Category Archives: artists teaching art

restoring faith and wonder, creating solutions

It was a rough weekend here in shiboriland considering the energy that had to be expended to sort out the problems created by someone who’s complete lack of ethics and honesty ended up with her taking all the materials from my online class and using them as her own.

Adele at A for Artistry responded quickly and became part of the solution by removing the class and communicating with me to complete resolution.  I thank her for that.  She further sent me the class materials that were to be posted for this online class-and guess what?  They were all my materials! My samples, my words, even photos of my own hands demonstrating the techniques!  I was blown away.  I thought that it was likely that she was using the materials in some way but jeeze. All she did was remove my name at the top and the copyright notice at the bottom and replace it with her own name.   Can you imagine?  Adele of course was horrified and feels terrible.  I will be taking further measures tomorrow by informing sites such as the Dyerslist, the Dyers Forum, and several other sites where she has been posting her workshops and let them know what has been going on. It will be up to them as to whether they remove the posts or not.

I will also be changing the nature of my online classes.  The class that was most affected was the older shibori techniques class. Most of the lessons were PDF based.  The blog featured other videos and such but the PDF’s are easier to steal.  It looked to me like she just printed them out, cut and pasted them and recopied or scanned them back in.  When I get a chance, I will be reworking that class in a way that makes it more difficult to steal.

We are both interested in creating a solution! That is how we can feel better about all of this-by creating a solution.

In yesterday’s post, I created a list of guidelines for those who want to teach…even Martha in the comment section chimed in with a very good addition to the list.

Today, I made a list of the things I would want from a teacher if I was hosting their class. I’m sure there are things you would add (please feel free to do so in the comment section). I think these sorts of things would help protect the host, other teachers, and the students from fraud of this nature occurring in the future.

  •  All teachers would need to have a decent online presence. Look, if you want to teach online, then it is essential that students can see your work and get a sense of who you really are. Blogs and Facebook pages are great for this.  They are free and simple to create.
  • Teachers would have a website or a flickr account where more information about them can be found as well as a collection of their own work for all to see.
  • Teachers would have email and respond to it in a timely fashion.
  • All this would be very transparent and easy to find-not “in the works”.
  • Class postings would include these links to the teachers sites.
  • I would want some references -past venues, student references.
  • I would probably do a skype interview. Or at least a phone call.
  • I would Google their name, their email address and review it all.
  • I would have them sign a contract stating that all materials submitted for the class are their own works and that necessary attribution is given when referencing the work of others. (this addition suggested by Adele in the comments below)

This would be a start.  What would you add?

This is the world we live in now and we better get smart about it. Mediocrity will become the new norm if we let it.  Things are changing. It’s awfully easy for this to happen if we don’t take precautions.   Remember this piece?  I am still working on it…it is about transparency…and hope…and seeing on through to the other side.

trans boro window covering-indigo

I do want to thank everyone who chimed in on this past post-especially those who offered solutions and ideas.  I know we are all outraged by this sort of behavior, but in the end it’s what we DO about it that will count. We can’t just sit around being outraged and exhausted by it all. That’s not gonna change a damn thing!

hanamayu- はなまゆ

Over the weekend the silk moths began to emerge.  This year I separated out a half dozen or so of the best white and yellow cocoons for mating.  Last year,  I let them mix and got a lot of variations.  We will see where this leads.

Mr Koizumi, the former Director of the Yokohama Silk Center show us cocoons from all the past periods of Japan’s sericulture history. So many types!

When I was at the Silk Center in Yokohama recently, I picked up a book on silk cocoon flowers (hanamayu- はなまゆ or cocoon flower) by artist Tomiko Sakai. She is a Nagoya native and has been making her fantastic floral creations for over 20 years. Each diminutive blossom is often fashioned into larger sprays with each complete floral work worthy of display at the most formal event. Imagine wedding, tea ceremony, formal entry, or any honorific occasion. One day, I would love to see some of her work in person. She uses only the finest of Gunma produced silk cocoons.  I see that an exhibit of her work was sponsored by both the Gunma Prefectural Government and the Tokyo Silk Science Research Center-both entities that we have visited on previous Silk Study tours.  I wonder…

The book is all in Japanese and was the only one in stock but has an ISBN 0f 4-89977-174-6 which you might be able to track down if desired.  I think the title is something like “Flower Born of a Silk Cocoon” but don’t quote me on that. I will contact the museum in Yokohama prior to our visit there next year and ask about the possibility of having a few in stock for our group when we are there.

The flowers are not anything like the ones I recently did but I would like to see what I could create based on some of her works.  Her craftsmanship (or perhaps the craftsmanship of her studio directed by her) is supreme.  She also uses some of the stained cocoons, incorporating the natural stains created by the emerging moths into the works.  My recent trials pale in comparison!

And on Saturday, I had the privilege of giving an indigo shibori workshop for a group of great high school kids here in So Cal.  Their teacher, Debra, has been the art teacher at this school (gr 7-12) for 32 years and you can tell that she loves her work and that her students love her.  This is a great credit to her, as difficult as it is to be a teacher in the public school system these days, she is full of energy and ideas for her students.  As she told me, she was in the right place at the right time and this is a very special school.  The students were wonderful and we all had a great time.  Several of the students are off to college soon and this was a great way for them to end the year.  A few pics:

the group and Debra waving from the back

gathering threads

discovering the results and wondering

resisting the temptations to pull it up and look

they got a glimpse of arashi shibori too-

volvo doubles as a clothes line…

some results- they all did a sample stitched piece before trying the dragonfly motif

and before i left i turned the drying indigo

me waving to you and the dried and separated first indigo harvest

early summer garden- happy to say that i have been meeting my personal challenge to feed us at least something daily out of the garden here for over a year. may it continue!

Thanks to Cathy Bullington of Elephant Booty for the idea to save all the various harvests through the summer and use an ice chest for a composting bin.  Also, thanks to jude for  introducing me to Debra’s blog Artisun through the link in her sidebar.

Now back to the dyepot, cocoons.

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

noticing

i have been doing more wondering about transparency. often things happen for a reasons that i can’t see until later. it’s like i have to peel away the layers to get to the understanding of what was really happening when i misjudged it to be something else. like the milkweed plant in the back yard.

you would hardly guess that those tiny little polygonal flowers would turn into big puffed out hairy balls and then split open to send seeds out on the breath of a breeze, floating upward in gravity defying flight. a few succommed to gravity and landed in the pond where they seemingly danced on water with the sky reflected beneath their myriad feet.

but usually there was a hint, a seed, a knowingness of some kind that i chose to overlook or just accept in the hope that it would pass or that i was possibly wrong. but i have found that mostly my intuition has served me well. it has in fact even saved my life on one occasion when i really paid attention. i’m paying more attention again. and keeping better company.

speaking of good company, Art Unraveled was good company and i had a chance to meet many new folks there. the vendor day was fun and a pleasure to see many unique artists that don’t pop up everywhere. a real treat.
we had a colorful time in the dye workshop and even did a quickie indigo vat. all the participants were new to dyeing and were quite happy to get their introduction using the colorhue dyes. they learned about various types of silk fabrics and had a chance to see how each type dyed. we made moons together and now i have more moon friends!

after the event was over i had a little time before the drive home to relax and enjoy catching up on my favorite blogs and online haunts. i noticed jude had been busy inspiring others to join her magic feather project so with a needle close at hand i joined in…


and in the end a beautiful sunset entertained us on the drive back home through arizona and california deserts. my, it was hot!

online shibori class

itajime lesson 1


All week long I have been meaning to get this post to announce the rerunning of my online class, Shibori Techniques on Silk. (click the link for details) The beauty of shibori is that it was created in a much simpler time, yet resulted in some stupendous fabric designs and possibilities. It was created out of ingenuity and a desire to have a cottage industry making decorative fabrics for commercial purposes. Over time, and with practice, this craft has risen to great heights-limited only by the makers imagination and willingness to practice it to near perfection and limitless possibilities.

If there is anything that I would like to get across in this workshop it is that it’s not the materials, supplies, or perfect studio setup that makes the art or the artist. It’s your ingenuity in using what you have on hand in inventive and creative ways that will produce interesting results-often leading you on to the next level and asking you to wonder….what if…..?

tigga inspecting the orinui last from last years class


One of the reasons I offer this online class is to reach out to people who want to take a class on their own schedule or who don’t get out to take classes at shows or other venues. I’ve been teaching various classes online now for 4 years and I’m pleased with the way teaching online has developed. By using video, skype, and private blogs you can organize an online class that has a real community feeling.

I’ve received several emails from people wanting to know if they could do this class in their apartment or kitchen. ( Yes!) This is one of the reasons I like to teach with the Colorhue dyes. They are simple and non toxic and even though they have their limitations (no true red or black) you can easily use them in a home setting or with kids. There are no fumes, no heat or chemicals involved in setting the dyes. I’m also offering a workshop materials kit for those who would like one. Otherwise, you can collect your own materials from someone like Dharma Trading.

stitches from the heart-makiage and mokume


This is an enhanced version of the class I ran last year on Joggles. I have been asked many times when or if it would be offered again. I decided back then that I wanted to have control over my own classes as there were things I wanted to do (like the videos and skypeing) that those sorts of sites didn’t offer. I also like the blog style format for the online classes. It’s much more visual and interactive when everyone is posting their work, asking and answering questions, and commenting and critiquing. Between shows, orders, making, and life in general it has taken me this long to step up to pulling this together! Hard to believe. Likely, this will be the only time I will offer this class online this year. Even though much of the class is already prepared, I always feel there is more to add and will be doing just that along the way. Enrollment is not limited but you must enroll by Feb 28 so I can get everyone set up on the blog/forum prior to the start of the workshop. Get out your wondering hats and let’s have some fun!

happiness~

is at our very fingertips.

perhaps a step on the slow cloth trail…giddyup young cowboys.

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.
McIntosh-FRONT
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?

Dare I ask? Just what IS the role of an artist in society today?

I think I just heard a strange sound…..must have been the sound of a can of worms being opened.

I pose this question in the wake of being accused by a local “arts advocate” of not participating, of sitting on the sidelines and criticizing instead of “rolling up my sleeves and making change by participating”. And all along I thought I was participating! So I started wondering, just what exactly is it that is expected or desired of a artist in our society/community today?

Let me begin by saying that I am as confused by this question as anyone. I could come up with some eloquently waxed statements on the matter. It of course leads to other questions-such as, “What is the role of ART in society today?”. And the omnipresent question “What is ART?”.

Let me start small. Sometimes nibbling around the edges lets me figure things out as I go so I’ll just start by saying that making things with my hands seems to be embedded deeply in my DNA. Also, that I’m not really convinced that I am an artist. See I told you I was confused. If I ever had to go out and get what my parents termed “a real job” it wouldn’t quell the deep need I have to create things. Perhaps a 12 step program or a religious conversion would do the trick, but I doubt it. It’s just there.
So I have gone along with it since I was a child and worked it out so it could pay the bills.

Here are some other questions that come up:
Does everyone need art in their life?
-probably not, of course there are many cases one could site on this one.
Are we happier as a society with art and artists in our midst?
-I think so……
But why?
-here is where it gets more difficult. More subjective.

Does the artist’s role change in relationship to the changing needs of society? If you read this book, What is Art For? by Ellen Dissanayake you might be led to believe that making and responding to art is simply part of our human nature. Or that
we as humans have a need for beauty be it in the context of nature, our surroundings, or by creating it ourselves.

Furthermore, by definition, the term artist can be construed to mean many things. Many artists I have met (and from here out I will use this term inclusively and without judgment ) create because they cannot NOT create. Are you an artist because you created something? 5 things? 10,000 things? Is there a point at which your productivity becomes so great that you are no longer considered an artist? First you are an artist, then you are an artist with bills to pay. You become a production artist. Overhead increases. Now you are a Manufacturer. Well, you can see it starts to get a little messy here. I have been in all of these situations.

Back to the question. The artist’s role in society. Do artist’s have a responsibility in society? Should they create beauty for others to enjoy? Should they lead by example? Should they share their vision and their creativity with the public by teaching? Should they communicate with other artists from around the world? Should they all participate by dictate and attend meetings hosted by tireless arts advocates?

What would you do?
Here are some things I see other artists doing-
This is an easy one- Phil working with Pan Afrika featuring Master African Drummer Dramane Kone of Burkina Faso at a local preschool last week. Dramane is a Griot from the famous Kone family of Burkina Faso and Mali. a Griot is a West African poet, praise singer, and wandering musician, considered a repository of oral tradition.:

How about Jane and her work over the past two years at Mundo Lindo (Beautiful World) which is now coming to a close.

And if you know me you may be familiar with Elementary Art .

Please feel free to post links to any you know here in the comment section (this could get pretty lengthy!).
Of course we are only scratching the surface here but the bigger question really is would the community rather see the likes of us at bored meetings or out doing stuff? It’s somewhat disingenuous to say you want our ideas and opinions yet when we give them and you don’t like them tell us we aren’t part of the solution because we aren’t playing by your rules. Artists and musician types often make great sacrifices in lifestyles in order to choose these paths as a career. It’s not 9-5. There are no paid vacations. You often work 80 hours a week. You almost never get paid what you think you should. Forget about health insurance of any real substance. Bottom line, if I’m not gonna get paid for my volunteer work, would I rather be in a bored meeting or in a roomful of children? I think you can guess my answer.

If you want my ideas, feel free to email me. No meetings required. Until further notice, only paid gigs are being considered though.

Countdown to Chicago continues…..dyeing and processing the last of the silk for the show. Just booked a series of workshops in Claremont over the next 5 months. More details will be posted shortly on the classes and shows page….gotta go and get busy now!
mata-ne!

feeling a bit prickly

Maybe because I was working on this:
prickly
-and asking myself “what is the point?”. Having so much that needs to get done before Chicago and the study trip to Japan while at the same time being called out online for “standing on the sidelines criticizing instead of rolling up my sleeves and doing something”. This I get for publicly stating my opinion on recent discussions ( LBPost )about the future of art in our fine city of Long Beach. I admit I said the E word (education) and as you know, it is something I am passionate about when it comes to public education. But to be called out both on a youtube video as well as in a public forum by (get this) the same person who “borrowed” one of my ElementaryArt pics from my blog and then used it to promote himself without permission, attribution or anything just left me feeling a little prickly.
So, in retaliation, I headed to the studio to work where I had several rewarding days with dye and silk.
Releasing the threads that bound the pent up fabric and removing the sharp and now unnecessary barbs the silk rewarded me with small volcanic-like mountains complete with lava flow and molten ash. Very Icelandic- thank you Gudrun for your book of paintings based on natural surfaces in Iceland-just marvelous! You can see her work hanging in the airport in Reykjavik when you arrive (and by the way she is my sister in law). So much inspiration in your work- I see all sorts of “scapes” for shibori work there.
released1
Phew!
Then, another sign of renewal-
sign-of-spring-in-the-plum-tree
momma dove sitting on her nest in the plum tree.

and
some more large wraps for birthday gift orders..here’s one
basic-chou-wrap
Plus I get to iron silk while a band rehearses in the next room.
practicing
the sound was sweet!
( oh and I’m gonna ignore the threat of a defamation lawsuit you posted and just assume you had temporarily lost your mind- wishes for a speedy recovery)

Randomness

As a diversion this morning, I delved into chaos theory, randomness, and the butterfly effect via various links and searches wondering where to find true randomness in our everyday lives. It was harder than I thought!

Along the way I came upon this quote by writer Gordon Webber which expresses something that helps me stay in a creative state of mind:

To dare every day to be irreverent and bold. To dare to preserve the randomness of mind which in children produces strange and wonderful new thoughts and forms. To continually scramble the familiar and bring the old into new juxtaposition.

To remain mindfully child like can really help foster creativity. Helps to see the ordinary in a new way.
fan300x300
-me messing around with some base dyed hankies and some finished shibori pocket squares-getting into a playful mind in order to come up with some new marketing ideas.

Surveying the back yard to see what transpired in my absence I saw this-
lemons
which reminded me of all there is to be thankful for.
timmy
Then, I visited with Timmy3 (see Timmy2) who was recently delivered to us by a neighbor who found him struggling at the beach. (He’s a red eared slider and lives in fresh water.) I enjoy his company now that there aren’t any kids running around the yard anymore-
toy
this little scene actually brought a tear to my eye thinking about all it was speaking to me.

Random.org has some testimonials on how their random number generator is used by creative folk here.

Well then, here are my numbers as generated by Random.org for the OHOW giveaway:
147
152
10

-which translates into:

Diana at Idaclare
Christy at Sweet Tidings
Diane at Lavender Dreams
who have all been contacted and asked to send in their shipping info. They will each receive one of the items pictured here.

There were just so many (272) responses that I haven’t really been able to do the project justice by visiting some of the other participating blogs until recently. Here are a couple that moved and inspired me and maybe you will like them too:
Tammy at Spirithelpers– great photography!

Magpie (just magpie) at A New York Magpie’s Beads– images, thoughts, and moments added to the thread

Still catching up- filled all my backed up Etsy orders today-
etsy

Participated in a live Etsy store critique to see what that was all about. Good intentions don’t equal results. Sorry, but it’s true. And not everything is wonderful. Doubt I’ll do that again.

Made a Shibori Girl Studios fan page on Facebook.

I have to say, I’m into FB. Not only can I keep up with family, the kids who are off to college hither and yon who have been part of this household since kindergarten, I am making new connections with customers and artists around the world. I’m planning on meeting up with a fiber artist FB friend in Japan this coming May when I go on a tour with the Silk Experience (more on that next post). I’m also “friends” with several of my new male pocket square customers. One of which I see each day wearing one on CNN! Kinda cool! Also one of my latest customers is an appraiser on one of my favorite TV shows- Aniques Road Show.
So, how’s THAT for random?