Category Archives: business of craft

Dyeing and social media

Lots of dye work going into the upcoming workshop kit materials. Like this selection of silk linings that were dyed yesterday for the komebukuro kits. Dyed using the indigo fermentation vat and a marigold dyepot for blue and gold linings. Of course I couldn’t resist doing a little bit of green since I had those colors going. I originally thought I would use the pomegranate dyepot but it wasn’t looking as gold as I wanted. So I decided to use it for the drawstrings and cording instead.

Interestingly, the two greens were produced with the same silk and the same dyepost/vat but the order of operations was reversed. Blue over gold and gold over blue (the more olive green) created two completely different greens. A green themed komebukuro was not planned but I might just have to put together fabric for one of those-just so I can use those delicious greens.

I am using some really nice brown linen (acquired somewhere long ago/can’t remember where) for the upper band on the bags. I liked it so much on the brown version I decided to overdye it in indigo for the blue bags. It dyed a very dark/almost black blue. It will make for a nice background for anyone wanting to do sashiko stitching there and a good dark contrast for the indigo bags in general.

The “Fall” weather turned to Summer again today, likely hastening the ginko trees turning to gold. Upper 80’s low 90’s for the next few days. I really can’t wait for the leaf drop. so much beautiful mulch will blanket the garden but a couple of weeks standing under the golden ginko tree is really something to look forward to. I’ve been enjoying the photos posted online of the fall leaves turning from around the world! In Japan, we always enjoyed taking a ride on the skyways, no matter the season. They even have special busses for fall leaf viewing that take you the most beautiful locations.

fall leaf viewing by skyway cable cars in Japan

And of course I’m still working on organza dyeing and pleating. There are two cats that don’t live here (and don’t like each other) constantly trying to vie for the top assistant position.

Captain help on the ironing board with the organza

Also, please give a visit again to the Kyoto Shibori Museum youtube video page and this video. It is beyond describing what they did to accomplish this major piece of shibori.

I am really starting to look ahead to next year’s Silk Study Tour.The 2021 Silk Study Tour to Japan has now been rescheduled for May 11-26 2022. It’s looking promising finally! We are still waiting for Japan to open up to tourists again and to respond to whatever protocols will be in place. It’s so hard to anticipate what they will be, but it does look like we are moving in the right direction. As a reminder, all participants will be required to be fully vaccinated at the time of acceptance into the tour as well as meet all travel restrictions, mandates, and requirements in place by both the US and Japan at the time of travel. I will be sending out the official notice by the end of this month with applications. The way to get on this email list is to sign up here. If you have emailed me and asked me to be put on the list, I have likely directed you to this email signup. (I may have missed a few…) If you had signed up to receive info on the 2021 tour, you will still get the 2022 tour email. you don’t need to sign up again. If you can’t remember or have a new email- DO sign up again. It will filter out duplicates (or tell you you are already on the list).

marigolds from the broth- they smelled good- like flower tea

The Shiborigirl Social Media Report…

As those of you who make a living (partially or completely) by making, teaching, and selling know, social media is a necessary part of what you do (or perhaps need to do more of). I am always in the position of needing to do more of it and really not finding enough time to do it! But if I don’t, sales and signups show it. Maybe you are in that position as well. (Or maybe you are a customer and are worn out from being marketed to!)
Maybe this part of the post won’t be of interest to you but here are my latest thoughts on what it takes to remain viable in the current environment.
keep writing your blog (or get one started now!)
this is the best advice I have to give really. I’ve said this all along and I’ve never stopped. I started in 2006 and have regularly blogged ever since. Yes, there have been some times of lesser blogging (especially during times when I was attending to subscription blogs, teaching or traveling) but this is the best way to stay connected to your circles of interest. A blog is a great timeline and window into what you do in photos, videos and words. It remains there forever and you and readers can reference past posts anytime. My favorite people are from the blog and through their blogs as well. We have some very long term relationships here. I love that people can add my blog to their readers or sign up to receive my posts via email. It’s not filtered by a platform algorithm. I use WordPress and there is really much more it offers than what I can use.
-Have a website (of course) and your own online shop
Make it as simple or as complicated as you want (simple is best for me but still seems complicated!). I have used etsy in the past but never exclusively or even majorly. I’m so glad I no longer use it as the way it has evolved just does not suit me at all. The whole “star seller” thing is atrocious. Your online shop (and even etsy) is just a virtual cash register and you need to lead people to it. Don’t expect any of them to do your marketing for you.
-Have a way to collect email addresses & use this for newsletters!
I’ve used Constant Contact for many years and it’s served me well. There are lots of options on how to do this but I like self sign up lists and have mine on the top right of the blog here. (don’t wear out your subscribers with newsletters though or they might just not read them)
Use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, TicTok, and the rest as you need or desire to.
I use FB (both a personal page and a studio page). I use Instagram here and there. Most people love IG more than I do. I’m not really a Pinterest person but will use it as a way to point people to my website etc.. I don’t do TicTok currently-just too much for me at the moment although some people use it as their #1 SM site and do it very well. YouTube is also a great resource and I really should do more with it. No matter which platforms you choose, it’s important to engage with your followers and form relationships, to offer good and interesting content. To be giving more than you receive. You do need to understand the relationship of some of these platforms to each other as some don’t play nice with each other (ie FB & Youtube). I use my Twitter mostly for local politics but do have some fascinating people I follow and interact with there- sericultureists around the world, artists, textile museum folks, and others. Some people hate Twitter and Facebook and some love one or the other or both. Maybe one of the most important things I can say about SM platforms is that YOU can curate and control your experience. If you are seeing lots of content you don’t like- then change it!
I haven’t even mentioned “boosting” or placing ads which is an art in and of itself. I dabble in it as I don’t have a lot of $ to spend on it and since my time to fully understand and make the most of it is limited I just do a small amount of it.
Maybe the most difficult thing is to keep up with all the changes and updates to these platforms and how they will affect me and my business. It really is a full time job (that I don’t want) yet don’t have enough time for if I am going to get ANYTHING done in the studio!
Of course Covid plays into all this and did I mention Zoom? I did in the last post and since then I have started doing some Facebook livestreaming on my studio page. After several trials and tribulations I mostly got it working the way I want it to- just giving a quick live video update on what I’m working on. I’m using a 2 camera view with some OBS software (OBS Studio is the one I like) that allows me to show you my work table plus my “talking head”. I do this so i can feel more present with you even though I’m using a virtual platform.
-You can always set up a linktree that you can quickly post here and there when your website isn’t quite what you want. You can also set up various linktrees to serve different purposes. My linktree.

**NOTE** in doing this post I was checking links and found that one of the links in the sidebar which was supposed to be going to my Paypal account was actually going to various random people’s paypal!! Off to fix that now! CHECK YOUR LINKS FROM TIME TO TIME! I reported it to WP and took screenshots but WOW! Sorry to anyone who might have sent $ for the Moonmates series that I didn’t acknowledge!

Overwhelmed yet? I am… now to get back to the studio…

making moons too- some for moon orders and some for the komebukuro bag kits




If …

… you’ve been watching, I’ve been practicing a shibori technique called tekumo, or kumo-as in spider web. My particular fascination is with the sculptural aspects of it after it is dyed steamed and dried. And if you know me, you know I like to practice a process. As with the arashi shibori ribbon, there is a process to make this fabric. And much like the arashi I do, it employs many of the same processes-base dyeing, ironing, binding, discharging, overdyeing, steaming, drying, and finally unbinding. The main difference being the type of binding.
And then…what? What to do with the fabric? Well, flowers of course-for starters.

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Aren’t they fun? I’ve added them to the shop here. I call them Hana Hoshi and you can click on the link to see why.
Silk organza is really fun to shape and sculpt since it takes direction so well. It’s the perfect accomplice for sculptural shibori. Here are some photos along the way.

In the background, my 5 little silkworms have been eating mulberry. Only 5, since the eggs I saved from last year didn’t hatch well. And since I have so many things going one in the background here, I opted not to order eggs and make the commitment to feed 500 or 1000 for 4-5 weeks. The 5 that hatched have done just fine. I took one in its 5th instar to my grandson so he could watch it and see it cocoon He’s only 2 but hey- never too early to introduce nature. Since I had so few this year I decided to try something I was always curious about- having them spit silk to a flat surface rather than forming a regular cocoon. It’s trickier than you might think! One got started with it’s cocoon before I set up the flat surface so I was down to 3. And after two days they look ready to give up one the cocoon idea and start spitting the silk. I feel kinda bad for interrupting their natural inclination to make a cocoon but from what I understand it doesn’t harm them. In this process, you can watch them form their pupae and then transform into a moth outside of a cocoon. You have to make sure they are done pooping and also throwing up their guts before putting them on the platform to spit their silk otherwise they will get that all into the silk and you can’t remove it. Here’s a couple of pics…

I came across this article you might find interesting about an experiment to do this on a much larger scale. You might have to translate it if you don’t have your system set up to auto translate. I found it interesting.

And in the background of all this, much of the west is having a terrible heat wave. Here, we have been spared the brunt of it by being closer to the coast- this time anyway. But just the same, the garden is popping off with the warmer weather and the tomatoes and zuchinni are running amok. Must go pick the cherry tomatoes tomorrow and make some bags to give to the neighbors. Zuchinni every night in one form or another.

I had to move on to something else before I got this entry posted so I thought I’d add an update. I’ve been working on a ribbon order which I finished today. Lots of pretty colors! If you are in Europe and need a good place to mail order my ribbon from, check out Perles and Co. Give them a couple of weeks for transit time before they add the the new rolls to their shop.

I also made up a couple of new flowers. I did a test of the tekumo on the silk I use for the ribbon just to see. It works up nice enough but won’t replace the organza for these. It takes longer than making them with the organza and the cost is already up there.

Speaking of cost, I know most artisans don’t do much in the way of cost analysis when they price their items. Many don’t do ANY! Shocking I know. But it’s true. I’m thankful for my past experience in my porcelain company where it was MY job to do all the costing and time studies. When you are working on a large scale producing hundreds of thousands of pieces monthly and you are responsible for a payroll -and by virtue of that, people’s lives, you can’t screw it up! If you do the results are devastating.
So, I always do a cost accounting and time studies on most of the things I sell. If you don’t, and don’t know how to do it ask & start now! I don’t do this on one offs for the most part but anything I intend to sell many multiples of, I do.

I’m working on setting up for a couple of small in person workshops teaching the tekumo technique. Hope to have those set up and in the shop next week.

OK, time to get this posted…and make pizza with LOTS of tomatoes!

(Oh, and to all of you emailing me to be added to the Silk Study Tour to Japan next May, please sign yourself up to the newsletter here. I’ll be sending out the first newsletter with applications in July.)

windy day

Recently I did a little bit of hinode (sunrise) pattern shibori for moons. I like the contrast of that pattern -sunrise with the moons. I added some arashi to it as well and new moons are in the workflow.

Yesterday I spent a little time repairing my gravity fed steam iron. Fortunately, I still had my old one and was able to take a part off it that rescued the newer one- at least for the unforeseen future. A different part had broken on that but I had saved it “just in case”. Now I can reasonably get rid of the older one with less guilt. This is my third one of this model (Sapporo 527) over the course of about ten years or so. I do a LOT of ironing with the silk so I have worn out the steam button on the previous ones. They are still the best ones for what I do and still affordable. Not the iron for everyone though so if you are looking at them make sure it suits your needs.

back in business now! it always feels good to repair rather than replace.

The weather has been wonderful for spring gardening and planting so I did a bit of that before we get more rain tomorrow. Always thankful for rain here.
Inside, I have been busy with a couple of needle projects. I finished one last night.

Milo thought this was a “fish filet”. But no, Milo. And BTW- who was the cat bandit that destroyed the newly potted catnip plant hmmmm?
hardly any of it left. a few forlorn roots and a stub of green. will see how it goes…

Back to the “fish filet”. It’s actually a koi nobori for Children’s Day (sorry Milo). I’ve wanted to make something like this for a while and I was recently inspired by a pile of indigo scraps from making the last batch of takaramono treasure packs I listed in the shop. (those are all gone but I’m working on a new batch). I wanted to make something using odd bits of fabric as another example of what you can do with bits and pieces.

Coming back to this post this morning to finish it up I read my email and see that the Paper Source chain of stores (the one that purchased the bankrupted Papyrus chain barely a year ago) is itself claiming Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Reported by Craft Industry Alliance here, small makers and vendors are banding together to support each other by asking customers to buy directly from them as well as the other remaining smaller stores that they supply. It seems clear from the reporting that Paper Source placed
“non-ordinary course of business orders immediately before filing for bankruptcy”. This is fraud. I hope that these small makers and vendors get relief but somehow I doubt it.
Paper Source is owned by a major private equity firm based in Bahrain. The majority of the vendors they screwed are small women owned/ family businesses. You may have one of these stores in your town. You can check this IG thread to find direct access to some of the affected vendors.

Remembering Carola…

First of all, I want to say a little something here about my friend who passed away last week from breast cancer. Some of you who attend the Houston Quilt Festival or Roundtop/Marbuger know her. I’ve mentioned her here on various occasions as hers was always my favorite booth at the Houston Quilt Festival. Not only was she brilliant, she was a lover of good cloth, cloth with a history. Carola Pfau and I became friends over ten years ago after meeting at the show. Her booth, Textile Treasures, was always just that- a treasure trove of interesting and instructive textiles she had collected from around the world, most predominately from Japan and Germany. Over the years we bonded over that cloth, shared vendor frustrations and joys (we shared many of the same wonderful customers at the show), helped each other out, and had more than a few delicious after show dinners.
I have lots of stories I could tell about my times with Carola but the best thing I can share about her is her will to live, to live life her way, and to leave this earthly realm a better place for her having been here. She spent the last number of years enjoying traveling in her RV with her beloved cats making new friends, visiting old ones, and sharing her adventures and tribulations with all of us online. Her recent favorite saying was FUCK CANCER! I will miss her…
A couple of stories… One year I eyed a particularly nice piece of hand spun and handwoven european linen in her booth and just knew it was worthy of some indigo dyeing. I bought the piece, $100 for a 2 yard cut (special vendor discount applied) and returned from the show with it. It was about 20″ wide, had lots of character, texture, and potential. I was actually a bit intimidated by it. I didn’t want to ruin it! I hung it on the back of a door near my flower making table and just looked at it for a year. Finally, I made the attempt. I sketched out a plan and set up to dye the piece. I opted for simplicity, applying some itajime techniques I learned from Satoh san. Satisfied with the result, it must have been two shows after making the purchase, I took it back to the Houston show, hung it on the edge of the booth, and put a price on it. Carola wandered by the booth and admired it and asked the price. I asked if she remembered this cloth. She laughed when she realized I had bought it from her. She ended up taking it back to her booth. We had a good laugh about that. I was so pleased she liked it enough to buy it back (vendor discount applied).
Carola had spent a lot of time and had lived in Japan with her husband Makoto. One year, when I was going to Japan, she insisted I stay in her room at their apartment in Tokyo. She was in Austin but Makoto was fine with it she said. It was a great visit. Makoto loved to haunt the temple sales and flea markets which was exactly what I wanted to do. We spent a couple of days having the best time shopping for textiles, some for me and others for Carola that I knew would sell at the shows Carola was doing at the time. It was that trip that I found the used zakuri (silk reeling device) that I brought back with me (more on the zakuri later in the post). Makoto had a nice collection of porcelain sake cups he was adding to. He also took me to see the Mingei Museum for the first time. (old blog post on this here)
Treasured memories AND textiles!
Right around the time I met her, I remember her telling about her attempt to get her license renewed at the DMV. She sent me this link. It is classic Carola! I went back and watched it. It also reminded me of how she took no prisoners with the medical and insurance companies during her fight to get the healthcare she needed and wanted after her breast cancer diagnosis. She visited me in her travel van early on in order to get access to cannabis edibles that were available here in CA but not in TX. They helped her sleep when difficult treatments and medications did not.
Her sister wrote a blog post in memoriam to Carola.
Ahhh Carola…you will be missed, remembered dearly and hilariously!
Sayonara Carola- mata ne!

Continuing along about the zakuri I purchased in Japan, I recently received a note from my favorite shibori expert Karren Brito. She was interested in procuring a zakuri that she could pass along to friends in Oaxacca that are raising silkworms there. Since workshops here are not happening for a while, I thought that that the zakuri I purchased in Japan with Makoto would be doing more service there than here. I have the other one I am using and I loved the idea of sending it to Karren and the silk workers down there. She tells me that they have been raising silkworms in Mexico for 500 years! I did not know this. She also tells me that in order to get silkworm eggs from the government for commercial rearing, you must have 200 mulberry trees. Interesting! Boxed up and sent via DHL, the zakuri is now stuck in customs in Mexico City…we await clearance. Apparently, being made of wood, there is a concern. Wish us luck!

In silkworm news here, the “tiny masters” have entered the 3rd instar (stage). It’s much easier to clean the trays now they are larger. I have a couple of neighborhood kids raising 20 each. It’s a good project for kids. Two are elementary schoolers and the other is a HS student. I sent them all several interesting links to study. They asked me if they could let them emerge, mate, and lay eggs. Yes!

As for the numbers…we reached 100 deaths this past weekend and are now up to 108 as of today. I need to rip more strips of indigo fabric… 😦

It’s been hot here lately-mid to upper 90’s even here at the beach. Thankfully, today started a cooling trend. The garden is coming along nicely-lots of vegetables!

Milo the cat has resumed coming downstairs! He hasn’t been downstairs in years! Maybe it’s the silkworms…
This is actual speed video. The others I have posted were time lapsed. Here they look like they are living in slo-mo.

And, finally, I was putting together various test scraps from the fermentation vat for a base when I heard about Carola. It prompted me to dig into some of the linen I still had from her, cut a strip and dye a moon. This is now morphing into something else entirely.

getting into the moonspirit

For moonmates, there is a whole new page which is linked in the sidebar and I’ve uploaded the first video. I’m experimenting with keeping these moonmate videos on their own page just for the ease of your finding them in between posts on the main home page here. Like I mentioned in the last post, it’s pay as you wish there (also in the sidebar).

gathering moons…https://www.shiborigirlstudios.com/shop/indigo-moons


Next task is to update some of these pages and make a new header. It’s been a while since I did a new one. I’ve really liked this one and found some sort of comfort in seeing it whenever I loaded the blogsite. But I think it’s time…

It’s also time here to plant seeds to put out in the garden. I have quite a few already started and I feel the urge to start more. Even if I end up giving them away to neighbors I enjoy watching them sprout and grow each day. We all could use a little victory garden I think…who knows? It could become a necessity!



the Night Garden…

Oh jeeze…i was working between my phone and my laptop to write this post and I accidentally published it in an incomplete form. So if you subscribe by email, you got a notification that once you click on, is no longer there. oops..sorry. Anyway… onward!

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Friday night I will be doing a Parents Night event at a private school in Los Angeles. As always, preceding such workshop, I am in prep mode. Each workshop event is unique. This one might be a little more so than usual. There will be 30 people for 3 hours! Each will make two shibori cotton kitchen towels.

Designing an indigo shibori workshop with these sorts of parameters is a challenge. Of course, the main challenge is to see that everyone can achieve a good outcome. Then perhaps to tempt them into further explorations in shibori, having only scratched the surface in this brief 3 hour encounter. From what I understand, it’s also a parents night out and partially a social outing. Maybe some will only make one towel in that period of time- it will kinda be up to them.

For this short workshop I have chosen cotton kitchen towels as the canvas for their indigo shibori experience . Who can’t use a new kitchen towel? The cotton is almost sarashi type weave, but hemmed all around, and 28″ x 28″. Throw them in the wash and wipe the floors with them if you like. A practical item.

Next, the challenge is to come up with several suitable design ideas that are simple and practical for the complete novice shibori practitioner. Designs that 30 people with two towels each can accomplish in 3 hours. Maybe.

This sort of an event can be a little difficult for me to predict what the energy in the room will be when people arrive. I don’t know the room but am assured there are tables & chairs for 30, as well as work space and sinks and water. It’s a Friday, people are tired, looking forward to the weekend with their families I would think. I will watch and listen as they arrive and read the room. Adjust accordingly. Give them what they need and send them off into the weekend with a couple of indigo shibori towels they made themself! Sounds like fun!

Here’s a quick couple of photos of the samples I made as samples. Two are shown as towels and the third uses the towel as furoshiki- quite versatle!

I’m putting together all the additional supplies, filling orders, & moon making tomorrow. Orders on moonsets got ahead of inventory. Also, life in general.

You might enjoy this pic from Sunday evening.

into the Night Garden… deep breath…a keeper of sanity…

And in between this and that, I dug this out to start finishing up. Lots more stitching to go, but I resolved the edge. Backed with old Japanese jacquard silk that I indigo dyed a while back. The backing itself is wonderfully soft. Several different patterns are stitched together. One has cranes woven into the silk. Self binding- all by hand of course. To me it’s more fun that way. Of course I want to spend days on it right now but other duties call. Oh, and if you don’t recall from previous posts about this piece, all the shibori pieces in this are demonstration sample pieces I dyed in workshops.

Workshops Around Quilt Festival Long Beach

Quilt Festival is returning to Long Beach this July 9-11 after a 7 year hiatus. Classes for this festival are all understandably focused on machine quilting. As an alternative to this I am adding a few in-studio workshops for festival goers to consider. They are all directly before or after the show dates to allow participants to consider attending a workshop without missing any of the show.
Here are the three workshops (held in Long Beach):

Of course anyone can attend any of these workshops but they have been scheduled around the festival to make them available to festival goers. I expect them to fill so if you are interested, I suggest you grab a spot!

I still have one more Arashi shibori workshop scheduled for the end of March (28-29) that has 3 spots open. I originally posted this as a 3 day workshop as a result of participant feedback after the first one, but seems like more people wanted a two day workshop due to time restraints on their part so I changed it back to a two day event.

The second workshop last weekend was visited by a brief downpour as we worked under cover outside. It didn’t put a damper on the enthusiasm for learning the process and the sun soon broke through and shined on the resulting work. My favorite photo was the communal pile of pleated silk shibori we made with all our pieces on day two.

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this is my second favorite photo… everyone enjoyed taking photos of the “communal shibori pile”. I also set up the light box for everyone to each photograph their own work.

The upcoming Indigo Shibori workshop at the Japanese American National Museum on March 14-15 still has a few spots if you want to join us. Signups are through the museum.

So as you can see, it’s been busy around here. Baby Dean is a regular visitor and although we don’t share photos of him on social media he is already 9 months old! He loves to play the piano, drums, and guitar (like his mom and dad, uncles and others who frequent his world). It’s so darn adorable! He has red hair just like both his grandmas! And big blue eyes. Ever curious, and now on the move, he’s already has taken his first steps- watch out world!

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?