Who knows? (not I)

New Year, New Post.
Who knows what to expect this year? I know I certainly don’t. Some days it feels as if the wheels are coming off the bus, other days, I can remain hopeful. What to do but continue?
Beyond this, it seems like the new decade (apparently depending on how you count your years) will bring lots of changes. As far as my studio work goes, shibori, cloth and indigo remain a focal point. But then again, who knows? What about you?

Over the transition from 2019-2020 I had some ideas that I just could not stop thinking about. You know, those sorts of ideas that you just have to actually do to get them out of your system…and see where they might take you. It was one of those sort of things. So I did it once and am about to do it again just to see. At first, I wasn’t sure about it so let it hang around for a while just to let it settle in. I’m still not sure about it (or much of anything these days to be honest), but after letting it be for a while, I’m ready to do another one. It might be “ART” , so I am cautious…

In other activities, the New Year is always a time when I want to obsessively clean, organize and clear out things. A perfect opportunity arose as there is about to be a new instrument brought into the house. You might be thinking a guitar, or something larger like a piano or drumset (but no, we already have plenty of those). It’s a marimba! Being quite large, it required the cleaning out and removal of the space I was formally using as a desk/office area. Which led to the next room, and the next…you can see where this is going. Huge swaths of things have been removed, sorted, relocated, and cleaned to within an inch of their lives. It really is a great activity for the magical in-between-time after Christmas and before New Years. Also, having the local version of whatever virus is going around helps, as it can be done bit by bit without leaving the house yet leaves one feeling incredibly productive. One last corner needs sorting-the dreaded bead and flower making corner. Perhaps tonight. Tomorrow. One day…

As seems to be the way lately, another week has passed before I finish this post. A welcome and steady stream of overnight visitors, the latest virus going round with the never-ending cough, and a workshop at the JANM. Not to mention local politics as we try to rally around some new blood in our local city council as well as put down a couple of tax increasing ballot measures. All this takes time and the studio work has been suffering!
So, here’s to getting this thing done today!!
NOTE*** Nope! Didn’t happen… Had to call 911 for grandma who is now in the hospital and also take the cat to the vet for an emergency. I live to post another day…

The workshop at the Japanese American National Museum this past weekend two weekends ago was focused on mandala dyeing on silk. I really do love teaching textile dye techniques and watching the participants skill levels improve. Each person comes with their own direction and focus and my job is more of a coach and facilitator. I always demonstrate throughout the workshop so as to give everyone a sense of the possibilities. Here are a few of the mandalas that were made…

I demonstrated a mandala start to finish to begin with so everyone could have a vision of where they were headed. We begin by folding (be as precise as you can!), then drawing our design(stay simple-don’t try to overthink in the beginning!), stitching the design, and finally dyeing (make sure that dye penetrates through all layers-take your time!).

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Sample demo mandala made in the workshop

And then some variations on fold and dye-without the clamping as in itajime…some with stitching, some without.

Not sure if I ever added this here but I did make a couple of useful objects using the silk mandalas and various old silks I had here. The mandalas make a lovely pillow cover.

And now, a glimpse of the garden. Since we had quite a bit of rain recently there are lots of seeds sprouting, many of which are weeds and crowding out the wildflowers. (Winners will be determined in future posts.)


We also had a day where we visited the beach with our guests and saw the sea lion rescue center, herons and the tidepools. Whales were spouting as they traveled along the coast.

Fly free !

Arashi Shibori Workshop announcement

For the first time I am offering an in-studio workshop on pleated silk shibori (known as arashi shibori). This type of workshop requires space and equipment that is not feasible to provide at most of the workshop locations where I generally teach.
In order to provide a successful outcome for all participants, the workshops will be limited to 4 people on two separate dates- February 1-2 and February 15-16.

Please see listing and sign up details here.

As most long time followers of this blog know, but which I shall repeat for more current readers, I started exploring shibori in 2006 after taking a one year sabbatical upon closing my porcelain studio of over 30 years. I was looking for something new. After becoming fascinated and intrigued with shibori from Japanese textile samples I had began to collect over time at quilt shows, I came across Karren Brito’s blog and her book Shibori-Creating Color and Texture on Silk. I was in love with the pleated texture that could be created. Using her book as a guide to learn how to dye silk using acid dyes and to also learn about discharge dyeing, I set about seeing what I could create. Her blog was a wealth of information. It still is, even though she has moved to Mexico and has taken up weaving there. At one point (not exactly sure when) she moved her original blog Entwinements over to a new site but lost all the original photos in the older posts. This is a real shame, but for anyone who has moved a blog from one of the original and older blog sites you can understand the pain and difficulty in doing so. It is still quite worth reading through as there is so much useful information-just missing all her fabulous photos. Karren was a chemist by trade and as such was able to apply that important information and detail to her dyework-detail and persistence that she is now applying to weaving. She is amazing!

I’ll tell a funny story about one of my communications with Karren many years ago. I submitted many comments on her blog over the years regarding her posts and asking (probably sometimes annoying !) questions. I tried not to be a stalker! I went to see her work once at a show she was doing in LA and was able to meet her. I had occasion to speak with her on the phone a couple of times and was excited to share with her the concept of my shibori ribbon when I first came up with the idea. Being the sort of direct type of person I came to know her to be (I really liked that about her!) she asked me how did I think I would ever sell it and who would the customer be(very good questions btw!)? I explained to her my plan (sample sending, making samples with it, exhibiting at textile trade shows, etc.) she directly told me it wouldn’t work. I was appreciative of her opinion but was not at all daunted by it. In fact, quite the opposite! It only made me MORE determined to make it work. So, not only did she teach me so much about shibori and dyeing, she inspired my persistence and determination to make the shibori ribbon a success! I thank her very much for this!
It’s just a reminder that there are so many different perspectives out there to take into consideration. She was operating and marketing her work in a much different way than I did. I was always impressed by her photo shoots! I recommend her book as a “must have” for any serious silk shibori dyers. It is currently out of print but many used copies are available.

So, how about a little bit on the history of arashi shibori? Arashi shibori is a technique where cloth is wound around a pole in a diagonal way with a fine thread wound at intervals along the pole and over the cloth before scrunching the cloth and dyeing it. Many variations and experimentations have been done to expand on this original idea.
Pole wrapping shibori (as we call it here) was introduced in Japan much later than other forms. Early shibori and dye techniques began around the 8th century in Japan. Shibori that we recognize today began much later (in the 1600’s along the Tokaido) and in the mid 1800’s various devices were being made and used to increase production and thereby lower the time and cost of many of the time-honored but time-heavy methods used to produce the beautiful cloth. Arashi was invented by Kanezo Suzuki in 1880 and Yoshiko Wada has a great history of the technique here. I wrote this little post back in 2006 when just starting out on my shibori adventure.

My goal for the workshop is to present arashi shibori as I practice it and get participants to wonder how they might apply the techniques in their own ways, to their own work. The critique session on day two is meant to survey the pieces that were made and allow everyone to benefit from all the various results. I’m also open to an AMA portion if participants have questions on which my experience as an independent working craftsperson of over 40 years might be able to some shed light.

There are other things I will address as the days grow longer and we round the corner into another year, but I want to get this post completed as I started this a week ago and was waylaid by time spent with my now 7 month old grandson and his dad who was recovering from some necessary surgery and mom was out of town on business. It was time well spent, dad is recovering, and mom is back in town! Those who were on the silk study tour to Japan will remember he was born while we were in Kyoto in May! Was it really 7 months ago???

So, enjoy more light, let it shine on all of us and may your holidays be peaceful shared with family and friends.



sent to me by Michelle in NYC- beautiful…

December's path…

Becoming December…it arrives,and here, we never know if we will don flip flops and short sleeves or warm boots and sweaters inside the house. This year we are wearing warm shoes and sweaters. Heavy snow in the local mountains is a welcome and beautiful sight from the hilltop nearby. The ginko is busily dropping its golden carpet of leaves on the back garden, mulching it with beauty. Narcissus are blooming early. I even had the first saffron crocus bloom and more are on the way. The pomegranates exhausted themselves (and me!), and the persimmons are ripening daily. I’m sharing them with friends and neighbors and even this (not so) little guy…late at night.

In the contradiction of clashing seasons, hand fulls of strawberries can be picked every few days as they are planted where the sun seeks them out and happily seem to produce year round there-at least so far. The late eggplant and tomatoes are still heavily laden, though with this recent cold streak they will definitely slow down, but are welcoming the rain. The cold and wet has slowed the outdoor studio work but still has not vanquished me completely from getting the necessities done.

This coming weekend is the last JANM workshop featuring indigo and shibori and we will make the most of it. Many regular participants will come together for this year end creativity laboratory. No need to put the link here as it has been sold out for quite a while. There is however a “save the date” list of upcoming workshops at JANM to sign up for as soon as the museum gets them listed. You can view it here. **EDIT** JANM just emailed me to say that the January Mandala Workshop is up on the website and taking registrations. Here is the link. See the full description on the calendar page here.

Two weekends ago I taught an in-studio flower making workshop with a small group. There were some beautiful results…a garden of beauties! I’ll be adding another one of these soon. Let me know if you are interested.

A post or two ago I introduced a new item into the shop-the shibori ribbon beaded necklace kit. At the time I had not finished the instructional video but the orders received kicked me into gear getting this done. I’m offering it up to you here (free youtube video) if you are interested in seeing how this piece gets made. Perhaps you have some shibori ribbon waiting to be made into something beautiful as a gift. I am also adding this video link into the sidebar under the Feeling Free(r) page/list.

I also just added some new Mooncloth card sets to the shop. Previously, I have had photo card sets using images I have taken of my work but these card sets have actual mooncloths attached to the front of the card that can be removed and used in a project. Sets come in 3’s or 6’s, are blank inside and include an envelope. I hope you enjoy them.

I just got back from picking up my son Trevor from the airport. He has been in Japan for the past three weeks on a long awaited trip there to make new friends and surf. It was an exciting adventure and he spent time in Kyushu, Amami Oshima, and Chiba-all prime surf areas. But one of the exciting things for me was that he met up with my long time blog friend Jan Hillstead Fujikawa in Nagasaki! Long time readers of this blog might know her from her blog Oh Brother! (WhereIsSheNow) She started blogging in 2007 and hasn’t updated since 2014 but we keep up through FB and other social media. She’s an expat of over 30 years and I hope I get to meet her myself next trip. But it was kind of her to spend the day with Trevor and he also got to meet her son!
In Amami Oshima, Trevor was able to meet up with our friend and surfer Ko, who showed us around Amami when we were there earlier this year. Trevor also started a blog highlighting his trip which you might enjoy. This is his first blogging experience. His blog, day one starts here.

It’s another rainy day here and the rain barrels are already overflowing. The cactus has finally stopped blooming- it was a solid 2 months of nightly blooms! Pretty amazing really. Here are a few photos collected recently from around the garden.

And a few more of some shibori ideas for this weekends workshop…shibori images on greeting cards for the holiday. I did one with a dove but tried to get too fancy and put a twig with leaves in its mouth which complicated and distorted the image making the head of the bird unclear. Will redo…
Lesson: when working on small images, keep it fairly simple and use a good fine linen for best results!

Shop update and a few tidbits of advice…

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.

If you are looking for a special something else handmade, these are still available….

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…

fragility

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.

Zakka and the beauty of learning

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!