Today’s post is all about my online shop. I just did an update today in the shibori ribbon category. Making handmade gifts for giving is a lovely way to share a little of yourself when celebrating the holidays, but one must get started! Here is a little gallery of colors I added today and a link to the shop. There are many more colors there than these but these are just the newer ones.
These two colorways were inspired by paua shell. I’m working on a sample brooch piece -still undecided if I like my design (I usually don’t at this stage) but love the ribbon and shells. There are only 10 yards of each of these colors. I acquired a box of these shells from a friend who was selling them for his dad. So pretty! I may put some of them in the shop if there are any requests now or later when I get a sample done. I really can’t stop looking at them!
I also had a request of a kit for something I had made in the past so am adding this as a kit to the shop as well. You can pick your colors from the ribbon that is in stock in the shop. The instructions will come in the form of a brief PDF and a video link. Easier to show in a video than in a bunch of words. The one pictured was made for a custom order ($75) or the kit can be ordered for $35.
And here is a little slideshow of inspiration for using my silk shibori ribbon.
And now a few words about selling online… I am often asked for advice about selling online and also about online selling platforms. I think those of us who have been doing it a long time could write a book. People who make things and sell online are always looking for the “best”, “easiest”, “most profitable”, “effective”, etc. way to do it. There is no one answer (which seems obvious to me) but people always want definitive answers. I can’t offer one, but the best advice I can give is to remind you that an online selling site is nothing more than a cash register in the sky(cloud). Just like a brick and mortar store (of which I have owned two of in my time), you have to get people in the door. You have to build up a following over time. That following results from good communication, trust, service, interesting content, quality, and value to begin with. All these things take time, over time. There is no rushing this process especially for artists and makers. Sure, there are outliers or trends but in order to sustain over time (40 years here), one needs to look at the long game. Have faith and persistence. Move forward a little bit each day. Love to you all…
I started working on this piece of cloth in order to add it to a larger piece I am stitching. The whole cloth itself is made from reclaimed, recovered, and salvaged bits of cloth-some redyed, restitched. This one in particular is from a couple of those categories.
Time stitching is time to think and reflect… When the fabric of our lives seems to errode and threads are laid bare, those of us who have the means, the desire, or the ability to strengthen the surrounding cloth/life can help hold it together. Stitching around the red silk, the cloth/wound was revealed, memorializing it’s existence, strengthened and preserved. The still fragile and ever eroding stripes/lives are grounded by solid yet invisible (on the front side) tiny stitches. The back side shows the structure and the pieces and stitches added in an effort, though impossible, to make the cloth/person whole again. Scars/tears will remain, lives lost and forever altered. This cloth is a small tribute to those who lost their lives this past week in Long Beach CA. In quiet moments of handwork, these thoughts rise up.
I chose this piece as it showed the story of the cloth from several perspectives. It had been reused previously (most likely as a cushion or futon cover) and taken apart. With several holes in it perhaps, the intention being to patch and reuse again.
As I handled the piece to think about how to apply it to the larger piece it became apparent that it needed some stabilization first. Using that same red silk I’ve shown you recently, I decided to highlight a couple of the duty worn areas. As I turned it over in my hand, I realized that the wear on this piece was really only in the warp areas of the brown dyed sections. This being a mainly indigo piece, it was warped in a couple of shades of indigo and what looks to be kakishibu (persimmon) dyes. The weft is indigo in two shades. What you notice is that only the kakishibu dyed sections are deteriorating- telling me that this dye was more damaging to the fibers over time. Was it treated with an iron mordant and not well rinsed? Not sure. But it’s very clear that only those sections broke down over time telling me it is dye related and not wear related.
I applied the lightest weight stabilizer to the back of the very fine red silk which I used. First stitching invisibly (front side) to stabilize the section and then further stitching the open areas revealing a bit of the red silk. Holding it up to the light, reveals its strengths and weaknesses.
I further decided that it needed more stability and added a larger piece of thin indigo dyed cotton to the backside. Copying methods I have seen on some of the vintage boro I have, I stitched the edges and again along either sides of the deteriorating stripes. It’s now ready to be part of the larger piece.
Above is just the process I used to stabilize the worn scrap. As I said in the video (last post), using the red silk to highlight patched areas reminds me of the Japanese ceramic technique generally called kintsugi. Looking up the translation of that word it contains the kanji for tsugi which means “inherit, succeed, continue, patch, graft”. So carrying this further, tsugimono would be something that is in need of patching. Yes, the patchwork that is our life, our clothstory. Stabilized, but not made whole.
Originally, zakka referred to uncategorized or common tools and things one would use in everyday life. Nowadays, it refers to a much broader category of items- generally useful and beautiful things that improve your life or bring you joy.
I added a few new things to the shop under the category Zakka.
I really do get a lot of joy from making these pieces. I love to figure out what cloth I will use, how I will lay out the design and fabrics including the stitched pieces. As I work with each piece I can often associate where I collected each bit of fabric and reminisce as I sew. Each is done one at a time and without any formal pattern- I just work it all out as I go. Sometimes I need to redo something to improve the end result and I even like that part of it because I learn something new each time. The beauty of learning… Here’s a little video of the wallet piece…
If you want to try your hand at making one of these, RIchard always has a nice selection of various textiles to enhance your project in his etsy shop. Plus other wonderful one of a kind objects!
I’ve let this post rumble around in my head the past few days while absorbing and collecting all my thoughts from the workshop at the Japanese American National Museum this past weekend.
Some things it seems I’ve known forever. Other things, I’ve acquired and built up my knowingness over time. I think this past weekend’s workshop really turned a corner in solidifying why and how I find myself at this point in my craftlife experience. It’s been a long time in coming. I’ve seen glimpses of it over time and place but I’ve never really written about it to any great extent.
I know you’ve read me here saying how great a recent workshop was etc., etc. … and I don’t often go into much detail. Today, I’ll write a bit more about this.
For many here, you already know this. Making something by hand yourself is very rewarding in many ways. It can enhance or teach a new skill, provide a different sort of activity from your daily job-whether that is out in the world or inside your own home taking care of others. It can offer quiet time-a peaceful mindfulness as you work on a project. It can provide a focus away from stress or even illness. It can literally keep you sane! In a group, you might gain social interaction with people you didn’t previously know and who have gathered together in a particular place and time for similar and varied reasons.
Some of you may be long time readers (since I’ve been blogging here since 2006) and know I have sold my handmade things for a living since I was in HS. Sometime around the same time(2007-2008), I started teaching workshops at the request of Maggie Backman for the Silk Experience group at the Quilt Festival in Houston. Prior to that I had been volunteer teaching art at the local elementary school. More recently (maybe since 2000-ish), I have been leading workshops at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and various other places.
What prompted me to write about this particular aspect of my work (teaching as opposed to the actual making) was the increasing feedback as well as my own observations from these workshops and my interpretation of it. We have all heard over the years how the arts are declining in much of our public education and yet at the same time, how the arts foster better outcomes in all areas of education and create more well rounded students. What I do know from personal experience is that art and craft have saved my own sanity in my lifetime. This experience was born out of the loss of my mother at a very young age to the ravages of mental illness, through a very trying childhood that included abuse of various kinds. Where did I go to find solace and peace of mind? Art and craft. The handmade. Why? At the time all I really knew was that it felt good, it felt right. I felt better when I was making something. I went back to this well over and over until it simply became second nature to me. It was (and still is) my medicine. It ended up being my path. You may have noticed here and there the tagline I have used over the years that reads:
“One at a time and Every Day Moonmaker, Pathfinder, Wonderer. Art’s apprentice, Color’s mistress, Nature’s admirer.”
I didn’t write this lightly. I meant every word of it, and it still feels honest and fitting to me. Now getting back to the workshop…here’s a little gallery to glimpse some of what went on.
This time we had over 2/3 new participants! Somewhat of an outlier workshop. Most if not all had never dyed with indigo or done shibori. Some had never done any hand sewing. We had two men. We had people in their early 20’s to 65+. We had 3 gals who were costumers, a municipal financial advisor, a patent paralegal specialist, a retired social science data archivist, an IT aerospace project manager, a dance and arts teacher, you get the idea- wildly varied! For many who were new to the museum they also had the pleasure of joining as a member and seeing all that JANM has to offer. We had people who drove from San Mateo, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Riverside, Arcadia, and all over the LA downtown & coastal areas.
Comments and conversations heard throughout this last workshop really moved me. Expressions of joy from learning a technique of tying a knot on a threaded needle remind me that simple skills are so important and what I may take for granted may be a revelation for another. Another comment I heard was ” I haven’t thought of work all weekend!” Don’t we all need this? During the finishing stage a gal commented that her friend wanted her to gift her the bag she was making. She remarked “Heck no! This is going on display on a table in my entryway with a light shining on it!” She had never made something like this before. Another person finished the bag she started at the first class and began a second one. One gal said that being her second time taking this class she wanted to make one of these each year to “commemorate where I am in life while making it”. Sometimes I see my place in these workshops as a life coach of sorts, a therapist perhaps, encouraging and cheerleading along the sidelines while providing a creative environment for all to move at their own pace, direction and within their own boundaries and limits. Sometimes people need encouragement, sometimes they need inspiration, other times they need permission. Sometimes a gentle nudge, a reminder to persist-it is all happening along the path. All the while teaching the textile techniques required.
My job is to discern what is needed in the moment and provide it through the medium at hand to the best of my ability. There is a bit of an empathic quality that has been developed through the many workshops I have taught over the years. For me, teaching a craft workshop has morphed into much more than passing along a skill or technique. It is my profound honor and pleasure to do this. Who knew?
This week the Houston show begins and for the first time in a couple of decades I am not there. It does make me a little sad. I will miss the people I consider my Houston family who always took my classes and came to my booth and friends who help me there. Teaching this workshop this past weekend however, took a bit of that sting away. This was a workshop I had proposed to teach at Quilt Festival that was not accepted and honestly, I feel this was a loss for those who might have signed up for it but at the same time I have filled that time with other work and don’t miss the stress of all the preparation that goes into doing that show.
And speaking of family, JANM offers this service in their resource center. I took this photo of a flyer I saw there. You can research your family’s history of incarceration in the WWII Japanese American concentration camps as well as immigration records! There is a fantastic oral history archive as well. I love listening to it. Lots of info is available online in the National Archives. Since so many participants of the workshops are Japanese American, as we work, we get to hear shared family stories of incarceration and reintegration into society after the war. The folks who are still living that were incarcerated in camps Mainly as children) are getting older and I feel the privilege of listening to the younger generations share their family stories. I have learned so much from them!
Getting back to the medicine part of teaching and the idea that handwork is medicine for the mind isn’t a new one. Any kind of handwork (think knitting, embroidery , beading, quilting and more) can be therapeutic and restorative. These days people are more likely to have a screen device in their hand as opposed to a needle and thread, a lump of clay, or a paper and paintbrush. But does this serve the same function? One might argue that there are benefits to both but the imbalance I see around me is what concerns. Making or repairing something offers a satisfaction that just isn’t there with digital devices. Enjoying a process on the path towards a goal or completion serves us well.
Take Shinischi Kobayashi for example. At the age of 72, he started drawing. On everything! I’m sure he benefits from the neurochemicals that his brain releases and keeps him continuing to draw. Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins are the four major chemicals in the brain that influence our feeling of well being (DOSE). Medicine without pharma! Generally, we don’t think about these things when we apply ourselves to activities that trigger brain chemistry responses. We just know that we enjoy it-that time seems to pass quickly, and we want to do more of it! I am looking forward to seeing a day when education realizes that the health benefits of applying hands and minds to materials in creative ways, in equal doses to STEM and all the testing. It makes for healthier humans. And with plenty of challenges ahead of us, we want to be as healthy as possible!
Here is my finished komebukuro (offering bag) made at the workshop as a demonstration piece for the class. I had to finish it at home since I was busy at the sewing machine on day 2 assembling eveyone’s bags. I’m working to finish up a couple of complementary pieces for the shop and will post when they have been added. We all have something to offer.
Kokoro means “heart” in Japanese and this past Sunday I participated in the Kokoro Craft Fair at the Japanese American National Museum. The event is staffed by volunteers who organize and run the event to great success in fundraising for the museum’s educational programs and more. They have lots of heart! I have never been able to participate before since it is too close to the show I usually do in Houston towards the end of October/early November but this year since I am not in Houston, it was a pleasure to be able to do this event. As is often the case, since it was only a one day affair, I forgot to take photos as I was focused on what I was doing and engaged with customers and attendees. I met many interesting customers & vendors and thought the overall quality of vendor there was very good. Handmade, no imports, and lots of fun Japanese related crafts from what I could see in my quick walk through as people were setting up. I had a lot of people interested in my classes at JANM (ran out of flyers!) and also in the Silk Study Tour for 2021! Three years ago we had the first Japanese American join us on the tour and this year there were three! It is my distinct pleasure to have more Japanese Americans join us and explore their cultural heritage through the tour. I have to say a little something about the volunteer staff at JANM. Many are senior Japanese Americans and they do so much for the museum! The JANM is a welcoming place and has always made use of volunteer staff. Sometimes I think that we forget how much seniors have to offer, but not at JANM! Some of them are well into their 70’s and 80’s, maybe 90’s! I hope I have as much vitality as they do when I get there! It was a pleasure to work with them at the event! Thank you Kokoro volunteers! I also enjoyed meeting Ann Burroughs the President CEO of the museum for the first time. We had a nice conversation and she even made a purchase of some of my shibori blank cards to use when sending out thank you notes to donors. That was a wonderful thing!
Coming up on October 19-20 at JANM is the second workshop on making a komebukuro (offering bag) incorporating indigo dyeing, boro, shibori, and sashiko. There are only a couple of spots left…. Click for details and signups…
I am busy preparing the material kits and supplies for this class. It’s a bit more work than any of the other workshops so I’m making sure I get a good headstart on it! I am going through all the japanese fabrics from the tour and auditioning the ones I think I want to use for this class. I’ll make another one this week just to settle back into the project.
There are 7 new silk shibori ribbon colors into the shop. All pretty and hard to choose a favorite! One thing I will mention, after making this ribbon for so many years now I surprised even myself by discovering something in the pleating that made a big improvement! Just goes to show you that there is always room for wondering! You can order them in the shop here.
The tree is loaded with pomegranates and is coming all at once so I am also busy processing them both for dyeing and eating. I’m freezing some of the arils for later and drying and freezing the peels for dyeing. I plan to do some special gold pom dyed pieces soon. This here is the largest one I have ever grown- a blue ribbon winner for sure weighing in at over 2 pounds! Pomegranates are time consuming and delicious!
Kuro in a sleepy moment out in the garden and I couldn’t resist taking a photo. He still decides on when and if he wants petting from us, but with the night temps dropping a bit, he actually came in and slept on the bed for a few hours last night! He’s very independent! The feral in him I suppose.
I also added another silk shibori flower making class into the mix for November. I had a few people who wanted to do this but missed the last workshop. It is a small group class and you can see the details here. This will be a fun afternoon and a great time to make a few handmade pretties for holiday gift giving.
I’ve been enjoying following Peggy Osterkamp’s weaving blog as she is touring in Japan visiting many textile sites. She went to Amami Oshima as well and saw some of the same things I did. Seeing it again through her weaver’s eye I learned some things that I didn’t get a chance to learn while I was there. The main part of her trip is traveling around Kyushu which is on my list for my next adventure to Japan. In fact, my son is going there for 3 weeks and spending a good chunk of his 3 weeks on Kyushu. Additionally, John Marshall just sent out a newsletter announcing his new book. I hope I will be able to add it to my workshop library collection of great textile books. It includes over 100 swatch samples and he characterizes it as a “field study guide to Japanese textiles”.
And from my friend Jude who is moving, a look at the place they will now call H O M E. I’ve enjoyed her adventure and will move right along with her.
I’ll end this post with a couple of thoughts that passed my way today which resonated with me. The first one was during an interview with Presidential candidate Andrew Yang- “take a dream and turn it into something.” He also remarked that women are never truly idle. How true! And the other is the last line of a poem that Michelle posted on her FB page today “Everywhere I look, my thoughts run wild.” (‘2011’ by Fanny Howe)
Let’s keep wondering and dreaming and let our thoughts grow wild.
On the eve of the autumnal equinox, we gathered at JANM to explore plant dyeing. We were fortunate to have a photographer join in as he had a special project in mind and wanted to incorporate some dye techniques. He really captured the community spirit of the class in his photos and we thank him for that!
My personal goal for plant dyeing is to continue to grow and gather materials in my immediate surroundings and have an ongoing range of items using seasonally collected materials. This is a goal borrowed from Yamazaki sensei and family in Japan whom we visit while on the silk study tour. Of course he takes it to a whole new level using his dyes and pigments for his masterful katazome work. We are just beginning our adventures.
Dye materials and mordants locally gathered and grown are regionally specific, each material reflecting the conditions of the soil they are grown in, the seasonal climate challenges, the time of year the materials are harvested, whether they are used fresh or dried for later use. Of course these days one can order a vast array of dye materials sourced worldwide but I want to learn and push to the limits my knowledge of what I have on hand here- coaxing color from each material and applying mordants, ph differences and temperature changes to shift colors. Learning the lightfast properties of each dye material is an additional challenge.
My beginning colors reflect what I have on hand, pomegranate, persimmon, marigold, mint, senna seed pods, madder, and further experimentations with apricot wood ash (we had to cut down the apricot tree and use the wood for outdoor cooking) and kaffir lime juice as an acidifier. We did have a small pot of cochineal at the workshop using the lime juice. I have a kaffir lime tree and really only use the leaves and a bit of zest for cooking. The juice is just too strong so it’s perfect that it can be used in dyeing. I continue with the indigo (but not from here for now).
Writing this post I realize I had a dream last night where I was wandering in a yard somewhere with someone wanting to do natural dyeing from their backyard and I passed by an old rusty metal wind chime hanging on a tree, noting it would make great iron water… dreaming solidifying my thoughts.
It’s FridaySaturday SUnday night here and the cactus flowers are opening for the evening. The Persian jasmine and brugmansia intoxicate the night air. There is a sliver of a waning moon setting in the early evening here tonight. During the day, I took this little video of the garden pond.
These past few weeks I’ve been in the studio dyeing shibori ribbon and making silk organza flowers.
I’ll start this post now and finish it up this weekend once I complete a few things and get the accompanying photos taken.
The mind wanders as I work.
One place it has wandered is that the supply of silk satin which I have been using these past dozen years seems to have dried up. This has been preying on my mind as I consider what to do. I have tried other types of silks over the years and just have not been pleased with using other silk weaves or weights. In the beginning( 2006), I spent a lot of time testing out various silks to get what I wanted and silk satin was it! Now I find myself revisiting and repeating these tests with less than desirable results. It appears as if the Chinese mills that weave this type of silk are simply no longer interested in producing it according to my sources. I don’t know what it is about weaving the plain back silk satin (as opposed to something like crepe back satin-charmuese) makes it less desirable to produce. Perhaps the volume has dropped and it’s not worth setting up the looms- I just don’t know. Other sources are being investigated so I can only be somewhat hopeful. I have one last wholesale order commitment I am working on but after that, I will dedicate the remaining balance of my undyed inventory to my own online retail shop until further notice. Tariffs are also on my mind.
For some reason, I keep having the urge to weave something. Something silk. Perhaps my visit to Amami has something to do with it. I want to weave something with silk that I have reeled here. Something simple. I can see it in my mind’s eye…I must find some time for this or the idea will simply drive me crazy! First step will be to reel the silk cocoons I have collected in the freezer. It will be a rather thick thread, something sturdy. But reeled, not spun. I want the sheen and not the fuzziness of a spun yarn. It also has to be something I can use to make with. That is just me. I have to always go there. In any case the thought lingers and hangs over my head as I work on orders. Of course I will need a loom for that. Something used, simple, affordable. But I’ll get to that as it comes or search when I have the silk thread ready.
Moving along, did I mention anything about a plant dyeing workshop? I’ll go back now and look. Ok, just checked and it appears I did. So that is ongoing. I keep looking around the yard and wondering what else I can get color from. I did a small test of the runaway mint which yielded a soft green with an iron mordant and a lovely gold with the alum/ cream of tarter. Tonight I had to trim a huge pile of the passionflower vine so into the pot that will go just to see. Might be a big nothing but since it’s not a major commitment, why not? I don’t really need another plant that dyes yellow or gold but we will see…
I am working on a couple more batches of the silk shibori pleated organza flowers for the shop. The first batch is gone and this second one has a decidedly fall feeling. The next one will be more pastels I think- I was just cutting the fabric for them tonight. I do enjoy making them and as long as they are selling I’ll keep making them. I have a small one day sales event coming up at the Japanese American National Museum in October that I will be preparing some pieces for and flowers will be part of that. How is it that there STILL is not enough time to do everything? Baby Dean is already 3 months old and last night I was his first babysitter so mom and dad could have an evening out to dinner by themselves. We read some books and poems about the moon and bugs and a rock and roll band. I can’t wait to show him all the bugs and worms and dirt in the garden!
So it’s Saturday Sunday now and the flowers and the photos have been completed. I’ll be putting them into the shop before I post this entry. I’m kinda excited to start dyeing the silk satin ribbon for my own shop this week. Dyeing for my own shop as opposed to producing for an order with a prescribed list of colors brings out the alchemist in me. I can just let myself go and do some combinations that never need to be repeated. Of course I will do some of the favorites but being free to dye on a whim is inspiring and often leads to some surprising colorways. I’m looking forward to that! I did do a dye test with the passionflower vine. I can report that it dyes a mild and uninspiring gold. Left folded and in the sun for a couple of days I find it not to be very lightfast…so moving on-won’t be repeating that. Unfortunate since it’s such a prolific grower!
I’ve been reflecting back on my life and work lately as a result of Phil posting video he took of me back in early May. It’s posted to facebook if you are inclined to see it. (He’s been sick with a bladder infection and heading for an ultrasound after labor day so had a lot of unsupervised time on his hands.) I remember when a poor but inspired artist type kid who was willing to take a risk, work insanely hard and had a few ideas, could rent a run down space for an affordable price to start a little something. It took time to slowly grow it and eventually move into bigger and nicer spaces without taking on tons of debt and loans. I look around me now and don’t see this sort of opportunity anymore. Real estate values have effectively closed those doors, at least in this city. Not too many of the older industrial or store front spaces are still owned by local landlords. We had some great landlords over the years. Mainly older guys who earned some $ in their own local businesses and wanted to invest in some local properties. I remember one who even came to our wedding! Later he came to Brian’s funeral. These guys have all passed away and real estate is a corporate investment. Our first studio space was the old Signal Hill Jail. It still had the marks in the floor where the two jail cells were. It was far from fancy but it was a space we could work in. As I recall the rent was a couple of hundred dollars-maybe $300. Our neighbor was a jeweler whose space was previously the local bank. The old bank vault inside was her closet (Sue-where are you?). The building is long gone now- torn down and replaced by fancy condos with a view. Eventually we outgrew it and moved into bigger spaces. I really wonder how small artists and maker types can continue to exist in this climate. Cities say they value the arts, but do they? How exactly do they value it? The ways in which I see them claiming to value it are not creating an environment of independence and sustainability. Maybe it’s just not possible here anymore. Like I’ve said before, many times and in various posts here- I think I have become an endangered species of sorts. I wish it was easier for people to start something up and still be able to afford the basics of everyday life without a big chunk of money in hand.
It’s a lot to think about on a Sunday night. I’ll leave you with a few links to explore and some photos of some recent pieces. And a garden pic or two. Hope all is well with you…