Category Archives: life in the corona

Focus?

This has been my daily undoing lately. Trying to focus when chaos swirls around me. After spending over a week now with an unruly computer, I now have it back to limping along so will take this moment to write a quick post. I had to wipe the HD and reinstall the OS and all the data from a backup. SO lots of resetting work and getting things back to where they were. Not sure it’s done yet as the same problem popped back up during the resetting so I’m expecting more computer trouble on the horizon. But in the moment it is working…

All the chaos of the last year leaves me wondering where the path even is. In what direction do I head? What purpose can I serve? Does what I do even matter (some days I do wonder about this!) ? Chaos seems to zap away my creative energy…
I know I’m not the only person experiencing this. I’m in good company.

After supporting myself for so long (over 40 years) I wonder-can I still do it? What if I can’t? What might that look like? With clearly 6-12 months more of COVID related challenges ahead of us, in-person workshops and shows are unlikely for the foreseeable future and even then, it won’t be like turning a switch back on. It will take time to rebuild. The planned 2021 Silk Study Tour to Japan is of course, cancelled. We have hopes for 2022 so I will refocus towards that.

Sometimes, focus is a matter of deciding what you are NOT going to do!

So just while I’m writing this the screen froze again. So clearly still having issues. Back to the shop it goes tomorrow. Let’s see if I can get a couple of things into my shop to help things out a bit before it completely dies off(crossing my fingers on this restart!).
I’ve still been keeping myself busy, though not really sure what I should be making! I’ve been shooting videos for the Daily Dyer on using the pleater and how I create the silk organza I use for the flowerwork. Again, I’m backed up on the videos due to the computer problems but hope to get more of them up in the next day.

In the meantime, I added a couple of flowers to the shop. I really love the white ones. Here, I am using pleated and dyed silk batting for the leaves. I think it adds a nice textural contrast to the organza.

I’ve also been doing a bit of indigo dyeing for a garment I want to make. In doing that, I selected and organized some of my indigo fabrics into project packs and added them to the shop. It’s been a while since I put these back into the shop. They are assortments of various silks and cottons dyed in varying shades of indigo. There are also a few packs of solid indigo cotton yardage dyed in the three shades using the fermentation vat.


On a side note, I watched some of the Yoshiko Wada shibori lecture videos and enjoyed seeing the work of the featured shibori artists there. I was reminded that I am really more of a commercial shibori craftsperson. Whenever I am creating, it is with an eye towards selling my work. It needs to be this way for me. So when I am experimenting with an idea, I am always wondering how I can use it in a commercial way. Can I improve the process to a point where it satisfies both my aesthetic goal as well as be manageable in the marketplace. I also realize that in the best tradition of Arimatsu shibori, shibori was a way to create a commercial product for a living! This is part of the shibori challenge for me. While beauty and quality craftsmanship is part of the desired outcome, utility remains key and with a eye towards the commercial aspect. And within that utility was a need to sell the work for a fair price for the handwork. I always admire the Japanese ability to innovate the process with this in mind. While much shibori rises to the level of art now, most who are making shibori these days do so as art or as a hobby, what I do is quite different- I made it my profession. I enjoy the challenge of that.

Another interesting Covid related activity- crafting zooms. A group of gals in California have been getting together to make up some of the items for which I offer free instructions. They order the kit, then make the item during their social zoom, screen sharing my video instructions! They have time to check in with each other while hand stitching their kits and helping each other out if needed. Each month they pick a different project. Great idea! If your group wants to do something similar and you want to invite me to pop into your zoom to answer any questions, let me know!

When my focus starts to fade, I take a trip out to the garden and see what is happening there. RIght now the most inspiring thing is the feathery cassia (Senna artemisioides) whose scent is at its peak. It has a little spicy scent -some days it can remind me of Necco wafers-remember those? The clouded sulfur butterflies flit all around and are laying their eggs there. I can always count on Nature to set me straight.

I really wish I could share the scent!
did you notice the butterfly at the top?

PHEW! Made it through the post without another freezing episode!

wondering into the new year…

Here we are. The last post here for the year.

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.

forgetting and remembering…plus some holiday fun

What’s it called when you think you did something but you realize you actually didn’t? Jeeze… I was helping a customer on the phone with her order (she was ordering a moonbag) and I asked her which one she wanted. She said, “There’s more than one kind?”. I had to check the shop. I took all the photos for some new pieces for the shop before the KOKORO event and then must have been interrupted and never went back and finished uploading them!

Well, in any case, I’m doing it now. Oops. See the new items here.

One fun thing i’ve noticed in my own neighborhood and even among social media friends is that people are enjoying decorating and doing holiday fun a little earlier this year. With many folks home, WFH or just home and not working, holiday decorating lifts the spirit. Walking the neighborhood at night has been cheerier than usual. I got into it here myself with the neighbor girls and we made a little holiday Santa house in the front yard that my grandson could visit. I did order the plain cardboard house and we used what we had around here to decorate it-old Christmas cards, lights, wrapping paper, extra decorations, glitter glue and anything else we could find. The girls are 9 & 11 and the 9 y/o especially took to it. In fact, she spends some time in there every day she tells me, reading, playing, taking photos – she even made a little video of herself in there. So cute! My grandson was able to visit the other evening (he’s 1 1/2 years old now) and it was a very special treat for me. His favorite part was opening and closing the doors-with gusto! The little house took quite a beating but held up just fine. I had added extra duct tape reinforcement on the doors ahead of time as they seemed a little weak. Fortunately, the weather here has cooperated and there isn’t any rain in sight. If there is, I can easily move it inside for a bit. We add little things to it here and there and it’s a continual source of fun. A little holiday magic with kids is WONDERFUL! (no photos of the grandson are allowed online so the neighbor girls are all i got- but you can trust me they are cute as hell) Hope you are having a little holiday fun yourself!

Time continues to blend days, into months, into a whole year that is nearing its end. 2020 hindsight is about to be the story of the day as all publications/media will be doing their year end lookbacks. I’m not too sure I want to read all about that. I’m going to face forward and carry on.
In case you were wondering… Milo the cat often helps me blog…he’s sitting on my lap as i write this post and this is my view…

dearest friendlies…(part 1)

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:

I’ve never made a living at what I’ve loved to do, neither in twenty years of Theater, another ten or fifteen in Film, video and photography, nor as a writer, nor painter, and I only dabbled in cloth. I could blame this on the fact that I somehow managed to eek out a living on the fringes doing this and that, or that I always worked for unpopular causes (feminism, peace, justice etc.), but the truth is I was simply never ambitious enough to pursue money, nor did I have the stick-to-it that’s needed, and now, at seventy three, I’m quite poor in the pocket book. Sometimes friends send gifts, my Social security and small pension from one 11 year position just manage to keep me in internet, phone, electric, and rent (blessedly low after many Landlord battles) and I even get some food aid from a Senior nutrition program. I’m able to go to doctors thanks to medicare basic, but not dentists. I had help to pay for two cataract operations from several generous friends as I live without credit cards. But my admiration for craft and those, like you who manage to somehow make it work is unbounded. The way the 21st Century is leaning into the automated and the digital, outsourcing and growth does look bleak…not to mention the awful political wrangling and the shameful wars…still, I believe that though the artists are as endangered as the polar bear and Minki whale, we persist in another dimension, and that’s as real as the space probes and the industrial glut. Love fuels the enterprise and it’s the best fuel ever to emerge from this earth enterprise.

Michelle in NYC

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’s all about Shibori Ribbon today

In the third quarter of last year there started to be an issue with ordering silk satin yardage. Suppliers did not have it in stock. Some suppliers said that government tariffs with China were an issue. Later we found that in addition, mills were not weaving it. Then I was told that the usual sources would not accept the wholesaler’s orders as it did now not meet minimum yardage for a run (minimum was HUGE-even for a large distributor).

What I do know about silk satin is that it was not a fabric that was widely available wholesale even when I first started dyeing the ribbon. Seems that there are either limited textile mills in China that produce it, that it may be done on specific looms that are not in good repair. The main use for this fabric is fine lingerie and bridal. With fine lingerie and bridal mfgs/retailers not ordering as much as before, perhaps the yardage needed to do a run just was no longer there. I’m not sure.
Seems that anyone I contacted overseas said yes they had it, only to find out what they really wanted to sell me was charmuese. I have tried this for the ribbon with less than desired results.

So, I set out to find another type/weave/weight of silk that could produce the results I wanted. After test dyeing many, many silks I have finally settled on one. I have sent samples to beaders and folks who use the ribbon who report they like it just as well. In fact, for some users it seems to be preferred for its ability to take the pleating well.
I have spent the past months working on this and learning to dye the new ribbon to my liking. Each silk weave and weight has its own characteristics and challenges when it comes to dyeing, discharging, and pleating. I’m still getting used to it.

In some ways, it got me thinking about back when I started to learn about shibori and the dyeing of silk. I’ve done a LOT of experimenting and learning along the way. It’s been quite an adventure!

I’m glad to say that I am finally ready to add some to the shop today. I am adding two different selections. The first are sets of three assorted colors (one yard each and one set only) and the other is three colors by the yard (ten yards per color available right now). In the shop now. Here is how they look:

The second addition is yardage- three colors are available in the shop by the yard as usual. There are a couple rolls of the original SATIN ribbon there too. I’ll be adding more as they are dyed.

In addition to what I have in my own shop, Michelle just received a set of colors for her shop Fundametals Annex. Michelle has been the most consistent and devoted reseller of my shibori ribbon since the beginning-supplying creative folks with a wide array of well sourced craft supplies. Not being able to stock the ribbon has been hard on both of us! Both her and her husband are self-employed and with three young teens at home they also have the added job of overseeing their online schooling during these corona days. Through it all, Michelle continues to do what she does best-run her home and family as well as supply creative folks with beautiful craft supplies for inspired handwork, while providing great customer service (despite the added difficulty of shipping issues with USPS!). These past six months have been hard on small businesses and I’m glad to be able to fill her orders once again.
As I look back over the arc of making and selling my silk shibori ribbon, in addition to those who find joy and creative expression in using the ribbon themselves, it makes me content in knowing that the ribbon has helped many sustain themselves by providing an income- whether by reselling the ribbon or by buying and using it to hand make items they sell to supplement their own income. I have received many lovely emails from people all over the world about this much to my surprise. This is almost without exception being done by women. It is a small thing but it feeds my soul to participate in the circle.
Even those who copied the ribbon to make and sell in competition have a place in this circle.


addendum in the light of day
On a perfect note after writing this post last night, I received a spam comment this morning on an old post about the ribbon from 5 years ago. I deleted the spam comment and went and re-read the original post along with all the comments. Writing this blog over the past 14 years surely has been a journey… I appreciate all those who cheered and even jeered along the way. thank you.

And even more perfectly, a friend sent me this Buddhist prayer this morning. Perhaps you might also enjoy it as I did. (thank you Michelle!)
“A balm to turn me inward where all that ever was, or ever will commence, arrives in perfect, present tense.”

landmarks and roadmaps

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.

moon and stars

The moon takes no sides
holds no grievances
nor abides our anger

lighting a path
with its reflected light
day and night
should we choose to look

silken stars
perform a dance
swirling in the inky black

independent, yet connected
to our time and place
ancestors, wisdom seekers

old and young
find answers
in the full wondering.

July 4th, 2020 the moon is full. look up!

little dreams

dreaming big inside
my small silk cocoon today
i wonder what if

big dreams small spaces
when will i emerge again
to fly free once more

I like haiku because it distils a thought…

Update:
The silkworms are mostly finishing cocooning with a few stragglers that hatched late. I lost surprisingly few. The two batches at neighboring homes fared less well. One lost all of them (20) and the other lost 16 of their 20 but have 4 that cocooned. I have around 200. At least 50 of the eggs did not hatch at the beginning but when I ordered 200 I was sent 300 (ish). I prepared a cocooning tray for the girls next door who lost all theirs which looked like this:


It’s kind of hard to tell here, but silkworms have a yellowish almost transparent cast to them when they are ready to cocoon. They are filled with sericin to spin their cocoons. Left to free range, they would find a couple of branches or a dried curled up mulberry leaf in which to spin a hammock , and finally a cocoon. I made this with both plus a few TP rolls cut in half so they can see what the cats prefer. Of course letting them cocoon in dried leaf makes for messier collecting of cocoons and renders the kibisu (outer silk) fibers inexorably mixed with leaf detritus. The Japanese have a cool machine for removing the cocoons from the frames and also for rolling the cocoons to remove the outer kibisu-all clear of any leaf material and usable for other purposes without too much effort. It will be 2-3 weeks before moths emerge. Many of mine will be dried, killing the pupae inside and the cocoons stored in the freezer for later reeling.

And if silkworms didn’t have enough to do, you can read about their contribution in developing a vaccine for COVID-19! From The Mainichi and Kyushu University.

I made a little discovery this past week in regards to the native narrow leaf milkweed. I have wondered since last year why the monarch caterpillars don’t seem to utilize it as opposed to the tropical milkweed which keeps popping up in the yard here and there. They also like the balloon plant (milkweed) very much. They LOVE the small broad leaf native milkweed that they eat down to nubs every chance they get- so much so that it never seems to get a good start here. Fortunately, it spreads from underground and keeps popping back up.
Back to the narrow leaf milkweed… I kept seeing the monarchs laying eggs recently on the flowers (it’s flowering now). The flowers are small clusters of tiny florets at the tip of the stems. I realized they probably don’t use the leaves as the leaves are so narrow and unstable they can’t really land on them to deposit their eggs on the underside of the leaf, but the flowers are broad and stable. I started noticing tiny spiders and even some of the tiny praying mantis on the flowers and I thought they would devour and eat the eggs or any larva that hatched-bummer. Then I started noticing that the flower heads are all wilting and dyeing! I thought- oh well….
then this!

I actually started to cut off some of the dead flowers thinking the spider infestation might spread. So now I have a little box of monarch caterpillars to watch over until they get big enough to transfer back to the plant!

We took a trip out on Monday to get away from our cocoon and to visit MIL in hers at the nursing/board and care facility. Since she is in hospice they allow restricted visits- PPE in place. We visit outside mostly. She fell Sunday and thankfully did not break anything but has some pretty colorful facial bruises from bonking her nose. She is doing ok all things considered and always welcomes the visit. It is very difficult communicating since she also has advanced aphasia. We do our best.
Afterward, we went to the new Mitsua market and got Japanese bento for a picnic at the South Coast Botanic Gardens. They really have done a good job reopening there. Online time spaced ticketing, contactless entry, masks required, distance marked cueing (when needed), wide open outdoor spaces. They allow picnics in the meadows and there were actually very few people. Cost is $15 per person and you can stay as long as you like. A family annual membership is $65 for unlimited access for 2 for the year. We did that. They also have special dog walking tickets twice a month in the evenings (they are open 8 am- 8 pm). Eighty seven acres of gardens and trails. Sculpture too!
A great place all around! Highly recommended for corona daytripping.

the bees were going crazy on this flowering thyme border… the sound doesn’t really translate here.
I had heard of this but never seen it in person- I asked Phil to stop so we could watch for a bit. Goats clearing the hillsides…
Goats Rock!

and in the garden… tomatoes are rising! Milo ventures outdoors and approves!

Stitching stars

I rewarded myself for getting my taxes 90% complete today by stitching stars into the indigo universe.

I just wanted to mention a couple of things about this wonderful silk floss I’m using. It’s about 100 years old and just divine!

Richardson’s silk floss has some interesting history and I came across this print ad.

The silkworms are cocooning quietly in the background and I’m thinking about indigo dyeing their silk as an embroidery floss of some type. It’s a big dream.

But hey, a girl can dream.

Cats, feline and bombyx mori…

Many thing going on here…I guess I’ll start with sericulture and the silkworms. My friend Nobue Higashi and her husband have just finished their spring crop of silk cocoons. It’s pretty impressive. You can see her blog here (just click your translate button to read in English as I do- it’s too complicated for my poor Japanese even if the google translate sucks-you’ll get the jist of it). My current dream is to take more workshops at Ton-Cara. Somehow…

My small batch of silkworms (quantity unknown) are doing very well. Eating every mulberry leaf in sight. I’m expecting them to slow down any day and vomit up their guts (nice visual huh?). Then they will rest a bit and start to swing their cute little heads around while in the “praying” position. I have prepared the cocooning frames and straw bedding. I have my mini sericulturists making their own cocoon forms from TP tubes cut in half an glued together. On a sad note, one set of the silkworms suffered from grasserie and a garden burial was prepared. We are not sure of the cause but two things are possible contenders- tainted mulberry leaves from a street tree in the city or just from not enough aeration due to laying leaves without branches. I think tainted leaves might be it. In any case, so goes sericulture. The other neighborhood family’s silkworms are fine and have been eating the same leaves as mine. I will send a new batch over to them later today so they can watch the cocooning.

i love seeing the way they methodically eat the leaves.
a pile of silkworms during tray cleaning

I have been dyeing a bit also, indigo and otherwise. I collected the seed pods from the feathery senna that last year I discovered gives a nice rich gold. I also collected and tested the knife edge wattle and discovered that those pods gave a nice rich brown. All this was done on silk with alum. A lovely green was was the result of over dyeing the senna dyed silk with indigo from the fermentation vat.

I had a chance to speak on the phone with Karren Brito in Oaxaca today where we are still hopeful of her receiving the zakuri I sent her way. It’s not easy dealing with bureaucracy there. But I was really interested in her conversation about sericulture in Mexico and the history of it there. I actually did do some online searching and couldn’t find much but she had a lot to share about it. Maybe one day…

This was my Solstice project, more or less. Still not done but who’s rushing these days? It has a great feel in my hand while stitching on it. The back is an old linen tablecloth with great weight and drape. The front is a variety of cotton, silk, and linen scraps that were used to test dye the new indigo fermentation vat. The silk embroidery thread was gifted from Katrina quite some time ago. It’s from a stash her mother’s friend discovered when clearing out a house. It’s about 100 years old. I thought I had blogged about it but can’t find the post to link here. It’s great to stitch with. Amazing really. I’m not used to such luxurious embroidery thread!

And in moon news…just a few to add today.

And the old cat Milo has decided to join life downstairs after secluding himself upstairs for the past 8 years. We don’t know why, but we are enjoying his company in the garden, the studio and the rest of the downstairs. The dogs give him space for the most part.