Unless you just started following this blog last week, you probably know that aside from shibori, dyeing and silk, my other pleasure is gardening. This post is NOT about shibori, or dyeing, but isn’t everything connected?
Summer vegetable gardening is in full swing here- picked the first zucchini and tomatoes last night and made a beautiful and delicious casserole with them for dinner. Had to use store bought onions and garlic but those are going to be harvested soon as well.
Something has been simmering in the back of my mind this past year as I watch the California powers that be (and that generally means the $$$ powers in real estate development who fuel politics) gradually chip away at any and all open space by filling our urban area with much denser spaces- both residential and commercial development, without creating a balance of open space like parks, preserves, and community garden spaces. Not only are they building denser multi story residential buildings, cities and the state are allowing- in fact encouraging, increased density on single family home lots with minimal open space required. As a home gardener for over 40 years, I feel this loss for future families and the environment. Gardening connects us to Nature, to our Earth, and maybe most importantly, to ourselves. It grounds us. As I wander in my little backyard oasis watching the birds, bees butterflies and other insects I wonder how much longer they will continue to have backyard habitats. A mindful gardener is a temporary keeper of the land they work, be it a small farm,orchard or a raised bed garden in their backyard or community garden. Small gardens are habitats for myriad birds, insects, and peaceful contemplation. A “habitat for the contemplative mind” if you will. Gardens provide food and beauty for ours and our neighbors tables.
I wonder what will happen when generations of humans have lost this connection not just to nature, but to the processes that teach us where our food comes from (and I don’t mean the grocery store-or even the farmers market)? Yes, we will probably (hopefullly) still take trips to visit nature on vacation, but will it be accessible out our back door or down the street? For many, it already isn’t there. And for many, vacations are something one dreams of.
I wonder how concerns for our environment will fare when people are disconnected from the soil that they can dig and run through their hand? What will be the tipping point for all this?
Even in urban areas like the one I live in, there are rivers (long ago cemented in) and wetlands (cruel fodder for continued oil extraction ($$$) and groups fighting for the very life and last breath of these valuable spaces. The local pols throw meatless bones in our direction hoping to satiate the majority through their next election funded by the very developers robbing us of these open spaces. Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) are avoided by both developers and our city, in favor of lesser mitigated negative declarations assuring us that the harm they do won’t affect us….much. There are solutions- solutions that cost extra $money and mean less profit. Decades of promised river plans bulldozed by the very pols that 20 years ago, used those promises in speeches to voters that fueled their slick campaigns.
I can’t say where this ends…but I see people out walking in this very neighborhood pass by my house and I can hear them say “Wow! I’ve never seen how artichokes grow!” or “is that how onions grow?”. If only they saw the back yard…
Cheers to the following Long Beach groups and their continued persistence in tilling the soil in their dogged and valiant efforts to educate and preserve enough nature and environmental quality for us here in our urban city so future generations have access to nearby places where we can co-exist in partnership with the very thing that keeps us physically and spiritually grounded. CARP-Citizens About Responsible Planning “Promoting the quality of life in the City of Long Beach through involvement and education in the greater Long Beach area.” HUSH2/LBNF- Long Beach Neighborhoods First “To educate the citizens on environmental, social, and health impacts of policies and actions proposed by public officials or private entities on land use, transportation, and redevelopment efforts impacting our neighborhoods. LBRC-Long Beach Reform Coalition “The Long Beach Reform Coalition is a local, non-partisan umbrella organization and political action committee that promotes and supports public policies, laws, and candidates toward the goal of a transparent, accountable, and inclusive government.” RPC-RiverPark Coalition “Our vision is a healthier, happier environment for communities within the watershed of the lower Los Angeles River revitalization zone.” Long Beach Chapter Sierra Club ” Exploring and enjoying nature is a healthy, happy way to live.”
I know most of my readers here are not from anywhere near this local area but I do know that many of the places you come from are feeling the pressures exerted on your own local habitats and environmental quality of life. I hope that you have organizations in your cities, towns and regions standing up for Nature, our World, and that you choose to participate with your involvement as you can. All are in need of funding, participation, and assistance. Check out your local area groups and stay involved!
Lots of thoughts rumbling around here since the last post. This is gonna be a longer post, so settle in.
Spring is definitely in the air. And so is hope in many quarters. Spring always is in the very heart of a gardener and I’m no different. Like Spring seasons, life is slowly changing and renewing. Many people are getting vaccinated, getting out and adjusting to what currently is. Just being here is good. In fact, quite wonderful.
Hirata san sends me photos of the beautiful cherry blossoms in Kamakura and I’m having hanami natsukashii (cherry blossom viewing yearnings)…here are a couple to get you in the mood. We have our itinerary for the Silk Study Tour set for 2022 and are looking forward. The photos below show the new cherry trees approaching the Hachimangu shrine. It is just gorgeous with all the trees in bloom! This approach was reworked just a few years ago and is a lovely walk down the center of the main street.
I’ve struggled to post often this past year, instead letting thoughts congregate a bit before getting them written into the ether. That doesn’t mean that they are more clearly expressed with the passage of time, sometimes I think it is quite the opposite! Too many thoughts blend, are forgotten and so on, but today felt right so here we are. Sometimes I take short notes for the blog on my phone to remind me of something I want to write about and sometimes I don’t, letting the thought return like a butterfly to its host plant if it works out that way (speaking of butterflies, the caterpillars of the clouded sulfers have gone somewhere to pupate, I know not where) and the praying mantis oothecae should be hatching any second (haven’t seen the babies yet).
Fresh on my mind right now are my beader friends in the Czech Republic (CR) who write me that they are suffering greatly from their government’s misconduct and irresponsibility in regards to COVID. I felt so sad hearing her description of their situation there. Vaccines are extremely limited, and lockdowns are very strict beyond what science would rationally dictate. People feel stifled and rebellious and somewhat hopeless. They look forward to a new election in October, she says.
“forbidden to move out of our districts, forbidden to work and not compensated, forbidden to socialize, forbidden to breath without a mask even if there is nobody around us in a 100 metres range(328 feet), forbidden to leave our homes between 9pm and 5am… and god knows how long til the end, because the government has literally NO PLAN”
I know she won’t mind my sharing her words here anonymously. I can be so absorbed in my own world here, listening to others broadens my perspective. I love that we have become long distance friends sharing our worlds. At the end of our conversation I shared the music of Joan Armatrading (a long time favorite of mine). I’ve been listening to her music today in the studio after Maura in India (Mustard Seeds Kolkata) featured a song on her FB post this morning.
My heart was warmed by a message/conversation received from the mother of a son who credits me with far too much- but as we say, we never know what good a simple act of open-heartedness can give rise to. She credits me with reaching out to him as a young teenager who was struggling greatly and saving his life but it was her perseverance and love that brought him to meet me at a show in Houston (they lived in IN) and to encourage his interest in textiles and art. It is to his credit (and hers) that he graduated with a degree in art and is now teaching art in a HS in CO and just got accepted to grad school. He is out and doing what he loves, being who he is. How can you not love that?
It’s haru basho in sumo right now and today is the final day. We enjoy watching sumo here (I love looking at the silk gyoji costumes with their jaquard weaves and wonderful color combinations) and love watching both the juryo and makuuchi divisions. In a lower division called sandanme one of the rikshi (Hibikiryū) suffered a horrible injury perhaps resulting in paralysis (yet to be determined). The resulting uproar over treatment of rikshi injuries has resumed in sumo and is very justified. If you follow sumo, you know what I am talking about. Japan needs to step up. Tradition is one thing, humane treatment of rikshi is another.
Here in CA people over 50 are eligible for vaccinations April 1 and everyone over 16 is eligible April 15. Some areas have already opened to over 50 and we just received our first vaccination here. We still need #2 in 21 days plus a waiting period but progress is happening and workshops will again begin this summer! I am noticing how it is affecting my mental well being today. I feel inspired and more alive. I hope you are taking advantage of vaccinations in your area so we can all move ahead with safety and more peace of mind. This is a time to consider the future and reinvent many things.
Speaking of the studio, my recent post on the paid blog was quite interesting (apparently only to me-haha) yet I’m not sure if subscribers are reading regularly. Makes me wonder about that path. I won’t be doing this again, methinks. All posts there are password protected unless you subscribe but I thought I would “unprotect” this one to share here. It’s about indigo and madder and what I am making now… moonfire! March moons are all about madder and indigo. Today is the full moon as well as a shop update. Moonrise last night was spectacular here. Are you watching where you are?
I also was listening to a video I came across that resonated with me by George Monbiot who promotes “feeding the world without devouring the planet “. This also applies to textiles and clothing which continue to be a resource problem. As the planet goes, so go we. We survive by walking a fragile line of coexistence with nature. The planet will outlast us surely, but by how much? That is up to us.
In the meantime, I continue to dye. I have been dyeing madder and indigo. On a frustrating note, my aquarium heater in the indigo vat is out of commission again. I think that the high pH just does it in and results in its early death. They seem to last less and less time these days (this one just 5 months). Maybe this is the answer? Pricier than replacing the heater but…less wasteful if it lasts a couple of years. The weather is heating up now (81 degrees today) so a heater for the fermentation vat won’t be needed soon. I have been sorting through old cloth and over-dyeing in both indigo and madder to create some interesting cloth sets for the shop. Moonfire sets are also available there. A little diversion is always fun. I love how madder complements the indigo. I can imagine the projects that will be made from these cloth sets. From my imagination to yours…
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.
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.
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.
Today I was planting more seeds. I got to thinking about the growing roots. The snap pea seeds I planted last week have sprouted and are forming their first roots. Roots are essential to the growth of the seed and the eventual plant it sprouts. I water the seeds, put them in the sun during the day, take them inside on cold nights, move them to bigger containers when they get too large, and weed out the weak or unwanted plants.
And so it is with wonder and creativity. Once I have been exposed to the seeds of creativity or inspiration, I cultivate that creative wonder in order for it to take root. It’s easy to skim the surface of something (and I’ve skimmed many ideas, techniques and processes) but once I develop enough wonder about something to the point that it starts to take root I want to move forward in a way that continues to develop those roots and lets it become much more. And that requires fertilizing and cultivating those roots with more wondering and practice. The more roots something grows, the stronger it can become. Not everything takes root. But everything I learn along the process carries me forward. Some things I choose not to cultivate in the moment-I may come back to them another time. Things need time to generate roots and grow. But enough …. meanwhile in the garden-
Moving from garden to studio…
A few posts ago I showed you some jeans i had refresh dyed in the indigo vat and repaired. That led to a friend dropping off some old pants he wondered if I might be interested in doing something with them. Only one pair was really of interest to me but seems like quite the project!
Now, I’m not quite sure how they came to be in this condition but I’m suspecting the garment industry had a hand in it. I’m going to give them a couple of dips before I put them in the mending pile. I might be up for the challenge. Thinking on it.
Meanwhile, I posted this ol’ moon today and although it is long sold, I received a very special request for one like this. I will make it with intentions of holding on.
Over on the Daily Dyer, I explained the making of these pocket squares for a special order. Indigo on silk satin. One is double arashi, the other triple. having them in hand is akin to playing with a slinky- mesmerizing.
Other goings on in the studio involve completing a shibori ribbon order for a customer in the UK and doing some indigo dyeing of vintage fabrics.
Shop Update Alert!
AsiaDyer (aka Richard) and I have collaborated on a plan to relieve him of some of his growing pile of “cloth with character” (aka imperfect and assorted). This involves lots of sorting on both our parts, shipping from Japan, and in some cases overdyeing to get it into some really lovely and fun packages for your projects. Each pack contains one moon and some indigo thread to get you started. The packs include katazome, shibori, kasuri, stripes, and solids. The end result is a takaramono (treasured items) pack of inspiration for your creative wonderings. Pair it with a pack of solid indigo shades dyed in the fermentation vat and you have a project in the making. in the shop here.
In kitchen news, I have been the fortunate picker of my neighbor’s orange tree. They don’t use them and they are just now finishing their season (started in December). This week I made orange marmalade for everyone and also am making a jar of orange liqueur. Most recipes tell you to use the peel and slice the oranges but my method is simple…from a friend in Poland.
We spent a week worried about Bella- our aging dog. She’s better now after a couple of vet bills- haha. Getting older isn’t for sissies no matter person or creature. Milo the cat is still hanging in there but the time is coming. I’m spoiling him rotten right now.
I’m suffering from a poverty of words for the New Year. I continue on in the studio as well as with the Daily Dyer blog. It’s quiet business-wise this year so I ponder what comes next. Maybe with this poverty of words, pictures might be the best…
And here are a few of the sillier things I learned during this year’s isolation … ***** -I can’t believe I never learned to put chicken feet in my chicken soup until this year! (try it!) -Planting seeds every week keeps me looking forward. -I benefited from not being one to have my hair cut, colored or permed- I look basically the same! -Same goes for manicures! My indigo blue nails worked just fine! -Millions of women will probably give up bras and heels for good (at least on the daily). -I can teach on Zoom! It’s fun and sometimes hilarious! (look for more in the coming year) -I enjoy isolation more than most. -I like wearing a mask when in public and washing my hands more (didn’t have a cold or the flu all year)! -I do miss teaching in person workshops, especially at JANM. *****
I wonder what others learned…
But on a more serious note… I’m in sympathy with all the people who lost friends and family this year. Each day brings new losses. Today I read that 1 in every 1000 Americans died of covid or covid related illness this year. I had to look that up-to be sure. A very somber statistic with which to end the year. It simply cannot go unheeded. Add to that the related statistic that 1 in every 17 Americans have been infected with covid. I put that here as a reminder to myself of what kind of year this was-not that we are likely to forget, but as a marker of sorts- a solemn headstone for 2020. May we all continue to carry on, to hold up those who are in need of holding, to console those who suffered loss, and to help heal those who face new life and health challenges going forward as a result. In reality, we don’t need to see the New Year roll over to accomplish these humane acts but it seems that the New Year is a celebration that can unite us in these thoughts, so I offer it here.
Seems I did manage to find a few words. Travel well my friends. Continue to be courageous, kind, and creative into 2021. Love to you all. And let’s keep looking up.
We have arrived to December. I have caught up with all the Kokoro order except one which will be finished in the next few days. Thank you to everyone who ordered with the Japanese American National Museum in mind. The largest amount of revenue they will receive from me came from subscriptions to the Daily Dyer. The Daily Dyer got going this past week and can still be accessed if you are interested here. I enjoy the structure of it- now more than ever!
For those of you interested in shibori, you might take a dive into what Yoshiko Wada and Ana Lisa Hedstrom and others are presenting over on the Slow Fiber Studio website under Conversations. I just finished watching the presentation on arashi shibori and was intrigued by one of the historical patterns presented there. I liked a lot of the things that were brought up in regards to using different types of cloth in different ways. Also I agree with the fact that overall in shibori practice, your own particular circumstances whether it is in regards to space or financial limitations, shibori presents challenges to overcome and encourages solutions to be found. The endless possibilities of all that. This is one of the main things that has kept my interest in shibori going all these years. I noticed that one of the things that was faintly mentioned in regards to some of the arashi shibori patterns that are twisted while pushing on the pole prior to dyeing is the grain of fabric. Whether you have wrapped the cloth on the straight of grain or on the bias makes a big difference in the outcome of the pattern. At least it does for me! Try it yourself and see. I discovered this many years ago while experimenting and although I haven’t done much of this type of shibori recently their presentation inspired me to make a few new samples to remind myself.
These were done with a fairly medium to lightweight linen in the newly restored indigo fermentation vat. Cloth wrapped on the bias was very easy to twist and create the puckers in the cloth needed to create a fairly regular pattern. The center example of fabric wrapped on the straight of grain was much more difficult to twist with any evenness and resulted in mostly stripes. Same cloth, same dye vat, same pole, same day…different result courtesy of the grain of fabric.
I’ve been saving up little swatches in a notebook of arashi samples and will add these. It’s fun to try to recreate old patterns because you often end up with something new while learning. The extra cloth will be used for moons and cards. Have you noticed the moon lately? Here, it’s setting late in the morning now.
It’s been a rough week, month, year! So many ups and downs. I been telling myself I would write a blogpost almost every single day these past two weeks but…well I just couldn’t didn’t. I read your blogs, FB pages, twitter and a few books, and took lots of stitches. First off, my dear friendlies, one of my favorite FB friends/writers/ NYC poet of life, Michelle Slater passed away. I never met her in person but here, through the blog when she began commenting many years ago. I think she came here via Spiritcloth as many of you have for so long (and even for some, more recently). We had so many wonderful exchanges over the years, through social media as well as the mail. She lived alone in a rent controlled apartment in Manhattan and gave us the gift of so many views of the city she had lived in for over 60 years. She also wrote a blog (actually several) filled with observations of life, photos, and poetry. Just reading the sidebar of her blog could change your life and worldview. She commented on my blog many times over more than a decade and I will treasure each comment once more whenever I come back to one. In the years prior to our friendliness on FB, she gave me glimpses into her world as they related to mine in her comments but it was only 4 years ago she left me the following comment that told me even more about herself than i had known:
She was found in her apartment, apparently in her usual chair, when friends noticed she hadn’t posted for several days and wasn’t answering the phone. In my mind I imagine her setting up a new post with a fabulous link or video or simply typing “Goodnight dear friendlies” with a photo view out her apartment window as she did so often. So here’s to you Michelle… Goodnight with gratitude my friend! Link to the last video she posted…here. And my original post (2016) where Michelle left the above comment.
other parts (2 and maybe 3 to follow). comment link is at the top of post.
It seems as though my ability to clearly recognize the usual landmarks marking the way has greatly diminished and, in some cases, completely disappeared. It’s OK to be a bit lost at times, and especially so right now (in America). It moves us in different directions, and asks us to consider more. More of what we wonder? More possibilities, more directions, more ideas. This is the kind of MORE that I appreciate. MORE can be more, and MORE can be less! I’m considering this (more and more).
As I travel down this increasingly altered road, abandoning the usual familiar roadmaps, thoughts of how and what if are my constant companions. I reach out to cherished and long time friends (how are you?), checking in with them to assure myself they are OK and are still there- realizing that perhaps PEOPLE are my new landmarks. This feels reasonable, if not truer, than some things I considered as landmarks previously. How are you?
Navigating the daily milieu these days takes a lot of energy. Remaining creative in the midst is a challenge. I find I must focus on balance of body, mind, and soul. Here, in my small world I seek the lessons of the garden, nature and handwork. The garden is feeding us well this summer and a steady stream of seedlings feeds the raised beds as plants are rotated through. The worm bin is very alive and well- I am experimenting with compost worm tubes in a couple of the raised beds- so far so good. Just trying to keep the soil alive and healthy. We have a bunch of praying mantis right now and I’m hoping they mate and make some more egg cases for us.
Silk shibori ribbon will be back in the shop soon! After at least a 6 month hiatus, I am making ribbon again. The silk satin I had been using became unavailable and I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting and considering other silks in various momme weights and weaves. I finally have settled on one that meets my qualifications. Pictures later this week. I am leading a free zoom workshop just for the regular shibori students from the Japanese American National Museum. It’s a group effort in many ways. It’s great to stay connected to them all while we can’t meet in person. The cool thing is that they all have made their own indigo vats at home! So over this 9 week course, they get to maintain their vat and really get to learn how it works over time. Several have even started fermentation vats! We have weekly zoom check-ins to see how the vats are doing, discuss and share the weekly techniques and patterns everyone is working on. It’s great that we can meet up this way and make sure everyone is ok. We are using Jane Callender’s book as a reference and inspiration. It really is the best one out there on stitched shibori.
It’s really been hot here-too hot. We have resorted to AC set at 78˚ when in the 90’s now and grateful to have it. Evenings are tolerable but still in the upper 70’s which is hotter than normal for us along the coast. Fires are ravaging the state, brought on by unusual weather and more than 300 lightning strikes. Over 500 fires are currently burning in CA. Such a devastating and environmental tragedy for so many. Currently the Santa Cruz area is suffering greatly along with Big Basin and Big Sur parks. California fires.
I will be updating the shop next week with more indigo (hopefully with some ribbon too-depending on the heat!). I will have packages of indigo cloth in various shades as well as some finished wall pieces. Indigo moons are ongoing as well as the cloth mooncards. I’ll also recommend the new USPS stamp celebrating the work of Ruth Asawa. The stamps are truly beautiful.
Considering new landmarks, tossing aside familiar roadmaps, we embark on new journeys together. May we choose Peace, Love, Health and Sanity when we come to a fork in the road. Together, we must.
I went out into the studio today and found this beautiful heart shape in which crystals had formed on my work table. It was a result of a session of making indigo moons in the chem vat. I had to run out and take care of some things without cleaning up my table outside. I had made a few indigo hearts too.
Still lots going on here. Helping someone transition to hospice is walking sacred ground isn’t it? It can be everything…exhausting, peaceful, frustrating, loving, giving, taking and more. But doing a little each day… day by day…
and then a crystalline heart just appears…to remind you.