lazy hot day like today. a morning earthquake here shook us up a bit and reminded us that nature is truly in charge. but what does craft have to do with all this? i wonder…
yesterday i was testing out more cocoons and and was wondering about tsumugi.i have been experimenting with this. i like that it requires almost no equipment. i remembered seeing this video a while back and went to watch it again. the part i was most interested in seeing again begins at 3:07.
i am stacking up a few good books to take to the woods next weekend. some i have already read or partially read and want more time with. one of them is Azby Brown’s book “just enough- lessons in living green from traditional japan”. i really enjoy this book.
i am also gathering up food from the garden to take and we are looking forward to this annual retreat where we are able to separate ourselves from daily city life. where i can sit with nothing more than the squaw hole covered granite stones listening to the sound of water rushing below and the winds whispering in the oaks overhead. this former Sierra Miwok summer camp, later a travelers lodge visited by those traveling to the Yosemite valley by foot or horseback (perhaps even John Muir and Ansel Adams), and even later still the summer camp for the Oakland Council of Girl Scouts- bringing girls into the woods for an experience to last a lifetime. now in private hands of old friends who kindly offer its use to us we thank them and all the past caretakers who have allowed it to remain wild with its history quite intact.
i will even be stopping by a local gallery on the way in to drop off some nigella seeds for a blog reader and quilter in the area. perhaps we will meet up at some point- but once i am in i tend to stay put. i have some stitching i intend to take as well.
a few orders must be finished, some emails sent, so off to continue that now…
oh- and richard send me one more very intriguing item for the silk exhibit- a straw bed for silkworm cocooning- so interesting.
I wanted t0 do a little post on some of the fabrics I brought back with me from Japan. The first one is a bit of a curiosity to me which is why I bought it at one of the temple sales I wandered through. I’m sure this technique has a name and a history but since I had never seen it ( or noticed it) before, I was quite unaware of it. At first I was drawn to it because of the indigo, next by the hemp, and also by the subtle pattern woven into it. Then I noticed that it was also embroidered with silk here and there. Not only that, but what I saw as embroidery seems to actually have been added into the design as it was being woven. There are large floats across the back too. What is this called? Is it common? I like so many things about this fabric. I like the uncommon pairing of the course hemp and the lustrous silk. Perhaps John Marshall might know- or a weaver passing through…
The light flowers, stems, and leaves first appear as if they could be katazome, but no. The back side shows the motif as darker than the ground. A form of kasuri? Or just a kind of double weave floating the lighter weft over the darker warp threads. I just don’t know. Again, a question for a weaver to answer. And then with the silk. a soft handspun yarn lightly dyed -perhaps with madder. Three pieces of this I dug out of a pile of things under a table, appear to be an old obi.
Then there was this-
~this was found at the same flea market where I found the zakuri. the seller had several fine textiles. Makoto bought one especially nice boro kimono for his wife. This was in his scrap box (where I shop!) and I loved the color and the two way kasuri pattern. The warp is a fine black cotton and the weft a lovely orange slightly slubby fine silk. A great combo. He had several pieces and I bought only two and had regrets by the time I got home for not buying it all. To our surprise, the next day we saw him again at a different temple sale and I asked if he had brought it with him and he dug it out of a box and I bought the rest. So 5 pieces in all-a kimono that was taken apart for cleaning and never put back together. I love that about kimono. The making of them does not require cutting into the fabric except for length and in the end you can dismantle the piece and use it all over again. What plain and common sense!
Walking back to the train one day I came upon a small street where a few vendors had thrown down some tarps with kimono and fabric piled onto them. I picked up a couple of things-
The one on the left (partially shown) is a shibori noren. Likely made or at least tied in China. The other one seemed more possibly Japanese. I liked what I saw in it.
Two kasuri jackets or possibly summer weight yogi (for sleeping) – both in great condition. All hand sewn. Each use different cotton kasuri fabrics. A couple of small seam repairs and I may put one of them in the shop. It’s quite small. But the fabric is wonderful.
I’ve saved the best for last-
~this particular one appears to be quite old and with many boro patches. It employs various homespun cotton fabrics and the rope appears to be handmade from hemp fibers. Also quite large-12 x 20″ at least. The inside is more interesting than the outside-you can better see the patchwork. I would guess this one to be from the Meiji era (1868-1912). I appropriately found it at a temple sale. A few more pics of it:
And today, while silk was steaming on poles, I dyed up the mandalas I exampled in the online workshop-
that’s all I can manage right now-whoops, except for this:
Took this for a test drive and liked it-fabric is some hemp I found along with the komebukuro and I’ve backed the coasters with a little hand stitched kasuri. They’re reversible. Moons of course. I keep wondering why we can’t have hemp in this country…it’s just such a practical enduring fabric.
whoops- almost forgot the silk-some kimono lining silk rescued and indigo dyed-
There is a shop update in the near future.
With everything going on here it seems I neglected to do a quick write-up on the HDSEX (as we call it). It was a great drive out to Utah where we met up with friends new and old. Even old moon friends. Spotted this old friend when entering the canyons outside St. George on the way in.
The class set-up at Superior Threads was excellent and in the second session June Colburn, Katrina Walker and myself held our session in a round robin format with everyone rotating among the three of us. My focus was shibori dyeing and we even did a bit of indigo. Everyone was treated to a bit of history-we used the kanoko stencils and tools which are about 100 years old to transfer designs for stitched shibori.
we did some pole wrapping on silk…and discovered it takes more than two to tango-
really, it justs takes a little practice.
We had a great time with Noriko Endo who enjoyed some dyeing fun too! as many teachers know, you don’t get a chance to TAKE classes very often and Noriko took time after teaching in session one to take our session. I got to teach her some shibori!
June treated everyone to a great presentation on kimono and had lots of kimono to illustrate her stories. I tried to take some video but the light in the room was too low but trust me, if you get a chance to hear her lecture on kimono you should do it. One day, she will write a book.
and as in all things, there is an end and we said our goodbyes to Utah and will all meet again in Houston in October!
“Create the look of traditional, hand-work stitching passed down through generations on the Sashiko Machine. Replicate this distinctive and celebrated stitch and add a hand-stitched touch to any project with a machine that is truly the first of its kind.”
is it just me or does anyone else feel the irony of this advertising pitch? am i alone in feeling that i no longer belong in this world?
(photo replaced from original version of this post due to unresolved confusion over the original source of the photo i had used to illustrate this post- mea culpa-note to self-keep to my own photos!)
somehow, replicating the look of celebrated traditional handwork by purchasing a $2000 machine to reproduce a facsimile just doesn’t work for me. if i want to make something that has the appearance of hand stitching, then i will hand stitch it. machine stitching looks like machine stitching. regardless of stitch length.
i’m sure that there are many fine uses for a sachiko (long stitch) type sewing machine. i could probably invent a few of them myself. but let’s leave sashiko to the hand stitchers. there is an inherent beauty and wisdom in sashiko that cannot be replicated by machine- no matter how you flower up the marketing.
of course if you aren’t willing to invest the time to study, practice, and observe what traditional sashiko has to offer then you will never know- not all things are meant to be diminished for the sake of speed and profit. i hope that anyone purchasing a sashiko machine for making sashiko has been able to experience the real thing just to know the difference. because we do.
for a little history of sashiko you can go here.
and then of course there is jude’s work. can you imagine it done by machine? i can’t.
for more images of sashiko, try google images.
i think natalie said it perfectly :
“really, sashiko is a walking meditation with thread.”
i don’t think you are going to get that with a sashiko machine.
and if you were wondering, shibori has utilized some sashiko designs:
this left me wondering, which came first- the shibori design or the sashiko design. guess i’ll have to do a little more research on that.
like i said in an earlier post, i am in the practice of noticing more. especially when things seemingly unconnected occur in close or relative relationship to each other. Carl Jung coined the term “synchronicity” to explain this connecting principle.
it so happens it is the time for obon celebrations in Japan as well as in Japanese communities around the world.
here in the LA area, the Japanese American National Museum hosted a summer festival in Little Tokyo. the above link lists oban festivals around the US- maybe there is one near you.
my friend Susan made note of one near her in her recent post.
and then out of “the blue”, i received a CD with some old family pics from a sister who has taken on the task of converting dad’s old slides…and there were those old pics of the bon odori.
it was a serious event and everyone came out for it. my best recollections were getting to dress up in yukata,the smell of yakitori, and catching pretty goldfish with rice paper wands. a general summer festival with all the trimmings. bon odori nights were the highlight of the summer with food, music, dancing, fireworks, paper lantern decorations and more. we definitely stood out with our red, blond and brown pixie haircuts and light eyes in a sea of Japanese. even in yukata there was no way to blend in. and in true Japanese hospitality the women were especially kind and wanted to teach us how to dance with them.
it was also a great place to see some fabulous japanese cotton textiles….not that i appreciated it at the time though.
Obon or Bon is an annual Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the deceased (departed) spirits of one’s ancestors that have past away and to honor (remember) them. This Buddhist custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.
there were many memories that came back as i looked through dad’s old photos but i think this one was my favorite:
even now my favorite place to be is where the sea shapes the shore. like i’ve said before, must be the pisces in me keeping me moored to coastlines.
along with stories, thoughts, and a renewed passion- i brought back a few souvenirs. mementos really, of the past. but looking forward to the future. somehow.
note the price. this is the real stuff. and you pay for it. that translates to about $850 for the roll. i would guess these were done in Japan. all this cotton shibori is sold by the roll only (full roll shibori was beyond my budget and really i don’t have a need for it but really enjoyed looking at!). no cuts, unless it’s scraps you find around here and there (which i did buy a bit of and turned into some shibori collections for the shop). some others were about $225 for a roll. they were done in China and had typical patterns. an occasional shop (not in arimatsu though) sold the Chinese shibori by the meter. not indigo dyed. these here are specifically for yukata and are more complex…not just the typical kanoko. lots more stitching here. like in the samples i brought back. the really good stuff was available in the high end custom kimono shops i saw around Tokyo. oh my! just fabulous. and very exclusive. not done in China.
the souvenir shop is open again. have a few more things to post but this is it for now. time to be done with the computer.
Things are beginning to heat up for the Silk Study Tour to Japan May 18-28, 2011. As expected, there have been a couple of cancellations and some new additions to our list of participants. We will miss having you along but welcome our new tour participants! We still have room for a couple more-but at this point the tour is “made”! If you think you would like to join us, perhaps this quick slideshow of the 2009 tour might whet your appetite for a little silk experience Japanese style:
We were just informed that Tokyo University is closing it’s Museum of Agriculture and Technology while they renovate and move it to a new location. In light of this news we will be adding one of our other pre-chosen destinations to surprise and delight you. We actually had several other destinations on our list of “gee, wish we had more time and we could see this too”, so happily Hirata-san is investigating all the possibilities with visits there this week and we will get to pick from the best of them. He was actually very excited to be making new connections and exploring the possibilities-this is what he likes doing best and we are so lucky to have him as a guide. We did love the Tokyo University collection but when things change-well we just go with the flow. This is the beauty of travel. You never know what is around the next corner to discover!
If you missed the previous post which included the tour brochure, you can see it here.
Let me know if you are interested in joining us and I will get back to you with answers to any questions you may have.