Category Archives: japan

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.

marking time

Seasons mark time like nothing else.  The visual signs all around us are unmistakable.

fall

persimmon

-the feel of the air in the morning and again in the evening. Sounds also turn the corner into fall.

And here at my desk I also must mark time.  The time that orders must ship, the time that show prep begins and materials must be sent off.  Schedules for next year are already filling in.  I do that as if I know how things will be when that time rolls around.  I laugh.  Ha!  What if?  We don’t know at all but here we are making plans.
The world seems so uncertain.

Just in case,  Richard and I are planning a new in-studio workshop (details coming), I’m planning dates for shows and other workshops in the new year.  And also a couple of trips are in the works.  I’ve been asked to coordinate two adventures in Japan next Spring. One is a private group of friends returning to the past in a way- sharing old memories and getting to know each other again in the present.  A reunion tour.  I hope to make it a very special time for all.
The other, is coordination of a short extension tour for Maggie Backman‘s Cross Culture Tour.  I have to say, when and if I get to be Maggie’s age, I hope I have her enthusiasm, energy and spunk.  This is an idea she has had for some time now.  It grew out of her love for sharing Japan, silk, and learning with others.  For quite a number of years now we have realized that while we are introducing gaijins (foreigners) to Japan through our own “Silk Road” via the Silk Study Tour to Japan, there were an equal number of Japanese who were interested in what we were doing.  And while Maggie was bringing in teachers from Japan to teach in the Silk Experience classroom at the Houston Quilt Festival and while Japanese visitors to the show were signing up for silk classes…she wondered…

-what if…? What if she organized a tour that combined US teachers and Japanese teachers and included both Japanese and American/foreign students in a bilingual workshop in Japan.  So here is what she has put together:

Cross Culture Tour to Japan

My job is to lead and coordinate the tour extension but I will also be around to lend a hand when needed during the workshop portion.  The US teachers are Katrina Walker and June Colburn.  Japanese instructors are Masako Wakayama and Noriko Endo.

So take a look and wonder…and imagine marking time between now and then.

weaving motifs into cloth (and life)

There are certain motifs that have always captured my attention.  Of course you know the moon is one of these motifs but the other two that captivate me are water and cloud imagery.  Who hasn’t laid back and watched the clouds move across the sky, felt the sun come and go across our skin…listened to the waves, a nearby stream, a roaring river or waterfall…seen the moon rise and fall?  I like that these motifs are universal and shared across the globe regardless of where or who you are.  It reminds me of life’s beauty, and our connectedness to each other. These things give me perspective.

I think this is why these nature based motifs have been given so much regard in design over time and space.  Often each motif is imbued with a special meaning or symbology. I enjoy studying all the meanings behind the motifs and the cultures which bestowed these interpretaions.

I recently was very taken with old silk which had these images woven into the design.  I purchased a couple of rolls of these silks from second hand shops recently with a few things in mind.  First, to study them and then to create something out of them.

japanese vintage silk damask -indigo dyed

japanese vintage silk damask -indigo dyed

Aside from the cloud and water motifs, this one has bamboo, maple leaves and what looks to be cherry blossoms.  Sort of covers it all!  Originally, this sort of fabric was used for nagajuban -the ankle length under kimono which used the softest and finest silks worn next to the skin.  The weight and design complexity of this silk suggests that it was to be used in a nagajuban worn for a very formal occasion. It has a beautiful hand and a lovely drape.

I saw moons in it of course…

silk moons for the supermoon

silk moons for the supermoon

flowers on the moon-indigo and silk

flowers on the moon-indigo and silk

I used a piece of this fabric for a nice indigo dyed scarf with diagonal ends and hand stitched hems- ombre dyed on one side. I think I will add an interesting bead to the two points…

indigo scarf

I finally completed a little shop update that includes the following items- enjoy! Most items ship free with any other item.  Now back to the studio to finish up a couple orders that need to go out asap!

mon 紋 もん

itajime mon indigo

mon are emblems used in Japan to identify groups or individuals.  also know as Japanese crests, Wikipedia states that mon

may have originated as fabric patterns to be used on clothes in order to distinguish individuals or signify membership in a specific clan or organization.

some indigo itajime pieces i have been working on remind me of these mon.  perhaps a shibori no ai mon 藍搾り纹 is in order. will be wondering more about this.  i think they would make nice pillows…

these pieces are an outgrowth of what i have learned from Richard, who is due to be here shortly.  we will have some more time together, standing on common ground, and under the same moon.  we have 2 spots still open if you are in the neighborhood…

meanwhile, Susan over at ito de has been incorporating thoughts of kanji into her work.  lots of good posts over there.

Silk Study Tour to Japan 2013

Just a quick post today to give you the link for the 2013 Silk Study Tour to Japan.

If you are interested in seeing a few photos from previous tours, you can visit a Silk Study tour flickr set where I have posted a small number of the many photos I have collected over the years. This next year will be the 3rd biennial tour. We will learn more, visit new locations and this year we have arranged to have a day long workshop in the studio of a natural dyer whose family has been dyeing for several generations.  When we were there this past May he showed us the most magnificent indigo dyed silk! It was dyed with fresh leaf indigo and I was stunned at the beautiful color he achieved. He tells us he only dyes seasonally and locally, meaning he collects dyestuff from surrounding areas and only when they are in season. This is not a new idea to him although it is an idea that is currently getting more attention these days.

fresh leaf indigo dyed raw silk

Of course there will be so many things to discover and learn, friends and memories to make and keep.  Inspiration to last a lifetime.

This month will be keeping me busy teaching a couple of classes at HGA’s Convergence followed by the International Quilt Festival here in Long Beach.  The Houston Quilt Festival catalogs have gone out and you can start signing up by mail now.  I think you will be able to start signing up online in a couple of weeks. For now, you can order the catalog by mail here.

I’m even more excited about Houston this year as I will be teaching two classes that are firsts for me there- an all day indigo silk dyeing class and also a silk mawata making class.  I am also part of a team organizing a special silk exhibit on the convention’s exhibit area.  A lot going on…but now must get back to making.

Mata-ne!