Category Archives: art

Case of the textile detective…

Here I have to tell a little of the back story to this old obi. Previously I had blogged about taking Ann Wasserman’s online workshop on quilt repair and restoration (see her blog here). I had found her online while doing some research on the crazy quilt I named Ida Belle. (while I was editing this post, Ann put up a new blog post about her latest repair/conservation quilt-a wool crazy quilt. You can see a video of her talking about it here.) In getting to know Ann a bit via email, we discovered we were quite harmonious when it came to cloth and textiles. Even Jude’s name came up as we were both early enthusiasts of Spirit Cloth (currently in wordlessly watching mode until after the New Year). In our conversations, she mentioned that she had some Japanese silk fabric that had been gifted to her many years ago and that she had no idea what to do with it or even what it was. She sent some images and asked me to look at it.

From the images she sent me, my guess was that it was an obi. It had a couple of areas of highly embroidered florals over some shibori along with large lengths of blank undecorated areas. There was what appeared to be a fold line down the center and the length of the piece indicated that it was an obi. At this point, Ann asked me if I would “adopt” it and do what I thought was best with the piece. I agreed, thinking that it would serve as a nice sample of shibori with beautiful embroidery for future in person workshops (hoping I get back to that eventually!). As you can probably guess, someone like Ann is often given and asked to “adopt” a fair amount of textiles but this one was outside of her particular realm.

When it arrived here, I looked it over and took a few of my own photos. I noticed a couple of things right away. First off, the shibori work is really very sophisticated. It impresses me that way where the the use of dyes fades into the background to give the very subtle feeling of distance. The silk used here is chirimen. Shibori techniques used are kanoko (fawn spot), boshi (capped resist), and makiage (stitched motif). I had a couple of questions so I also sent an email to the director of the Kyoto Shibori Museum. (Their latest youtube video is wonderful!) It’s obvious that the shibori was done with the final embroidery in mind. The embroidery! Wow… very beautiful nihon shishu.
I noticed that this shishu has a fairly high “loft”. I asked another friend, Mary Alice in Houston, who teaches this form of Japanese embroidery (you can find her online here) and she said that sometimes the older versions of this were padded underneath. What I ultimately discovered was that there are two layers of silk stitching (one perpendicular to the other) that provide this padding.

What I conclusively decided was that I would disassemble this obi. I decided this for a couple of reasons. The folding and storage were doing it no favors. Storage to me is “out of sight, out of mind”. I like things to be enjoyed and used. So I began to unstitch this beautifully hand stitched obi…and discover its secrets.

If you attended last week’s Komebukuro Treasure bag workshop “check in /hang out” session, after the questions and progress sharing was over, I shared my obi disassembling project. At the time I was about 3/4 through the unstitching. At that time I shared both the front and the back of the amazing embroidery. The back is also amazing and shows the wonderful and tiny stitches used to couch down the gold leafed silk threads. Goldwork embroidery is done using a core thread (usually silk or cotton) that is wrapped with a fine layer of gold leaf. Couching is the main way this thread is used as (I’m guessing) you wouldn’t want to pass this delicate gold thread through the cloth over and over. Couching is done in any number of colored silk threads for contrast and results depending on the embroiderer’s desired artistic outcome.

SInce that session, I have finished taking this piece apart and and discovered something very wonderful. The back side of the obi seemed a little odd to me. The front side of the fabric was very much a sateen-shiny with lots of long silk floats in the weave. However, the back was very matte and had an odd texture. Looking at it with a jewelers loop it was obvious that the warp and the weft were very different fibers. Unweaving a section of an end was in order! The warp was composed of very many fine silk threads. I carefully removed several rows of the much thicker and dull weft threads and did a burn test. Cellulose for sure. Then there was the issue of the feel of this textile. So papery… so I started searching online. I was slipping down another rabbit hole!

I started by searching for shifu, which is a textile woven of paper threads. My friend Velma sent me search for Susan Byrd who wrote the book A Song of Praise for Shifu – Shifu Sanka as well as made a wonderful video on preparing the thread for weaving. I’ve followed Velma for many years and have been amazed at her work and her blog, Wake Robin. I have sent her a piece to look at and give me her thoughts. After doing some reading it seems that it is likely kinujifu (kinu meaning silk and jifu, the word for shifu-paper cloth- when attached to the word kinu) if the weft thread is in fact paper. I did do a sample moon dyeing and when the fabric was wetting out, it curled up like crazy into a tight curl. I haven’t seen that before…

Even if it doesn’t turn out to be kinujifu, I have learned SO MUCH!

this mark of the weaver was woven into the end of the sateen piece

The center of the obi is a stiff cloth called obi shin. In many old obi the center layer is made of old cloth patched together. In fancier old obi, a special thick woven cotton cloth is used. Now days, manufactured obi shin is widely available and I’m not sure what they are made of. Perhaps cotton, perhaps poly. But over the course of time, I have collected and used a variety of old obi shine. I have made many of the moon bags from them as they have a great texture and character as well as being very sturdy. They were also often discarded and I was finding them at flea markets in Japan so someone was saving them. Part of the problem with storing these old obi with thick obi shin is that in the humidity of Japan, they tend to become damp and don’t dry easily if improperly stored. This collected moisture can easily mildew and stain (sometimes called foxing) the exterior obi fabrics. Such is the case here and there with this obi. I also moon dyed a piece of the obi shin. it dyed beautifully…

As I look at the fabric from this obi (now temporarily rolled onto three large kimono rolls), I think the best thing for the embroidery portions will be to conserve them flat in museum grade glass with UV protection. My thought is to frame the embroidery with a border of the silk/cellulose fabric. It would be great to frame it so the back side of the embroidery is visible. The main embroidery would go to Ann of course and the lesser one I would keep for a workshop sample. It just makes sense to preserve them this way unless anyone here has another idea-I’d love to hear it.

After all this, I am reminded that I have so many talented and knowledgeable friends that share the love and interest in textiles, preservation, and craft. It is truly a bounty of riches created over time!
Now if you have the time and interest- go grab a cuppa and come back to enjoy some of the links and videos noted within. There is a lot to take in!

Don’t forget, there is a new workshop forming for the 2022 Komebukuro Treasure Bags – details here.

But is it Art?

Today, I made Art. A real rarity for me. Usually, I just make stuff people like.

Usually I say I am Art’s Apprentice and Color’s Mistress.  But today I feel like I am Art’s Accomplice and Color’s Whore.
I call my piece :
“Pandora’s Box”  (in a Wide Mouth Jar)
silk, glass, metal

"Pandora's Box"  (in a Wide Mouth Jar)

“Pandora’s Box” (in a Wide Mouth Jar)

My piece has all the ambiguity necessary for Art. All the social and political interpretive meaning Art has come to be known for these days.
*Added bonus*- it’s pretty and colorful. Yay!

Maybe it’s just me…

but recently, of course, as indigo becomes more noticed (not unlike shibori) in the general mainstream media-in fashion, in art, in department stores, in wal-mart and beyond- you start seeing more things like this.

indigo before

Now most of you know I am not the Hollywood type (even though I live near LA- the LB being LA’s stepchild of sorts) so something like this will never be in my future but I wondered about it since it was popping up in my Google alerts.  Being a Founder and Creative Director myself (of my own life), I wondered.

I wondered how one can cram so many hippy hop cool things into one ultra coolio trend setty project?  I also wondered what statement is being made by advocating the shutting down of nuclear reactors while growing indigo hydroponically indoors under artificial lights ( no mention of solar generated power here) when plenty of free sunshine is readily available right outside the door.

What is the connection and significance of surfing, indigo, hydroponics (we are reminded-we are not talking about pot growing here!), SanO (watch out long time SanO surfers-a new invasion is on the horizon), Echo Park (hipster paradise), environmentalism,  heart, soul, handmade, new wave, artisan, vessels filled with knowledge, poetry, relationships, honest living and hard work, small farms and the big picture? Turning green into blue?  Or perhaps more clearly, blue into green.

“Artists, musicians- a.k.a. the collective consciousness”  really?  Let’s not take ourselves too seriously here.

indigo after cutting

It’s hard to come up with a better list of trend worthy words or topics to associate one’s self with. Then again, this is LA, and this is Southern California. A place where concept art and all of those things aforementioned are trend forecasted and rolled into one tidy bundle for our experiencing pleasure. Who said manufacturing has left the building in LA?

I’ve made a few waves in my time here, and I’m likely to make a few more. But I prefer a different approach to my work- a slower persistant approach that naturally begins from the center and moves outward, growing in gentle circles as it expands.

But now,  I have to go and spread out the first cutting of the indigo for drying and pack the car so I will be ready to go give an indigo workshop tomorrow for Debra’s kids at Artisun. More on that later.

indigo first harvest drying

engendering balance

for Fumiko-tsuki no ai

i wrote about taring the scale and bringing about balance in my work a couple of posts ago and have decided that this is something i intend to place in clearer focus for 2010. i want to to thank my indigo sensei Fumiko Sato and dedicate this piece of cloth to her. she won’t see this post as she works and lives in isolation without email or internet in the mountains of Japan but my New Year’s gift to her is a small piece of cloth to let her know her time with me last year was much appreciated and that i continue on with all i learned from her.
i learn from my work with indigo the importance of simplicity and balance. that striking that balance with the vat means building a relationship with it and letting the work speak to me as i create it. this takes time. and while this work is where my heart is it is not where the money is at the moment. which brings me back to balance. the struggle of making by hand for a living continues and i do enjoy a good challenge, but in 2010 my intention is to come from service more and trust
that the rest will work itself out. try to panic less and balance more.

i have wanted to share a story for the new year that is also a reminder to me that no matter what, i must be on the right path even though some days i really do wonder. it is also connected to indigo and the moon and you too, might remember this piece some time back-

cary the moon indigo style

a little bag made of various scraps of indigo as i was practicing with the vat and various textiles.
i put this up for sale on etsy and sold to a gal who works with children helping them with various problems. the bag was to hold an assortment of other artist’s work which the children use and play with as she works with them. on a whim, when i sent it to her i filled it with various other silks and ribbons. over time this new friend sent me stories of how the children interacted with the ribbons and how fascinating they found them, which of course pleased me greatly. some of the stories were deeply touching and i came to learn that this woman really had a way of reaching these kids and that the various aspects of the shibori silks -the colors, the pleats, the feel, when used therapeutically by her seemed to contain a little magic that allows the children to open up and communicate. talk about inspiring!
one day i was cleaning up around in the studio after some particularly bad wind which had torn apart my shade cover and broken my cheap wannabe ez up frame, i grabbed a used drumstick (household of drummers here) and strapped the frame back together with a little duct tape. i had just received yet another touching story from my friend wendy and a little idea popped into my head. i drilled a hole into the end of the drumstick and dug into my box of odd and and shibori ribbons. stitching a long piece of ribbon to the end of the stick i made a wand like the ones we used to make and play with when the kids were little. i tested it out and decided to steam out most, but not all of the pleats to better catch the wind and open up the colors. packed up a bunch of second silks and the wand and mailed it away. it’s been a while since i heard from wendy but just prior to christmas on a day i was feeling a little down and wondering why i received the following story which she shared with me:

dear glennis,
i am hoping you remember me… generously gifted me many pieces of ribbon and a wild drum stick with a rainbow tail!

i wanted to send you a warm and tender hug for all that you have done in restoring many a young heart.
today. a child, four years old, kicked out by many other therapists arrived at my cottage, up here in the woods. the boy and i sat on the front stoop. he said nothing could help him. four years old.

the healing began on many levels. i brought the drum stick with the long ribbon attached, outside…in the cold, snowy, shortest day of the year, two o’clock winter time. he looked at me. took it and waved it. then he went into the snow. made track marks. flew around the front part of the forest. we walked into the forest. he wrapped it around trees, held it and marched. made circles and figures only your shibori could. and then he asked me to write a poem in the snow. it said this:

“the ribbon is the eye of a river.
the stick clicks on the trees.
i can hear the talking of trees inside.
when i knock like that.
i love this wavy talking stick.”

we walked back to my little cottage. we sat quietly. we sat together for a long time. he asked me if the stick was magic. i said: of course. he waved it. we were still for 30 seconds. then we saw the wolf, walking quietly. we got a picture just in time……

the little one said:” i think i am feeling better and will come back. tell my mother you and the drumstick lady are my goodest medicine.”

if you ever see josh freese, please let him know his kind gesture of a gift to you, has taken a most healing journey.

i am renewed , humbled, and rededicated to bringing more creativity into childrens lives in 2010. they really can see the purpose of art and craft in their lives.

studio day

much of what i make is only of passing value. in fact i would really say most if not all. each piece is just one step further down a path. i have no idea where it leads. i just know that whatever materials are placed before me i will make something with them.

since early november when i returned from Houston i have had that piece of hand woven pre ww2 linen i bought hanging on my wall. each day i see it and contemplate the infinite possibilities. as i dye, stitch, and work today i further ponder it’s fate. i want to live up to it’s expectations. not disappoint it’s heritage.
sounds silly i know. it is, after all, only cloth.

on the wane and back again

Lest you think I have not been working and thinking, thinking and working- let me set you straight. Orders shipping out, dyeing, preparing for November shows and some pretty awesome reading among other things going on here. Finished reading “Outliers“while I was in TX and was rewarded with confirmations of many things I previously subscribed to (the 10,000 hour theory) but am far less eloquent than Malcom Gladwell is at verbalizing or writing about. He has some very interesting ideas and stories to tell that illustrate why certain people come to be very successful. He explains that we tend to focus on the individual themselves, rather than the circumstances of time, place, and opportunity surrounding the individual. An easy, fun and great read.
Secondly, I received my copy of Hans Abbing’s book “Why Are Artists Poor? The Exceptional Economy of the Arts”. I nearly snatched it out of the FedEx delivery guy’s hands. Well, metaphorically speaking, I was an eager beaver and know ahead he will be preaching to the choir on this one, but once again looking for some very eloquent, researched and well organized thinking on the subject. He is an artist AND an ecomomist- go figure! A rare bird indeed! This book is taking me a bit more time as it is somewhat more academic but he has some really provocative and brilliant thoughts on the economy of art and myths that we seem to insist on furthering-and not to our own best interest.
And in my stumbling ’round the internet on the subject, I came across this guy whom I found very interesting and you might too. Should you have any gifting needs for chess enthusiasts in your life he has some pretty cleverly funny chess t-shirts in addition to his painting which I found I liked very much. His blog is excellent in my opinion. Watch his video on the location of his studio.

A link to all his YouTube channel is located here– be prepared to spend a little time.
Then on to another topic- copyrights- and this story which Neki at moveable feast alerted us to on FB. In addition to a small donation, I offered to send one of my large shibori scarves to anyone of my FB contacts or blog readers who purchased one of his firepits before Nov. 7th (apparently the deadline for his next court date).
And now I share with you a most amazing exhibit of a painter whom was formerly and completely unknown to me- Charles Burchfield.
CB Insect Chorus
Today was a planned “day off” for me and my guy so we headed to the Hammer Museum in LA to take a look at the much ballyhooed Crumb exhibit– an illustrated version of the complete book of Genesis. This exhibit is getting a lot of press here and after seeing a special on Crumb himself a few years back I was interested in checking it out. Upon entering the gallery, there was a free tour getting underway (which we declined to join) but the docents voice was so annoying and being unable to tune it out we decided to step out and return after the tour was over. And am I ever thankful for that annoying docent tour! We wandered over to the next gallery where we discovered the Charles Burchfield exhibit. It was amazing! The first gallery showed a collection of his early works 1917-1920 I believe, and included the above painting. A watercolorist, he apparently painted a large volume of work during this, his early period (my personal favorite). His use of black was wonderful, and a great graphic contrast in all the pieces in this group. To learn more about his three distinct periods you can go here. The story is fascinating. One of the things I really loved about this show was that there were so many notes about each piece in the artist’s own words. I really felt as if I got to know him through this exhibit. Perhaps more so than any other artist’s show I have ever seen. This one will stick with me for a long, long time. There also are examples of some of his commercial work as a wallpaper designer and greeting card illustrator- as well as some of his personal thoughts on effects of that on his personal work.
Phew! After a brief break, it was off to the Crumb exhibit again which itself was an exhaustive effort. The sheer volume of illustrations is enough to knock you over not to mention viewing the subject matter in comic book illustration form. I could only take so much.
I want to thank the LA Times for their over the top promotion of the Crumb show which led me to find a new painter, Charles Burchfield, to add to my list of favorites!
So, tomorrow it is back to shibori, silk, dyeing and experimenting. Preparing for my SF shows and more. I have a class that needs filling at the SF Bead & Design show- you can go here to check that out and register online.

second nature to me now…

As an artist (using that term since it seems to be what others perceive as a convenient term to describe what i do) I am searching like many people are to find answers on how to best create a sustainable and practical lifestyle doing what I do (which is making things by hand and selling them- very non-artsy by many artists’ definition). Toward that end I take in many things and most recently two things come to mind- one, the current show at the American Museum for Ceramic Art now showing the first comprehensive review of Harrison McIntosh’s nearly 60 year career as a ceramic artist and two, recent writings by Charles Hugh Smith (Survival+) on understanding our puzzling economic times and how one might perceive it if one dares. (thanks to one of my pocket square customers who is a professional economist & FB friend) Often I am accused of over-thinking but nonetheless sometimes the juxtaposition of certain things that cross my path, while seemingly unrelated, just scream out for me to make certain connections.
Harrison McIntoshes are not created every day. Only when stars fall into certain alignment and a person is wise (or dumb) enough to follow along the path steadfastly do artists of this nature arise and endure. I think the one thing I find myself admiring most about this man and his work is his desire and ability to stick to a narrow focus, cultivating his studio methods and techniques to near perfection day by day for nearly 60 years! Much like Ichiku Kubota, he surrounded himself with beauty and design and allowed it to inform his work. Unlike Kubota, he focused on simple and classic design rather than the ornate and highly decorative. These days our desire for instant success and recognition often gets in the way of allowing for artists to create and develop slowly- as is necessary to achieve such a body of work presented here in this retrospective showing of Harrison McIntosh’s work. Much like he did on his potters wheel on a daily basis, Harrison reminded me that becoming centered is key and that a main component to a successful pot is in the treatment and execution of it’s footing. A good lesson for any artist to make note of. Beautifully displayed in a gallery with lots of natural light, I just wanted to move into a corner of the room and take up residence with his work for a while just to really breath it in. Seriously, if you are in So Cal or plan to be, consider a visit just to bask in the simple beauty of this exhibit. It’s on through January, I believe. Plenty of time to make time. I plan to go back on Oct. 10 for a book signing- my guy Phil bought me the catalog which is excellent. Thank you Phil!

Now on to number two. Definitely less fun but very thought provoking as well. Charles Hugh Smith runs a blog/website called Of Two Minds and is a very compelling writer of both fiction, weblogs and essays covering topics such as “Marketing in Crisis”
In the end, I discover he’s also a closet musician! His writing on the economy (Survival+) is very brave considering I think it is what we all really know and think yet feel helpless to change. He has a knack for clarity and lays out a plan that points in a refreshing direction (truthfulness)- it’s the difficulty in actually getting there that gives pause and makes me wonder if we actually have the guts to do it. As he points out, we most likely will not have a choice. We aren’t really making our own choices anyway-that is unless you are in the 1% that either owns or controls the 2/3 productive assets of the nation.

So, now you may be wondering how and why I come to connect these two things not only to each other but to my own work as well. As a maker, I strive to work with my materials, repeating a process over and over until it becomes second nature to me. Until I reach a point with it that no longer requires me to think, freeing me to allow for the work to flow and guide me instead of the other way around. That is what I aspire to. It gives me a sense of well being for some reason. I suppose that is why I have always been drawn to a process and a production method as it is in this type of repetition that I find mastery. At the same time, producing objects for sale means considering my role in our consumer driven culture and economy. I find myself teaching more and encouraging others to experience the same sense of well being through creating and exploring art and craft as opposed to finding it through mindless consumerism that really only serves to oppress us into debt-serfdom. This doesn’t mean that I will abandon making and selling- as I too am just one of the masses with bills to pay.
Shibori anyone?

exploring derangement

( foreward: after writing this extra long post i decided i needed to preface it by saying feel free to skip ahead to the pretty pictures at the end-i tend to get a little off track here and many may find this post intolerably boring)

Yes, I know it’s a holiday. But here in shibori-band-land people are working. The musicians are out entertaining or recovering from last night’s entertaining, preparing for the next gig and for tours abroad leaving next week. So I too, am working.

First things first. Next Saturday I will be in Claremont teaching a shibori ribbon flower making class at Phebies so am prepping for that-dyeing new ribbon colors and making pretty things to share. Come on by!

I see the catalogs have come out for both the Road to California and Quilt Festival Houston shows. I am teaching at both so check it out. Also doing a morning lecture in Houston-it’s free and a good way to pass the time with a cup of coffee waiting for the show to open. At Road to California I will be teaching the wired shibori necklace class in person- this will be a lot of fun and expect to leave with a great shibori flower necklace and inspired ideas on making some other fun stuff with wire and ribbon. In Houston, I will be teaching shibori techniques- always fun and inventive- the sky is the limit on this one and you will be surprised to see what can be done with minimum space and little investment in materials and supplies. As usual we will dye silk but techniques can be applied to cotton as well with the appropriate dye sets. All these classes have limits on class size so sign up early to make sure you get a spot. If you don’t want to wait ’til January to learn how to make the wired necklace, you can take the class online at Joggles beginning August 13th.

Over in the corner the new Instant Indigo Dye Kit from Jacquard has been teasing me. Having 3 vats going at the moment has led me ignoring it until yesterday when my vats decided to become “deranged” . This is now my latest & most favorite technical term when it comes to indigo dyeing and fits ever so well into my current state of mind seeing that, according to “some” people (and you know who you are) you have known this all along about me (or why else would I have “chosen” this as a career?). I use the word “chosen” loosely.
Not to get all political or religious or anything but some things you don’t really choose yourself. The universe chooses for you and you just submit and go along with it. One does have to be a bit deranged, willing and able to live outside the ordinary to be an artist or maker full time or make a living from it. Just embrace it and get on with it. Or do something else.
Back to the “derangement” and the indigo. Derangement of the vat occurs when, for whatever reason, the vat becomes useless and it is up to the keeper of the vat to determine its cause and rectify the matter. So far for me, it usually requires a slight PH adjustment with soda ash and an addition of thiox and a wait while the vat re-reduces and the indigo once again becomes soluble. None of this is news to most dyers but there is just something about the ability of the indigo vat having a mind of its own that I find intriguing. Maybe it’s because my work is fairly solitary and I like the idea of having it’s company in the studio (aside from the cats). Or maybe its the uncertainty of not really knowing what to expect day to day (I’ve been used to that for quite some time now) and having to solve the mystery. Maybe it’s the feeling of care-taking it back into shape, an extension of my mothering skills somewhat neglected since the boys are in college and not needing me so much. Whatever it is it has an allure aside from the colors (which can be achieved with chemical dyes) and the seemingly magical transformation that occurs while the indigo oxidizes and turns from yellow, yellow/green, to blue (fun to watch).
This all leads to where I started here, to the Instant Indigo Dye Kit. Seems somewhat like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Apparently there is no need to travel the globe to discover it’s intricacies. Everything can be distilled down into kit form in our ever expanding need for instant everything. Well truth be told, I opened the box, followed the instructions and POOF! Indigo vat. Hmmmm. The instructions tell you the vat will last several days and dye several items. Just pour the vat contents down the drain when it becomes “deranged”. Doesn’t talk about maintaining the vat. Guess you just order another kit.
My experience with the vat so far- it dyed a sample just fine. One thing I didn’t care for was the huge amount of hana (or flower/foam) which I take to be a result of the pre-reduced indigo crystals . For a small vat like this kit produces, the excess amount of foam is a bit of a pain. Any of the foam that settles on your fabric potentially leaves a light spot and leads to uneven dyeing. For many this will not be a problem.
One can order the pre-reduced indigo crystals to try on your own- the kit includes a pre-measured chemical packet of soduim carbonate and thiourea dioxide. Also included in the kit are rubber bands,popsicle sticks, and two squares of rough cut wood plus a pair of surgical type gloves. I think a lot of people will order the kit to try out an indigo vat. I like that. I also think that like many things, few will continue on to really discover what indigo has to offer in the long run. On to the next thing.

I will blame some of this on Neki, whose recent posts have been egging me on and who from all the way across the world is teaching me a few things. She recently discovered this book entitled “Colouring Matters” that is just fascinating and where I learned about “derangement”. Defined:
de·range (d-rnj)
tr.v. de·ranged, de·rang·ing, de·rang·es
1. To disturb the order or arrangement of.
2. To upset the normal condition or functioning of.
3. To disturb mentally; make insane.

As some of you may or may not know, this word has a bit more meaning in my life than I care to admit. I was very interested in the recent news that Schizophrenia May Be Linked To Immune System. My mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when I was about 4 and my sister was 2. She was committed to an institution for 10 years of treatment not to mention complete disruption and derangement of her life. That was back in the early 60’s and she was a young woman. Of course the story is long but flash forward to now where she is nearing 80 years of age. She is a testament to so many things- can you even imagine? To live almost a whole lifetime with this struggle. To carry on despite it. To be self sufficient and independent in spite of it. To be productive. As she is aging it is making things more difficult and harder for us to help her. She is so fiercely independent- with a paranoid streak for good measure. When I am curing the indigo vat of it’s derangement, I wish there was such a simple fix for her. I’d love to make her life easier.

And now for the pretty pictures:



me in the alabama hills- mojave

me in the alabama hills- mojave

indigo moonrise (with rust)

indigo moonrise (with rust)

lots of hana-instant indigo vat

lots of hana-instant indigo vat

indigo dyed cotton twill tape-for sale at LB Quilt Festival

indigo dyed cotton twill tape-for sale at LB Quilt Festival

ribbon colors-some new some old

ribbon colors-some new some old

just working…

I know I have so much more to write about but simply have to be working right now- trying to take and post few pics in the process to keep the flow going here-enjoy!

click to enlarge..

Itchiku Kubota Museum and itchiku tsujigahan

Picking up where I left off… on the bus headed to Kawaguchiko and the Ichiku Kubota Museum.
I got off the bus and had to take a local bus that brings you around the lake and deposits passengers at various locations. The museum stop is 45 minutes and towards the end of the route. There were two other Japanese ladies getting off at the same stop and the bus driver requested that they take me with them as the museum was a short walk from the road. It was a good thing too, as it wasn’t immediately obvious how to get to it and I would have had to spend some time finding my way there. I chatted with the ladies along the walk and they offered to share their admission discount coupon with me which I accepted (I actually had my own which I printed from the internet before I left but it would have been rude to mention it). We separated and went on into the museum.
one of my new friends..
rock path
rock path in garden



outside entrance
one of the garden areas
courtyard between the bead display and the kimono display room
back garden area
garden area behind museum
Much has been written about the architecture of this museum in the various publications covering Ichiku Kubota and his work an the photos here don’t really do it justice. The choices of materials, the natural setting, and the blending of the two are really exquisite. It is so rare for an artist to have an opportunity to create such a setting in which to view their own work. I suppose there must be other examples of it but I am not aware of it at the moment. I’m not speaking of museums devoted to the work of a single artist but such a museum built, designed and curated by the artist him/her self. Of course photos inside were not allowed but I purchased one book that I had never seen before that has fantastic close up images of the fabrics.
kubota book
So to continue, upon entering the museum the first building is devoted to Ichiku Kubota’s world bead collection. He had collected some fascinating beads -both antique, vintage, and modern in various materials. My favorites were the ceramic beads, having been a ceramicist myself and understanding the unique processes used in the making of many of them. The glass beads were also intriguing. Beautifully displayed as well. This building also houses the museum gift shop and looks out toward the stone arches of a courtyard area.
A walkway and stone staircase lead you up to the real treasure house- the kimono collection.
There is a short video to view beforehand. They even have one in English in a separate area and ushered me into there to view it.
Here is a transcript from my journal written on the bus ride back towards Tokyo-
the sheer beauty of his work leaves you without words to express what it is like to be in the same room with the thirty or so kimono on display here. A short video which was well translated into English was almost worth the price of admission alone. At one point it shows Ichiku Kubota at work with the silk tying and capping …overdubbed is a translation of his words- “it takes so much time…why did I ever think of this?” . Looking over the pieces here I wonder the same thing. The only answer I can come up with is -for the sheer beauty of it. This was a man who was driven to create- conquer the material and perfect a process. Once he had done that he must have felt compelled to continue to create the beauty which he had discovered-tedious though it was. It seems that some people are put on this earth simply to create beauty for the rest of us and Ichiku Kubota certainly did that. The work shown here at his museum and at galleries and shows around the world cannot begin to address the amount of work that must have been created in order to reach these heights of excellence.
Surely there exists some of these experiments- the trials and inventions which led to the development of these wonderful pieces and his unique technique. If you have never done stitched shibori then I wonder if you can fully understand the magnitude of his work.
His museum itself is incredibly gorgeous and strikingly unique. What really struck me is that you can get so up close to the pieces. After removing your shoes you enter the kimono hall to view the works- no glass, no barriers of any kind. You can actually get within centimeters of these pieces. You can really study them. I saw many things that excited and inspired me. Things you cannot see by looking at a book or even from a distance of a meter or more. Let me be clear again. Shibori without texture just doesn’t speak to me in the same way. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same after seeing this exhibit.

Fast forwarding to Kamakura- June Coburn and I had an opportunity to walk up to a favorite shrine near the house where we were staying and saw a Shinto wedding underway. One of the guests was wearing this:
While all the people were taking photos (guests as well as tourists) of the bride and groom in their traditional Japanese wedding costumes, I was following this gal around positioning myself to see the tsujigahana on this fantastic kimono. I don’t think I have ever seen such a kimono ever being worn in public (or private for that matter!) I showed it to my friend (and indigo dyer) and she agreed it most likely was a work of the masters hand-Ichiku Kubota. Yesterday I received two more books on his work from her in the mail- unavailable here and most likely out of print. Not to be believed- I am overwhelmed.
A couple more things to note- from looking at the books I had prior to leaving (never having seen any of his work in person) I did not realize the amazing embroidery that exists on some of his pieces. The subtle variegation in the dyework, the stitching,the overall design, the colors, the silk, the embroidery, the textures, must I go on?

There is one more event of note from this day but I must leave it for now- I think you’ve had enough! I know I have! check out the flickr page for more photos. Going to load them now…