Category Archives: japanese textiles

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!

where to start?

Hello.  That’s a good place to start.  Yes, I’m back.  Here. Houston almost seems like a dream!   A wonderful show and ever so busy for me on all accounts.  My sincere thanks to everyone who came, who sent in pieces for the silk exhibit, and who took my workshop.  We did have a great time!

Let’s start with a little slideshow of the silk exhibit…

Having never curated and organized an exhibit before I was pretty much winging it but in my mind’s eye I had an idea of what I wanted to communicate to viewers of the exhibit. It was also interesting to work with the exhibit staff at Quilts Inc. and see their process for receiving materials, setting up, breaking down, and returning items for the exhibit at large. Many thanks especially to Ginny and her crew who were assigned to this exhibit (they confessed that when the various exhibits were assigned they drew the short straw! in the end it wasn’t as bad as they thought-just different than the basic quilt exhibit).  Thanks Ginny and crew! I got to learn a lot through organizing this exhibit.

a couple of shots of the booth-

Unfortunately, when I returned I got the flu- put me a few steps back and then it was off to see my son Trevor’s senior recital-wow!

pre-concert run thru

junk percussion piece run thru

loved this piece…

timps

drum and block set up

many of his young students came with flowers…sweet

-and then back home where I am still catching up on emails and orders. Also many proposals and fees for next years events are due any day now.  Yikes!

Oh, and another great indigo workshop at the Japanese American National Museum last weekend-

Glenna came with her own wonderings-about temari.  She played and devised a way to indigo dye the base for a temari. Quite inventive.  I can see the possibilities now! If you are looking for a new craft to spend some serious time at check out the possibilities of making temari! I even want to try my hand at it-at least once just to gain a basic understanding.   She gave me a lovely sample of her work as a gift-I love it!

temari ball -a gift from Glenna

The gift of home grown cotton was actually from the Houston workshop-got it mixed into the wrong set- but it is beautiful and has seeds that I have separated out- I want to grow a couple of plants just for fun.

The indigo is all cut and each participant at the JANM workshop received a seed packet in their materials kit. Perhaps some indigo will be grown in spring!  As for the rest, some was bagged for gifts, and the rest of the seed was collected for next years crop.  However, it looks like there may already be some dropped seed sprouting out back already!  We’ll see…

indigo seed as a gift

indigo seed for next year

More to tell, but must end it here for now- have a wonderful holiday full of thanks and giving, of friends and family.

(R)evolving

Again, another post sparked by a series of emails with a customer and reader of the blog.  No details as the specifics are not important, but in the end it came down to the topic of the evolution of ideas, of creating, and remaking an idea into something you can call your own.

This morning I woke up and for some reason the word revolve was in my head.  I believe it is because of this conversation with Emily and even a post a few back and a very good comment by Cyndi who said:

I used to attempt to copy a very spiritual artist’s work because her paintings were beautiful, yet seemed so effortless. My work was pretty but unsatisfying. After struggles and deep pain entered my walk, I looked at her work with fresh eyes. It meant far more than brush strokes and technique.

The risk of putting something out there is that we can’t dictate how every individual will experience it. For some it may appear a simple craft to replicate or an effortless painting of pretty mixed colors. The journey stops in mere practice for them. However, the beauty of the connection of the feathers and their place in a greater context is priceless. For all those who may copy your work, you have touched something within them with the desire to create. For others, they may go for a walk on the path less chosen and find feathers and blessing enough to make a pair of wings.”

So, another reminder and thank you to both Cyndi and Emily – teaching and learning are like chickens and eggs.

It appears that I am in a (r)evolving phase in other things as well.  It’s left me feeling kind of blue and a little bit deranged.  I have lots of work to do and will be updating the shop with some indigo in a few days.  Trying to catch the last of the summer indigo…you never know when summer starts and stops around here.

i’m still listening to this one…

Also taking some time is the upcoming silk exhibit in Houston.  Here is some information on it:

I’ve never done an exhibit before and am feeling my way through much of it.  If it ever happens again, I’ll know what to improve on for sure.  It’s not over yet.  The folks at Quilts Inc. have been very helpful and supportive as has both Maggie and Katrina.  But I feel the pressure for sure. These things all sound good and exciting in the beginning but there is always a point (for me) when  I begin w o n d e r i n g . . .but I think it’s pretty well under control now.Phew!

There are many exciting pieces in the show- John Marshall was kind enough to lend this silk shibori piece-

yardage tied and died and shaped into a decorative lobster. likely a wedding gift. and a kimono using the same fabric. thank you John Marshall!!

 

yes, it matters how a thing is done.

craft to industry, guild to union, cottage to factory. this is what is generally considered as progress.

sometimes, progress has a high price to pay.  some things become streamlined, simplified. other things become automated, even people become cogs in the automation (and consumption) wheel. other things become lost and forgotten.  do we stop to think of what these prices extract from us?

i am still reading. speaking of SustainAbility,  the current essay asks the question “how have we been able to sustain such unsustainability for so long?”. a good question

i think it helps to know the history of this. how did we get here?  the earth is plentiful in it’s bounty but we are poor and careless consumers of it’s offerings. in his essay titled “The Historical Production (and Consumption) of Unsustainability: Technology, Policy, and Culture”,  Benjamin Cohen restates a cultural axiom of technology and risk this way:

“The more we seek to control nature, the more risk we create.”

hmmm…i think we can all think of some pretty big examples of this. some might say Monsanto, others might say Fukushima,  or monoculture.  most of this progress has distanced consumers from producers. a move over time from the qualitative to quantitative gave rise to more human control over the natural world.

by distancing ourselves from the gathering of energy materials and water sources, the growing of food, the making of product in far away places extracts a toll not only on those locales and their culture and environments but on us physically, morally, and spiritually.

ah…such big thoughts for such a lazy hot day like today. a morning earthquake here shook us up a bit and reminded us that nature is truly in charge. but what does craft have to do with all this?  i wonder…

silkworm workers prepare straw bedding for cocooning

yesterday i was testing out more cocoons and and was wondering about tsumugi.i have been experimenting with this. i like that it requires almost no equipment.  i remembered seeing this video a while back and went to watch it again.  the part i was most interested in seeing again begins at 3:07.

i am stacking up a few good books to take to the woods next weekend.  some i have already read or partially read and want more time with.  one of them is Azby Brown’s book “just enough- lessons in living green from traditional japan”. i really enjoy this book.

i am also gathering up food from the garden to take and we are looking forward to this annual retreat where we are able to separate ourselves from daily city life. where i can sit with nothing more than the squaw hole covered granite stones listening to the sound of water rushing below and the winds whispering in the oaks overhead.  this former Sierra Miwok summer camp, later a travelers lodge visited by those traveling to the Yosemite valley by foot or horseback (perhaps even John Muir and Ansel Adams), and even later still the summer camp for the Oakland Council of Girl Scouts- bringing girls into the woods for an experience to last a lifetime.  now in private hands of old friends who kindly offer its use to us we thank them and all the past caretakers who have allowed it to remain wild with its history quite intact.

i will even be stopping by a local gallery on the way in to drop off some nigella seeds for a blog reader and quilter in the area.  perhaps we will meet up at some point- but once i am in i tend to stay put. i have some stitching i intend to take as well.

a few orders must be finished, some emails sent, so off to continue that now…

oh- and richard send me one more very intriguing item for the silk exhibit- a straw bed for silkworm cocooning- so interesting.

from an old farmhouse in rural Japan

collected folk fabrics-indigo, kasuri, hemp and more

backside-silk floats across two flowers

I wanted t0 do a little post on some of the fabrics I brought back with me from Japan.  The first one is a bit of a curiosity to me which is why I bought it at one of the temple sales I wandered through. I’m sure this technique has a name and a history but since I had never seen it ( or noticed it) before, I was quite unaware of it.  At first I was drawn to it because of the indigo, next by the hemp, and also by the subtle pattern woven into it. Then I noticed that it was also embroidered with silk here and there.  Not only that, but what I saw as embroidery seems to actually have been added into the design as it was being woven.  There are large floats across the back too.  What is this called?  Is it common?  I like so many things about this fabric.  I like the uncommon pairing of the course hemp and the lustrous silk.  Perhaps John Marshall might know- or a weaver passing through…

asa (hemp) weaving indigo

The light flowers, stems, and leaves first appear as if they could be katazome, but no.  The back side shows the motif as darker than the ground.  A form of kasuri?  Or just a kind of double weave floating the lighter weft over the darker warp threads. I just don’t know.  Again, a question for a weaver to answer.  And then with the silk.  a soft handspun yarn lightly dyed -perhaps with madder.  Three pieces  of this I dug out of a pile of things under a table, appear to be an old obi.

Then there was this-

cotton or linen warp, silk weft kasuri

~this was found at the same flea market where I found the zakuri. the seller had several fine textiles.  Makoto bought one especially nice boro kimono for his wife.  This was in his scrap box (where I shop!) and I loved the color and the two way kasuri pattern.  The warp is a fine black cotton and the weft a lovely orange slightly slubby fine silk.  A great combo.  He had several pieces and I bought only two and had regrets by the time I got home for not buying it all.  To our surprise, the next day we saw him again at a different temple sale and I asked if he had brought it with him and he dug it out of a box and I bought the rest.  So 5 pieces in all-a kimono that was taken apart for cleaning and never put back together.  I love that about kimono.  The making of them does not require cutting into the fabric except for length and in the end you can dismantle the piece and use it all over again.  What plain and common sense!

kasuri detail

Walking back to the train one day I came upon a small street where a few vendors had thrown down some tarps with kimono and fabric piled onto them.  I picked up a couple of things-

The one on the left (partially shown) is a shibori noren. Likely made or at least tied in China. The other one seemed more possibly Japanese. I liked what I saw in it.

Two kasuri jackets or possibly summer weight yogi (for sleeping) – both in great condition.  All hand sewn.  Each use different cotton kasuri fabrics.  A couple of small seam repairs and I may put one of them in the shop.  It’s quite small.  But the fabric is wonderful.

I’ve saved the best for last-

komebukuro-sack for offering rice at the temple for special religious ceremonies

~this particular one appears to be quite old and with many boro patches.  It employs various homespun cotton fabrics and the rope appears to be handmade from hemp fibers. Also quite large-12 x 20″ at least.  The inside is more interesting than the outside-you can better see the patchwork. I would guess this one to be from the Meiji era (1868-1912). I appropriately found it at a temple sale.  A few more pics of it:

inside full view-1

more inside detail

edge detail and rope

bag bottom inside

outside view 2

another outside view

And today, while silk was steaming on poles, I dyed up the mandalas I exampled in the online workshop-

indigo mandala with itajime on cotton organza

that’s all I can manage right now-whoops, except for this:

itajime indigo on hemp- table mat and coasters

Took this for a test drive and liked it-fabric is some hemp I found along with the komebukuro and I’ve backed the coasters with a little hand stitched kasuri. They’re reversible. Moons of course. I keep wondering why we can’t have hemp in this country…it’s just such a practical enduring fabric.

whoops- almost forgot the silk-some kimono lining silk rescued and indigo dyed-

kimono lining silk indigo dyed

There is a shop update in the near future.