I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile now and after receiving several inquiries after the recent post I am getting it checked off of my list today. I am including here a new link for those who are interested in receiving the sign up email for the tour which I expect to go out in early June. Here it is!
The 2021 Silk Study Tour to Japan has now been rescheduled for May 11-26 2022. Please know that it will be a requirement of the tour to have been fully COVID19 vaccinated in addition to any other health requirements put in place by the Japanese government, the airlines, and our hired bus company. We will strictly adhere to all health requests of the host artisans, museums, hotels, restaurants, shops, and any other places to which we travel.
Hirata san (our Japan-side coordinator and guide) and I have been in frequent communication over the past year and are excited about organizing the upcoming tour. We have a new itinerary that includes some of the past favorites and a few new ones! Prices have not yet been confirmed as all that has to be redone in light of this past year.
Lots of thoughts rumbling around here since the last post. This is gonna be a longer post, so settle in.
Spring is definitely in the air. And so is hope in many quarters. Spring always is in the very heart of a gardener and I’m no different. Like Spring seasons, life is slowly changing and renewing. Many people are getting vaccinated, getting out and adjusting to what currently is. Just being here is good. In fact, quite wonderful.
Hirata san sends me photos of the beautiful cherry blossoms in Kamakura and I’m having hanami natsukashii (cherry blossom viewing yearnings)…here are a couple to get you in the mood. We have our itinerary for the Silk Study Tour set for 2022 and are looking forward. The photos below show the new cherry trees approaching the Hachimangu shrine. It is just gorgeous with all the trees in bloom! This approach was reworked just a few years ago and is a lovely walk down the center of the main street.
I’ve struggled to post often this past year, instead letting thoughts congregate a bit before getting them written into the ether. That doesn’t mean that they are more clearly expressed with the passage of time, sometimes I think it is quite the opposite! Too many thoughts blend, are forgotten and so on, but today felt right so here we are. Sometimes I take short notes for the blog on my phone to remind me of something I want to write about and sometimes I don’t, letting the thought return like a butterfly to its host plant if it works out that way (speaking of butterflies, the caterpillars of the clouded sulfers have gone somewhere to pupate, I know not where) and the praying mantis oothecae should be hatching any second (haven’t seen the babies yet).
Fresh on my mind right now are my beader friends in the Czech Republic (CR) who write me that they are suffering greatly from their government’s misconduct and irresponsibility in regards to COVID. I felt so sad hearing her description of their situation there. Vaccines are extremely limited, and lockdowns are very strict beyond what science would rationally dictate. People feel stifled and rebellious and somewhat hopeless. They look forward to a new election in October, she says.
“forbidden to move out of our districts, forbidden to work and not compensated, forbidden to socialize, forbidden to breath without a mask even if there is nobody around us in a 100 metres range(328 feet), forbidden to leave our homes between 9pm and 5am… and god knows how long til the end, because the government has literally NO PLAN”
I know she won’t mind my sharing her words here anonymously. I can be so absorbed in my own world here, listening to others broadens my perspective. I love that we have become long distance friends sharing our worlds. At the end of our conversation I shared the music of Joan Armatrading (a long time favorite of mine). I’ve been listening to her music today in the studio after Maura in India (Mustard Seeds Kolkata) featured a song on her FB post this morning.
My heart was warmed by a message/conversation received from the mother of a son who credits me with far too much- but as we say, we never know what good a simple act of open-heartedness can give rise to. She credits me with reaching out to him as a young teenager who was struggling greatly and saving his life but it was her perseverance and love that brought him to meet me at a show in Houston (they lived in IN) and to encourage his interest in textiles and art. It is to his credit (and hers) that he graduated with a degree in art and is now teaching art in a HS in CO and just got accepted to grad school. He is out and doing what he loves, being who he is. How can you not love that?
It’s haru basho in sumo right now and today is the final day. We enjoy watching sumo here (I love looking at the silk gyoji costumes with their jaquard weaves and wonderful color combinations) and love watching both the juryo and makuuchi divisions. In a lower division called sandanme one of the rikshi (Hibikiryū) suffered a horrible injury perhaps resulting in paralysis (yet to be determined). The resulting uproar over treatment of rikshi injuries has resumed in sumo and is very justified. If you follow sumo, you know what I am talking about. Japan needs to step up. Tradition is one thing, humane treatment of rikshi is another.
Here in CA people over 50 are eligible for vaccinations April 1 and everyone over 16 is eligible April 15. Some areas have already opened to over 50 and we just received our first vaccination here. We still need #2 in 21 days plus a waiting period but progress is happening and workshops will again begin this summer! I am noticing how it is affecting my mental well being today. I feel inspired and more alive. I hope you are taking advantage of vaccinations in your area so we can all move ahead with safety and more peace of mind. This is a time to consider the future and reinvent many things.
Speaking of the studio, my recent post on the paid blog was quite interesting (apparently only to me-haha) yet I’m not sure if subscribers are reading regularly. Makes me wonder about that path. I won’t be doing this again, methinks. All posts there are password protected unless you subscribe but I thought I would “unprotect” this one to share here. It’s about indigo and madder and what I am making now… moonfire! March moons are all about madder and indigo. Today is the full moon as well as a shop update. Moonrise last night was spectacular here. Are you watching where you are?
I also was listening to a video I came across that resonated with me by George Monbiot who promotes “feeding the world without devouring the planet “. This also applies to textiles and clothing which continue to be a resource problem. As the planet goes, so go we. We survive by walking a fragile line of coexistence with nature. The planet will outlast us surely, but by how much? That is up to us.
In the meantime, I continue to dye. I have been dyeing madder and indigo. On a frustrating note, my aquarium heater in the indigo vat is out of commission again. I think that the high pH just does it in and results in its early death. They seem to last less and less time these days (this one just 5 months). Maybe this is the answer? Pricier than replacing the heater but…less wasteful if it lasts a couple of years. The weather is heating up now (81 degrees today) so a heater for the fermentation vat won’t be needed soon. I have been sorting through old cloth and over-dyeing in both indigo and madder to create some interesting cloth sets for the shop. Moonfire sets are also available there. A little diversion is always fun. I love how madder complements the indigo. I can imagine the projects that will be made from these cloth sets. From my imagination to yours…
There is something ultimately satisfying to me when I use old cloth. Especially cloth that has been previously reused-who knows how many times? The feel of it is different, the smell of it, the texture…the memories it holds. Old cloth has lots to wonder about.
Then there is the variety of the cloth. The various weaves, the fiber itself, and the skill of the weaver, the dyer, the thread maker. The cloths original intent or purpose and ultimate uses is also something to wonder about.
Today I sorted through another bundle of old Japanese fabric, all previously reused and dismantled from its former use-kimono, yukata, futon cover and more. I love things made from these old fabrics. That someone felt the cloth was precious enough to mend and then use again in something else- is enough for me to continue treating the cloth with the same respect and frugality.
As I ironed, picked threads, and lint brushed the various fabrics, I ran my fingers over each piece wondering. Who made it? What had it been? What could it become? Japanese narrow woven cloth and the way it was used lent itself to being easily taken apart and reused after laundering. It is a testament to how cloth was valued. Mottainai! (Don’t waste!)
I see the worn and threadbare parts, the patched places, and the edges as the wisdom of the cloth. They are there to instruct me, to show me the way. I study all the parts of it. I look at the stitches of the patches, the selvedges. I pull a few weft threads and look at them under magnification. I imagine the journey the cloth has been on – from plant or animal up to the point where I now hold it in my own hands, generations later. In whose indigo vat was it dyed? Did this lovely katazome here serve an early 1900’s merchant family? Had this bolt or strip of cotton katazome been a wedding gift? This boro bit here later used for a layer of a futon cover for cold nights? Who raised the silkworms and warped the looms with the homespun threads? Did the shibori come from Arimatsu or Narumi? Through the passage of time and many hands I’m left with so much to wonder about as I imagine what I (or you) will do with this cloth.
The ancestors of the cloth speak to me as I run my fingers over the surfaces, identifying each textile technique as I prepare a new batch of takaramono treasure packs for the shop-kasuri, shibori, katazome, shima (woven stripes), plain dyed cloth. Some of it is very durable and some now quite thin. It all feels good in my hand and ready for a whole new “becoming”. The new takaramono packs are now in the shop here. Here’s a few ideas of things I’ve made-a couple are still available in the shop.
Recently I did a little bit of hinode (sunrise) pattern shibori for moons. I like the contrast of that pattern -sunrise with the moons. I added some arashi to it as well and new moons are in the workflow.
Yesterday I spent a little time repairing my gravity fed steam iron. Fortunately, I still had my old one and was able to take a part off it that rescued the newer one- at least for the unforeseen future. A different part had broken on that but I had saved it “just in case”. Now I can reasonably get rid of the older one with less guilt. This is my third one of this model (Sapporo 527) over the course of about ten years or so. I do a LOT of ironing with the silk so I have worn out the steam button on the previous ones. They are still the best ones for what I do and still affordable. Not the iron for everyone though so if you are looking at them make sure it suits your needs.
The weather has been wonderful for spring gardening and planting so I did a bit of that before we get more rain tomorrow. Always thankful for rain here. Inside, I have been busy with a couple of needle projects. I finished one last night.
Back to the “fish filet”. It’s actually a koi nobori for Children’s Day (sorry Milo). I’ve wanted to make something like this for a while and I was recently inspired by a pile of indigo scraps from making the last batch of takaramono treasure packs I listed in the shop. (those are all gone but I’m working on a new batch). I wanted to make something using odd bits of fabric as another example of what you can do with bits and pieces.
Coming back to this post this morning to finish it up I read my email and see that the Paper Source chain of stores (the one that purchased the bankrupted Papyrus chain barely a year ago) is itself claiming Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Reported by Craft Industry Alliance here, small makers and vendors are banding together to support each other by asking customers to buy directly from them as well as the other remaining smaller stores that they supply. It seems clear from the reporting that Paper Source placed “non-ordinary course of business orders immediately before filing for bankruptcy”. This is fraud. I hope that these small makers and vendors get relief but somehow I doubt it. Paper Source is owned by a major private equity firm based in Bahrain. The majority of the vendors they screwed are small women owned/ family businesses. You may have one of these stores in your town. You can check this IG thread to find direct access to some of the affected vendors.
Today, I was distracted by silk and a new silk device I purchased from Two Looms Textiles-a tsukushi. They had acquired one some time back and were not using it so contacted me as a potential foster parent for the item. Happy to adopt and try it out! It arrived yesterday.
The first thing I did was to make some silk mawata caps. That did not go so well as I usually make the square mawata using my stand but from researching a bit saw that caps are preferred for making yuki tsumugi ito. Not a complete disaster but not exactly caps. Practice needed just like I did for the mawata.
I used them anyway for my first practices. The thread was too thick but I carried on. I found some caps I had brought back from Japan and tried them.
Much better! Fluffed them all out like I had seen online. I find there is a trick to putting them on the tsukushi so you can easily pull the fibers out to the desired thickness. The think with yuki tsumugi is that it is not twisted- it’s basically pulled out and sealed with spit. In the end, i was using a bowl of water as that seemed better.
I am not interested in ultimately making super fine threads like those which are used in the beautiful yuki tsumugi fabrics from Japan but something quite rougher and folkier like the fibers used to weave this bolt of cloth… yeah it’s a dream. But if you don’t dream, then what?
Meanwhile in the garden, will be transplanting the tomato seedlings next week into 4″ pots. And, my seed potatoes arrived so I am preparing the raised bed where they will be planted. Will add some pole beans to the same bed when it’s time. (note to self, start seeds!)
and in the background of course….moons. I think I am going to make some special sets using only that fabulous silk cloth above. Like jude commented, the indigo is in love with that cloth.
( and by the way…the Daily Dyer is having an issue with my mobile app uploaded posts. Please be patient. I will reload that last post for the third time sometime tonight)
Today I was planting more seeds. I got to thinking about the growing roots. The snap pea seeds I planted last week have sprouted and are forming their first roots. Roots are essential to the growth of the seed and the eventual plant it sprouts. I water the seeds, put them in the sun during the day, take them inside on cold nights, move them to bigger containers when they get too large, and weed out the weak or unwanted plants.
And so it is with wonder and creativity. Once I have been exposed to the seeds of creativity or inspiration, I cultivate that creative wonder in order for it to take root. It’s easy to skim the surface of something (and I’ve skimmed many ideas, techniques and processes) but once I develop enough wonder about something to the point that it starts to take root I want to move forward in a way that continues to develop those roots and lets it become much more. And that requires fertilizing and cultivating those roots with more wondering and practice. The more roots something grows, the stronger it can become. Not everything takes root. But everything I learn along the process carries me forward. Some things I choose not to cultivate in the moment-I may come back to them another time. Things need time to generate roots and grow. But enough …. meanwhile in the garden-
Moving from garden to studio…
A few posts ago I showed you some jeans i had refresh dyed in the indigo vat and repaired. That led to a friend dropping off some old pants he wondered if I might be interested in doing something with them. Only one pair was really of interest to me but seems like quite the project!
Now, I’m not quite sure how they came to be in this condition but I’m suspecting the garment industry had a hand in it. I’m going to give them a couple of dips before I put them in the mending pile. I might be up for the challenge. Thinking on it.
Meanwhile, I posted this ol’ moon today and although it is long sold, I received a very special request for one like this. I will make it with intentions of holding on.
Over on the Daily Dyer, I explained the making of these pocket squares for a special order. Indigo on silk satin. One is double arashi, the other triple. having them in hand is akin to playing with a slinky- mesmerizing.
Other goings on in the studio involve completing a shibori ribbon order for a customer in the UK and doing some indigo dyeing of vintage fabrics.
Shop Update Alert!
AsiaDyer (aka Richard) and I have collaborated on a plan to relieve him of some of his growing pile of “cloth with character” (aka imperfect and assorted). This involves lots of sorting on both our parts, shipping from Japan, and in some cases overdyeing to get it into some really lovely and fun packages for your projects. Each pack contains one moon and some indigo thread to get you started. The packs include katazome, shibori, kasuri, stripes, and solids. The end result is a takaramono (treasured items) pack of inspiration for your creative wonderings. Pair it with a pack of solid indigo shades dyed in the fermentation vat and you have a project in the making. in the shop here.
In kitchen news, I have been the fortunate picker of my neighbor’s orange tree. They don’t use them and they are just now finishing their season (started in December). This week I made orange marmalade for everyone and also am making a jar of orange liqueur. Most recipes tell you to use the peel and slice the oranges but my method is simple…from a friend in Poland.
We spent a week worried about Bella- our aging dog. She’s better now after a couple of vet bills- haha. Getting older isn’t for sissies no matter person or creature. Milo the cat is still hanging in there but the time is coming. I’m spoiling him rotten right now.
Spent some more time mending that old favorite quilt. It’s been very windy and cold here so some afternoon inside time is welcome. I’m applying the repairs on a “what do I think will work here” basis. Not all worn areas get the same treatment. The goal here is to restore the quilt to a condition that will favor continued everyday use. So that means that repairs will be visible, practical, and in some cases whimsical!
In addition, while on an outdoor gardening break, I caught my jeans on something resulting in a large tear about 10 inches long. Into the repair pile they went after a dip into the vat to restore some color to the worn areas. I had a little fun with this repair and applying the same goal as the quilt above, I’m back to wearing them and they feel very sturdy. I have another pair that could use some of this stitchlove as well. The satisfaction I get from doing this keeps me at it.
The garden is sprouting all kinds of seeds, both wanted and not so wanted. There will be plenty of weeding in my future. The feathery cassia continues to perfume the front walkway and the knife leaf wattle is just starting to bloom with its seemingly millions of tiny bright yellow pompom flowers. I’ll add a photo later when it is fully bloomed out. My onion and garlic patch is doing just fine- I have about 50 garlic and 150 onions planted there. I’m starting to plant seeds for the spring garden but with this colder weather it will take a little extra time for them to germinate. I can wait. Gardening is all about waiting. And watching. And hoping.
The recent wind pretty much tore up the studio shade/rain cover so today’s plan is to get out there before the rain hits and replace it with a used one I found online for $40. The moon was seen through the hole…
And Windy has wings to fly… Maybe you are too young for this song but we heard this nonstop on Armed Forces Radio in 1967, Yokohama. The Association is worth a few listens …it’s been a while.
This has been my daily undoing lately. Trying to focus when chaos swirls around me. After spending over a week now with an unruly computer, I now have it back to limping along so will take this moment to write a quick post. I had to wipe the HD and reinstall the OS and all the data from a backup. SO lots of resetting work and getting things back to where they were. Not sure it’s done yet as the same problem popped back up during the resetting so I’m expecting more computer trouble on the horizon. But in the moment it is working…
All the chaos of the last year leaves me wondering where the path even is. In what direction do I head? What purpose can I serve? Does what I do even matter (some days I do wonder about this!) ? Chaos seems to zap away my creative energy… I know I’m not the only person experiencing this. I’m in good company.
After supporting myself for so long (over 40 years) I wonder-can I still do it? What if I can’t? What might that look like? With clearly 6-12 months more of COVID related challenges ahead of us, in-person workshops and shows are unlikely for the foreseeable future and even then, it won’t be like turning a switch back on. It will take time to rebuild. The planned 2021 Silk Study Tour to Japan is of course, cancelled. We have hopes for 2022 so I will refocus towards that.
Sometimes, focus is a matter of deciding what you are NOT going to do!
So just while I’m writing this the screen froze again. So clearly still having issues. Back to the shop it goes tomorrow. Let’s see if I can get a couple of things into my shop to help things out a bit before it completely dies off(crossing my fingers on this restart!). I’ve still been keeping myself busy, though not really sure what I should be making! I’ve been shooting videos for the Daily Dyer on using the pleater and how I create the silk organza I use for the flowerwork. Again, I’m backed up on the videos due to the computer problems but hope to get more of them up in the next day.
In the meantime, I added a couple of flowers to the shop. I really love the white ones. Here, I am using pleated and dyed silk batting for the leaves. I think it adds a nice textural contrast to the organza.
I’ve also been doing a bit of indigo dyeing for a garment I want to make. In doing that, I selected and organized some of my indigo fabrics into project packs and added them to the shop. It’s been a while since I put these back into the shop. They are assortments of various silks and cottons dyed in varying shades of indigo. There are also a few packs of solid indigo cotton yardage dyed in the three shades using the fermentation vat.
On a side note, I watched some of the Yoshiko Wada shibori lecture videos and enjoyed seeing the work of the featured shibori artists there. I was reminded that I am really more of a commercial shibori craftsperson. Whenever I am creating, it is with an eye towards selling my work. It needs to be this way for me. So when I am experimenting with an idea, I am always wondering how I can use it in a commercial way. Can I improve the process to a point where it satisfies both my aesthetic goal as well as be manageable in the marketplace. I also realize that in the best tradition of Arimatsu shibori, shibori was a way to create a commercial product for a living! This is part of the shibori challenge for me. While beauty and quality craftsmanship is part of the desired outcome, utility remains key and with a eye towards the commercial aspect. And within that utility was a need to sell the work for a fair price for the handwork. I always admire the Japanese ability to innovate the process with this in mind. While much shibori rises to the level of art now, most who are making shibori these days do so as art or as a hobby, what I do is quite different- I made it my profession. I enjoy the challenge of that.
Another interesting Covid related activity- crafting zooms. A group of gals in California have been getting together to make up some of the items for which I offer free instructions. They order the kit, then make the item during their social zoom, screen sharing my video instructions! They have time to check in with each other while hand stitching their kits and helping each other out if needed. Each month they pick a different project. Great idea! If your group wants to do something similar and you want to invite me to pop into your zoom to answer any questions, let me know!
When my focus starts to fade, I take a trip out to the garden and see what is happening there. RIght now the most inspiring thing is the feathery cassia (Senna artemisioides) whose scent is at its peak. It has a little spicy scent -some days it can remind me of Necco wafers-remember those? The clouded sulfur butterflies flit all around and are laying their eggs there. I can always count on Nature to set me straight.
PHEW! Made it through the post without another freezing episode!
I’m suffering from a poverty of words for the New Year. I continue on in the studio as well as with the Daily Dyer blog. It’s quiet business-wise this year so I ponder what comes next. Maybe with this poverty of words, pictures might be the best…
And here are a few of the sillier things I learned during this year’s isolation … ***** -I can’t believe I never learned to put chicken feet in my chicken soup until this year! (try it!) -Planting seeds every week keeps me looking forward. -I benefited from not being one to have my hair cut, colored or permed- I look basically the same! -Same goes for manicures! My indigo blue nails worked just fine! -Millions of women will probably give up bras and heels for good (at least on the daily). -I can teach on Zoom! It’s fun and sometimes hilarious! (look for more in the coming year) -I enjoy isolation more than most. -I like wearing a mask when in public and washing my hands more (didn’t have a cold or the flu all year)! -I do miss teaching in person workshops, especially at JANM. *****
I wonder what others learned…
But on a more serious note… I’m in sympathy with all the people who lost friends and family this year. Each day brings new losses. Today I read that 1 in every 1000 Americans died of covid or covid related illness this year. I had to look that up-to be sure. A very somber statistic with which to end the year. It simply cannot go unheeded. Add to that the related statistic that 1 in every 17 Americans have been infected with covid. I put that here as a reminder to myself of what kind of year this was-not that we are likely to forget, but as a marker of sorts- a solemn headstone for 2020. May we all continue to carry on, to hold up those who are in need of holding, to console those who suffered loss, and to help heal those who face new life and health challenges going forward as a result. In reality, we don’t need to see the New Year roll over to accomplish these humane acts but it seems that the New Year is a celebration that can unite us in these thoughts, so I offer it here.
Seems I did manage to find a few words. Travel well my friends. Continue to be courageous, kind, and creative into 2021. Love to you all. And let’s keep looking up.
What’s it called when you think you did something but you realize you actually didn’t? Jeeze… I was helping a customer on the phone with her order (she was ordering a moonbag) and I asked her which one she wanted. She said, “There’s more than one kind?”. I had to check the shop. I took all the photos for some new pieces for the shop before the KOKORO event and then must have been interrupted and never went back and finished uploading them!
One fun thing i’ve noticed in my own neighborhood and even among social media friends is that people are enjoying decorating and doing holiday fun a little earlier this year. With many folks home, WFH or just home and not working, holiday decorating lifts the spirit. Walking the neighborhood at night has been cheerier than usual. I got into it here myself with the neighbor girls and we made a little holiday Santa house in the front yard that my grandson could visit. I did order the plain cardboard house and we used what we had around here to decorate it-old Christmas cards, lights, wrapping paper, extra decorations, glitter glue and anything else we could find. The girls are 9 & 11 and the 9 y/o especially took to it. In fact, she spends some time in there every day she tells me, reading, playing, taking photos – she even made a little video of herself in there. So cute! My grandson was able to visit the other evening (he’s 1 1/2 years old now) and it was a very special treat for me. His favorite part was opening and closing the doors-with gusto! The little house took quite a beating but held up just fine. I had added extra duct tape reinforcement on the doors ahead of time as they seemed a little weak. Fortunately, the weather here has cooperated and there isn’t any rain in sight. If there is, I can easily move it inside for a bit. We add little things to it here and there and it’s a continual source of fun. A little holiday magic with kids is WONDERFUL! (no photos of the grandson are allowed online so the neighbor girls are all i got- but you can trust me they are cute as hell) Hope you are having a little holiday fun yourself!
Time continues to blend days, into months, into a whole year that is nearing its end. 2020 hindsight is about to be the story of the day as all publications/media will be doing their year end lookbacks. I’m not too sure I want to read all about that. I’m going to face forward and carry on. In case you were wondering… Milo the cat often helps me blog…he’s sitting on my lap as i write this post and this is my view…