Category Archives: japan

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!

the very industrious silkworm

So today was the big day. Time to stifle the cocoons.  I know- some of you are squeamish about this so perhaps you want to click away to the kittens right NOW!

Turns out I have about 800 cocoons-actually 794 to be precise. Since I didn’t order the eggs but used my own from the last rearing I wasn’t sure.  I guessed around 1000.  Not a bad guess as you lose a few along the way.

794 cocoons

There are a preponderance of yellow cocoons so apparently most of the eggs were from the reverse silkworms.  This year, I separated out a few of the best cocoons into two separate boxes for mating  purposes in case I want to do this again next year in a more controlled manner.  Last year it was pretty much an inter-racial silk moth sex party.

cocoon detail

I also saved out a few cocoons for more fresh reeling.  I need to get to these tomorrow before they emerge.

So, continuing on, it was time to stifle the cocoons so they can be stored and used later.  I used Michael Cook’s instructions as before for this which involves drying them out in a low oven over a couple of drying sessions.  A little toast (no, not that kind) was made in their honor (coffee, mind you as it was morning) and the drying is in progress.

Just so you know, once the moths emerge, they will live for about 10 days (they do not eat during this time as they have no system for this) mating and laying eggs (female only of course) and then they die.  Left to their own, the eggs will hatch (500 per female!!) and if not fed they too will die.  So it’s a service they do for us- to create cocoons which then we can harvest and use.  If you want some eggs, let me know.

Also , I have been playing with the cocoons a bit-

white cocoon flower

Also, the pocket squares for the London wedding are completed and ready to ship tomorrow, the mandala class is now tying their mandalas, and other orders accumulated while I was away are ready to ship out.  I had to catch up on a little indigo today as well and I have to say the fermentation vat is just stellar right now.

wearing many hats …and colors

To order solid shade hand dyed indigo cotton, go here.

For other indigo items, try here. I just restocked some of the items.

Next up on the “to do” list- making silk shibori ribbon, silk reeling, and mawata making practice, and of course indigo dyeing on some really great fabrics I brought back with me to try.