Category Archives: inspiration

December's path…

Becoming December…it arrives,and here, we never know if we will don flip flops and short sleeves or warm boots and sweaters inside the house. This year we are wearing warm shoes and sweaters. Heavy snow in the local mountains is a welcome and beautiful sight from the hilltop nearby. The ginko is busily dropping its golden carpet of leaves on the back garden, mulching it with beauty. Narcissus are blooming early. I even had the first saffron crocus bloom and more are on the way. The pomegranates exhausted themselves (and me!), and the persimmons are ripening daily. I’m sharing them with friends and neighbors and even this (not so) little guy…late at night.

In the contradiction of clashing seasons, hand fulls of strawberries can be picked every few days as they are planted where the sun seeks them out and happily seem to produce year round there-at least so far. The late eggplant and tomatoes are still heavily laden, though with this recent cold streak they will definitely slow down, but are welcoming the rain. The cold and wet has slowed the outdoor studio work but still has not vanquished me completely from getting the necessities done.

This coming weekend is the last JANM workshop featuring indigo and shibori and we will make the most of it. Many regular participants will come together for this year end creativity laboratory. No need to put the link here as it has been sold out for quite a while. There is however a “save the date” list of upcoming workshops at JANM to sign up for as soon as the museum gets them listed. You can view it here. **EDIT** JANM just emailed me to say that the January Mandala Workshop is up on the website and taking registrations. Here is the link. See the full description on the calendar page here.

Two weekends ago I taught an in-studio flower making workshop with a small group. There were some beautiful results…a garden of beauties! I’ll be adding another one of these soon. Let me know if you are interested.

A post or two ago I introduced a new item into the shop-the shibori ribbon beaded necklace kit. At the time I had not finished the instructional video but the orders received kicked me into gear getting this done. I’m offering it up to you here (free youtube video) if you are interested in seeing how this piece gets made. Perhaps you have some shibori ribbon waiting to be made into something beautiful as a gift. I am also adding this video link into the sidebar under the Feeling Free(r) page/list.

I also just added some new Mooncloth card sets to the shop. Previously, I have had photo card sets using images I have taken of my work but these card sets have actual mooncloths attached to the front of the card that can be removed and used in a project. Sets come in 3’s or 6’s, are blank inside and include an envelope. I hope you enjoy them.

I just got back from picking up my son Trevor from the airport. He has been in Japan for the past three weeks on a long awaited trip there to make new friends and surf. It was an exciting adventure and he spent time in Kyushu, Amami Oshima, and Chiba-all prime surf areas. But one of the exciting things for me was that he met up with my long time blog friend Jan Hillstead Fujikawa in Nagasaki! Long time readers of this blog might know her from her blog Oh Brother! (WhereIsSheNow) She started blogging in 2007 and hasn’t updated since 2014 but we keep up through FB and other social media. She’s an expat of over 30 years and I hope I get to meet her myself next trip. But it was kind of her to spend the day with Trevor and he also got to meet her son!
In Amami Oshima, Trevor was able to meet up with our friend and surfer Ko, who showed us around Amami when we were there earlier this year. Trevor also started a blog highlighting his trip which you might enjoy. This is his first blogging experience. His blog, day one starts here.

It’s another rainy day here and the rain barrels are already overflowing. The cactus has finally stopped blooming- it was a solid 2 months of nightly blooms! Pretty amazing really. Here are a few photos collected recently from around the garden.

And a few more of some shibori ideas for this weekends workshop…shibori images on greeting cards for the holiday. I did one with a dove but tried to get too fancy and put a twig with leaves in its mouth which complicated and distorted the image making the head of the bird unclear. Will redo…
Lesson: when working on small images, keep it fairly simple and use a good fine linen for best results!

Shop update and a few tidbits of advice…

Today’s post is all about my online shop. I just did an update today in the shibori ribbon category. Making handmade gifts for giving is a lovely way to share a little of yourself when celebrating the holidays, but one must get started! Here is a little gallery of colors I added today and a link to the shop. There are many more colors there than these but these are just the newer ones.

These two colorways were inspired by paua shell. I’m working on a sample brooch piece -still undecided if I like my design (I usually don’t at this stage) but love the ribbon and shells. There are only 10 yards of each of these colors. I acquired a box of these shells from a friend who was selling them for his dad. So pretty! I may put some of them in the shop if there are any requests now or later when I get a sample done. I really can’t stop looking at them!

I also had a request of a kit for something I had made in the past so am adding this as a kit to the shop as well. You can pick your colors from the ribbon that is in stock in the shop. The instructions will come in the form of a brief PDF and a video link. Easier to show in a video than in a bunch of words. The one pictured was made for a custom order ($75) or the kit can be ordered for $35.

And here is a little slideshow of inspiration for using my silk shibori ribbon.

If you are looking for a special something else handmade, these are still available….

And now a few words about selling online…
I am often asked for advice about selling online and also about online selling platforms. I think those of us who have been doing it a long time could write a book. People who make things and sell online are always looking for the “best”, “easiest”, “most profitable”, “effective”, etc. way to do it.
There is no one answer (which seems obvious to me) but people always want definitive answers. I can’t offer one, but the best advice I can give is to remind you that an online selling site is nothing more than a cash register in the sky(cloud). Just like a brick and mortar store (of which I have owned two of in my time), you have to get people in the door. You have to build up a following over time. That following results from good communication, trust, service, interesting content, quality, and value to begin with. All these things take time, over time. There is no rushing this process especially for artists and makers. Sure, there are outliers or trends but in order to sustain over time (40 years here), one needs to look at the long game.
Have faith and persistence. Move forward a little bit each day.
Love to you all…

the beauty of teaching

I’ve let this post rumble around in my head the past few days while absorbing and collecting all my thoughts from the workshop at the Japanese American National Museum this past weekend.

Some things it seems I’ve known forever. Other things, I’ve acquired and built up my knowingness over time. I think this past weekend’s workshop really turned a corner in solidifying why and how I find myself at this point in my craftlife experience. It’s been a long time in coming. I’ve seen glimpses of it over time and place but I’ve never really written about it to any great extent.

I know you’ve read me here saying how great a recent workshop was etc., etc. … and I don’t often go into much detail. Today, I’ll write a bit more about this.

For many here, you already know this. Making something by hand yourself is very rewarding in many ways. It can enhance or teach a new skill, provide a different sort of activity from your daily job-whether that is out in the world or inside your own home taking care of others. It can offer quiet time-a peaceful mindfulness as you work on a project. It can provide a focus away from stress or even illness. It can literally keep you sane! In a group, you might gain social interaction with people you didn’t previously know and who have gathered together in a particular place and time for similar and varied reasons.

Some of you may be long time readers (since I’ve been blogging here since 2006) and know I have sold my handmade things for a living since I was in HS. Sometime around the same time(2007-2008), I started teaching workshops at the request of Maggie Backman for the Silk Experience group at the Quilt Festival in Houston. Prior to that I had been volunteer teaching art at the local elementary school. More recently (maybe since 2000-ish), I have been leading workshops at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and various other places.

What prompted me to write about this particular aspect of my work (teaching as opposed to the actual making) was the increasing feedback as well as my own observations from these workshops and my interpretation of it.
We have all heard over the years how the arts are declining in much of our public education and yet at the same time, how the arts foster better outcomes in all areas of education and create more well rounded students. What I do know from personal experience is that art and craft have saved my own sanity in my lifetime. This experience was born out of the loss of my mother at a very young age to the ravages of mental illness, through a very trying childhood that included abuse of various kinds. Where did I go to find solace and peace of mind? Art and craft. The handmade. Why? At the time all I really knew was that it felt good, it felt right. I felt better when I was making something. I went back to this well over and over until it simply became second nature to me. It was (and still is) my medicine. It ended up being my path. You may have noticed here and there the tagline I have used over the years that reads:

“One at a time and Every Day
Moonmaker, Pathfinder, Wonderer.
Art’s apprentice, Color’s mistress, Nature’s admirer.”


I didn’t write this lightly. I meant every word of it, and it still feels honest and fitting to me.
Now getting back to the workshop…here’s a little gallery to glimpse some of what went on.

This time we had over 2/3 new participants! Somewhat of an outlier workshop. Most if not all had never dyed with indigo or done shibori. Some had never done any hand sewing. We had two men. We had people in their early 20’s to 65+. We had 3 gals who were costumers, a municipal financial advisor, a patent paralegal specialist, a retired social science data archivist, an IT aerospace project manager, a dance and arts teacher, you get the idea- wildly varied! For many who were new to the museum they also had the pleasure of joining as a member and seeing all that JANM has to offer. We had people who drove from San Mateo, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Riverside, Arcadia, and all over the LA downtown & coastal areas.

What I find really exciting about what has been happening at the JANM workshops is the sense of family and friendship that has evolved through my workshops there. By having ongoing workshops in one place, many people come back over and over to practice their skills, work on new and ongoing projects and to make, continue, and renew friendships with other participants.

Comments and conversations heard throughout this last workshop really moved me. Expressions of joy from learning a technique of tying a knot on a threaded needle remind me that simple skills are so important and what I may take for granted may be a revelation for another. Another comment I heard was ” I haven’t thought of work all weekend!” Don’t we all need this? During the finishing stage a gal commented that her friend wanted her to gift her the bag she was making. She remarked “Heck no! This is going on display on a table in my entryway with a light shining on it!” She had never made something like this before. Another person finished the bag she started at the first class and began a second one. One gal said that being her second time taking this class she wanted to make one of these each year to “commemorate where I am in life while making it”. Sometimes I see my place in these workshops as a life coach of sorts, a therapist perhaps, encouraging and cheerleading along the sidelines while providing a creative environment for all to move at their own pace, direction and within their own boundaries and limits. Sometimes people need encouragement, sometimes they need inspiration, other times they need permission. Sometimes a gentle nudge, a reminder to persist-it is all happening along the path. All the while teaching the textile techniques required.

My job is to discern what is needed in the moment and provide it through the medium at hand to the best of my ability. There is a bit of an empathic quality that has been developed through the many workshops I have taught over the years. For me, teaching a craft workshop has morphed into much more than passing along a skill or technique. It is my profound honor and pleasure to do this. Who knew?

This week the Houston show begins and for the first time in a couple of decades I am not there. It does make me a little sad. I will miss the people I consider my Houston family who always took my classes and came to my booth and friends who help me there. Teaching this workshop this past weekend however, took a bit of that sting away. This was a workshop I had proposed to teach at Quilt Festival that was not accepted and honestly, I feel this was a loss for those who might have signed up for it but at the same time I have filled that time with other work and don’t miss the stress of all the preparation that goes into doing that show.

And speaking of family, JANM offers this service in their resource center. I took this photo of a flyer I saw there. You can research your family’s history of incarceration in the WWII Japanese American concentration camps as well as immigration records! There is a fantastic oral history archive as well. I love listening to it. Lots of info is available online in the National Archives. Since so many participants of the workshops are Japanese American, as we work, we get to hear shared family stories of incarceration and reintegration into society after the war. The folks who are still living that were incarcerated in camps Mainly as children) are getting older and I feel the privilege of listening to the younger generations share their family stories. I have learned so much from them!

Getting back to the medicine part of teaching and the idea that handwork is medicine for the mind isn’t a new one. Any kind of handwork (think knitting, embroidery , beading, quilting and more) can be therapeutic and restorative. These days people are more likely to have a screen device in their hand as opposed to a needle and thread, a lump of clay, or a paper and paintbrush. But does this serve the same function? One might argue that there are benefits to both but the imbalance I see around me is what concerns. Making or repairing something offers a satisfaction that just isn’t there with digital devices. Enjoying a process on the path towards a goal or completion serves us well.

Take Shinischi Kobayashi for example. At the age of 72, he started drawing. On everything!
I’m sure he benefits from the neurochemicals that his brain releases and keeps him continuing to draw. Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins are the four major chemicals in the brain that influence our feeling of well being (DOSE). Medicine without pharma! Generally, we don’t think about these things when we apply ourselves to activities that trigger brain chemistry responses. We just know that we enjoy it-that time seems to pass quickly, and we want to do more of it! I am looking forward to seeing a day when education realizes that the health benefits of applying hands and minds to materials in creative ways, in equal doses to STEM and all the testing. It makes for healthier humans. And with plenty of challenges ahead of us, we want to be as healthy as possible!

Here is my finished komebukuro (offering bag) made at the workshop as a demonstration piece for the class. I had to finish it at home since I was busy at the sewing machine on day 2 assembling eveyone’s bags. I’m working to finish up a couple of complementary pieces for the shop and will post when they have been added.
We all have something to offer.

cloth to treasure…and a quick check-in

it’s actually confusing me as to where all the time goes. suffice to say it passes and there seems not enough of it to do all the things my mind wonders about and wanders into.

i have many stories yet to tell and photos and notes to sort through and write about here on the blog- all promised but not yet accomplished. many things are being done here behind the scenes and along the sidelines- prioritized by daily needs and responsibilities, but for a few minutes today, i put a little something here on the blog.

having shipped out all the fabric packs collected on the tour and the other requests made by students and friends, i spent a day making up a new garment! i wore one that i made while in japan and wanted to do a new version in order to honor some of the vintage fabrics i purchased. like the other one, this is made with recycled hand woven cloth previously from kimono that have been taken apart. (btw- NO! Kimono should not be trademarked–as if…you all here know my thoughts on that nonsense)
a couple of things about this garment- i had seen a version of this somewhere in japan a couple of years ago but it was made from western width cloth and only had a front and back made from the same cloth. my idea here is to utilize the kimono width cloth and keep it as intact as possible so that it would be possible perhaps, to take it apart and reuse it one day (or at least in large part). to do this meant that the back and front would need to be split to accommodate typical kimono width cloth and since i wasn’t a fan of having it split down the middle in front, i added a faux placket in front to offset that making it asymmetrical. using a combination of hand woven cloth, i made the amami oshima tsumugi silk the star of the garment while adding three coordinating kasuri patterns. i matched the pattern in the front placket just for fun and did not cut the selvedge on at least one side of all the main pieces. the selvedge contains part of the cloth-story for anyone who might be interested in the future. i have several other sets of cloth i will be using to make a few more of these. it’s very easy to wear with some leggings and even sandals or tennis shoes. i have promised several on the tour that i’d do up a muslin pattern for them to make up for themselves- so far, not yet done… will have to make a few more to settle in on the pattern.
my favorite part of this piece and the ones i’m excited to make going forward is that i’m using beautiful textiles that will be once again worn! some of the techniques used in making these fabrics are disappearing and my hope is that by making useful and wearable garments that these fabrics will be further treasured and worn again, not just cut up and used as scrap. whole cloth in a way. there is a small bit of boro in the lower part of the front placket that i kept intact, preserving further the treasure that this fabric continues to be. someone else thought enough of this piece of cloth to restore it with a patch. who am i to cut it away and discard it?

onto the next thing…the past few days have been consumed with making up an order of silk shibori no hana for the kyoto shibori museum. they are taking me longer than expected and i’m only half way through. several orders of ribbon also await and will be base dyed today. here’s a peek at a few of the flowers heading to kyoto soon…

hopefully, i will have some of these available in the shop later this summer when i’m caught up a bit around here. for those waiting on ribbon orders, i’ll start sending those out next week. stock is very low at the moment and the shop a bit disorganized. colors showing in stock where there is none, so some of you may get a note from me asking if you would accept a color substitute until i get things all straightened out. apologies for that…

life here continues, phil and his band steel parade have been out singing and performing for people young, old , and in between. the other night’s performance at the local nature center concert was a whole lot of fun. it’s wonderful to see everyone dancing out under the trees there.

the yard is in summer clean-up mode and little by little weeds are being removed, the second crop of veggies are being planted, and springs tomatoes and eggplant are being served up. hope your summer is wonderful and full of hope.
gotta run-baby dean just arrived! time to put my nana hat on…

Kamakura, Yamanashi, and heading to Kyoto…

I’m finally getting a bit of time to do another post or two while I’m still here in the Tokyo area (I’m now in Amamioshima)! I really am struggling with all the information and photos I have collected-trying to get it put together into some order that makes sense without just rambling on and on…
Not to mention that Hirata sends me folders of photos each day on dropbox to share with participants and some were mistakenly deleted and I had to sort through that and figure out what was missing and get them re-uploaded. Easy to do if you are not used to dropbox. Need to get a new system for that. Anyway,here goes…

The last day of our time in Tokyo we headed to Kamakura where Hirata is always eager to share the sights and sounds of his hometown. Everyone got a taste of riding the train and learned to use their Suica cards to enter and exit the stations and I’m glad to say that this time we didn’t lose anyone (it has happened-but the lost is always found in Japan)! They saw the first of their temple and shrines- Engaku-ji, Tsurugaoka Hachimangū and the Daibutsu (the Great Buddha) as well. Schoolchildren and tourists crowded Komachi-dori (the main shopping street) and at a point we broke up into smaller groups with the promise to either meet up for the return train trip to Ginza or to adventure it on their own. Hirata’s wife Rumiko and good friend Megumi welcomed us to their home to rest and have cold tea to those who needed a break from the heat and the walking.
Photos from Kamakura…



The next day we checked out of the Ginza hotel and our charter bus whisked us away towards Kyoto for a four night stay via Kawaguchiko and one night there. The Star Pegasus was complete with wifi, USB charging, and a bathroom! Not to mention the best bus drivers ever-they had some crazy skills!



but first… a visit with Fumiko Sato to see her studio, have a demonstration of indigo dyeing and opportunity to view and buy some of her work, as well as enjoy a bento lunch of macrobiotic vegetarian sushi that was almost too beautiful to eat!

it’s always hard for me to say goodbye to Sato-san-I want to stay, work and spend time with her. Unfortunately, this time I won’t be able to return as I usually do.

Afterwards, we headed to the Ichiku Kubota Museum to see the work of this imaginative shibori dyer who took tsujigahana dyeing to a whole new level. It’s always a pleasure to take people here since it’s such a mind-blowing experience. Unfortunately, the gift shop here no longer carries any books or postcards depicting his work. When we asked why the answer was “copyrights” without any further explanation. Also no photos this time. I’m glad for the ones I do have. The bead collection is wildly diminished and not on view as it was before. ¥500 additional gets you into the cafe where there are a few cases but we opted out of that in order to get to our hotel and relax in the onsen. Perhaps they sold off the collection to raise funds. Not sure what is going on there. Still, a beautiful museum and ever changing collection of his work.

After a full day we retired to the beautiful Kakuna Hotel for a one night stay. Views over the lake towards Mt. Fuji (which only peeked out from behind the clouds here and there as we visited the rooftop onsen) and a beautiful dinner put the day over the top and we slept with dreams of indigo, tsujigahana and beautiful Japan swirling in our heads.

The next morning it was off to Kyoto for 4 nights which deserves it’s own post (or two)!

Let’s see if I can get the next post started (Kyoto)tonight- today in Amamioshima it was very warm and humid but the day was filled with dorozome- (mud dyeing) which also will be it’s own post down the road. But just to tease a little bit…

No time for jet lag…

It’s the end of Saturday here in Japan -only three days into the tour and we have already experienced many wonderful things! I always think I will have more time to blog our adventures than ends up being the reality. There is a desire to record the day to day-ness of it all, balanced by the reality of the schedule while still remaining in the moment. So tonight I have a bit of time to catch up here, so will backtrack a bit first…

There are certain stages of the tour …milestones of a sort. The first one being- having spent almost two years gathering the group and organizing the details-I finally get to meet everyone in person! The majority of us departed from LAX (Los Angeles) and others we will meet in Japan at Narita Airport. We had a little time at the departure gate to introduce ourselves and put names that have been on lists and in emails to the actual faces! We have three people traveling with us that have been on previous tours but even still I have not seen two of them for many years so it feels good to catch up a bit! As always, when I meet the rest face to face, I’m so pleased that this tour always attracts such a wonderful group of people who want to learn more about silk, Japan, and textiles in general. Cloth people are just good folks! I’m not quite comfortable until the plane door closes and everyone is on board. At this point, final boarding is done and the door closes- I relax.
A 10.5 hour flight passes quickly and uneventfully in relative comfort. Watching a movie or reading a good book wearing noise cancelling headphones takes one away like an old fashioned Calgon bath. A couple of people knit the hours away.
Arriving at Narita we gather up the rest of the group and Hirata san who has been at the airport ahead of time to meet the early arrivals leads us and our luggage to the hired bus for the trip to the the Ginza where we will stay for the following 3 days.
Hotel check-in and a brief rest was followed by a short walk to Hirata-san’s favorite Ginza shabu shabu restaurant with those who were interested.

Tokyo Ginza is where we stop first with a small hotel one block off the main street. The first day was reserved to visit the Mingei-kan- the Folk and Craft Museum which represents the finest of simple and masterful craftwork for use in everyday life. We traveled there by train and with 17 people trailing through the train stations for their first time and using their Suica cards we arrived without too much confusion! Once inside the museum we were given a short introduction in English by a docent. The Mingei folk and craft museum celebrates the beauty in the handmade object-useful items used in everyday life. Beauty is appreciated by all and to have and use basic things of beauty enhances and enriches ones life. Simplicity and beauty can be seen in everyday objects here. We were fortunate to discover that a temporary exhibit of shibori by Motohiko Katano was on display during our stay and a highlight of the visit. No photos inside the museum are allowed so here are a few from the outside and a short video…

Motohiko Katano shibori

From there we divided into two groups- one headed to a craft and folk art shop called Bingoya to see works by current craftsman across Japan. My group returned to Tokyo Ginza where a couple of us were to meet up with Megumi-san who would introduce us to a kimono shop specializing in Amami Oshima Tsumugi. Two of us will travel to Amami Oshima at the end of the tour and this visit was to educate us a bit about Amami textiles and dorozome (mud dyeing) which is done there. Completely fascinating and a very special treat!
Following this Megumi-san (an expert in kimono and known to the best shops in the Ginza) took us to several shops to see the finest of kimono made with top quality textiles.

Tea was enjoyed at the end of the day in one of the oldest tea shops along with fruit and agar.
Returning to the hotel, everyone went their own way, some meeting up with Hirata-san who led a group to Tsukiji for sushi dinner and others who just couldn’t walk one more step went next door to Ginza Six for dinner.

Ok…gotta run! It’s monday and we’re in Kyoto where I was able to steal an hour of early morning computer time. Will do more catching up later!

a quickie announcement…

I’vee had a couple requests to set up a local silk shibori flower making class, so I did!
There are only 4 spots open so if you are interested, please check the shop listing here.

All materials are included in this small group class.

I was going to post this on FB yesterday as a new event but there was a worldwide FB outage affecting postings,comments etc.  Maybe that isn’t a bad thing?

And while I am at it, I will remind you of the upcoming April 6-7 Shibori and Indigo workshop at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles (or as it is sometimes known as- Japangeles).  Signups are through the museum at above link.

The rain here has gone away for at least the next couple of weeks and I was able to replace the shade structure over the dye space outside. There is a new squirrel in town (or even possibly Squirrelly Gurl herself as they can live up to 8 years or so). She is so friendly to me and personality wise, much like the OG Squirrelly Gurl. I can’t know for sure but am enjoying her daily visits. Buddy the dog enjoys watching her and feeding time but the new cat-Kuro chan is trying to chase her when she can!  SG is too fast for Kuro-thankfully and outsmarts him every time.

I did channel a little bit of Ume san last week and made this bag from the piece of sashiko laced boro from the last blog post. Adding it to the shop now.

Cross shoulder bag, made entirely from used/recycled and vintage materials outside of the thread and the shoulder strap. One outside pocket on back side, one inside. Completely lined with vintage kasuri kimono silk.
Front fabric covered button closure with indigo twined wrap-around cording. Outside pocket fits large mobile phone while an ipad can fit inside.

Link to shop

 

Plus the Silk Study Tour to Japan is in high gear. Everyone is getting ready for this great adventure.  I’m receiving the bio pages for the booklet I make to hand out to our hosts so they can learn more about us.  It’s always interesting to them!  We still have 2 spots open for anyone wanting to make last minute plans to join our textile adventure.  Link here. 
In the absence of the Amuse Boro Museum (which closes this month) we are making plans to visit the Mingei Folk Museum instead.  It just so happens that they are having a special exhibit of the work of Motohiko Katano, known for his adventurous and creative shibori patterns.  I have never seen his work in person so I am quite excited about this.  My first visit to this museum was with vintage textile dealer Carola Pfau’s husband Makoto (now passed), who also treated me that day to several of his favorite temple sales.  Boy did we have a good time! Great memories…
We will also be visiting the Ichiku Kubota Museum as well as the Kyoto Shibori Museum so participants will have the opportunity to study some of the best shibori in the world!

Time to go and dye the rest of the indigo thread for this weekend’s workshop!
mata ne!