No time for jet lag…

It’s the end of Saturday here in Japan -only three days into the tour and we have already experienced many wonderful things! I always think I will have more time to blog our adventures than ends up being the reality. There is a desire to record the day to day-ness of it all, balanced by the reality of the schedule while still remaining in the moment. So tonight I have a bit of time to catch up here, so will backtrack a bit first…

There are certain stages of the tour …milestones of a sort. The first one being- having spent almost two years gathering the group and organizing the details-I finally get to meet everyone in person! The majority of us departed from LAX (Los Angeles) and others we will meet in Japan at Narita Airport. We had a little time at the departure gate to introduce ourselves and put names that have been on lists and in emails to the actual faces! We have three people traveling with us that have been on previous tours but even still I have not seen two of them for many years so it feels good to catch up a bit! As always, when I meet the rest face to face, I’m so pleased that this tour always attracts such a wonderful group of people who want to learn more about silk, Japan, and textiles in general. Cloth people are just good folks! I’m not quite comfortable until the plane door closes and everyone is on board. At this point, final boarding is done and the door closes- I relax.
A 10.5 hour flight passes quickly and uneventfully in relative comfort. Watching a movie or reading a good book wearing noise cancelling headphones takes one away like an old fashioned Calgon bath. A couple of people knit the hours away.
Arriving at Narita we gather up the rest of the group and Hirata san who has been at the airport ahead of time to meet the early arrivals leads us and our luggage to the hired bus for the trip to the the Ginza where we will stay for the following 3 days.
Hotel check-in and a brief rest was followed by a short walk to Hirata-san’s favorite Ginza shabu shabu restaurant with those who were interested.

Tokyo Ginza is where we stop first with a small hotel one block off the main street. The first day was reserved to visit the Mingei-kan- the Folk and Craft Museum which represents the finest of simple and masterful craftwork for use in everyday life. We traveled there by train and with 17 people trailing through the train stations for their first time and using their Suica cards we arrived without too much confusion! Once inside the museum we were given a short introduction in English by a docent. The Mingei folk and craft museum celebrates the beauty in the handmade object-useful items used in everyday life. Beauty is appreciated by all and to have and use basic things of beauty enhances and enriches ones life. Simplicity and beauty can be seen in everyday objects here. We were fortunate to discover that a temporary exhibit of shibori by Motohiko Katano was on display during our stay and a highlight of the visit. No photos inside the museum are allowed so here are a few from the outside and a short video…

Motohiko Katano shibori

From there we divided into two groups- one headed to a craft and folk art shop called Bingoya to see works by current craftsman across Japan. My group returned to Tokyo Ginza where a couple of us were to meet up with Megumi-san who would introduce us to a kimono shop specializing in Amami Oshima Tsumugi. Two of us will travel to Amami Oshima at the end of the tour and this visit was to educate us a bit about Amami textiles and dorozome (mud dyeing) which is done there. Completely fascinating and a very special treat!
Following this Megumi-san (an expert in kimono and known to the best shops in the Ginza) took us to several shops to see the finest of kimono made with top quality textiles.

Tea was enjoyed at the end of the day in one of the oldest tea shops along with fruit and agar.
Returning to the hotel, everyone went their own way, some meeting up with Hirata-san who led a group to Tsukiji for sushi dinner and others who just couldn’t walk one more step went next door to Ginza Six for dinner.

Ok…gotta run! It’s monday and we’re in Kyoto where I was able to steal an hour of early morning computer time. Will do more catching up later!

Amami Oshima

continuing tradition…

Wednesday’s post was long enough so I didn’t add specific information about the side trip I’m taking after the Silk Study Tour to Japan ends. Prompted by one of the tour participants who is researching the mud dyeing traditions of various cultures and locales, I was inspired to go and see this for myself and add to my Japanese textile knowledge. I will spend 4 days there learning and exploring the textiles of Amami Oshima.
Amami Oshima (oshima means island in Japanese) is the northernmost island in the Okinawan archipelago.

it is part of the Ryuku Islands

While the Ryuku Islands (and Okinawa) are well known for their Indigo dyeing and beautiful weavings using tropical plant fibers, Amami Oshima is known for its tradition of plant and mud dyeing on silk, often supplemented with indigo. Its beautiful and intricate weavings using the previously bound and dyed warp and weft threads are called Oshima Tsumugi.
This link has a good description of the process and terms.
Japan seems like it is filled with endless opportunities to learn and discover so many textile traditions and this is one I have not previously explored.
Interestingly, I realize I have already collected a small sampling of these textiles! I’ve seen them here and there in Japan and picked some up when the price was not too steep just to study and enjoy them. A sampling:

A recent video shows more of the process and the issues facing the economics behind weaving this very time consuming textile.
There is also a lot of indigo dyeing that occurs in the Ryukyu Islands perhaps in part due to its tropical and mild climate as well as the weaving of choice bast fibers, especially on Okinawa. I expect I will also see some of that on Amami Oshima as well.
I also read where they produce a special type of sake there using sugar cane…will have to try it!

So the fabric collections I will be putting together for you includes one selection that will be collected only from Amami Oshima and I wanted to explain a little bit more about what that was all about. You can see the various collections that can be ordered here in the shop.

I look forward to sharing my Amami Oshima adventures here on the blog in early June.

apparently, i sent the wrong message…

Now that I can get into a somewhat comfortable position to type on the keyboard, I thought I’d do a blog post and catch up with what is going on around here. I always start by going back and reading my last post.

Apparently, I sent the wrong message. I definitely did not send a message that said, “let’s make everything MORE difficult than it already is”! But alas, that is what ended up happening last week as I stepped over the low dog barrier keeping Bella and Buddy out of the vegetable patch. My foot caught the top of it and I went down hard on my left shoulder, feet in the air behind me!  A day long event at the UCare ended in an xray confirming that I had fractured my left humerus. Even though it was April Fools Day, it wasn’t humorous at all. Thankfully though, it wasn’t worse, like tearing something that required surgery. Got lucky there.  But this is really a major inconvenience and I will need to do something to carry me through until I can return to do my usual studio work.  Fortunately, no cast but wearing a sling. Yikes! This is the sort of thing that always instills a fair amount of fear in me. The inability to work! For any of you that are working artists/craftspeople whose only income comes from what we create, you probably know what I’m talking about here.  But this is the life I chose and so far it has been pretty dependable.  Don’t we all wish we could redo certain moments like this?

I did however make it to last weekend’s shibori and indigo workshop with the help of many since I can’t drive, let alone lift anything that requires two arms. Trevor drove and helped set up and load the car, students helped clean up and pack things back up for Phil to load into the car and drive me home. One of the students even picked me up on Sunday and took me to LA (thanks Cheryl!). We took it slow and the students were so helpful- I couldn’t be more fortunate on that account. Much gratitude and blessings to all the helpers in the world!
The workshop was full with both new and returning shibori practitioners.  It’s really great to see those who have continued really exploring the possibilities and coming up with their own techniques as well as challenging themselves to replicate some of the samples and books I bring.

working away…

So at the moment, I am focusing on being careful, doing the small movements that physical therapy has outlined for me and wondering about this coming month.  I will focus on some small works to put into the shop and see what else I can do that is within the realm of the permitted…

In the meantime, plans continue marching along for the Silk Study Tour to Japan (Dr says I will be good to go by then-mid May) and towards that end I have been working on a couple of items for the shop you might be interested in.

During my upcoming trip to Japan leading the Silk Study Tour this May, I will collect an assortment of wonderful vintage Japanese textiles to package up into collections for you to re-create into something wonderful or simply to study! These collections will all be unique, inspiring and varied. I always learn so much by looking at and re-using cloth with a past.

Some of the best wonderful bits and pieces are found in the odd corners, the small resell shop, the back corner of seamstress shop, or the temple sale. Many shop owners are thrilled when you come with a little knowledge of the fabrics and are often willing to teach you more as you share that knowledge and ask more questions. Each package will include some annotations and thoughts on the fabrics. Over the years, I have become better at recognizing the fabrics that have an interesting technique, are more rare, or have interesting stories to tell. There is always so much to comb through but only certain things stand out to me.  Often these are pieces that I might not completely understand but that from looking at so many textiles over the years, I just know there is something special about them. Many become study pieces and I have learned so much!

The collections will be limited and will be broken into the following selections:

Shibori, Kasuri, & Indigo Collection (20)
Amami Oshima Collecion (10)
Wonderer’s Collection (10)
Dyer’s Collection (10)

Please visit the shop here to see the detailed descriptions and pricing for each collection.  Since I return in Mid June, I will have these shipped out to you by June 30th.  Expect some fun, additional (non-cloth) surprises that will be slipped into your package for coming along on the adventure!  Your purchases will really make this month so much easier…
Plus, I will be uploading to the blog my findings along the way…the adventure begins May 14!

And… the new era name was announced in Japan-Reiwa.

Messages and messengers

What kind of Messenger am I? What kind of Messenger are you?

What kind of messages are we sending out, into the world? What are you listening to?

Are they messages of hope, of love? Of peace, of harmony? Compassion?

Are we actively practicing the messages we are sending?

But more to the point, are we listening?

Are we wondering?

Happy Saturday everyone!

Looking forward to tomorrow’s workshop at the Japanese American National Museum!

a quickie announcement…

I’vee had a couple requests to set up a local silk shibori flower making class, so I did!
There are only 4 spots open so if you are interested, please check the shop listing here.

All materials are included in this small group class.

I was going to post this on FB yesterday as a new event but there was a worldwide FB outage affecting postings,comments etc.  Maybe that isn’t a bad thing?

And while I am at it, I will remind you of the upcoming April 6-7 Shibori and Indigo workshop at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles (or as it is sometimes known as- Japangeles).  Signups are through the museum at above link.

The rain here has gone away for at least the next couple of weeks and I was able to replace the shade structure over the dye space outside. There is a new squirrel in town (or even possibly Squirrelly Gurl herself as they can live up to 8 years or so). She is so friendly to me and personality wise, much like the OG Squirrelly Gurl. I can’t know for sure but am enjoying her daily visits. Buddy the dog enjoys watching her and feeding time but the new cat-Kuro chan is trying to chase her when she can!  SG is too fast for Kuro-thankfully and outsmarts him every time.

I did channel a little bit of Ume san last week and made this bag from the piece of sashiko laced boro from the last blog post. Adding it to the shop now.

Cross shoulder bag, made entirely from used/recycled and vintage materials outside of the thread and the shoulder strap. One outside pocket on back side, one inside. Completely lined with vintage kasuri kimono silk.
Front fabric covered button closure with indigo twined wrap-around cording. Outside pocket fits large mobile phone while an ipad can fit inside.

Link to shop

 

Plus the Silk Study Tour to Japan is in high gear. Everyone is getting ready for this great adventure.  I’m receiving the bio pages for the booklet I make to hand out to our hosts so they can learn more about us.  It’s always interesting to them!  We still have 2 spots open for anyone wanting to make last minute plans to join our textile adventure.  Link here. 
In the absence of the Amuse Boro Museum (which closes this month) we are making plans to visit the Mingei Folk Museum instead.  It just so happens that they are having a special exhibit of the work of Motohiko Katano, known for his adventurous and creative shibori patterns.  I have never seen his work in person so I am quite excited about this.  My first visit to this museum was with vintage textile dealer Carola Pfau’s husband Makoto (now passed), who also treated me that day to several of his favorite temple sales.  Boy did we have a good time! Great memories…
We will also be visiting the Ichiku Kubota Museum as well as the Kyoto Shibori Museum so participants will have the opportunity to study some of the best shibori in the world!

Time to go and dye the rest of the indigo thread for this weekend’s workshop!
mata ne!

intermission

a placeholder of sorts while I decide what to make from it
a pause, to breath, to notice the ebb and flow of the tides
to hear my own heartbeat.
there is some indigo dyeing in the studio this week
and of course some moons.

a few of my favorite scraps

and here is a little something to wonder about-

“You’re only given a little spark of madness.  You mustn’t lose it.”
~Robin Williams

mata-ne!

Tribute to Ume san and then some…

Sometimes I stay away from the blog or social media in general just to hear my own thoughts without a lot of feedback. Sometimes I want to share something but feel that it’s better to think and wonder about them by myself for a while.

I haven’t posted on Instagram for a while and I’m not even exactly sure why. I know most people really love Instagram because it’s fun to look at lots of pretty pictures-I don’t disagree. Sometimes I don’t feel a lot of connection there to be honest. And really when it comes right down to it if, I’m going to share something online or even in person, there has to be a connection or communication that occurs to inspire that sharing of something.

I can tell already that this is likely to be a long, and rambling post. Please brace yourself.

We’ve had a lot of rain here lately and it’s been quite windy at times as well. Everything is wet, the garden is alive and well, and the weeds are growing furiously. It makes it difficult to work in the studio which is really outdoor and subject to all of the whims of weather. Not to mention that the wind really did a number on my outdoor wet studio area.

Actually pretty much did it in. I’m trolling craigslist and letgo for a bargain on a used replacement canopy.

I’ve pulled out the floor mats in the studio several times now and dried them in between rainstorms. Turned on the box fans in there just to keep things dried out. When too much rain falls too fast, it floods the floor of the studio.

Looks like we should only get a small amount of rain in this coming week so things can dry out a bit.

The garden doesn’t seem to mind one bit however. I’ve been enjoying doing a little bit every chance I get, in between rainstorms.

The garden keeps me sane. I don’t know what I’d do without it really.

I finished an especially lovely order of shibori ribbon which will head off to France tomorrow. It included some colors I haven’t made in a while as well as some old favorites.

My biggest disappointment this past week was the rejection letter I received from Quilts Inc. (Houston Quilt Festival) that none of the workshop or lectures I submitted were accepted for this year. I actually had to laugh at myself in the end because when I got the letter via email I was confused. I didn’t understand what it was saying (granted the part about not choosing any of my submissions was in the second to last sentence in the second paragraph) and it wasn’t explicitly direct. I guess I was just used to being included. Things change. Unfortunately, it likely means that won’t be taking a booth this year either since the costs of doing the show has increased to the point that I really depended on the combination of classes and booth sales combined to make it work out financially. I have always been very frugal when it comes to doing a show and the associated expenses.  In fact, I’ve rather enjoyed making an art form out of it!

I’ve really grown to appreciate my customers and students there and I will miss all who come to see me in Houston so very much. It’s a big disappointment. The first Quilts Inc. show I did was the spring market in 1995 and I think I only missed one year since then when I was transitioning from the porcelian company to life as a shibori dyer.  I haven’t been teaching there that whole time but over the years I did start to teach there as well. It has been good for me as I really do enjoy the teaching as well as the vending aspect there. It takes time to build a following at a show and I always worked very hard, took it seriously and did my best, both in the classes and in my booth.
So for now I look in other directions. There will likely be some more in-studio workshops, more hand dyed goods in the shop, maybe a new online workshop, perhaps an additional Japan tour with a slightly different focus.
*****************************

So here we are again, a week or so later and I never did finish this post! Got some orders off, had a birthday, went to the Integretron in the desert for a sound bath, and saw the snow in the desert with Phil and the kids!

Nothing like a little local getaway to clear your mind! Get a New View!

So now back to it all and working on the tour details. I’m excited to get to know this years participants! Yesterday I sent out an email to the 2017 tourmates that one of the craftspeople we spent time with last time has passed away.  We were informed of his passing while making final checks and schedule confirmations. Ume san was a fellow that frequented the Kyoto temple and shrine sales collecting vintage and overstock shop aprons which he then re-made into spectacular bags.  Hirata san met him in the market there one day and was invited back to his workshop nearby.  After some discussion, Ume san offered to meet up with the tour group when we visited the market the following year as well as arrange a luncheon and trunk show of his work.  We had a fabulous time walking the market and streets of Kyoto with him and the trunk show was wonderful. Lots of his bags made it into suitcases and went home with participants. I received many sweet emails fondly remembering our day with him. I remember him eagerly asking my opinions on his bags and he was keen to apply any suggestions to the making of them.  His daughter told Hirata san that she will arrange one last trunk show of his work for us this year with the goods he had been making. We will definitely miss this colorful and creative spirit! Arigatou Ume san!

Ume san- Everyone at the market knew him.

I think I’ll end this here and start on the next post- a shop update! It’s going to rain again soon so must go out and batten down the hatches! Should clear up again after the weekend. I see Northern California is really getting hit hard by flooding. We will be fine here.
Mata ne!