Category Archives: teaching kids

more letters

Just a little follow-up to the day at the elementary school. I love these letters.

I received 33 letters from the kids at Menlo Elementary. I love each one. I will share a few- just know they were all special and heartfelt. Each one included an illustration. Mine were from one of the 3rd grade classes. I love how they saw me. I would include more but this would be a
V E R Y long post.
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seeds, seedlings, seeded

Back to seeds

The beauty of seeds is that they can become.  What?  Something of beauty perhaps. Many seeds are beautiful themselves. Today I was noticing the seeds in the yard.

I will save some of the sunflower and poppy seeds. That sunflower plant had over 70 flower heads all at once. There are so many.  The birds love them too and we share them.  The poppies were so successful this year and gave much delight to all who saw them.  And so easy.  I really didn’t have to do anything at all except cast them out at the right time. Nature did the rest.  Next year, if you drive by you’ll know the house for all the poppies.  The seed heads for both the sunflowers and poppies are in the drying and maturing stage. Some will just drop on their own and surprise me next year. Faithful volunteers.

Yesterday, I went to present myself and my “career”  for Career Day at a South LA Elementary school.  First, I want to say that the kids were great.  They are like little sponges that soak things up.  They were enthusiastic.   Turns out- the school does have two mulberry trees on its campus.  Just no memory of why.  I think I can solve that. Next year, I will get some silkworms started early- just when the mulberry leafs out.  Plant some silk seeds and water them into fertile ground there.  As for explaining my “career” to the kids-it was challenging, funny, and informative.  I only had 30 minutes with each of the 4 classes. Most of the time was spent talking about silk and silkworms.  I brought a tray of them-still so tiny. We cut open the cocoons and saw the pupae inside. I passed around a hank of reeled filament silk, mawata, yarn, kibisu and more.  I showed them the cocoon frames-both straw and cardboard. They all took home a cocoon and a square of silk. Three classes were 3rd graders and one was 4th grade. Trevor had 4th and 5th graders and did 5 sessions. His kids learned to play a couple of rhythms with straws at their desks with him playing bells. This K-5 has no dedicated art or instrumental music teacher.

Unfortunately, I must report that the silkworms are not thriving.  This is the latest I have ever started them. I really wanted them for the career day event and was taking a bit of a chance.   Although there is green mulberry leaf here it is not new and succulent. It is just too dry. We had rain earlier this season but has been very dry for over a month now. El Nino did not arrive in the south this year as predicted. Moving on…sadly.

But fortunately, my friend Nobue Higashi in Annaka, Japan is having a very successful cocoon rearing season. I recently watched this NHK short video on a visit to her place there.  I couldn’t find one video of the entire episode and this one repeats but you can see the portion of the show in which they visit her.

A long hot dry summer is ahead. Water will continue to be precious.
so many poppy seeds

There are a few openings left for the indigo and shibori workshop on June 18 & 19. Contact the Japanese American National Museum to sign up. I will have some indigo seeds to share as well.

demonstrated at the workshop

 

encouraging wonder

I’m raising some silkworms again.  As a reminder. Of why. And how. And who I am.

I’m raising them from seed (eggs) and purchased 3 types- white, green, and pink cocoons. Previously, I have only raised white and yellow cocoons.

I have been wanting to do another (smaller than last time-1000) batch and now have 200 or so of each of the above. It seemed the perfect time as I was recently asked to step in to do a “career day” in a South LA Elementary school that was lacking parents who could come and do presentations.  SO, Trevor, Phil and I will all go and do our thing next Tuesday.  I wonder if parents really want their kids to be musicians, dyers or sericulturists…
At least we will be entertaining and make them wonder.

Here is the beginning-

 

I get letters…

It was a great weekend at the Japanese American National Museum.  There were several returning students but the majority were new to both dyeing and to shibori in general. It is always a pleasure to introduce people to both.  Most indicated they will sign up again for one of the upcoming shibori workshops featuring indigo in June  and August (contact museum for reservations).  The force is strong in shibori…

Participants were fortunate to be able to see the last day of the exhibit “Two Views” featuring photographs by renowned 20th-century photographers Ansel Adams and Leonard Frank who each captured distinctive views of the Japanese American and Japanese Canadian incarcerations. I had seen it previously and encouraged everyone to take a break and go through the exhibit.

Early on Sunday I had the opportunity to view the other exhibit “Making Waves” before the museum opened to the public. It was really too much to take in in the amount of time I had- I spent a scant 30 minutes and knew I couldn’t do it justice so will go back before it closes the end of June.

In other news, I am feeling much better! The garden is blooming, vegetables growing. I also had a chance to see the current exhibit at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego recently.  (Thanks to Nadja for the hospitality!) One thing I was curious about was the attribution of this piece on display.

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Obviously shibori dyed but yet annotated as printed.  Unless I am missing something…  I could see the needle marks. Anyway…there were some fabulous pieces there, like this detail from a fisherman’s raincoat woven with reed and seaweed.
woven reed and seaweed

I came home from the weekend to find a lovely letter from a customer. Honestly, I have to say this sort of thing keeps me going at times. I know that making things by hand is an incredibly personal and worthwhile endeavor. Sometimes a journey of the soul. Please teach any children in your realm this valuable gift.
i get lettersnow I’m crying…xo

Long Beach Museum of Art

Today I gave as special workshop for the docents at the Long Beach Museum of Art.
30 people in a small basement room for 75 minutes.
Slideshow and videos then on to the Shibori.

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A simple project but enough to give them a sense of Shibori.

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These are the volunteers who take the children on tours through the museum when they come here on field trips.
Thank you Long Beach Museum of Art docents!! It was a pleasure.

hanamayu- はなまゆ

Over the weekend the silk moths began to emerge.  This year I separated out a half dozen or so of the best white and yellow cocoons for mating.  Last year,  I let them mix and got a lot of variations.  We will see where this leads.

Mr Koizumi, the former Director of the Yokohama Silk Center show us cocoons from all the past periods of Japan’s sericulture history. So many types!

When I was at the Silk Center in Yokohama recently, I picked up a book on silk cocoon flowers (hanamayu- はなまゆ or cocoon flower) by artist Tomiko Sakai. She is a Nagoya native and has been making her fantastic floral creations for over 20 years. Each diminutive blossom is often fashioned into larger sprays with each complete floral work worthy of display at the most formal event. Imagine wedding, tea ceremony, formal entry, or any honorific occasion. One day, I would love to see some of her work in person. She uses only the finest of Gunma produced silk cocoons.  I see that an exhibit of her work was sponsored by both the Gunma Prefectural Government and the Tokyo Silk Science Research Center-both entities that we have visited on previous Silk Study tours.  I wonder…

The book is all in Japanese and was the only one in stock but has an ISBN 0f 4-89977-174-6 which you might be able to track down if desired.  I think the title is something like “Flower Born of a Silk Cocoon” but don’t quote me on that. I will contact the museum in Yokohama prior to our visit there next year and ask about the possibility of having a few in stock for our group when we are there.

The flowers are not anything like the ones I recently did but I would like to see what I could create based on some of her works.  Her craftsmanship (or perhaps the craftsmanship of her studio directed by her) is supreme.  She also uses some of the stained cocoons, incorporating the natural stains created by the emerging moths into the works.  My recent trials pale in comparison!

And on Saturday, I had the privilege of giving an indigo shibori workshop for a group of great high school kids here in So Cal.  Their teacher, Debra, has been the art teacher at this school (gr 7-12) for 32 years and you can tell that she loves her work and that her students love her.  This is a great credit to her, as difficult as it is to be a teacher in the public school system these days, she is full of energy and ideas for her students.  As she told me, she was in the right place at the right time and this is a very special school.  The students were wonderful and we all had a great time.  Several of the students are off to college soon and this was a great way for them to end the year.  A few pics:

the group and Debra waving from the back

gathering threads

discovering the results and wondering

resisting the temptations to pull it up and look

they got a glimpse of arashi shibori too-

volvo doubles as a clothes line…

some results- they all did a sample stitched piece before trying the dragonfly motif

and before i left i turned the drying indigo

me waving to you and the dried and separated first indigo harvest

early summer garden- happy to say that i have been meeting my personal challenge to feed us at least something daily out of the garden here for over a year. may it continue!

Thanks to Cathy Bullington of Elephant Booty for the idea to save all the various harvests through the summer and use an ice chest for a composting bin.  Also, thanks to jude for  introducing me to Debra’s blog Artisun through the link in her sidebar.

Now back to the dyepot, cocoons.

Maybe it’s just me…

but recently, of course, as indigo becomes more noticed (not unlike shibori) in the general mainstream media-in fashion, in art, in department stores, in wal-mart and beyond- you start seeing more things like this.

indigo before

Now most of you know I am not the Hollywood type (even though I live near LA- the LB being LA’s stepchild of sorts) so something like this will never be in my future but I wondered about it since it was popping up in my Google alerts.  Being a Founder and Creative Director myself (of my own life), I wondered.

I wondered how one can cram so many hippy hop cool things into one ultra coolio trend setty project?  I also wondered what statement is being made by advocating the shutting down of nuclear reactors while growing indigo hydroponically indoors under artificial lights ( no mention of solar generated power here) when plenty of free sunshine is readily available right outside the door.

What is the connection and significance of surfing, indigo, hydroponics (we are reminded-we are not talking about pot growing here!), SanO (watch out long time SanO surfers-a new invasion is on the horizon), Echo Park (hipster paradise), environmentalism,  heart, soul, handmade, new wave, artisan, vessels filled with knowledge, poetry, relationships, honest living and hard work, small farms and the big picture? Turning green into blue?  Or perhaps more clearly, blue into green.

“Artists, musicians- a.k.a. the collective consciousness”  really?  Let’s not take ourselves too seriously here.

indigo after cutting

It’s hard to come up with a better list of trend worthy words or topics to associate one’s self with. Then again, this is LA, and this is Southern California. A place where concept art and all of those things aforementioned are trend forecasted and rolled into one tidy bundle for our experiencing pleasure. Who said manufacturing has left the building in LA?

I’ve made a few waves in my time here, and I’m likely to make a few more. But I prefer a different approach to my work- a slower persistant approach that naturally begins from the center and moves outward, growing in gentle circles as it expands.

But now,  I have to go and spread out the first cutting of the indigo for drying and pack the car so I will be ready to go give an indigo workshop tomorrow for Debra’s kids at Artisun. More on that later.

indigo first harvest drying

a little something from HandEye

Awhile back Wendy Golden-Levitt called me up and did a little phone interview with me in advance of writing this article, which just came out in the recent online version of HandEye magazine.

We talked about a lot of things and although I wasn’t sure exactly what she took away from our little chat I trusted her intuition and ability to not only hear my words but feel the the intent and passion in regards to some of that which we discussed. After seeing the article “in print” I was pleased to see that part of the article spoke to my feelings about kids these days and what I perceive as a huge hole that we have allowed to develop in their education. We have removed so much of the joy, the potential for passion, curiosity, and wonder that it feels as if we are creating empty beings. Contemporary (K-12) public education feels like random dots on a page without a system for the students to connect the dots back to their everyday lives, or as Wendy puts it, we ask them “to develop their intellect and study for reasons that ignore their own well-being”. And although there are many groups and people (myself included) trying to counteract these losses in public schools the fact remains that we end up teaching (preaching) to the choirs with minimal effect on the condition as a whole. I feel wary of letting more generations of kids get through school like this, without experiencing passion for something, passions that may ultimately carry them through tough times in their lives ahead. As we all know- a career in art, music, dance, or theater is a difficult and unlikely choice, but a passion for any one of these things is an opportunity to grow and discover part of yourself regardless of one’s ultimate vocation. We are driven by fear to do so many things these days-whether or not they are good for us. Look at all the commercials that are based on feeding off our fears. The arts can teach us to overcome our fears in so many ways. Ahhh….fear. Another topic for another day. I thank Wendy for crafting the right words.

…in other news:
milo has taken an interest in the “other” cats

then retired to rest in the “in” box. he’s just that kind o’ cool!

the “cats”
this one is has just shed its skin. i think it’s in its third-instar
i think he/she looks more like a dog now

and these guys remind me that we all are all unique and develop at our own pace-
it’s just a matter of time and patience usually

happiness~

is at our very fingertips.

perhaps a step on the slow cloth trail…giddyup young cowboys.

pianissimo

pianissimo

sometimes when a new piece of shibori is opened and i am looking at it with my critical eye i ask myself many questions and wonder about it. is it a good one? this sort of grading is only relative to me in relation to the pieces that came before it and the pieces that will come after. viewed from the outside it may appear as good , or not, depending on the viewer’s perspective- but i am not too concerned with that in this moment. (eventually i am as most of what i make is for sale, but in the moment i only answer to myself.)
mainly i am asking: did i learn something from it? where does it lead me to next? as i dry the pieces, perhaps iron them i continue to look and think about them- looking into them really. this is especially true of the indigo- it has a depth that continues to intrigue me. not only in terms of the surface design but the process as well. and sometimes, but not always, it has a little something more to say. this pattern, when turned a certain way said pianissimo, especially when i set it on the piano bench which becomes a place to stack more fabrics next to the ironing board inside (much to the dismay of the piano players in the house when they have to move them if music is to be made). so my thoughts drift to this word and a gentle reminder to play softly and to remember that life is about dynamics- it’s the dynamics in both music, art, and life that keeps things interesting and alive. so these pieces have captured my attention and thought and now i am done with them. i release them. they will be cut up and divided. they are part of what makes up the indigo boro’d packs that you can find here.

i know this will be a bit of a lengthy post. apologies for that but it can’t be helped right now. aside from the indigo i have been at a few other things. mainly making colorful silk gauze that jude is using and of course in the way that she has, is inspiring others to use as well. (thank you jude and all!) as you know we have formed a somewhat symbiotic flow and i am sending her my wishes for the ailing computer to recover and let her be back on her way. as if even our computers were communicating, mine decided this week that it didn’t want to stay connected and through a series of troubleshooting steps it was deemed the wifi card was ailing. even the geniuses at the bar (apple store) were a little flummoxed but a very intuitive fellow who runs his own little apple repair shop near to me fixed me right up- quickly and within my budget-phew! thanks Pablo!! (let’s hear it for craigslist computer dudes!)

well, back to the indigo. just as i was ready to throw in a little thiox into my new natural fermentation vat out if impatience it seems the warmer weather has coaxed it into reduction. (i like that the terms oxidation and reduction were also a part of my past relationship with the firing of clay- funny isn’t it?) so yesterday i was able to make the first pieces using this vat. i learned some very interesting things! this vat (heretoforth known as NFV as opposed to my SYNV for the sake of brevity) is quite a bit weaker. i may end up adding in the remaining 4 ounces of natural indigo i have. it took at least twice as many dips to get the same shade of blue as the SYNV provides. perhaps not all the indigo is reduced as well. we shall see. my SYnV is quite a bit greener- but less smelly! i am still using the slaked wood ash lye-even for both when i have enough of it. still struggling along without the ph meter but that’s another story. i’ve added some ombre dyed silk gauze to the shop and i was thinking that if some of you out there wanted to prepare some fabric and send it along, i would give you a price for doing the dyeing. i only have so much time and preparing lots of stitched shibori for the vat just isn’t possible right now. let me know and leave me a comment or an email.

for those of you who want a more hands on experience, i am offering a two day indigo workshop here at my studio. it will be a small and intimate affair as i can only accommodate 4 people at a time. check out the details and if you want to participate, let me know. if demand exceeds available spots i will consider a second date.

i am also in the process of detailing all my upcoming classes, workshops, lectures, and shows. so far i have them all up on facebook. adding them here and on the website next- it all takes time. the Long Beach International Quilt Festival classes are now filling up- i am teaching two classes. one on shibori dyeing and the other on luxurious shibori ribbon adornments. (#’s 323 & 316 respectively)

phew- that’s all for now as more has to get done but if you have an urge for some special fabrics to have and hold, the shop is up and running.

one more thing to look forward to is an afternoon with a local group of camp fire boys. we will be doing a little indigo work. can’t wait for that!