Category Archives: life

fragility

I started working on this piece of cloth in order to add it to a larger piece I am stitching. The whole cloth itself is made from reclaimed, recovered, and salvaged bits of cloth-some redyed, restitched. This one in particular is from a couple of those categories.

Time stitching is time to think and reflect…
When the fabric of our lives seems to errode and threads are laid bare, those of us who have the means, the desire, or the ability to strengthen the surrounding cloth/life can help hold it together. Stitching around the red silk, the cloth/wound was revealed, memorializing it’s existence, strengthened and preserved. The still fragile and ever eroding stripes/lives are grounded by solid yet invisible (on the front side) tiny stitches. The back side shows the structure and the pieces and stitches added in an effort, though impossible, to make the cloth/person whole again. Scars/tears will remain, lives lost and forever altered.
This cloth is a small tribute to those who lost their lives this past week in Long Beach CA. In quiet moments of handwork, these thoughts rise up.

I chose this piece as it showed the story of the cloth from several perspectives. It had been reused previously (most likely as a cushion or futon cover) and taken apart. With several holes in it perhaps, the intention being to patch and reuse again.

As I handled the piece to think about how to apply it to the larger piece it became apparent that it needed some stabilization first. Using that same red silk I’ve shown you recently, I decided to highlight a couple of the duty worn areas. As I turned it over in my hand, I realized that the wear on this piece was really only in the warp areas of the brown dyed sections. This being a mainly indigo piece, it was warped in a couple of shades of indigo and what looks to be kakishibu (persimmon) dyes. The weft is indigo in two shades. What you notice is that only the kakishibu dyed sections are deteriorating- telling me that this dye was more damaging to the fibers over time. Was it treated with an iron mordant and not well rinsed? Not sure. But it’s very clear that only those sections broke down over time telling me it is dye related and not wear related.

I applied the lightest weight stabilizer to the back of the very fine red silk which I used. First stitching invisibly (front side) to stabilize the section and then further stitching the open areas revealing a bit of the red silk. Holding it up to the light, reveals its strengths and weaknesses.

I further decided that it needed more stability and added a larger piece of thin indigo dyed cotton to the backside. Copying methods I have seen on some of the vintage boro I have, I stitched the edges and again along either sides of the deteriorating stripes. It’s now ready to be part of the larger piece.

Above is just the process I used to stabilize the worn scrap. As I said in the video (last post), using the red silk to highlight patched areas reminds me of the Japanese ceramic technique generally called kintsugi. Looking up the translation of that word it contains the kanji for tsugi which means “inherit, succeed, continue, patch, graft”. So carrying this further, tsugimono would be something that is in need of patching.
Yes, the patchwork that is our life, our clothstory. Stabilized, but not made whole.

cocoons!

After six weeks of silkworm rearing, I have about 400 cocoons.  I started off with an order of 500 eggs, so here and there, lost a few.  There were no noticeable die-offs of any great number- a good thing that tells me I avoided any major disease issues by keeping the silkworms clean, well fed as well as in good temperature and humidity.  It can be a real disappointment when something starts to kill them off. I can only imagine what can happen to large scale sericulturists.

I stifled these today in the oven at about 180 degrees. This will allow these cocoons to be reeled or used in ways where I want a whole uncut cocoon.  With about 400 cocoons, if I let them all emerge I would end up with 10,000 or so eggs.  I can’t imagine having to feed that many here.  In fact, if I did allow the silkmoths to all emerge, mate, and lay eggs they would end up dying by starvation unless I put the eggs into cold storage.  I would never be raising that many here anyway.  I do have a few folks who wanted to get some eggs from me so I will save some for them.  I will store the cocoons in the freezer in a net bag until needed. These cocoons will be used in Houston for my mawata class there along with some I purchased from Nobue Higashi who raises silkworms in Japan.

silk,silkworms

I should not let you leave this post without paying homage to the life of the silkworm. Yes, I have killed them and have feelings about that.  In Japan, there are temples and shrines devoted to the silkworm or sericulture in general.  Giving thanks for a good harvest and for the protection of the silkworm until cocooning are common among sericulturists in Japan even today. Shouldn’t we remember to be grateful for everything? There are many shrines devoted to sericulture scattered throughout Japan.

It was perhaps not a coincidence that today I was catching up with Nobue on her blog that I read this post where she talks about just this thing…the google translate is very rough but you can get the jist of it. I am looking forward to seeing Nobue san again next year!

You can read about the silkworm deities at Kaiko no yashiro (蚕ノ社) – the Silkworm Shrine here. It’s an interesting story.
Next year on the Silk Study Tour to Japan we will add a short visit to this Shinto shrine. It is about 20 minutes by car from our Kyoto hotel I am told.  If there is not time to add it to the whole group itinerary, I will make time for those interested in a visit here in an early morning trip by taxi.

Following this down a bit further, I found an excellent couple of blog posts on this shrine.

-about the Kaiko no Yashiro (Silkworm Shrine)

-speculation about the triangular torii

-fascinating history of the Hata clan
part one

part two

I made another little video that covers the cocoon harvesting.

 

 

 

 

the wayback machine…

Just wanted to make sure this recently surfaced image makes it into the Wayback Machine (here https://web.archive.org/ ).

Even longer than I remembered, the moon has figured into my work. I was reminded by this photograph. As I recall, I was sitting outside the local community pool, likely babysitting. I did a lot of that in HS.  I used most of the $ to buy art supplies, fabric to sew clothes, and parts to upgrade my 10 speed.  I’m not sure why my pieces were hanging on the fence here. Maybe some sort of “show”? The piece on the left was my first try at batik.  The one on the right was a hooked wool rug from a design I did on paper. Even back then I was fiddling with color and fiber. I was in the 10th grade, so about 16 years young.

about 44 years ago in Burke, Virginia

My sister just digitized a trove of old photos (almost 800). There are some classics there.  I pulled a few more to post on FB for the Yokohama Girls. (I’ll tag you there once I get them posted.)

And a special thanks to our dad Cale, who was a photographer his whole life. His collection of slides was immense, many since discarded unfortunately. I wish I had them now- especially the 1000’s from Japan in the 60’s. Would be fascinating to see some of them now.

And into the New Year we continue to travel. I plan on making a giant pot of Pho tomorrow to start the year off.

Travel well my friends. Continue to be courageous, kind, and creative into 2018.

the day there were 9 kittens and we landed on the moon

It seemed a day where anything was possible and I believed it.

I wonder. A lot. But for today, let’s go back to that day and that feeling.

July 20, 1969. I was 11. We were visiting the U.S. for the first time in 3 years. I was not in Japan on this day, but definitely considered Japan my home.  I was in Gig Harbor, WA.

a moon memory

(i see mistakes in the original post but i choose not to edit or correct it for sentimental reasons-just pointing them out in this post really for my own information and amusement.)

I just saw the Dan Rather post on FB about landing on the moon and was reminded of why I appreciate his eloquent musings and historical perspective.

I often remind myself that we all look up at the same Moon, and that when Nature prospers, so do we.

 

 

and then there is Life…

It’s been a whole moon since that last post- a record of sorts here.  One that I don’t plan repeating often in the future. Life happens though and one never knows.  In this past month there have been some significant events- a death in the family and a marriage too! Balancing the sad with the happy, blurring the past and the future.
Life.

a recent get together-
Olivia will be missed…

Took the sisters to have Filipino food one day- they had a great time reminiscing over past get togethers where this food was prevalent. Good times.

Plus we both had the flu which also complicated things.  Hence, no posting here.  Just living.

Spring here is glorious this year thanks to the rainfall received. So much blooming! A simple walk around the backyard is proof that Nature is pleased (at least for now, politics be damned!).

I’m finally back in the studio daily this week and working on orders again.  As if to remind myself of the whimsy that can occur while dyeing, I over-discharged 80 yards of pink shibori ribbon the other day.  I was working on the final color for a large order that included the colorway Pink Storm and when it went into the discharge bath it discharged deep and immediately! I tried to correct on the second pole but *poof*…color disappeared immediately. This pink is very easily discharged (a medium pink using mainly polar red) but the discharge bath was too hot and strong for a controlled discharge. SO, I took the 80 yards and dyed some new and fun colors with it.  Now, I  am back with a new batch of ribbon all base dyed and pole wrapped for some careful discharging today.  Here’s some photos of what went on, and what I was trying to achieve.

The fun part is that now I have some yardage of really pretty colors to play with and sell.  I’ll be taking some photos today and putting some of it in the shop.  I’m also trying to get together a small selection of ribbon to take with me to Japan in May to sample some of my customers while I am there. Yes, Japan. The Silk Study Tour to Japan is coming up soon! May 16th to be exact. I’m really looking forward to it.  Each tour is filled with unique experiences created by the harmonic blending of people and places. We will learn so much, see many extraordinary things, and make new friends and connections for today and tomorrow.

It is my great pleasure to facilitate this tour and watch many people experience Japan for the first time- much of it through the eyes of the silkworm! This year’s tour is full with many interesting people, most who are visiting Japan for their first time. Exciting times ahead! Hirata san and I have added Kyoto to this years experience and our faithful charter bus company will soon be whisking us from place to place while we enjoy some beautiful scenery from the comfort of the bus and its large panoramic windows. In addition we will walk, ride trains and eat lots of great food! Get ready to follow along as I update from Japan along our silk road.

Indigo dyeing has been taking a back seat for the moment- the fermentation vat is back to misbehaving and with all the disruption around here lately I have not been able to concentrate on it.  One thing though, I will be spending several days with my indigo sensei Fumiko Satou in Japan after the tour is over.  I have lots of new questions and hope to be of help to her (as studio helpmate) as she prepares for an upcoming event. I am really looking forward to this.

The next couple of weeks is devoted to clearing out some of the orders, making a little stock, and getting taxes done. Then, final preparations for Japan will be in full swing. That, and a day trip to see the beautiful wildflowers in bloom here in California-where we are thankful to continue the quest for clean air, water and energy (again, politics be damned!).

Love to all… may your path lead you to places unknown. Keep wondering, always wondering…

 

‘Tis the Season- Solstice

Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

I was reminded of this song (by Joseph Brackett in 1848) when I was on Facebook this morning and Maura posted some photos of Christmas making at a mental hospital in Calcutta, India.  They were making holiday cheer from colored paper- the paper chains being my personal favorite. They were sharing some sweet treats and gifts thanks in part to Mustard Seeds Kolkata.  The photos immediately gave rise to the first line of that song. (Judy Collins has a nice version of it here.)

I post this today as we turn the corner on the shortest day of the year to see the days grow longer. Thankfully, for there is much to be done ahead of us.  Simplicity might just be one of the answers don’t you think?  In that simplicity perhaps we can become freer, turning, turning and in the end, delight in the coming ’round right.

I think Joseph Bracket was onto something here.  Of course we are all familiar with the Aaron Copland version of this in Appalachian Spring.  Another favorite. And speaking of Spring….

It seems a good day to plant another kind of seed.  A sweet friend gifted me some of her native California milkweed seeds. (thanks Colleen!).  Meanwhile, outside in the garden I think the last monarchs are finishing their meals and heading for their transformations.
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A seed is like an idea- it needs planting and nourishing, sunlight, warmth, and sometimes protection. I will never forget my visit to Luther Burbank’s historical home in Santa Rosa. I posted about it here in December of 2012 and have gone back to this post many times. Take special note of his “seed vault”.

Luther Burbank's seed vault

Luther Burbank’s seed vault

As we move into the coming year, I think there will be some need for “seed protectors” in our communities. I wonder what you want to protect? A few things come to my mind…

Life, health, and human dignity are a few of the things that come immediately to my mind.  This will take a community of protectors.

On a personal level, I want to protect wonder, compassion, beauty, love and peace.

I will find these things in small corners.  They will be found in the piercing of a needle through cloth with hand dyed thread. I will find them in the tip of a brush where it meets with paper.  I will always find them in the small and large details of Nature where ever I am. I will find them in the people I surround myself with, the actions I take, the words I hear, write and speak.
I will find wonder, compassion, beauty, love and peace -and protect it.
Yes, I will.

Happy Solstice!
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lifting nets in rough seas

Words that now feel different or words I won’t use (most of which I never did anyway):

Tremendous

Huge

Deplorables

Terrific

Great

Words I still love:

Wonder

Wondering

Wondered

Things I plan on doing more of:

Listening

Thinking

Helping

Learning

We can all help by lifting nets in rough seas.

We cannot despair. For despair leads to the graveyard of buried hopes. May any despair you feel turn you down a path to wonder more, to listen more, to help more.

 

a matter of time

Somehow, this makes me feel really sad.  I did realize that this would be the eventual end game of sorts.  It always happens.
And for expressing this I am prepared to take whatever shit comes my way about it.  I am. Somehow this feels somewhat personal.  Not in the usual Me Me Me sense but in the way that something I have grown to love, understand, and practice has yet again been usurped by the commercialization of something fine and turned into something rote. Turned into something that yet again, another company will inevitably run into the ground until people are tired of it in a season or two or until the profit runs dry and no one cares.
In the meantime, they will crank out tons of cotton fabrics, printed (not dyed), to be sewn by machines into stunning show quilts for competitions and more.

Why wonder about and practice it when you can just click a few buttons on the computer or grab a stack of whacks at the show and be done?

And so it is.

The word shibori comes from the root verb of the word shiboru which means to twist or wring, to squeeze.  Yup.  Makes sense.

workshop

 

Old cloth, old books (and a piano)

I never should have borrowed this book from my friend Donna:

 

It is very interesting and hysterical even, at times.  Especially the chapter titled “Cats and Dogs”. You might wonder why (especially now!) that I would choose NOT to entertain myself with such mirth given the dearth of nonsense going on about us.

The reason being that yesterday a piano fell on my face.

IMG_3037

yes, this piano…

And it hurts to smile or laugh.  And it is just in time for my weekend workshop at the museum (sorry- but all filled up). It’s not as bad as it sounds but it does hurt a bit and as long as I keep a straight face it doesn’t bother much.  Admittedly, I probably should have gone for a stitch or maybe two but being a bit cheap these days I lay around with a bit of ice and some pressure on it to make it behave (took a while). That being said, I was trying to come up with a funny way to describe to my workshop attendees what the heck happened.  The simple “a piano fell on my face” seemed appropriate (considering I can deliver the line with a straight face).

In actuality, I was cleaning behind the old upright piano and moving it back into position when the front board fell forward onto me and caught me in the face and arm(nice hurty bruise there too-but not too noticeable). By the end of the evening I had the room there all cleaned up and Phil got some new space to store and organize all his accumulating music. Yay! Plus I cleaned up some of my fabric stuff I needed to get to for the weekend of indigo dyeing.

Speaking of fabric, the end of the day resulted in about 50 meters of old silk kimono linings all washed up, most threads removed, ironed and folded.  These will be used this weekend and also at the upcoming Yosemite workshop. Cloth with a memory. Imperfectly perfect.

Back to the book- apparently you can get a reprint of it and also it is available on the Gutenburg Project- Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow

“Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, published in 1886, is a collection of humorous essays by Jerome K. Jerome. It was the author’s second published book and it helped establish him as a leading English humorist.” Wikipedia
 Originally published: 1886
Author: Jerome K. Jerome


Donna was also clearing out some space and found it lurking there in some dark corner. It is much more satisfying to hold this old original copy in my hand than read it off a screen though I may have to save it for next week’s readings when I can laugh out loud as I do.
Even the preface was humorous-

IMG_3035

wouldn’t elevate a cow… 

And really, isn’t change what we are looking for?

Old books, old cloth…got me to wondering.  What is the oldest book and the oldest cloth I have here? I wonder…

(And by the way, if you see me around town- don’t tell me a joke for at least a week!)

 

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.