Category Archives: Silk Study Tour to Japan

Amami Oshima

continuing tradition…

Wednesday’s post was long enough so I didn’t add specific information about the side trip I’m taking after the Silk Study Tour to Japan ends. Prompted by one of the tour participants who is researching the mud dyeing traditions of various cultures and locales, I was inspired to go and see this for myself and add to my Japanese textile knowledge. I will spend 4 days there learning and exploring the textiles of Amami Oshima.
Amami Oshima (oshima means island in Japanese) is the northernmost island in the Okinawan archipelago.

it is part of the Ryuku Islands

While the Ryuku Islands (and Okinawa) are well known for their Indigo dyeing and beautiful weavings using tropical plant fibers, Amami Oshima is known for its tradition of plant and mud dyeing on silk, often supplemented with indigo. Its beautiful and intricate weavings using the previously bound and dyed warp and weft threads are called Oshima Tsumugi.
This link has a good description of the process and terms.
Japan seems like it is filled with endless opportunities to learn and discover so many textile traditions and this is one I have not previously explored.
Interestingly, I realize I have already collected a small sampling of these textiles! I’ve seen them here and there in Japan and picked some up when the price was not too steep just to study and enjoy them. A sampling:

A recent video shows more of the process and the issues facing the economics behind weaving this very time consuming textile.
There is also a lot of indigo dyeing that occurs in the Ryukyu Islands perhaps in part due to its tropical and mild climate as well as the weaving of choice bast fibers, especially on Okinawa. I expect I will also see some of that on Amami Oshima as well.
I also read where they produce a special type of sake there using sugar cane…will have to try it!

So the fabric collections I will be putting together for you includes one selection that will be collected only from Amami Oshima and I wanted to explain a little bit more about what that was all about. You can see the various collections that can be ordered here in the shop.

I look forward to sharing my Amami Oshima adventures here on the blog in early June.

apparently, i sent the wrong message…

Now that I can get into a somewhat comfortable position to type on the keyboard, I thought I’d do a blog post and catch up with what is going on around here. I always start by going back and reading my last post.

Apparently, I sent the wrong message. I definitely did not send a message that said, “let’s make everything MORE difficult than it already is”! But alas, that is what ended up happening last week as I stepped over the low dog barrier keeping Bella and Buddy out of the vegetable patch. My foot caught the top of it and I went down hard on my left shoulder, feet in the air behind me!  A day long event at the UCare ended in an xray confirming that I had fractured my left humerus. Even though it was April Fools Day, it wasn’t humorous at all. Thankfully though, it wasn’t worse, like tearing something that required surgery. Got lucky there.  But this is really a major inconvenience and I will need to do something to carry me through until I can return to do my usual studio work.  Fortunately, no cast but wearing a sling. Yikes! This is the sort of thing that always instills a fair amount of fear in me. The inability to work! For any of you that are working artists/craftspeople whose only income comes from what we create, you probably know what I’m talking about here.  But this is the life I chose and so far it has been pretty dependable.  Don’t we all wish we could redo certain moments like this?

I did however make it to last weekend’s shibori and indigo workshop with the help of many since I can’t drive, let alone lift anything that requires two arms. Trevor drove and helped set up and load the car, students helped clean up and pack things back up for Phil to load into the car and drive me home. One of the students even picked me up on Sunday and took me to LA (thanks Cheryl!). We took it slow and the students were so helpful- I couldn’t be more fortunate on that account. Much gratitude and blessings to all the helpers in the world!
The workshop was full with both new and returning shibori practitioners.  It’s really great to see those who have continued really exploring the possibilities and coming up with their own techniques as well as challenging themselves to replicate some of the samples and books I bring.

working away…

So at the moment, I am focusing on being careful, doing the small movements that physical therapy has outlined for me and wondering about this coming month.  I will focus on some small works to put into the shop and see what else I can do that is within the realm of the permitted…

In the meantime, plans continue marching along for the Silk Study Tour to Japan (Dr says I will be good to go by then-mid May) and towards that end I have been working on a couple of items for the shop you might be interested in.

During my upcoming trip to Japan leading the Silk Study Tour this May, I will collect an assortment of wonderful vintage Japanese textiles to package up into collections for you to re-create into something wonderful or simply to study! These collections will all be unique, inspiring and varied. I always learn so much by looking at and re-using cloth with a past.

Some of the best wonderful bits and pieces are found in the odd corners, the small resell shop, the back corner of seamstress shop, or the temple sale. Many shop owners are thrilled when you come with a little knowledge of the fabrics and are often willing to teach you more as you share that knowledge and ask more questions. Each package will include some annotations and thoughts on the fabrics. Over the years, I have become better at recognizing the fabrics that have an interesting technique, are more rare, or have interesting stories to tell. There is always so much to comb through but only certain things stand out to me.  Often these are pieces that I might not completely understand but that from looking at so many textiles over the years, I just know there is something special about them. Many become study pieces and I have learned so much!

The collections will be limited and will be broken into the following selections:

Shibori, Kasuri, & Indigo Collection (20)
Amami Oshima Collecion (10)
Wonderer’s Collection (10)
Dyer’s Collection (10)

Please visit the shop here to see the detailed descriptions and pricing for each collection.  Since I return in Mid June, I will have these shipped out to you by June 30th.  Expect some fun, additional (non-cloth) surprises that will be slipped into your package for coming along on the adventure!  Your purchases will really make this month so much easier…
Plus, I will be uploading to the blog my findings along the way…the adventure begins May 14!

And… the new era name was announced in Japan-Reiwa.

a quickie announcement…

I’vee had a couple requests to set up a local silk shibori flower making class, so I did!
There are only 4 spots open so if you are interested, please check the shop listing here.

All materials are included in this small group class.

I was going to post this on FB yesterday as a new event but there was a worldwide FB outage affecting postings,comments etc.  Maybe that isn’t a bad thing?

And while I am at it, I will remind you of the upcoming April 6-7 Shibori and Indigo workshop at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles (or as it is sometimes known as- Japangeles).  Signups are through the museum at above link.

The rain here has gone away for at least the next couple of weeks and I was able to replace the shade structure over the dye space outside. There is a new squirrel in town (or even possibly Squirrelly Gurl herself as they can live up to 8 years or so). She is so friendly to me and personality wise, much like the OG Squirrelly Gurl. I can’t know for sure but am enjoying her daily visits. Buddy the dog enjoys watching her and feeding time but the new cat-Kuro chan is trying to chase her when she can!  SG is too fast for Kuro-thankfully and outsmarts him every time.

I did channel a little bit of Ume san last week and made this bag from the piece of sashiko laced boro from the last blog post. Adding it to the shop now.

Cross shoulder bag, made entirely from used/recycled and vintage materials outside of the thread and the shoulder strap. One outside pocket on back side, one inside. Completely lined with vintage kasuri kimono silk.
Front fabric covered button closure with indigo twined wrap-around cording. Outside pocket fits large mobile phone while an ipad can fit inside.

Link to shop

 

Plus the Silk Study Tour to Japan is in high gear. Everyone is getting ready for this great adventure.  I’m receiving the bio pages for the booklet I make to hand out to our hosts so they can learn more about us.  It’s always interesting to them!  We still have 2 spots open for anyone wanting to make last minute plans to join our textile adventure.  Link here. 
In the absence of the Amuse Boro Museum (which closes this month) we are making plans to visit the Mingei Folk Museum instead.  It just so happens that they are having a special exhibit of the work of Motohiko Katano, known for his adventurous and creative shibori patterns.  I have never seen his work in person so I am quite excited about this.  My first visit to this museum was with vintage textile dealer Carola Pfau’s husband Makoto (now passed), who also treated me that day to several of his favorite temple sales.  Boy did we have a good time! Great memories…
We will also be visiting the Ichiku Kubota Museum as well as the Kyoto Shibori Museum so participants will have the opportunity to study some of the best shibori in the world!

Time to go and dye the rest of the indigo thread for this weekend’s workshop!
mata ne!

Tribute to Ume san and then some…

Sometimes I stay away from the blog or social media in general just to hear my own thoughts without a lot of feedback. Sometimes I want to share something but feel that it’s better to think and wonder about them by myself for a while.

I haven’t posted on Instagram for a while and I’m not even exactly sure why. I know most people really love Instagram because it’s fun to look at lots of pretty pictures-I don’t disagree. Sometimes I don’t feel a lot of connection there to be honest. And really when it comes right down to it if, I’m going to share something online or even in person, there has to be a connection or communication that occurs to inspire that sharing of something.

I can tell already that this is likely to be a long, and rambling post. Please brace yourself.

We’ve had a lot of rain here lately and it’s been quite windy at times as well. Everything is wet, the garden is alive and well, and the weeds are growing furiously. It makes it difficult to work in the studio which is really outdoor and subject to all of the whims of weather. Not to mention that the wind really did a number on my outdoor wet studio area.

Actually pretty much did it in. I’m trolling craigslist and letgo for a bargain on a used replacement canopy.

I’ve pulled out the floor mats in the studio several times now and dried them in between rainstorms. Turned on the box fans in there just to keep things dried out. When too much rain falls too fast, it floods the floor of the studio.

Looks like we should only get a small amount of rain in this coming week so things can dry out a bit.

The garden doesn’t seem to mind one bit however. I’ve been enjoying doing a little bit every chance I get, in between rainstorms.

The garden keeps me sane. I don’t know what I’d do without it really.

I finished an especially lovely order of shibori ribbon which will head off to France tomorrow. It included some colors I haven’t made in a while as well as some old favorites.

My biggest disappointment this past week was the rejection letter I received from Quilts Inc. (Houston Quilt Festival) that none of the workshop or lectures I submitted were accepted for this year. I actually had to laugh at myself in the end because when I got the letter via email I was confused. I didn’t understand what it was saying (granted the part about not choosing any of my submissions was in the second to last sentence in the second paragraph) and it wasn’t explicitly direct. I guess I was just used to being included. Things change. Unfortunately, it likely means that won’t be taking a booth this year either since the costs of doing the show has increased to the point that I really depended on the combination of classes and booth sales combined to make it work out financially. I have always been very frugal when it comes to doing a show and the associated expenses.  In fact, I’ve rather enjoyed making an art form out of it!

I’ve really grown to appreciate my customers and students there and I will miss all who come to see me in Houston so very much. It’s a big disappointment. The first Quilts Inc. show I did was the spring market in 1995 and I think I only missed one year since then when I was transitioning from the porcelian company to life as a shibori dyer.  I haven’t been teaching there that whole time but over the years I did start to teach there as well. It has been good for me as I really do enjoy the teaching as well as the vending aspect there. It takes time to build a following at a show and I always worked very hard, took it seriously and did my best, both in the classes and in my booth.
So for now I look in other directions. There will likely be some more in-studio workshops, more hand dyed goods in the shop, maybe a new online workshop, perhaps an additional Japan tour with a slightly different focus.
*****************************

So here we are again, a week or so later and I never did finish this post! Got some orders off, had a birthday, went to the Integretron in the desert for a sound bath, and saw the snow in the desert with Phil and the kids!

Nothing like a little local getaway to clear your mind! Get a New View!

So now back to it all and working on the tour details. I’m excited to get to know this years participants! Yesterday I sent out an email to the 2017 tourmates that one of the craftspeople we spent time with last time has passed away.  We were informed of his passing while making final checks and schedule confirmations. Ume san was a fellow that frequented the Kyoto temple and shrine sales collecting vintage and overstock shop aprons which he then re-made into spectacular bags.  Hirata san met him in the market there one day and was invited back to his workshop nearby.  After some discussion, Ume san offered to meet up with the tour group when we visited the market the following year as well as arrange a luncheon and trunk show of his work.  We had a fabulous time walking the market and streets of Kyoto with him and the trunk show was wonderful. Lots of his bags made it into suitcases and went home with participants. I received many sweet emails fondly remembering our day with him. I remember him eagerly asking my opinions on his bags and he was keen to apply any suggestions to the making of them.  His daughter told Hirata san that she will arrange one last trunk show of his work for us this year with the goods he had been making. We will definitely miss this colorful and creative spirit! Arigatou Ume san!

Ume san- Everyone at the market knew him.

I think I’ll end this here and start on the next post- a shop update! It’s going to rain again soon so must go out and batten down the hatches! Should clear up again after the weekend. I see Northern California is really getting hit hard by flooding. We will be fine here.
Mata ne!

Life’s curves…

Another month comes to a close here.  We are getting some good rain again and are grateful.  A cold and wet day means a good day for working inside and cleaning up paperwork, posting online, and answering emails.

shibori curves… like life and the unexpected curves

first time student was patient and deliberate-guntai shibori

Unfortunately, one of those emails was accepting the cancellation of two spots for this year’s Silk Study Tour to Japan. This year’s tour has been the year of cancellations!  Never before have I had this many having to bow out of the tour!  Almost all for health reasons unfortunately.  What a disappointment for those who have had to back out!  Every time I have been able to fill in the earlier spots but now, here we are in the home stretch, having to fill in a couple of spaces.  Would you or someone you know like to join us?   This tour is an exciting and educational adventure into the textile world of Japan wrapped in the culture and beauty of the Japanese people.
What will you experience?

  • a visit to a traditional sericulture farm
  • a visit with an indigo dyer
  • entrance into the beautiful museum of Ichiku Kubota
  • a night at a resort hotel overlooking Kawaguchi Lake
  • tour of a Silk Museum (or two! Yokohama optional)
  • several nights at a resort spa ryokan (inn) with traditional Japanese baths and a lovely traditional Japanese dinner
  • two nights in Tokyo Ginza area with free time to visit museums,shop and a day side trip to Kamakura and Yokohama-optional
  • a stop at a kimono museum (if open)
  • a visit to an obi weaver
  • a visit to Tomioka Silk Mill (new World Cultural Heritage site)
  • a stop at a textile museum
  • a morning at the famous Kyoto temple sales
  • a visit to the shibori museum in Kyoto
  • visit the Amuse Boro Museum in Tokyo(optional) Sadly, this museum is closing March 31
  • a visit to a washi studio (handmade papermaker)
  • a visit with a modern sericulturist
  • tea ceremony
  • and any added invitations we may receive and accept!  (we already have a few!)
  • a workshop with a natural dyer
  • a workshop with Ton Cara-a silk processing and weaving studio
  • and more!
    Not to mention all the small moments that you will experience if you wonder and notice!This year (we always have repeat travelers as it is a trip that can be taken more than once), we have the honor to include once again, the author of the book American Silk, 1830-1930:Entrepreneurs and Artifacts,  by Jacqueline Roberts and Madelyn Shaw. This book details the history of silk production in the US and is a wonderful look at early entrepreneurs and the textile mills pre-synthetics.  I enjoyed it very much.
    Coincidentally, I met Jacqueline at a Costume Society of America convention many years ago when it was in San Diego (2007 or ’08). She had a table in the vendor room and I saw her book on the table as I passed by.  Of course I stopped and talked to her and bought the book.  It was several years later that she came on the silk tour and I recognized her name. I had to ask if that had been her I bought her book from and of course it was!  How interesting that our paths would cross like that!
    You can book the tour with or without airfare- ask me for the Land Only price. More info here. Single supplement also available. Please share with anyone you know who might be interested!

Communicating practice

A new year. I hope it finds you well!

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)

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.

There is a lot to wonder about.

 

 

Houston Quilt Festival 2018 wrapped in a blog post

So here it is-the post Houston Quilt Festival blog post! Finally. It’s always such a stress to prepare for the festival and I always feel that I could have done more or better-but once I’m there, I’m there and no need to fret anymore about it. As usual, it turns out it was all fine- even better than that really and any doubts as to why I put myself through all of it melt away.

I made a little slideshow video of how a booth comes together. You might find it interesting…

Why is that? Well, mostly because of the people. The people who take my classes, the people who visit my booth, the people who help me in all the small and large ways (Yes, Virginia! Yes, Phil!).  It’s the people. They assure me that I am there for a purpose- and not just the purpose of selling them something. Of course it has to be a financial success in order for me to return year after year, but it’s definitely something more than that.

There are the intangibles-not easy to define but oh so necessary.

The gal who came all the way from South Africa to take my class on making mawata (hankies) from silk cocoons-she had just successfully raised her first batch of 2500 silkworms to cocooning and needed to learn how to process them. She has big plans of starting a small sericulture business there to employ the local community and bring a product to market. Very cool.I am wishing her all the best!

The gal who took an afternoon flower making class and who had a terrible morning- she really just needed some therapy handwork and a place to find some success in what she was making. Even though she struggled a bit at first, it is my goal to make it so everyone can find success at their own pace and level in my classes. The more I do this the better I get at recognizing each person’s individual needs. You have to be able to do this quickly as the classes are only 3 hours long (in this case) and there can be up to 24 students at a time! Everyone gets my attention. Afterwards when the show opened, she visited the booth several times and she was inspired not only to make things for friends and family but supported my efforts enthusiastically (and financially!). I thank her greatly!

The 90 year old woman who came by my booth when she noticed I was from Long Beach to tell me about her life there before she moved to Texas. She had been coming to the show for many years even though she wasn’t a quilter- just liked to enjoy the many creative souls in the room for a day. She looked quite fine in her Gianna Rose (Donna, Frankie, Dawn, and others will remember…) jacket and flower pin. And she grew up very near where I now live. She had been an antique dealer (not textiles, she said , although nice things often crossed her path) and liked to mend things simply and was always interested in the handwork of quilting.

The grandmother and granddaughter who came by and reminded me that when the granddaughter was 10 or so that I had given her a piece of ribbon to ponder. They had made the show an annual event for the two of them and the granddaughter looked to be about 15 now, still interested in sewing and crafts and, more importantly, coming to the show happily with her grandma.

The gal who stopped by and reminded me that when I owned a yarn shop in Long Beach that it was her very favorite and she since has not found a better one (it was at least 12 years ago!).

The various folks who come by “just to check”  and see if I happened to find a long lost stash of porcelain buttons I wanted to sell.  Love ya, but no. That was my previous incarnation and I appreciate that you remembered it!

The folks who stop in “just to look” because it’s so interesting and beautiful and those that say they always stop because they always learn something new. (Thank you so much!)

Honestly, I could go on and on.

Like I mentioned to Jude via a post comment a few posts back, I feel like I’m a placeholder of sorts.  Should I elaborate or do you know what I mean? It does give meaning to what I do, but like I also know, it has to be fiscally viable in order to continue. I was pleasantly surprised by the show’s outcome.  So, thank you all again. Truly grateful as I continue.

I missed a number of my fellow vendors who are no longer doing the show for one reason or another. It has become more difficult to make all the numbers work out, not to mention that for some of the folks (especially the vintage textile dealers are no longer spring chickens) the pure physicality of doing a show makes it a challenge. Great to see The Scarlett Lady (no website) there- where I found some great vintage linen dyeables and a few other fun things -vintage stamens and some irresistible “kittens with clothes” embroideries I couldn’t live without…(I actually still have a few of my childhood books featuring kittens with clothes…)

Those of us “in the biz” know that every show is it’s own unique experience and that it’s prudent to count on one thing (at least!) to go completely haywire with the potential of disastrous!  If you can do that and roll with the punches, you might make it. Only two major haywire events this time and it wasn’t disastrous at all- AirBnB host cancelling my res without explanation or notice and the rental car company who was a complete disaster but I was able to return to the airport the next day and rent from a different company.  You just NEVER know what the issue will be but you KNOW it will be something!  Rock and Roll! My good friend and seamstress/milliner/postal goddess, Virginia (of Yes,Virginia & Nasa Postal ) hosted me and facilitated many things for me that were of great service and much appreciated.

The workshops I taught were great fun and well reviewed- I always take the reviews seriously and almost always agree with the helpful criticism offered in them. It’s important to be able to see what you do through someone else’s eyes.  I am usually SO busy teaching that I take very few photos of the actual workshop but I did manage to get a few of the Moth to Cloth class before and at the end.

(you can click into each thumbnail image to a larger view)  We also made some silk batting for a lap size quilt which went home with the gal who volunteered to be the class helper (takes roll, handles the evaluations, and other duties for the Ed office staff).  We did that at the end and it was a real surprise to them how much you could stretch out one cocoon! Always fun to end with a big bang! As a reminder, here is a video of us learning to do it on the Silk Study Tour a few trips ago:

And to finally end this long post (if you made it this far!), there was lots of fun in the shibori ribbon classes and I continued making flowers for demonstration purposes  and custom orders for shoppers in the booth.  I really enjoy making people wonder!

All for now thankfully. There will be a couple more posts to catch up with in the next few days…
mata ne!