it’s summer. here, one can tell by the garden jobs that need attending each day before getting started on other things. plus, by the amount of tomatoes piling up on the kitchen counter.
and in all things summer, the mockingbirds sing throughout the night, the fans hum in the background by day, and earlier morning watering is preferred. also, the garden is filled with creatures. (and the dog got skunked)
the hornworm was put in a box in the garden where a bird flew off with it for a juicy meal. the monarch cats are now in their beautiful green chrysalis’ and the neighbor cat…well… let’s just say he appears to be moving in from over on the next block. i’ve taken to making tomato soup and hot processing it to use the extra tomatoes that i don’t pass on to friends and family. it’s even really good cold! i’m drying lots of the cherry tomatoes. there are thousands i think. each day, one at a time.
the ladybugs have been breeding here and having a garden party. they daily eat all the available aphids so no damage to plants-lucky me! seriously, they are everywhere. these are tiny! earlier in May I found tons of the nymphs. found these ones when i was picking tomatoes this morning. meanwhile i also continue to harvest and save assorted dye materials- right now mostly cassia pods and marigolds. speaking of doubt, out a an abundance of caution, i cancelled the in-person tekumo shibori workshop and reformed it as a zoom workshop. Covid does not seem to be done with us even as we vaccinate and with the delta variant and numbers rising throughout the state and county it seemed the right thing to do. and just when i do this, now silk organza is no longer available. at least not until late august i’m told. fortunately, i have enough on hand for the workshop but jeeze…it’s always something. fortunately, in addition to the organza i have on hand i have a nice selection of other japanese silks for us to experiment with. each cloth to its own.
stay safe, get vaccinated, and keep masking when indoors in public. your families love you. each moment is precious.
Session 1: Preparation and materials (kits will be available for preorder) Setting up your workspace and fabric choice advice. Various dye choices will be also presented. Session 2: Tekumo demonstration and practice, troubleshooting, and best techniques for successful tekumo shibori Session 3: Discharge and overdyeing demo, steaming set up. Session 4: Unbinding your pieces, sharing results and critique. Tips for designing fabric with tekumo designs. Exploring the possibilities with your new sculptural fabrics. (There will be a separate online workshop on making the Wishing Star flowers with the tekumo shibori organza that you can sign up for later.)
Participants need to have adequate technical ability and internet connection to participate in an online zoom workshop. Please download the free Zoom application to your device (preferably a laptop or ipad/notebook rather than a mobile phone for optimal experience) and create your free password protected account . If you are not familiar with this app, then practice ahead of time with a friend prior to the workshop.
The sessions will be recorded for those participating so you can replay them after the session or in case you should miss a session (some people may be participating from various time zones).The recordings will be available during the workshop and for two weeks thereafter. I will write up notes after each session with highlights as a reference for you and send via email the day following the session.
My intention is to create an online workshop that has as much of a “hands on” feel as possible with lots of student participation and sharing of your screen. Please have your device’s audio and video capabilities engaged. I believe this will lead to the best outcome for all (as opposed to a more lecture type workshop).
I will also have an offsite password protected site on wordpress where you can log in and post results and ask questions between sessions. This site will be available for 6 weeks.
Cost will be $120 for the 4 session workshop and a tekumo materials kit will be available for purchase ahead of time. Kit will include the shibori hook and stand, bobbin, & thread for $58. A separate fabrics set will be available for $35 and will include a variety of silks and some cotton. Feel free to use your own fabrics but know that I will be focusing on silk-especially silk organza for its sculptural qualities. But for the tekumo technique itself, any fabric will do. Plan to practice this technique to become proficient and gain the most from exploring this traditional shibori technique and adding your own 21st century “twist”!
Two materials kits are offered, although not required in order to join the workshop.
… you’ve been watching, I’ve been practicing a shibori technique called tekumo, or kumo-as in spider web. My particular fascination is with the sculptural aspects of it after it is dyed steamed and dried. And if you know me, you know I like to practice a process. As with the arashi shibori ribbon, there is a process to make this fabric. And much like the arashi I do, it employs many of the same processes-base dyeing, ironing, binding, discharging, overdyeing, steaming, drying, and finally unbinding. The main difference being the type of binding. And then…what? What to do with the fabric? Well, flowers of course-for starters.
Aren’t they fun? I’ve added them to the shop here. I call them Hana Hoshi and you can click on the link to see why. Silk organza is really fun to shape and sculpt since it takes direction so well. It’s the perfect accomplice for sculptural shibori. Here are some photos along the way.
In the background, my 5 little silkworms have been eating mulberry. Only 5, since the eggs I saved from last year didn’t hatch well. And since I have so many things going one in the background here, I opted not to order eggs and make the commitment to feed 500 or 1000 for 4-5 weeks. The 5 that hatched have done just fine. I took one in its 5th instar to my grandson so he could watch it and see it cocoon He’s only 2 but hey- never too early to introduce nature. Since I had so few this year I decided to try something I was always curious about- having them spit silk to a flat surface rather than forming a regular cocoon. It’s trickier than you might think! One got started with it’s cocoon before I set up the flat surface so I was down to 3. And after two days they look ready to give up one the cocoon idea and start spitting the silk. I feel kinda bad for interrupting their natural inclination to make a cocoon but from what I understand it doesn’t harm them. In this process, you can watch them form their pupae and then transform into a moth outside of a cocoon. You have to make sure they are done pooping and also throwing up their guts before putting them on the platform to spit their silk otherwise they will get that all into the silk and you can’t remove it. Here’s a couple of pics…
I came across this article you might find interesting about an experiment to do this on a much larger scale. You might have to translate it if you don’t have your system set up to auto translate. I found it interesting.
And in the background of all this, much of the west is having a terrible heat wave. Here, we have been spared the brunt of it by being closer to the coast- this time anyway. But just the same, the garden is popping off with the warmer weather and the tomatoes and zuchinni are running amok. Must go pick the cherry tomatoes tomorrow and make some bags to give to the neighbors. Zuchinni every night in one form or another.
I had to move on to something else before I got this entry posted so I thought I’d add an update. I’ve been working on a ribbon order which I finished today. Lots of pretty colors! If you are in Europe and need a good place to mail order my ribbon from, check out Perles and Co. Give them a couple of weeks for transit time before they add the the new rolls to their shop.
I also made up a couple of new flowers. I did a test of the tekumo on the silk I use for the ribbon just to see. It works up nice enough but won’t replace the organza for these. It takes longer than making them with the organza and the cost is already up there.
Speaking of cost, I know most artisans don’t do much in the way of cost analysis when they price their items. Many don’t do ANY! Shocking I know. But it’s true. I’m thankful for my past experience in my porcelain company where it was MY job to do all the costing and time studies. When you are working on a large scale producing hundreds of thousands of pieces monthly and you are responsible for a payroll -and by virtue of that, people’s lives, you can’t screw it up! If you do the results are devastating. So, I always do a cost accounting and time studies on most of the things I sell. If you don’t, and don’t know how to do it ask & start now! I don’t do this on one offs for the most part but anything I intend to sell many multiples of, I do.
I’m working on setting up for a couple of small in person workshops teaching the tekumo technique. Hope to have those set up and in the shop next week.
OK, time to get this posted…and make pizza with LOTS of tomatoes!
(Oh, and to all of you emailing me to be added to the Silk Study Tour to Japan next May, please sign yourself up to the newsletter here. I’ll be sending out the first newsletter with applications in July.)
Now that I got that last post out of my draft folder I move on….
Today is all about shibori….stands. Or you may consider them to be a “third hand” which is how I think of them. I have several and show you here. (I have a couple more stored in workshop boxes but they are lesser ones and one in fact was broken in a workshop and I have yet to see my way to repairing it (if possible).
I’ll start by showing you a video of how I updated the old one pictured above. As I recall, I acquired it on a flea market trip one year after the Silk Study Tour. Is needle was missing and the hook where it once existed completely rusted through, but still…
I am working my way back to offering some shibori workshops and the first one will be tekumo shibori using shibori stands with a shibori hook. For this to work, I had to create enough stands for everyone in the workshop to use and the next video is my simple design which costs less than $10 to make with odds and ends from the local hardware store.
It feels good to have rescued an old shibori stand and to also create a new version that is very affordable. Each has its pros and cons- the older versions can be used anywhere, whereas the new version needs to be used on a tabletop to which it can be clamped.
I learned a lesson (well, probably more than one) recently when I casually mentioned to a friend that I had been keeping an eye out for a small floor loom, cheap. There was no rush and just like most things I was willing to wait for something to just come my way. The timing was right and this friend had seen one at a second hand shop and went back to check it out again. I’ll spare you the details but after texting me a few photos and negotiating a very low price, she had it delivered to me! It needs some cleaning up and a little refurbing but nothing really drastic that I can see. Another weaver friend approved of the photos and the price and sent them along to her friend who came back with a very good and detailed process to get this cleaned up and back in useful condition. Thank you Janice and Joe! Lesson: Be careful what you wish for and what you casually mention to Carolyn! There are no markings on this loom so maybe a homebuilt piece. The footprint is about 30″x 32″ and will fit nicely into the space where my son’s vibes now occupy (hint, hint). Vibes will be moved upstairs… Any comments or suggestions from weavers welcomed! What I am aiming for in the beginning is to weave some sakiori.
Recently I saw a video on Vimeo that showed Hiroshi Murase demonstrating te kumo shibori and I saw something in his hand movements that caught my eye and opened up a more efficient way to do tekumo. I was going to link the the video here but it appears to have been taken down (it was previously public). I saw it in an online advertisement for the WSN/Slow Fiber workshop coming up where this technique will be covered. Looks like it would be of interest to anyone who wants to practice this particular technique. I have taught this technique in workshops at the JANM but I never felt I was really good at it. I could accomplish a good end result but I always felt that I was not being very adept or efficient while doing it. So after seeing his technique, I knew what I was missing! I have been practicing it all week and returned to do some of the work I did way back then but had decided it was too time consuming (and annoying) -at least the way I was doing it before. I then went in search of another video to show this technique and discovered that the Shibori Museum in Kyoto has been very busy during the pandemic producing shibori videos- they are so very interesting! Here is the one on tekumo. Check out the rest of their channel! It’s pretty amazing! I spent a whole day watching and catching up on the videos there that I had not seen.
Here are a few of the early results…
I am experimenting with creating more textural pieces- I really have always been drawn to shibori for the sculptural aspects (hence all the pleating I’ve done over the years) and the silk organza just loves to be shaped! I also pleated up and dyed some new ribbons for the shop…added back the scrap bags too-I hadn’t realized they have been out of stock.
It’s been 15 years here on the blog and almost just as long Milo the cat has appeared here and there. I went back and searched posts (he started appearing in early 2008) and found many photos and mentions that even I had forgotten about. He has been a steadfast companion all this time and during this past year he even insisted on making appearances on zoom too. It was with a heavy heart that we had to put him to sleep a couple of weeks ago. I was just too sad to post about it and even now… we miss him dearly.
On an upbeat note, we got our second vaccination last week and all was well-even without any side effects at all other than a sore arm for one day. May 5th will be our two week mark. I am hoping that more and more people choose to get vaccinated so we can begin to congregate more and see fewer people fall ill. I’ve barely seen my nearby grandson who will turn two next month this entire year. I know many of you have also missed seeing dear ones. While people in many other countries are literally dying for a vaccine, people here are saying “no thanks, I’m good”. Astounding. Here in LA, even the police are only 50% vaccinated (while having access for months now) leading one to believe they are choosing to remain unvaccinated while working with the public! Even Japan seems determined to have a summer olympics against all reason with only a 1% vaccination rate and rising infection rates. And India! Such suffering…
Over the past couple of weeks I have been going through some of my collected Japanese fabrics as well as cleaning out a cupboard or two. In one of the cupboards I found an old hand stitched cat doll my grandmother had made. It is so basic, yet with a lot of personality. Made with what looks like a cotton toweling and red thread it seems to have been an exercise in hand sewing practice. The face and her name are drawn on with a (now faded) marker of some sort. Interestingly, in one place where the stitching came undone the material that was used to stuff the piece was showing. It is stuffed with women’s nylons. Since nylons were not available commercially to women until around 1940, I had to reassess who/when this little cat was made. So either my Nana made this for my mom (maybe a class?) or my mom made it and for some reason my Nana’s name was written on it for identifying purposes. My mom would have been around 10 in the early ’40’s. Nana was born in 1901. Both Nana and mom loved cats. This little guy is probably about 80 years old…
Back to the fabric sorting/organizing and I wondered…what if I made a little cat based on Nana’s cat? So I did. What if I made one for my grandson with some photos and a story? What if I made a pattern and a kit with instructions using some of the Japanese fabrics I have? And so it is… a quick and fun little project for a child or just the child inside us all. Added to the shop here.
Lots of thoughts rumbling around here since the last post. This is gonna be a longer post, so settle in.
Spring is definitely in the air. And so is hope in many quarters. Spring always is in the very heart of a gardener and I’m no different. Like Spring seasons, life is slowly changing and renewing. Many people are getting vaccinated, getting out and adjusting to what currently is. Just being here is good. In fact, quite wonderful.
Hirata san sends me photos of the beautiful cherry blossoms in Kamakura and I’m having hanami natsukashii (cherry blossom viewing yearnings)…here are a couple to get you in the mood. We have our itinerary for the Silk Study Tour set for 2022 and are looking forward. The photos below show the new cherry trees approaching the Hachimangu shrine. It is just gorgeous with all the trees in bloom! This approach was reworked just a few years ago and is a lovely walk down the center of the main street.
I’ve struggled to post often this past year, instead letting thoughts congregate a bit before getting them written into the ether. That doesn’t mean that they are more clearly expressed with the passage of time, sometimes I think it is quite the opposite! Too many thoughts blend, are forgotten and so on, but today felt right so here we are. Sometimes I take short notes for the blog on my phone to remind me of something I want to write about and sometimes I don’t, letting the thought return like a butterfly to its host plant if it works out that way (speaking of butterflies, the caterpillars of the clouded sulfers have gone somewhere to pupate, I know not where) and the praying mantis oothecae should be hatching any second (haven’t seen the babies yet).
Fresh on my mind right now are my beader friends in the Czech Republic (CR) who write me that they are suffering greatly from their government’s misconduct and irresponsibility in regards to COVID. I felt so sad hearing her description of their situation there. Vaccines are extremely limited, and lockdowns are very strict beyond what science would rationally dictate. People feel stifled and rebellious and somewhat hopeless. They look forward to a new election in October, she says.
“forbidden to move out of our districts, forbidden to work and not compensated, forbidden to socialize, forbidden to breath without a mask even if there is nobody around us in a 100 metres range(328 feet), forbidden to leave our homes between 9pm and 5am… and god knows how long til the end, because the government has literally NO PLAN”
I know she won’t mind my sharing her words here anonymously. I can be so absorbed in my own world here, listening to others broadens my perspective. I love that we have become long distance friends sharing our worlds. At the end of our conversation I shared the music of Joan Armatrading (a long time favorite of mine). I’ve been listening to her music today in the studio after Maura in India (Mustard Seeds Kolkata) featured a song on her FB post this morning.
My heart was warmed by a message/conversation received from the mother of a son who credits me with far too much- but as we say, we never know what good a simple act of open-heartedness can give rise to. She credits me with reaching out to him as a young teenager who was struggling greatly and saving his life but it was her perseverance and love that brought him to meet me at a show in Houston (they lived in IN) and to encourage his interest in textiles and art. It is to his credit (and hers) that he graduated with a degree in art and is now teaching art in a HS in CO and just got accepted to grad school. He is out and doing what he loves, being who he is. How can you not love that?
It’s haru basho in sumo right now and today is the final day. We enjoy watching sumo here (I love looking at the silk gyoji costumes with their jaquard weaves and wonderful color combinations) and love watching both the juryo and makuuchi divisions. In a lower division called sandanme one of the rikshi (Hibikiryū) suffered a horrible injury perhaps resulting in paralysis (yet to be determined). The resulting uproar over treatment of rikshi injuries has resumed in sumo and is very justified. If you follow sumo, you know what I am talking about. Japan needs to step up. Tradition is one thing, humane treatment of rikshi is another.
Here in CA people over 50 are eligible for vaccinations April 1 and everyone over 16 is eligible April 15. Some areas have already opened to over 50 and we just received our first vaccination here. We still need #2 in 21 days plus a waiting period but progress is happening and workshops will again begin this summer! I am noticing how it is affecting my mental well being today. I feel inspired and more alive. I hope you are taking advantage of vaccinations in your area so we can all move ahead with safety and more peace of mind. This is a time to consider the future and reinvent many things.
Speaking of the studio, my recent post on the paid blog was quite interesting (apparently only to me-haha) yet I’m not sure if subscribers are reading regularly. Makes me wonder about that path. I won’t be doing this again, methinks. All posts there are password protected unless you subscribe but I thought I would “unprotect” this one to share here. It’s about indigo and madder and what I am making now… moonfire! March moons are all about madder and indigo. Today is the full moon as well as a shop update. Moonrise last night was spectacular here. Are you watching where you are?
I also was listening to a video I came across that resonated with me by George Monbiot who promotes “feeding the world without devouring the planet “. This also applies to textiles and clothing which continue to be a resource problem. As the planet goes, so go we. We survive by walking a fragile line of coexistence with nature. The planet will outlast us surely, but by how much? That is up to us.
In the meantime, I continue to dye. I have been dyeing madder and indigo. On a frustrating note, my aquarium heater in the indigo vat is out of commission again. I think that the high pH just does it in and results in its early death. They seem to last less and less time these days (this one just 5 months). Maybe this is the answer? Pricier than replacing the heater but…less wasteful if it lasts a couple of years. The weather is heating up now (81 degrees today) so a heater for the fermentation vat won’t be needed soon. I have been sorting through old cloth and over-dyeing in both indigo and madder to create some interesting cloth sets for the shop. Moonfire sets are also available there. A little diversion is always fun. I love how madder complements the indigo. I can imagine the projects that will be made from these cloth sets. From my imagination to yours…
There is something ultimately satisfying to me when I use old cloth. Especially cloth that has been previously reused-who knows how many times? The feel of it is different, the smell of it, the texture…the memories it holds. Old cloth has lots to wonder about.
Then there is the variety of the cloth. The various weaves, the fiber itself, and the skill of the weaver, the dyer, the thread maker. The cloths original intent or purpose and ultimate uses is also something to wonder about.
Today I sorted through another bundle of old Japanese fabric, all previously reused and dismantled from its former use-kimono, yukata, futon cover and more. I love things made from these old fabrics. That someone felt the cloth was precious enough to mend and then use again in something else- is enough for me to continue treating the cloth with the same respect and frugality.
As I ironed, picked threads, and lint brushed the various fabrics, I ran my fingers over each piece wondering. Who made it? What had it been? What could it become? Japanese narrow woven cloth and the way it was used lent itself to being easily taken apart and reused after laundering. It is a testament to how cloth was valued. Mottainai! (Don’t waste!)
I see the worn and threadbare parts, the patched places, and the edges as the wisdom of the cloth. They are there to instruct me, to show me the way. I study all the parts of it. I look at the stitches of the patches, the selvedges. I pull a few weft threads and look at them under magnification. I imagine the journey the cloth has been on – from plant or animal up to the point where I now hold it in my own hands, generations later. In whose indigo vat was it dyed? Did this lovely katazome here serve an early 1900’s merchant family? Had this bolt or strip of cotton katazome been a wedding gift? This boro bit here later used for a layer of a futon cover for cold nights? Who raised the silkworms and warped the looms with the homespun threads? Did the shibori come from Arimatsu or Narumi? Through the passage of time and many hands I’m left with so much to wonder about as I imagine what I (or you) will do with this cloth.
The ancestors of the cloth speak to me as I run my fingers over the surfaces, identifying each textile technique as I prepare a new batch of takaramono treasure packs for the shop-kasuri, shibori, katazome, shima (woven stripes), plain dyed cloth. Some of it is very durable and some now quite thin. It all feels good in my hand and ready for a whole new “becoming”. The new takaramono packs are now in the shop here. Here’s a few ideas of things I’ve made-a couple are still available in the shop.
Recently I did a little bit of hinode (sunrise) pattern shibori for moons. I like the contrast of that pattern -sunrise with the moons. I added some arashi to it as well and new moons are in the workflow.
Yesterday I spent a little time repairing my gravity fed steam iron. Fortunately, I still had my old one and was able to take a part off it that rescued the newer one- at least for the unforeseen future. A different part had broken on that but I had saved it “just in case”. Now I can reasonably get rid of the older one with less guilt. This is my third one of this model (Sapporo 527) over the course of about ten years or so. I do a LOT of ironing with the silk so I have worn out the steam button on the previous ones. They are still the best ones for what I do and still affordable. Not the iron for everyone though so if you are looking at them make sure it suits your needs.
The weather has been wonderful for spring gardening and planting so I did a bit of that before we get more rain tomorrow. Always thankful for rain here. Inside, I have been busy with a couple of needle projects. I finished one last night.
Back to the “fish filet”. It’s actually a koi nobori for Children’s Day (sorry Milo). I’ve wanted to make something like this for a while and I was recently inspired by a pile of indigo scraps from making the last batch of takaramono treasure packs I listed in the shop. (those are all gone but I’m working on a new batch). I wanted to make something using odd bits of fabric as another example of what you can do with bits and pieces.
Coming back to this post this morning to finish it up I read my email and see that the Paper Source chain of stores (the one that purchased the bankrupted Papyrus chain barely a year ago) is itself claiming Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Reported by Craft Industry Alliance here, small makers and vendors are banding together to support each other by asking customers to buy directly from them as well as the other remaining smaller stores that they supply. It seems clear from the reporting that Paper Source placed “non-ordinary course of business orders immediately before filing for bankruptcy”. This is fraud. I hope that these small makers and vendors get relief but somehow I doubt it. Paper Source is owned by a major private equity firm based in Bahrain. The majority of the vendors they screwed are small women owned/ family businesses. You may have one of these stores in your town. You can check this IG thread to find direct access to some of the affected vendors.