Category Archives: japan

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!

Tribute to Ume san and then some…

Sometimes I stay away from the blog or social media in general just to hear my own thoughts without a lot of feedback. Sometimes I want to share something but feel that it’s better to think and wonder about them by myself for a while.

I haven’t posted on Instagram for a while and I’m not even exactly sure why. I know most people really love Instagram because it’s fun to look at lots of pretty pictures-I don’t disagree. Sometimes I don’t feel a lot of connection there to be honest. And really when it comes right down to it if, I’m going to share something online or even in person, there has to be a connection or communication that occurs to inspire that sharing of something.

I can tell already that this is likely to be a long, and rambling post. Please brace yourself.

We’ve had a lot of rain here lately and it’s been quite windy at times as well. Everything is wet, the garden is alive and well, and the weeds are growing furiously. It makes it difficult to work in the studio which is really outdoor and subject to all of the whims of weather. Not to mention that the wind really did a number on my outdoor wet studio area.

Actually pretty much did it in. I’m trolling craigslist and letgo for a bargain on a used replacement canopy.

I’ve pulled out the floor mats in the studio several times now and dried them in between rainstorms. Turned on the box fans in there just to keep things dried out. When too much rain falls too fast, it floods the floor of the studio.

Looks like we should only get a small amount of rain in this coming week so things can dry out a bit.

The garden doesn’t seem to mind one bit however. I’ve been enjoying doing a little bit every chance I get, in between rainstorms.

The garden keeps me sane. I don’t know what I’d do without it really.

I finished an especially lovely order of shibori ribbon which will head off to France tomorrow. It included some colors I haven’t made in a while as well as some old favorites.

My biggest disappointment this past week was the rejection letter I received from Quilts Inc. (Houston Quilt Festival) that none of the workshop or lectures I submitted were accepted for this year. I actually had to laugh at myself in the end because when I got the letter via email I was confused. I didn’t understand what it was saying (granted the part about not choosing any of my submissions was in the second to last sentence in the second paragraph) and it wasn’t explicitly direct. I guess I was just used to being included. Things change. Unfortunately, it likely means that won’t be taking a booth this year either since the costs of doing the show has increased to the point that I really depended on the combination of classes and booth sales combined to make it work out financially. I have always been very frugal when it comes to doing a show and the associated expenses.  In fact, I’ve rather enjoyed making an art form out of it!

I’ve really grown to appreciate my customers and students there and I will miss all who come to see me in Houston so very much. It’s a big disappointment. The first Quilts Inc. show I did was the spring market in 1995 and I think I only missed one year since then when I was transitioning from the porcelian company to life as a shibori dyer.  I haven’t been teaching there that whole time but over the years I did start to teach there as well. It has been good for me as I really do enjoy the teaching as well as the vending aspect there. It takes time to build a following at a show and I always worked very hard, took it seriously and did my best, both in the classes and in my booth.
So for now I look in other directions. There will likely be some more in-studio workshops, more hand dyed goods in the shop, maybe a new online workshop, perhaps an additional Japan tour with a slightly different focus.
*****************************

So here we are again, a week or so later and I never did finish this post! Got some orders off, had a birthday, went to the Integretron in the desert for a sound bath, and saw the snow in the desert with Phil and the kids!

Nothing like a little local getaway to clear your mind! Get a New View!

So now back to it all and working on the tour details. I’m excited to get to know this years participants! Yesterday I sent out an email to the 2017 tourmates that one of the craftspeople we spent time with last time has passed away.  We were informed of his passing while making final checks and schedule confirmations. Ume san was a fellow that frequented the Kyoto temple and shrine sales collecting vintage and overstock shop aprons which he then re-made into spectacular bags.  Hirata san met him in the market there one day and was invited back to his workshop nearby.  After some discussion, Ume san offered to meet up with the tour group when we visited the market the following year as well as arrange a luncheon and trunk show of his work.  We had a fabulous time walking the market and streets of Kyoto with him and the trunk show was wonderful. Lots of his bags made it into suitcases and went home with participants. I received many sweet emails fondly remembering our day with him. I remember him eagerly asking my opinions on his bags and he was keen to apply any suggestions to the making of them.  His daughter told Hirata san that she will arrange one last trunk show of his work for us this year with the goods he had been making. We will definitely miss this colorful and creative spirit! Arigatou Ume san!

Ume san- Everyone at the market knew him.

I think I’ll end this here and start on the next post- a shop update! It’s going to rain again soon so must go out and batten down the hatches! Should clear up again after the weekend. I see Northern California is really getting hit hard by flooding. We will be fine here.
Mata ne!

Amuse Boro Museum in Asakusa closing

I had heard rumblings about this here and there but no one could provide any first hand knowledge of the info.  Over the weekend I emailed the museum itself to inquire as the Silk Study Tour had planned a half day trip there this May to see this wonderful collection (as we have done many times in the past).  This morning I received an email from them to let me know that this is, in fact true.  They have since placed an announcement on their website in English.

I can’t express how wonderful this visit has always been to me.  I have been at least 6 times over 8 years and each time I come away with something new to wonder about. I had to really convince Hirata san that this was an important place for us to visit with our tour group and every time we went (it was always an “optional” visit), those who did go were moved by the exhibit and its meaning, its place in folk textiles, and how the collection developed.  After celebrating its 10th year anniversary, sadly, the museum will close March 31,2019. We will miss our visit there this year but there is some good news!  The Amuse Museum will be looking for a new location somewhere in Japan to re-open sometime in 2020. There may be a traveling exhibit somewhere, sometime, as well.
In the past, I have posted many photos and blog posts about my visits there. Here is a slideshow I created in 2015 or so. I was getting together photos to do a new one and realized I had already done this!

I also found this which is even better:

So we say a fond farewell to the Amuse Museum until, like a silk caterpillar pupating in its cocoon, it reemerges into a whole new life!

It’s been very rainy here this week and promises to continue here through Thursday. This means I will focus on indoor work and there is plenty of it.  I am finishing up the selection of fabrics for this weekend’s workshop.  All are vintage and varied. I also finished up the second bag sample and took a couple of quick photos. and here are the little vintage textile packs for the boro side of the bags- they will indigo dye their own base fabric as well as the rest of the fabrics for the bag.

I hope to convey some simple concepts through this workshop.  That beauty can be created with simple materials, perseverance, and the need or desire to caretake those around you.

I was also reminded to revisit one of my favorite books, “Rural Japan, Radiance of the Ordinary” by Linda Butler. (You can find a copy here or maybe in your library) I’ve had it for many years and often pick it up to look at the photos. This time I reread the text and was rewarded with the following Japanese proverb:

“Mu kara yuu o umu” or translated, “Out of nothingness, something is born”.

It reminded me of the boro textiles at the Amuse. Thank you Amuse Museum for the pleasure of visiting and learning about sashiko and boro! We are richer for the experience.

Escape to Nature

Truly, the best escape. Even if it is a small one out to the back yard.  A daily observance.  It keeps me sane. That, and moving my hands and body.

Lately, I’ve been weeding-by hand.  We have rain!  LOTS of rain, and with that, lots of weeds. So many weeds that my sanity is assured far into my future.

Weeding after lots of rain is especially gratifying. With the ground soft and malleable, the feel of roots pulling out intact without breaking off in the soil (leaving them to regrow into next weeks weeds) makes this work satisfying. Things that are growing and sprouting up all over will reward us with lots of beautiful blooms in coming months. (Hopefully, in about a month as there will be a small family wedding in the back yard. I think I can at least count on the California poppies and the alstroemeria to cooperate.)

Some of the weeds are even edible-so there is that. And the fact that the greens planted out back are taking full advantage of the rain and fresh salads are a regular thing right now. It is such a relief not to have to water.  In fact, I have been dyeing exclusively with rainwater.  What a luxury!

Needing to take a day away from the house, we went to the arboretum and the beach. Going to the arboretum on a wet and misty day one day after a major wind and rainstorm is recommended. There was no one there!  It was like having our own private garden.  Trevor tried to find a surf-able local break but had to give up and join us for lunch after a visit to the beach where the ocean was in powerfully in charge. The ocean always deserves respect. Don’t turn your back on her (google kookslams if you need to remind yourself). At the arboretum…

Feeling refreshed- back to the dye studio!  There is work to do.  Always of course.  And I haven’t mentioned the Silk Study Tour to Japan lately but all is settled and the group is looking forward to a rewarding and inspiring time in Japan.  I hope to be adding to the Japan blog as we travel.  Will let you know.  At least, stay tuned to my instagram account while we are there beginning May 16.  More on that later.

 

wordy wondering…again

Sometimes I wonder.

As of late, in the curious world we are living in, I feel more and more that I am an outsider. More than just an outsider ( I have always been that) but as I have talked about before, the sort of species that is on the endangered list.  Something that is becoming extinct. As someone who for SOME reason believed I could become anything I wanted to to be (and I became an independent artisan) I feel that choice is in rapid decline in our world.  Maybe it is just me-I admit, I do have a weird perspective. I mean really, how many people do you personally know who has been able to make a living making things by hand and selling them for their entire adult life (40+ years so far)?  Any?  I’m not saying this to amaze or impress you.  Trust me, it’s not everyone’s gig-  THAT is for sure.  But the fact that it was even possible and at some points in history (all over the world) quite common, is interesting. The fact that it is in extreme decline is regrettable to me. I really don’t think that it is something that most people think about at all.

I think about it all the time.

hands

Why does this concern me?  I ask myself this question and it is not an easy answer.  I believe that a certain amount of distance from the norm is good for society in general. It can provide an example, a path to follow, or even inspiration.  It provides a balance of sorts. This kind of distance and independence allows for different thinking, different perspective and different choices.  Not to mention the benefits to many of working with your hands, of creating daily, of experimenting and problem solving, and for many-better mental and physical health.

I can only continue to be, to exist as I am.  All this outside the norms- whatever those are. It seems that that is really the best I can do at this point.  I am very fortunate to have a roof over my head.  Some sort of forethought allowed for that at least.  If I were to do this today, it would look very different I am sure (if I was able to do it at all). That is the point of this post in the end, I guess. It seems as if this choice is becoming so unavailable, so rare-a choice I once took for granted without even knowing what an extravagance it really was. I didn’t know because I just did it. One day at a time, every day-until it was my normal.

The rising cost of living in general seems to necessitate rushing to a job-the sort of job that can pay the bills and leaves little time for much else.  Once one has money coming in, there are the expectations of society, others and even ones self.  A car- a payment, a house-a payment, taxes-payments, health-payments, family-$, etc..  It is a cycle that once one arrives at, is very hard to disengage from.  Only if one can become very creative, frugal, and perhaps fortunate, can you craft a situation that allows distance from the norm. I see people all around me longing to disengage from the desk chair, the screens, the keyboards, the commutes.  Yet the lifestyle that has been created makes it difficult to do so.  The actions needed to disengage are overwhelmed by the changes needed to make this happen.   One is thought of as irresponsible (if not just plain crazy) for not fully engaging in this cycle.

All I can say at this point is find a way.  Just find a way. 
beautyI love Soetsu Yanagi‘s thoughts…

This exhibit is still up at he Mingei Museum in San Diego until Oct. 2nd. I’ve seen it three times now and loved it all three times.