Becoming December…it arrives,and here, we never know if we will don flip flops and short sleeves or warm boots and sweaters inside the house. This year we are wearing warm shoes and sweaters. Heavy snow in the local mountains is a welcome and beautiful sight from the hilltop nearby. The ginko is busily dropping its golden carpet of leaves on the back garden, mulching it with beauty. Narcissus are blooming early. I even had the first saffron crocus bloom and more are on the way. The pomegranates exhausted themselves (and me!), and the persimmons are ripening daily. I’m sharing them with friends and neighbors and even this (not so) little guy…late at night.
In the contradiction of clashing seasons, hand fulls of strawberries can be picked every few days as they are planted where the sun seeks them out and happily seem to produce year round there-at least so far. The late eggplant and tomatoes are still heavily laden, though with this recent cold streak they will definitely slow down, but are welcoming the rain. The cold and wet has slowed the outdoor studio work but still has not vanquished me completely from getting the necessities done.
This coming weekend is the last JANM workshop featuring indigo and shibori and we will make the most of it. Many regular participants will come together for this year end creativity laboratory. No need to put the link here as it has been sold out for quite a while. There is however a “save the date” list of upcoming workshops at JANM to sign up for as soon as the museum gets them listed. You can view it here. **EDIT** JANM just emailed me to say that the January Mandala Workshop is up on the website and taking registrations. Here is the link. See the full description on the calendar page here.
Two weekends ago I taught an in-studio flower making workshop with a small group. There were some beautiful results…a garden of beauties! I’ll be adding another one of these soon. Let me know if you are interested.
A post or two ago I introduced a new item into the shop-the shibori ribbon beaded necklace kit. At the time I had not finished the instructional video but the orders received kicked me into gear getting this done. I’m offering it up to you here (free youtube video) if you are interested in seeing how this piece gets made. Perhaps you have some shibori ribbon waiting to be made into something beautiful as a gift. I am also adding this video link into the sidebar under the Feeling Free(r) page/list.
I also just added some new Mooncloth card sets to the shop. Previously, I have had photo card sets using images I have taken of my work but these card sets have actual mooncloths attached to the front of the card that can be removed and used in a project. Sets come in 3’s or 6’s, are blank inside and include an envelope. I hope you enjoy them.
I just got back from picking up my son Trevor from the airport. He has been in Japan for the past three weeks on a long awaited trip there to make new friends and surf. It was an exciting adventure and he spent time in Kyushu, Amami Oshima, and Chiba-all prime surf areas. But one of the exciting things for me was that he met up with my long time blog friend Jan Hillstead Fujikawa in Nagasaki! Long time readers of this blog might know her from her blog Oh Brother! (WhereIsSheNow) She started blogging in 2007 and hasn’t updated since 2014 but we keep up through FB and other social media. She’s an expat of over 30 years and I hope I get to meet her myself next trip. But it was kind of her to spend the day with Trevor and he also got to meet her son! In Amami Oshima, Trevor was able to meet up with our friend and surfer Ko, who showed us around Amami when we were there earlier this year. Trevor also started a blog highlighting his trip which you might enjoy. This is his first blogging experience. His blog, day one starts here.
It’s another rainy day here and the rain barrels are already overflowing. The cactus has finally stopped blooming- it was a solid 2 months of nightly blooms! Pretty amazing really. Here are a few photos collected recently from around the garden.
And a few more of some shibori ideas for this weekends workshop…shibori images on greeting cards for the holiday. I did one with a dove but tried to get too fancy and put a twig with leaves in its mouth which complicated and distorted the image making the head of the bird unclear. Will redo… Lesson: when working on small images, keep it fairly simple and use a good fine linen for best results!
Originally, zakka referred to uncategorized or common tools and things one would use in everyday life. Nowadays, it refers to a much broader category of items- generally useful and beautiful things that improve your life or bring you joy.
I added a few new things to the shop under the category Zakka.
I really do get a lot of joy from making these pieces. I love to figure out what cloth I will use, how I will lay out the design and fabrics including the stitched pieces. As I work with each piece I can often associate where I collected each bit of fabric and reminisce as I sew. Each is done one at a time and without any formal pattern- I just work it all out as I go. Sometimes I need to redo something to improve the end result and I even like that part of it because I learn something new each time. The beauty of learning… Here’s a little video of the wallet piece…
If you want to try your hand at making one of these, RIchard always has a nice selection of various textiles to enhance your project in his etsy shop. Plus other wonderful one of a kind objects!
I’ve let this post rumble around in my head the past few days while absorbing and collecting all my thoughts from the workshop at the Japanese American National Museum this past weekend.
Some things it seems I’ve known forever. Other things, I’ve acquired and built up my knowingness over time. I think this past weekend’s workshop really turned a corner in solidifying why and how I find myself at this point in my craftlife experience. It’s been a long time in coming. I’ve seen glimpses of it over time and place but I’ve never really written about it to any great extent.
I know you’ve read me here saying how great a recent workshop was etc., etc. … and I don’t often go into much detail. Today, I’ll write a bit more about this.
For many here, you already know this. Making something by hand yourself is very rewarding in many ways. It can enhance or teach a new skill, provide a different sort of activity from your daily job-whether that is out in the world or inside your own home taking care of others. It can offer quiet time-a peaceful mindfulness as you work on a project. It can provide a focus away from stress or even illness. It can literally keep you sane! In a group, you might gain social interaction with people you didn’t previously know and who have gathered together in a particular place and time for similar and varied reasons.
Some of you may be long time readers (since I’ve been blogging here since 2006) and know I have sold my handmade things for a living since I was in HS. Sometime around the same time(2007-2008), I started teaching workshops at the request of Maggie Backman for the Silk Experience group at the Quilt Festival in Houston. Prior to that I had been volunteer teaching art at the local elementary school. More recently (maybe since 2000-ish), I have been leading workshops at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and various other places.
What prompted me to write about this particular aspect of my work (teaching as opposed to the actual making) was the increasing feedback as well as my own observations from these workshops and my interpretation of it. We have all heard over the years how the arts are declining in much of our public education and yet at the same time, how the arts foster better outcomes in all areas of education and create more well rounded students. What I do know from personal experience is that art and craft have saved my own sanity in my lifetime. This experience was born out of the loss of my mother at a very young age to the ravages of mental illness, through a very trying childhood that included abuse of various kinds. Where did I go to find solace and peace of mind? Art and craft. The handmade. Why? At the time all I really knew was that it felt good, it felt right. I felt better when I was making something. I went back to this well over and over until it simply became second nature to me. It was (and still is) my medicine. It ended up being my path. You may have noticed here and there the tagline I have used over the years that reads:
“One at a time and Every Day Moonmaker, Pathfinder, Wonderer. Art’s apprentice, Color’s mistress, Nature’s admirer.”
I didn’t write this lightly. I meant every word of it, and it still feels honest and fitting to me. Now getting back to the workshop…here’s a little gallery to glimpse some of what went on.
This time we had over 2/3 new participants! Somewhat of an outlier workshop. Most if not all had never dyed with indigo or done shibori. Some had never done any hand sewing. We had two men. We had people in their early 20’s to 65+. We had 3 gals who were costumers, a municipal financial advisor, a patent paralegal specialist, a retired social science data archivist, an IT aerospace project manager, a dance and arts teacher, you get the idea- wildly varied! For many who were new to the museum they also had the pleasure of joining as a member and seeing all that JANM has to offer. We had people who drove from San Mateo, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Riverside, Arcadia, and all over the LA downtown & coastal areas.
Comments and conversations heard throughout this last workshop really moved me. Expressions of joy from learning a technique of tying a knot on a threaded needle remind me that simple skills are so important and what I may take for granted may be a revelation for another. Another comment I heard was ” I haven’t thought of work all weekend!” Don’t we all need this? During the finishing stage a gal commented that her friend wanted her to gift her the bag she was making. She remarked “Heck no! This is going on display on a table in my entryway with a light shining on it!” She had never made something like this before. Another person finished the bag she started at the first class and began a second one. One gal said that being her second time taking this class she wanted to make one of these each year to “commemorate where I am in life while making it”. Sometimes I see my place in these workshops as a life coach of sorts, a therapist perhaps, encouraging and cheerleading along the sidelines while providing a creative environment for all to move at their own pace, direction and within their own boundaries and limits. Sometimes people need encouragement, sometimes they need inspiration, other times they need permission. Sometimes a gentle nudge, a reminder to persist-it is all happening along the path. All the while teaching the textile techniques required.
My job is to discern what is needed in the moment and provide it through the medium at hand to the best of my ability. There is a bit of an empathic quality that has been developed through the many workshops I have taught over the years. For me, teaching a craft workshop has morphed into much more than passing along a skill or technique. It is my profound honor and pleasure to do this. Who knew?
This week the Houston show begins and for the first time in a couple of decades I am not there. It does make me a little sad. I will miss the people I consider my Houston family who always took my classes and came to my booth and friends who help me there. Teaching this workshop this past weekend however, took a bit of that sting away. This was a workshop I had proposed to teach at Quilt Festival that was not accepted and honestly, I feel this was a loss for those who might have signed up for it but at the same time I have filled that time with other work and don’t miss the stress of all the preparation that goes into doing that show.
And speaking of family, JANM offers this service in their resource center. I took this photo of a flyer I saw there. You can research your family’s history of incarceration in the WWII Japanese American concentration camps as well as immigration records! There is a fantastic oral history archive as well. I love listening to it. Lots of info is available online in the National Archives. Since so many participants of the workshops are Japanese American, as we work, we get to hear shared family stories of incarceration and reintegration into society after the war. The folks who are still living that were incarcerated in camps Mainly as children) are getting older and I feel the privilege of listening to the younger generations share their family stories. I have learned so much from them!
Getting back to the medicine part of teaching and the idea that handwork is medicine for the mind isn’t a new one. Any kind of handwork (think knitting, embroidery , beading, quilting and more) can be therapeutic and restorative. These days people are more likely to have a screen device in their hand as opposed to a needle and thread, a lump of clay, or a paper and paintbrush. But does this serve the same function? One might argue that there are benefits to both but the imbalance I see around me is what concerns. Making or repairing something offers a satisfaction that just isn’t there with digital devices. Enjoying a process on the path towards a goal or completion serves us well.
Take Shinischi Kobayashi for example. At the age of 72, he started drawing. On everything! I’m sure he benefits from the neurochemicals that his brain releases and keeps him continuing to draw. Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins are the four major chemicals in the brain that influence our feeling of well being (DOSE). Medicine without pharma! Generally, we don’t think about these things when we apply ourselves to activities that trigger brain chemistry responses. We just know that we enjoy it-that time seems to pass quickly, and we want to do more of it! I am looking forward to seeing a day when education realizes that the health benefits of applying hands and minds to materials in creative ways, in equal doses to STEM and all the testing. It makes for healthier humans. And with plenty of challenges ahead of us, we want to be as healthy as possible!
Here is my finished komebukuro (offering bag) made at the workshop as a demonstration piece for the class. I had to finish it at home since I was busy at the sewing machine on day 2 assembling eveyone’s bags. I’m working to finish up a couple of complementary pieces for the shop and will post when they have been added. We all have something to offer.
While I still have a couple of post drafts started about the 2019 silk study tour that I just can;t seem to get finished (too much video and photo-sorting bogging me down) I’m here to catch up with other goings on around here.
Obon is in the air! Maybe you had a chance to attend one in your area!
Last weekend we had our natsu (summer) shibori workshop at the JANM. It was a great 2 days of shibori dyeing and discovery. I am so pleased that so many return again and again to further their shibori skills there- and wonderful to see so much progress. The participants who are new to the workshop get lots of suggestions and encouragement from returning practitioners- so fun to see. New friends and new connections.
We had our Sunday morning Shibori Breakfast Club at the Aloha Cafe in Little Tokyo which got us off to a good start fueled with coffee and a delicious breakfast. Sandra introduced us to their spam musubi loco moco style which was really good. Never was a spam eater but I do like a good musubi now and then. Spam has a history from WWII and is a favorite ingredient in several Okinawan dishes and also made its way to Hawaii and the Philippines as a meat staple when times were tough and meat was in short supply. I recently put some cans of spam into our earthquake kit…
There are several upcoming workshops at the JANM…a plant dyeing workshop in September (kusakizome) which is sold out with a waiting list, a repeat of the komebukuro making workshop that we did in January (think there might be some spots still open for that), and on December 7&8 another shibori and indigo workshop(not yet listed on the JANM calendar)- good timing for making some personal holiday gifts.
I also have lots of yarrow so we will have a couple of yellows to play with. We’ll stick to mostly yellows, blue(sukumo-composted indigo), and madder for the red/orange and shift the colors with mordants and overdyeing. We’ll add some avocado skins and pits as everyone wants to try that. We will work predominately on silk but I’ve decided I will bring some assorted fiber swatch packs for everyone to test with. We will be making a dye swatch notebook. I will bring seeds and cuttings so if anyone wants to grow their own, they can. A few of us will get together prior to the workshop to prepare some of the dyestuffs and stock solutions as it does take time.
I planted the marigold seeds before deciding on doing this workshop(fortuitous!) and was thrilled at how well they have done. They are the large bushy type- not the small cute six pack starters sold at the local nursery-so LOTS of big flowers,plus they have kept pests off my nearby veggies since spring. I have tons of seeds to share at the workshop as well. The madder is a bit trickier- it’s about 4 years since I planted it and have never really dug it up. I’m having to soak the area (I didn’t plant in a raised bed with nice soil) to be able to get the roots out. I will relocate it after this! The sukumo is some I brought back from Japan and really only have enough to do a small light vat but that will be enough for our purposes here. The pomegranates are looking great and will be ready by late September so that will be deliciously perfect! We’ll have some pomegranate juice to sip! I’m saving avocado skins and pits in the freezer as are others signed up for the workshop and might see if I can also get some eucalyptus trimmings from the local trees.
Outside of this, the garden is producing nicely-tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, eggplant, parsnips, potatoes and more. The night blooming cactus is just getting started with its nightly display among the jasmine scenting the air-in the past 5 nights alone 91 flowers have bloomed. Quite spectacular! Last night 40 were open and the sliver of a clouded moon peeked out from behind.
I was barely using Etsy over the past year and along with many other smaller sellers of handmade there, are not happy with their decision to only prioritize searches for items with free shipping offered. Now we all KNOW shipping is not free. On Amazon Prime, one pays an annual subscription for “free” shipping. We pay one way or another. Etsy’s suggestion to sellers was to raise the price of items and then to include “free” shipping. How very transparent of them, NOT! The only thing I have in my etsy store are the shibori ribbon scrap bags. So in order to show up in searches, I priced the scrap bags to include the shipping-for FREE! haha. Right. I disclose all this in the listing by the way. The real drag is that if a customer wants more than one, they pay the higher price for both. Not cool. So I recommend going to my website where you can buy all the yardage you want and in the colors you want and it all ships to you for one combined price anywhere in the US ($4). Unfortunately for CA buyers, on Etsy, you also get charged sales tax on shipping now, where you didn’t before (and you don’t on my website as per CA resale laws). Anywhoo… sorry for the mini rant but just wanted to put that out there.
In other news, mills in China are discontinuing weaving certain types of silks. Silk satin for instance. The times they are a-changin’….
wherever you are, i hope you have a gentle summer. may calm winds blow, peace prevail and children continue to sing, dance and wonder!
a placeholder of sorts while I decide what to make from it
a pause, to breath, to notice the ebb and flow of the tides
to hear my own heartbeat.
there is some indigo dyeing in the studio this week
and of course some moons.
a few of my favorite scraps
and here is a little something to wonder about-
“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
Recently, I’ve been busy doing organizational work for the upcoming Silk Study Tour to Japan. I don’t think I mentioned it here, but if you are on the Shiborigirl newsletter email list you read that after being almost full, the tour lost a few folks upon my return from the Houston show. Life throws you a curve and we adjust. Those who had to change their plans will be missed but vow to join us on a future adventure (2021). They will follow along online and be travelers in spirit. I put out a new newsletter and we regained most of what we lost in terms of participants. There are still a couple of spots open with a few folks still considering joining us.
If you are interested, here is the link with all the information. If you have questions, just email me. Tour departs May 14, 2019. It’s gonna be another good one!
I have been also been preparing for the new workshop at the Japanese American National Museum. This one is filled with a waiting list but if you want to read the description, you can go here. (I expect we will do it again.) I also proposed a version of this class (due to limitations of time and facility) at this years Quilt festival in Houston. We will see if the class is chosen for that venue. I am really passionate about educating folks on understanding the difference between a fabric company putting out a line of “boro printed” fabrics and really knowing the history of such textiles. I figured that by making things with all recycled fabrics is a start. Spreading the word. It’s one thing to talk about it here on the blog and quite another to put fabric, thread and needle in the hands of someone for the purpose of education and perhaps a little thought of mottainai. In any case, here are some pics of what I’ve been up to…(click thumbnails to enlarge)
little sashiko pattern
arashi shibori on old cotton
moon on old linen
larger boro scarf piece
the length- 75″ x 6 inches
like a vestment…
It’s been an education to make these pieces and like anything else, a practice. I still need to put the cording on the bag but have it all dyed. After finishing the bag, I was inspired to do a larger piece since the scraps I prepared for the class were so enticing. I tore a piece of linen off one of the old linen pieces I bought in Houston and dyed it dark indigo blue. I marked the horizontal stitching lines onto it and arranged the scraps. Then I spent about 13 hours just stitching. It all felt good in my hands as I rocked the needle back and forth. I really learned and appreciated not just the cloth and the thread, but the use of the sashiko adjustable ring thimble with plate. It takes some practice and over the many hours of stitching, I grew to love the ingenuity of it. Have you tried one? I do love a good thimble and have several varieties but had not spent a significant enough amount of time with this type. I plan to get even better with more practice.
That’s the thing isn’t it? Practice. As I worked on this long piece, a communication between myself, the materials and tools set in. It’s a simple running stitch-nothing fancy. But as the needle pierced each scrap my hand felt the resistance, the thickness, the density of the weave. Do we even notice this these days? Many of the scraps were from cloth hand woven long ago, most softened by age and use. Most fabric today is made with machine sewing in mind. The hand of it made stiff with printing inks and chemical finishing. It’s not friendly for sewing by hand. The tight weave of many modern quilting fabrics facilitates the printing of crisp patterns but resists the piercing of the hand rocked needle. I can really lose myself in the old cloth, wondering about it’s cloth story as I sew.
As a practitioner of shibori dyeing and maker of silk shibori ribbon for over ten years now, I continue to wonder about what I do for a living, and why. It’s a good thing to wonder about consciously in order to keep ahead of things and remain independently viable.
Things I know that have been part of the cloth of a life woven with craft, at least for me are the following:
–I was born to work with my hands and to make things. This has been true since I was a child and cannot be removed from who I am, except perhaps by a lobotomy. I learned at an early age I felt better when being creative and productive making things by hand and later on learned I also did enjoy the marketing of my own work,even though I hated it in the beginning and remember crying in my ’69 VW bug after an unproductive day of sales calls and appointments -I was about 19 at the time. I persisted. Forty years later now, I do it from behind a computer and the rare consumer trade show.
–I seem to have a knack for creating things that others want to buy, and in enough quantity that at times I have had to employ quite a number of others to participate in this unlikely form of employment. I found a certain joy in being able to provide a living for others in addition to myself in handmade craft here in California. It has been an honor really-because of the people I worked with. Eventually (and after over 30 years), the joy of that was diminished by the burden of being an employer and the demise of manufacturing in the US. No problem! I reinvented my life as a solo dyer and continued on my way. Even my shibori ribbon has the privilege of helping support many others as they resell it or make things with it which to resell. Kinda cool.
–I enjoy the interaction with customers from all over the world. I love seeing other creative folks take something I made and add it to their own work in so many ways I never ever conceived. Some of the things they make are quite extraordinary!
-I wonder weekly, what comes next? Who knows? I just know that every day I get up and take the next step. I hope you do too. I enjoy the interaction with readers of this blog and the many who have followed and contributed here for so many years as I wondered, created, and thought out loud about things.
This week, I started thinking more about the most recent issues I had with image copyrights and decided to resurrect something I used to make and sell- blank greeting cards. Now, for some of you that go WAY back (even further back than this blog) I had a line of greeting cards with porcelain pins incorporated into them that were sold throughout the US. When I first started doing shibori, at shows I also sold blank greeting cards with images of my shibori work as well as cards with small pieces of shibori attached to them. I have been making them for my own and friends’ personal use over the more recent years. Sometimes I send them out with a personal note in an order or as a thank you for a small kindness afforded to me. Recently, someone asked me if they could purchase some and I wondered…
So, for now, I decided to reintroduce sets of these cards in my webshop. Right now I have two collections- Shiboriscapes and Indigo Moonscapes. In the works are Shibori Flowerscapes. This will perhaps, help even out the financial ups and downs every artisan has in their flow of work and money but also it feels good to know that I will be the beneficiary of my own work as I continue to hound Amazon into removing those sellers on their site that use my images without permission.
Here’s the link to the card sets. It’s nice to have a few blank cards on hand when you find yourself in need to send a thought or a thank you…