Category Archives: teaching kids

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!

engendering balance

for Fumiko-tsuki no ai


i wrote about taring the scale and bringing about balance in my work a couple of posts ago and have decided that this is something i intend to place in clearer focus for 2010. i want to to thank my indigo sensei Fumiko Sato and dedicate this piece of cloth to her. she won’t see this post as she works and lives in isolation without email or internet in the mountains of Japan but my New Year’s gift to her is a small piece of cloth to let her know her time with me last year was much appreciated and that i continue on with all i learned from her.
i learn from my work with indigo the importance of simplicity and balance. that striking that balance with the vat means building a relationship with it and letting the work speak to me as i create it. this takes time. and while this work is where my heart is it is not where the money is at the moment. which brings me back to balance. the struggle of making by hand for a living continues and i do enjoy a good challenge, but in 2010 my intention is to come from service more and trust
that the rest will work itself out. try to panic less and balance more.

i have wanted to share a story for the new year that is also a reminder to me that no matter what, i must be on the right path even though some days i really do wonder. it is also connected to indigo and the moon and you too, might remember this piece some time back-

cary the moon indigo style


a little bag made of various scraps of indigo as i was practicing with the vat and various textiles.
i put this up for sale on etsy and sold to a gal who works with children helping them with various problems. the bag was to hold an assortment of other artist’s work which the children use and play with as she works with them. on a whim, when i sent it to her i filled it with various other silks and ribbons. over time this new friend sent me stories of how the children interacted with the ribbons and how fascinating they found them, which of course pleased me greatly. some of the stories were deeply touching and i came to learn that this woman really had a way of reaching these kids and that the various aspects of the shibori silks -the colors, the pleats, the feel, when used therapeutically by her seemed to contain a little magic that allows the children to open up and communicate. talk about inspiring!
one day i was cleaning up around in the studio after some particularly bad wind which had torn apart my shade cover and broken my cheap wannabe ez up frame, i grabbed a used drumstick (household of drummers here) and strapped the frame back together with a little duct tape. i had just received yet another touching story from my friend wendy and a little idea popped into my head. i drilled a hole into the end of the drumstick and dug into my box of odd and and shibori ribbons. stitching a long piece of ribbon to the end of the stick i made a wand like the ones we used to make and play with when the kids were little. i tested it out and decided to steam out most, but not all of the pleats to better catch the wind and open up the colors. packed up a bunch of second silks and the wand and mailed it away. it’s been a while since i heard from wendy but just prior to christmas on a day i was feeling a little down and wondering why i received the following story which she shared with me:

dear glennis,
i am hoping you remember me…..you generously gifted me many pieces of ribbon and a wild drum stick with a rainbow tail!

i wanted to send you a warm and tender hug for all that you have done in restoring many a young heart.
today. a child, four years old, kicked out by many other therapists arrived at my cottage, up here in the woods. the boy and i sat on the front stoop. he said nothing could help him. four years old.
geesh.

the healing began on many levels. i brought the drum stick with the long ribbon attached, outside…in the cold, snowy, shortest day of the year, two o’clock winter time. he looked at me. took it and waved it. then he went into the snow. made track marks. flew around the front part of the forest. we walked into the forest. he wrapped it around trees, held it and marched. made circles and figures only your shibori could. and then he asked me to write a poem in the snow. it said this:

“the ribbon is the eye of a river.
the stick clicks on the trees.
i can hear the talking of trees inside.
when i knock like that.
i love this wavy talking stick.”

we walked back to my little cottage. we sat quietly. we sat together for a long time. he asked me if the stick was magic. i said: of course. he waved it. we were still for 30 seconds. then we saw the wolf, walking quietly. we got a picture just in time……

the little one said:” i think i am feeling better and will come back. tell my mother you and the drumstick lady are my goodest medicine.”

if you ever see josh freese, please let him know his kind gesture of a gift to you, has taken a most healing journey.

i am renewed , humbled, and rededicated to bringing more creativity into childrens lives in 2010. they really can see the purpose of art and craft in their lives.

-never the end, just the beginning

Once there was a little girl who had a few hundred struggles. She went to see a wise woman to see what could be done about letting some of them go. The wise woman talked to her in a soft voice and offered her some objects to explore. One was a little indigo bag that was said to carry the moon. Inside the bag she found some stories and some dreams. Some stories were stitched into cloth and some were carried along a stream of silky colorful pleated ribbons. These things gave comfort. The dreams revealed themselves and she saw her grandmother’s hands, felt love, found safety.
She saw beauty and wondered. Some of her struggles melted away.

rivers of ribbon

when i wonder why i ever ended up here, i’ll come back and read this story.

Dare I ask? Just what IS the role of an artist in society today?

I think I just heard a strange sound…..must have been the sound of a can of worms being opened.

I pose this question in the wake of being accused by a local “arts advocate” of not participating, of sitting on the sidelines and criticizing instead of “rolling up my sleeves and making change by participating”. And all along I thought I was participating! So I started wondering, just what exactly is it that is expected or desired of a artist in our society/community today?

Let me begin by saying that I am as confused by this question as anyone. I could come up with some eloquently waxed statements on the matter. It of course leads to other questions-such as, “What is the role of ART in society today?”. And the omnipresent question “What is ART?”.

Let me start small. Sometimes nibbling around the edges lets me figure things out as I go so I’ll just start by saying that making things with my hands seems to be embedded deeply in my DNA. Also, that I’m not really convinced that I am an artist. See I told you I was confused. If I ever had to go out and get what my parents termed “a real job” it wouldn’t quell the deep need I have to create things. Perhaps a 12 step program or a religious conversion would do the trick, but I doubt it. It’s just there.
So I have gone along with it since I was a child and worked it out so it could pay the bills.

Here are some other questions that come up:
Does everyone need art in their life?
-probably not, of course there are many cases one could site on this one.
Are we happier as a society with art and artists in our midst?
-I think so……
But why?
-here is where it gets more difficult. More subjective.

Does the artist’s role change in relationship to the changing needs of society? If you read this book, What is Art For? by Ellen Dissanayake you might be led to believe that making and responding to art is simply part of our human nature. Or that
we as humans have a need for beauty be it in the context of nature, our surroundings, or by creating it ourselves.

Furthermore, by definition, the term artist can be construed to mean many things. Many artists I have met (and from here out I will use this term inclusively and without judgment ) create because they cannot NOT create. Are you an artist because you created something? 5 things? 10,000 things? Is there a point at which your productivity becomes so great that you are no longer considered an artist? First you are an artist, then you are an artist with bills to pay. You become a production artist. Overhead increases. Now you are a Manufacturer. Well, you can see it starts to get a little messy here. I have been in all of these situations.

Back to the question. The artist’s role in society. Do artist’s have a responsibility in society? Should they create beauty for others to enjoy? Should they lead by example? Should they share their vision and their creativity with the public by teaching? Should they communicate with other artists from around the world? Should they all participate by dictate and attend meetings hosted by tireless arts advocates?

What would you do?
Here are some things I see other artists doing-
This is an easy one- Phil working with Pan Afrika featuring Master African Drummer Dramane Kone of Burkina Faso at a local preschool last week. Dramane is a Griot from the famous Kone family of Burkina Faso and Mali. a Griot is a West African poet, praise singer, and wandering musician, considered a repository of oral tradition.:

How about Jane and her work over the past two years at Mundo Lindo (Beautiful World) which is now coming to a close.

And if you know me you may be familiar with Elementary Art .

Please feel free to post links to any you know here in the comment section (this could get pretty lengthy!).
Of course we are only scratching the surface here but the bigger question really is would the community rather see the likes of us at bored meetings or out doing stuff? It’s somewhat disingenuous to say you want our ideas and opinions yet when we give them and you don’t like them tell us we aren’t part of the solution because we aren’t playing by your rules. Artists and musician types often make great sacrifices in lifestyles in order to choose these paths as a career. It’s not 9-5. There are no paid vacations. You often work 80 hours a week. You almost never get paid what you think you should. Forget about health insurance of any real substance. Bottom line, if I’m not gonna get paid for my volunteer work, would I rather be in a bored meeting or in a roomful of children? I think you can guess my answer.

If you want my ideas, feel free to email me. No meetings required. Until further notice, only paid gigs are being considered though.

Countdown to Chicago continues…..dyeing and processing the last of the silk for the show. Just booked a series of workshops in Claremont over the next 5 months. More details will be posted shortly on the classes and shows page….gotta go and get busy now!
mata-ne!

feeling a bit prickly

Maybe because I was working on this:
prickly
-and asking myself “what is the point?”. Having so much that needs to get done before Chicago and the study trip to Japan while at the same time being called out online for “standing on the sidelines criticizing instead of rolling up my sleeves and doing something”. This I get for publicly stating my opinion on recent discussions ( LBPost )about the future of art in our fine city of Long Beach. I admit I said the E word (education) and as you know, it is something I am passionate about when it comes to public education. But to be called out both on a youtube video as well as in a public forum by (get this) the same person who “borrowed” one of my ElementaryArt pics from my blog and then used it to promote himself without permission, attribution or anything just left me feeling a little prickly.
So, in retaliation, I headed to the studio to work where I had several rewarding days with dye and silk.
Releasing the threads that bound the pent up fabric and removing the sharp and now unnecessary barbs the silk rewarded me with small volcanic-like mountains complete with lava flow and molten ash. Very Icelandic- thank you Gudrun for your book of paintings based on natural surfaces in Iceland-just marvelous! You can see her work hanging in the airport in Reykjavik when you arrive (and by the way she is my sister in law). So much inspiration in your work- I see all sorts of “scapes” for shibori work there.
released1
Phew!
Then, another sign of renewal-
sign-of-spring-in-the-plum-tree
momma dove sitting on her nest in the plum tree.

and
some more large wraps for birthday gift orders..here’s one
basic-chou-wrap
Plus I get to iron silk while a band rehearses in the next room.
practicing
the sound was sweet!
( oh and I’m gonna ignore the threat of a defamation lawsuit you posted and just assume you had temporarily lost your mind- wishes for a speedy recovery)