Category Archives: silk study tour

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!

year end announcements…

I am tying up some loose ends on things that have been in the works around here for a while.  Everything takes longer than expected it seems-especially around the holidays when there are lots of comings and goings.

Today the wind died down a bit (not completely) but the surfers were devoted to getting into the water which leaves me in complete and blissful silence to work on these unfinished details.

workshop

First- the In Studio Workshop with Richard Carbin and myself  is available in the shop. Just click here to visit the listing and read through it carefully. If you have any questions,  just use the contact form or email me.  Leaving a comment here is OK too- I can reply privately via your comment.

arashi shibori    ++++  mandalas  ===?????  

I’m excited to collaborate with Richard again.  Ours has been an wonderful pairing of interests and talents. We met virtually via Flickr several years ago becoming fans of each others work.  Richard is an ex-pat living in Nagoya Japan with his wife and two boys. In June 2009 when Phil & I visited Nagoya for 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 and although our work is completely different we shared a passion for Japan, silk, and dyeing.  Afterwards, we continued getting to know each other online via Facebook and via email and decided to create a collaborative workshop. Our online workshop Indigo Mandalas (born of the original In Studio workshop last year) was the first internationally collaborative online workshop as far as I know.  We continue to inspire and draw on each others experience and interests using the internet & media, learning as we grow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Secondly, the Silk Study Tour to Japan is filling nicely.  We only have 4 spots (out of 20) left so,  if you think a trip to Japan to see silk sericulture, beautiful textiles, a natural dye workshop and more are in your future for May of 2013-contact me soon.  We never really know if we will repeat this tour-so far our third biennial tour. Life has a way of keeping us on our toes and in the present which is a good thing and keeps up from putting off those things that we really want to do but somehow don’t. More and more I realize that today is the day!   Click the link for details and feel free to contact me if you you have any questions at all. I’m getting excited all over again.  New things await us in Japan every time we go!

where to start?

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!

pre-concert run thru

junk percussion piece run thru

loved this piece…

timps

drum and block set up

many of his young students came with flowers…sweet

-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!

temari ball -a gift from Glenna

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…

indigo seed as a gift

indigo seed for next year

More to tell, but must end it here for now- have a wonderful holiday full of thanks and giving, of friends and family.

harvesting from previously sown seeds

a year and a half ago I sowed some
seeds in Japan. even longer ago than that, seeds were sown in Yokohama. yesterday’s mail brought a wonderful bounty of silk related items from Richard. I did some burn tests to confirm my thoughts-

20120804-103917.hjpg

4 of the 6 pieces are silk. the poly pieces will go to the thrift store unless someone speaks up for them. I have no use for them here. I especially liked this-

20120804-104623.jpg
silk kimono lining that had been repaired to still be usefull. I will continue to wonder how I will utilize this in a piece- feature and highlight it even. it’s a fine piece of cloth.
saving the best for last, Richard has added a lively piece for display in the upcoming silk exhibit in Houston-an old washi cocoon bag that was used to transport cocoons. it is very large and visually rich. come see it in Houston this fall. we are telling a story in silk with this special exhibit.

and in case you would like to provide some seeds of your own,  you can visit Maura here to plant some mustard seeds. Maura is a great gardener of many things.

according to wikipedia,

The earliest reference to mustard is in India from a story of Gautama Siddhārtha (सिद्धार्थ गौतम) in the 5th century BCE. Gautama Buddha told the story of the grieving mother (Kisa Gotami) and the mustard seed. When a mother loses her only son, she takes his body to the Buddha to find a cure. The Buddha asks her to bring a handful of mustard seeds from a family that has never lost a child, husband, parent or friend. When the mother is unable to find such a house in her village, she realizes that death is common to all, and she cannot be selfish in her grief.[1][2] The Buddha stated that if an individual were to pick a single mustard seed every hundred years from a seven-mile cube worth of mustard seeds, then by the time the last seed is picked, the age of the world cycle would still continue. (If a mustard seed is 3 mm in diameter, then taking one seed every 100 years from a seven-mile cube of seeds, would take 936 quintillion years, 68 billion times the age of the universe.)[3]

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!

hanamayu- はなまゆ

Over the weekend the silk moths began to emerge.  This year I separated out a half dozen or so of the best white and yellow cocoons for mating.  Last year,  I let them mix and got a lot of variations.  We will see where this leads.

Mr Koizumi, the former Director of the Yokohama Silk Center show us cocoons from all the past periods of Japan’s sericulture history. So many types!

When I was at the Silk Center in Yokohama recently, I picked up a book on silk cocoon flowers (hanamayu- はなまゆ or cocoon flower) by artist Tomiko Sakai. She is a Nagoya native and has been making her fantastic floral creations for over 20 years. Each diminutive blossom is often fashioned into larger sprays with each complete floral work worthy of display at the most formal event. Imagine wedding, tea ceremony, formal entry, or any honorific occasion. One day, I would love to see some of her work in person. She uses only the finest of Gunma produced silk cocoons.  I see that an exhibit of her work was sponsored by both the Gunma Prefectural Government and the Tokyo Silk Science Research Center-both entities that we have visited on previous Silk Study tours.  I wonder…

The book is all in Japanese and was the only one in stock but has an ISBN 0f 4-89977-174-6 which you might be able to track down if desired.  I think the title is something like “Flower Born of a Silk Cocoon” but don’t quote me on that. I will contact the museum in Yokohama prior to our visit there next year and ask about the possibility of having a few in stock for our group when we are there.

The flowers are not anything like the ones I recently did but I would like to see what I could create based on some of her works.  Her craftsmanship (or perhaps the craftsmanship of her studio directed by her) is supreme.  She also uses some of the stained cocoons, incorporating the natural stains created by the emerging moths into the works.  My recent trials pale in comparison!

And on Saturday, I had the privilege of giving an indigo shibori workshop for a group of great high school kids here in So Cal.  Their teacher, Debra, has been the art teacher at this school (gr 7-12) for 32 years and you can tell that she loves her work and that her students love her.  This is a great credit to her, as difficult as it is to be a teacher in the public school system these days, she is full of energy and ideas for her students.  As she told me, she was in the right place at the right time and this is a very special school.  The students were wonderful and we all had a great time.  Several of the students are off to college soon and this was a great way for them to end the year.  A few pics:

the group and Debra waving from the back

gathering threads

discovering the results and wondering

resisting the temptations to pull it up and look

they got a glimpse of arashi shibori too-

volvo doubles as a clothes line…

some results- they all did a sample stitched piece before trying the dragonfly motif

and before i left i turned the drying indigo

me waving to you and the dried and separated first indigo harvest

early summer garden- happy to say that i have been meeting my personal challenge to feed us at least something daily out of the garden here for over a year. may it continue!

Thanks to Cathy Bullington of Elephant Booty for the idea to save all the various harvests through the summer and use an ice chest for a composting bin.  Also, thanks to jude for  introducing me to Debra’s blog Artisun through the link in her sidebar.

Now back to the dyepot, cocoons.

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.

Mood, indigo moon

Been very very busy. Lots of indigo and the online workshop.

Late night out in the studio- finishing up moons on linen. Have a few great indigo packs that I’ll get up in the shop when I have a minute.

20120403-200035.jpg

20120403-200116.jpg

Folks are starting to gather for the 2013 Silk Study Tour. If you wish to be added to the second email we send out with tour info please click the link in the menu above and sign up through constant contact- make sure you add yourself to the tour list in addition to any of the other choices.

20120403-200739.jpg

Milo and the crickets are keeping me company in my moon-making tonight

20120403-200908.jpg

Apparently, this will be ready on may 10 and there’s going to be a party. this is called fancy moonshine.

20120403-201005.jpg

Goodnight Moon

20120403-201404.jpg