Category Archives: business of craft

Amami Oshima Tsumugi Weaving

As a followup to the last post, I continue with the weaving portion of my trip to Amami.

On the way to Higo Dorozome Friday, I saw a sign that read “Oshima Tsumugi Village” so we decided to start there on Saturday. I didn’t realize until afterwards that this is where Jackie did her mud -dyeing workshop (we later compared notes). Since I had already done the sharimbai/dorozome workshop we opted for the basic tour and focused on weaving. They have a good but short tour of the weaving process but the real highlight was the addition of a weaving session on one of their looms where you could weave and keep a length of Oshima silk tsumugi. This was purchased at the beginning of the tour with the entrance fee.

Of course, the plain weaving of a piece of silk oshima tsumugi is a fairly basic process even for a novice. The real work as most weavers know, is in the preparation of the warp and the set-up of the loom. Oshima tsumugi takes this to new heights with its complicated pattern drafting, the precise dyeing of both the warp AND the weft threads prior to measuring and warping the loom. In addition, starch is also applied to the silk threads prior to “shim-bata” weaving as well as after the dyeing prior to warping. the starch or glue is made of specific types of local seaweed.

The process of dyeing the threads:
Prior to the late 1800’s, the threads were wrapped with banana plant fiber to resist the dye and form the kasuri patterns. Other methods, from various areas dyeing resisted threads for kasuri weaving, include tying and clamping the threads, but in 1907 two men from Amami in Kagoshima prefecture invented a new method. This consisted of weaving the warps and the wefts temporarily with cotton threads on a special shim-bata loom which resulted in more precise and complicated patterning as well as improvements in production quantity and quality.(The tightly woven cotton wefts over the silk warps resist the dye in shibori-like fashion.)

We saw the preparation of the warping threads-the weaving of the patterns from a precise draft of the pattern desired as well as the additional colored dyeing of the wefts post-dorozome dyeing. Apparently there are 28 (!)preliminary processes that take place in preparation of the actual weaving.
Once the loom is warped (we did not see that process) the weaving begins and the weaver takes over. The weaver handles the shuttles adeptly and quickly, stopping every 7-10 centimeters or so to adjust the threads with a sturdy needle and correct any errors in the pattern caused by tension issues, by adjusting the warp threads before continuing on.

I was sat at a loom and after a brief instruction in Japanese and (international hand waving) I wove about 20 centimeters of beautiful plain woven silk, alternating shuttles filled with a variety of solid and multi-colored silk bobbins. It was like magic! The finished piece was a simple striped pattern and the resulting cloth was very smooth and lightweight.

It really is amazing how the skills for this type of silk fabric came to be developed, practiced and cherished by the Japanese of Amami Oshima and beyond. You can really appreciate the very high prices of this fine silk cloth once you have seen it first-hand. You can read about it, see photos & videos, but to experience it first hand- even for a short time is precious. One of the weavers told me she had been weaving for over 40 years. She said that anyone could do it but that it takes 4 years of 8 hours a day weaving to achieve the correct quality as a weaver of oshima tsumugi. I actually thought that might be understated. I told her I have a lot of catching up to do!
The whole process is such a team effort and the failure of the materials or quality at any point in the process has the potential to ruin the work of all the prior steps taken by the other artisans to that point. Everyone is very focused on a good outcome.

A couple of other points to note- the silk used is not filature silk, meaning that it is not reeled from the cocoon. It is referred to as a yarn, meaning that it is spun from a silk like mawata.
Apparently, sericulture was (is?) practiced on the island but I did not get to see any of that this time. Further research ahead…
I’m interested in seeing how the silk used for the Amami oshima tsumugi is spun and prepared for weaving here, who does it, and where.
Another note- during our tour of the tsumugi village, our guide/driver Kounosuke tells us that his mother was a weaver on the island before she had children (4). AND that his grandfather was a dyer….he has lived on Amami his entire life and had not seen the weaving process before.

About the guided tour at the Amami Oshima Village:
If you are not there to do a workshop, the tour seems quite rushed. They have a specific amount of time devoted to each group before ushering them into the gift shop. I get the impression that there are a lot of casual tourist that go through there by the busloads in the high season. The gift shop does have two parts- the VERY expensive side featuring full kimono, full bolts of woven silk, obi, and various other very fine clothing items and also another side which is filled with fine but more affordable and smaller items- all beautiful and interesting to see.
Kounosuke told us that the high season is of course Golden Week, July and August (when school is out and workers have vacation time) as well as during the Hatchi-matsuri or August festival. He said that was his favorite holiday of the year in Amami. Our other guide who did speak English was Yui who grew up in Yokohama (!)and came to live in Amami one year ago after visiting it on vacation. It’s that kind of place.

Here is a photo gallery from the tour:

As before- there is a lot of video to edit so perhaps on the plane I will do some of it. To follow, the rest of the day tripping around Amami and then time traveling again back to Kyoto.

Other online resources:
https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/KQIy7n8uomYiIQ
this site gives a very good explanation of the tsumugi dyeing and weaving process by Kyoto Women’s University
https://kogeijapan.com/locale/en_US/honbaoshimatsumugi/

enjoy, create, wonder

As a practitioner of shibori dyeing and maker of silk shibori ribbon for over ten years now, I continue to wonder about what I do for a living, and why.  It’s a good thing to wonder about consciously in order to keep ahead of things and remain independently viable.

Things I know that have been part of the cloth of a life woven with craft, at least for me are the following:
I was born to work with my hands and to make things. This has been true since I was a child and cannot be removed from who I am, except perhaps by a lobotomy. I learned at an early age I felt better when being creative and productive making things by hand and later on learned I also did enjoy the marketing of my own work,even though I hated it in the beginning and remember crying in my ’69 VW bug after an unproductive day of sales calls and appointments -I was about 19 at the time. I persisted. Forty years later now, I do it from behind a computer and the rare consumer trade show.

I seem to have a knack for creating things that others want to buy, and in enough quantity that at times I have had to employ quite a number of others to participate in this unlikely form of employment. I found a certain joy in being able to provide a living for others in addition to myself in handmade craft here in California.  It has been an honor really-because of the people I worked with.  Eventually (and after over 30 years), the joy of that was diminished by the burden of being an employer and the demise of manufacturing in the US. No problem!  I reinvented my life as a solo dyer and continued on my way. Even my shibori ribbon has the privilege of helping support many others as they resell it or make things with it which to resell. Kinda cool.

I enjoy the interaction with customers from all over the world. I love seeing other creative folks take something I made and add it to their own work in so many ways I never ever conceived. Some of the things they make are quite extraordinary!

-I wonder weekly, what comes next? Who knows? I just know that every day I get up and take the next step. I hope you do too. I enjoy the interaction with readers of this blog and the many who have followed and contributed here for so many years as I wondered, created, and thought out loud about things.

This week, I started thinking more about the most recent issues I had with image copyrights and decided to resurrect something I used to make and sell- blank greeting cards. Now, for some of you that go WAY back (even further back than this blog) I had a line of greeting cards with porcelain pins incorporated into them that were sold throughout the US.  When I first started doing shibori, at shows I also sold blank greeting cards with images of my shibori work as well as cards with small pieces of shibori attached to them.  I have been making them for my own and friends’ personal use over the more recent years. Sometimes I send them out with a personal note in an order or as a thank you for a small kindness afforded to me. Recently, someone asked me if they could purchase some and I wondered…

So, for now, I decided to reintroduce sets of these cards in my webshop. Right now I have two collections- Shiboriscapes and Indigo Moonscapes.  In the works are Shibori Flowerscapes.  This will perhaps, help even out the financial ups and downs every artisan has in their flow of work and money but also it feels good to know that I will be the beneficiary of my own work as I continue to hound Amazon into removing those sellers on their site that use my images without permission.

Here’s the link to the card sets. It’s nice to have a few blank cards on hand when you find yourself in need to send a thought or a thank you…

from there to here and somewhere

Ahhh….time for a blog post.  Seems I’ve been blogging in my head for a few months now. But now for real, here. Let’s see how this goes…

As always, gardening is keeping me sane here- a good time for gardening and sanity with elections (finally behind us here until November) and more of the same old BS of copyright issues, Amazon(this time), and Chinese sellers. If you follow me on FB you may have seen some of these pics but I add them here once more.

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I think I will call it the Sanity Garden!

Regarding Amazon, I had to spend a bit of time playing Whack-A Mole there by issuing complaints to Amazon regarding a network of Chinese sellers slapping my images on over 40 crap products.  Some have been taken down, some strangely remain (how Amazon decides these things is beyond me) and new ones have popped up under new names with slightly reworded descriptions. They all seem to contain the wording “Printed Watermarked Shibori Ribbon” which is hilarious seeing that they stole the watermarked image of mine online and used the metadata info to describe. Yes, folks they are that kind of stupid. Kind folks have added their 2¢ in some of the product reviews. One of the items was a doormat (since removed) which seemed demoralizing in a funny way and another was a brandy flask which I could certainly make of use!  Moving on…

The last Indigo and Shibori workshop at the JAMN was wonderful and filled with good, creative and enthusiastic folks. The next Shibori On! workshop at the Japanese American National Museum is August 4-5.  It has only 3 spots left so if interested please check in there soon! They do keep a waiting list so, if full, ask to have your name added.  Some pics from the last workshop:

Next up at the JANM though is Moth to Cloth Silk Workshop  (sign up through the link)–there are still spots open.  I have some great video and photos of silk production in Japan as well as a collection of tools and implements to explore and use. We will reel silk cocoons purchased from my friend and sericulturist in Japan, Nobue Higashi san as well as make silk hankies for spinning and dyeing (both of which we will do in the class). Cut flowers made from cocoons will also be made. But the real star of the workshop will be the live silkworms that just hatched two days ago and for those interested and willing, you can take some home to watch them spin and emerge from their cocoons.  Here is what they are looking like as of yesterday. At this stage we call them kego and they remind us of hairy ants. I have already found my mulberry sources in the neighborhood and am ready to feed the “tiny masters” as Micheal Cook of Wormspit affectionately calls them.

Moving right along, work slowed up a bit the past couple of months which let me somehow to doing a quick turn-around for a bridal designer in LA whose customer wanted her wedding dress indigo ombre dyed for her one year anniversary. Apparently, the other dyers she had previously used were not available and my name came up. these sort of things are not undertaken lightly as you only have one chance to do it and it must be done right. The dress was all silk and the skirting was 3 layers of different silks.  Here is the result:

In addition, I am filling in with my indigo and shibori teachings at a garment felting workshop by Beth Marx in October that will also include some eco-printing (hers, not mine). Apparently there was an issue with the original teacher coming from the EU and I agreed to fill in with the acceptance of the already signed up students (they all agreed!) Class is full with a waiting list. Interesting to me was that Beth also lives in Long Beach and we don’t know each other.  I’m such a loner in that regard. It sounds interesting.

I added some new shibori ribbon colors to the shop- my favorite is the colorway called CopperPlate. I had beaders who like rich colored metals in their beadwork in mind when I made it.  I also added some shibori pieces I call “A Little Fancy”. Check it out! 

Let’s not make it so long between visits next time shall we?

 

 

Website, webshop, & workshops

Spring has taken hold here and the weather is pretty much perfect. Mid 70’s for the past couple of weeks. We enjoy it now while we get the yard in shape and the summer garden planted before months and months of heat sets in.  Then we enjoy the yard in the evenings and early mornings…

It’s too bad I can’t spend all of my time outside right now but I’ve been busy with a couple of projects.  My website has been needing a redo for a couple of years now since Apple stopped supporting iWeb and I have not been able to update it.  I finally decided to switch everything over to a new Squarespace site where I can easily add my own webshop and get rid of the BigCartel shop I’ve been using for the past several years. Of course I am keeping the wordpress blog which you can also access from the new website.

To tempt you to visit the new shop, I added some new shibori ribbon colors and some of the new shibori for you to explore. For all orders over the next two weeks I am including a sheet of bead embroidery beading foundation.
I also finished a new piece and made a little video with it.

I had fun with it, broke away from it here and there for some gardening and perspective. I never really have a solid plan when I start one of these and I think it helps me not get “stuck”. I always give myself permission to change my very loose plan at any time. Often something seems like a good idea in theory but when you get into it you realize it is wholly impractical if not completely impossible. So, a fun puzzle to solve. I also tend to go through stages where I don’t really like the piece but from past experience I’ve learned to push past that and it almost always takes a turn for the better from that point. The point is not to give up on it.  To finish. For me, with beading I find it hard to go back to a piece if I let it sit too long.

The new website also has all the info up for the 2019 Silk Study Tour to Japan. There are still about 5 spots (out of 16) left so… check it out!  I added a bunch of photos from the tour there as well.
The portfolio page is kinda fun and if you’ve been following along for a while you might see some old favorites there. One of the main reasons for redoing the website was so I could keep my Events page updated. There right now are the 3 upcoming workshops at the Japanese American National Museum. I will soon add my upcoming classes at the Houston International Quilt Festival in November.
As always, my website is always a work in progress and I will be tweaking it here and there.

here’s a few photos from around here since the last post…

 

 

 

wishes

Our wishes came true here- r a i n !

More expected tonight. We are way behind and grateful. So far no downpours here and we hope for the best in the burn areas.

Rain necessitated taking some photos indoors in poor lighting in order to list some things in the shop. Moons mainly. All indigo. Some moons on silk, some on cotton and all vintage cloth and collected in Japan. Several scarves, some with moons and others using various shibori techniques are also there. In she shop now, here.

In addition, over the turn of the new year, some lovely new silk shibori ribbon has arrived in Italy and in Russia.

There are new classes coming up as well. Two at the Japanese American National Museum (still open) and one at the Fresno Fiber Guild (sold out).
I did a little slideshow for each one –
-on Saturday and Sunday, February 3-4 from 11 AM to 4PM it’s Shibori Mandalas on Silk.
(sign up here)

-and then on March 24th and 25th it’s more of Indigo Shibori dyeing
(sign up here)

And one last thing, I will be sending out an email for the 2019 Silk Study Tour to Japan to interested parties who have indicated interest via the Constant Contact newsletter (signup here and in the right hand sidebar). I have been working on editing a group of photos into a slideshow from last year’s tour.  It’s hard to select 30 or so out of thousands! But the memories I had while sorting were wonderful!
Coming soon!

 

 

 

 

And in the end…

Heading into the the end of another year I’m still wondering. Wondering what this new year will bring and ready to accept and embrace all that it will be.
What will be needed most in 2018?  I think perhaps courage will be a most important ingredient. Also faith- in ourselves and in each other. In our small ways we can do much. There are so many changes occurring at such a pace that I want to remember to often find that space where I can slow down and sort things out.

I will continue my shibori dyeing, silk and indigo work as well as teaching workshops here and there. I will try again to post here more than I did this past year-perhaps rebuild my following for the blog- but more than that for myself, as a documentation of what I do. I thank everyone who participates in this journey with me in all ways- as a customer, as a student, as a blog reader, FB follower, commentator, emailer, Instagram poster, fellow blogger and all the rest. I am sustained and inspired by you all and am thankful.

As a service to my local community, I am helping a candidate for city council with her social media. I feel it’s the least I can do. It’s not something everyone does well or even understands how to do (it’s a constant moving target actually) and I have a little experience (and I learn more every day!) that I think might be helpful. So it’s my small contribution to help raise awareness and change the dynamics of our local city government. I urge more of us to look into what is happening at our local government level and do what we can to keep things from slipping away and out of our control. Money is corrupting everything it seems and transparency is weak. More and more here in my city, council members are not representing the residents adequately. Many local politicians see these positions as a ladder to higher office, paid commissions, & government pensions where monied interests are answered over the needs and desires of those represented. We know this of course, but what are we doing about it? Are we running for office, attending council or town hall meetings,helping good people who have the courage to do so, voting? I think we’ve had a wake up call in 2017…

So…courage.  People like to pick a word they can focus on over the course of a year. Something to remind them of their resolve or direction. Perhaps courage will work for me.  I see lots of potential for courage in 2018-both small and large. I will start small. I actually looked up the word courage in the thesaurus to see if there was a word I liked better.  There wasn’t. Not one that embodied what I want to think about. But what I did see that I thought was important, were its antonyms- cowardice, fear, irresolution, meekness, timidity, & weakness. Maybe 2018 can be the season of courage? Continued courage in our own lives, courage to help others live through difficult times and moments, courage to step up and make a change, to become change.
There is a Season, turn, turn, turn…2018.

So, as the pages turn and the New Year approaches I will add a few more posts, looking back over 2017. Come back and visit sometime- I’ll be here…
And in the end,

and then there is Life…

It’s been a whole moon since that last post- a record of sorts here.  One that I don’t plan repeating often in the future. Life happens though and one never knows.  In this past month there have been some significant events- a death in the family and a marriage too! Balancing the sad with the happy, blurring the past and the future.
Life.

a recent get together-
Olivia will be missed…

Took the sisters to have Filipino food one day- they had a great time reminiscing over past get togethers where this food was prevalent. Good times.

Plus we both had the flu which also complicated things.  Hence, no posting here.  Just living.

Spring here is glorious this year thanks to the rainfall received. So much blooming! A simple walk around the backyard is proof that Nature is pleased (at least for now, politics be damned!).

I’m finally back in the studio daily this week and working on orders again.  As if to remind myself of the whimsy that can occur while dyeing, I over-discharged 80 yards of pink shibori ribbon the other day.  I was working on the final color for a large order that included the colorway Pink Storm and when it went into the discharge bath it discharged deep and immediately! I tried to correct on the second pole but *poof*…color disappeared immediately. This pink is very easily discharged (a medium pink using mainly polar red) but the discharge bath was too hot and strong for a controlled discharge. SO, I took the 80 yards and dyed some new and fun colors with it.  Now, I  am back with a new batch of ribbon all base dyed and pole wrapped for some careful discharging today.  Here’s some photos of what went on, and what I was trying to achieve.

The fun part is that now I have some yardage of really pretty colors to play with and sell.  I’ll be taking some photos today and putting some of it in the shop.  I’m also trying to get together a small selection of ribbon to take with me to Japan in May to sample some of my customers while I am there. Yes, Japan. The Silk Study Tour to Japan is coming up soon! May 16th to be exact. I’m really looking forward to it.  Each tour is filled with unique experiences created by the harmonic blending of people and places. We will learn so much, see many extraordinary things, and make new friends and connections for today and tomorrow.

It is my great pleasure to facilitate this tour and watch many people experience Japan for the first time- much of it through the eyes of the silkworm! This year’s tour is full with many interesting people, most who are visiting Japan for their first time. Exciting times ahead! Hirata san and I have added Kyoto to this years experience and our faithful charter bus company will soon be whisking us from place to place while we enjoy some beautiful scenery from the comfort of the bus and its large panoramic windows. In addition we will walk, ride trains and eat lots of great food! Get ready to follow along as I update from Japan along our silk road.

Indigo dyeing has been taking a back seat for the moment- the fermentation vat is back to misbehaving and with all the disruption around here lately I have not been able to concentrate on it.  One thing though, I will be spending several days with my indigo sensei Fumiko Satou in Japan after the tour is over.  I have lots of new questions and hope to be of help to her (as studio helpmate) as she prepares for an upcoming event. I am really looking forward to this.

The next couple of weeks is devoted to clearing out some of the orders, making a little stock, and getting taxes done. Then, final preparations for Japan will be in full swing. That, and a day trip to see the beautiful wildflowers in bloom here in California-where we are thankful to continue the quest for clean air, water and energy (again, politics be damned!).

Love to all… may your path lead you to places unknown. Keep wondering, always wondering…