Category Archives: wondering

a matter of time

Somehow, this makes me feel really sad.  I did realize that this would be the eventual end game of sorts.  It always happens.
And for expressing this I am prepared to take whatever shit comes my way about it.  I am. Somehow this feels somewhat personal.  Not in the usual Me Me Me sense but in the way that something I have grown to love, understand, and practice has yet again been usurped by the commercialization of something fine and turned into something rote. Turned into something that yet again, another company will inevitably run into the ground until people are tired of it in a season or two or until the profit runs dry and no one cares.
In the meantime, they will crank out tons of cotton fabrics, printed (not dyed), to be sewn by machines into stunning show quilts for competitions and more.

Why wonder about and practice it when you can just click a few buttons on the computer or grab a stack of whacks at the show and be done?

And so it is.

The word shibori comes from the root verb of the word shiboru which means to twist or wring, to squeeze.  Yup.  Makes sense.



ozone & indigo

Recently, in the workshop at the Japanese American National Museum one of the participants brought some fabric that she had dyed in another workshop somewhere.  It had faded radically and even more so along the folds and creases.  She wanted to know what had happened.
This is something that also came up a couple of times in the online indigo workshop and was struggled with over there.  Occasionally, I have seen it in my own indigo dyed pieces and strive to do those things which I find help to alleviate the problem.
As far as I have been able to understand, and the experiences I have had with this type of fading have led me to the following understandings.  Please feel free to jump in here and correct , inform and add to our knowledge on this for other folks as well.
The issue:
-fading of the fabric along exposed areas and folds where the cloth is exposed to air and or humidity. I have even seen fade lines on indigo cloth that I have hung (flat) to dry outside overnight that had a bit of a sway in the hung cloth. It seemed that in this case the overnight humidity was the over-riding factor.


three shades from the fermentation vat ready to assemble into the cloth packs for the shop

What is happening?
– ozone in the atmosphere is reacting to the cloth and any chemicals left in the fabric and additionally with UV light to produce an oxidizing effect. Smog and humidity also figure into the mix even in cloth that is well washed out.

At first, I thought that only fabrics dyed in a chemical vat or a pre-reduced indigo vat were susceptible to this.  Not true.  They may be MORE prone to it but fermentation vat dyed indigo is also affected.

What to do to minimize this?
– wash out your fabrics well before dyeing to remove any chemical treatments.
-build up your depth of shade over many dips in the vat. Have a light vat and a dark vat to produce various shades of blue through repeated dips and really work the dye into the cloth.
-rinse your indigo dyed cloth well between dips into the vat and then finally wash them well with a good rinse in the end.  You may have seen photos of Japanese dyers planting their indigo dyed cloths along a river or stream to let the water run through- this would definitely do it!  Getting out any chemicals that can react to the ozone is beneficial.
-once dried and ready for storage until use, you can keep your indigo cloth in a drawer or wrapped in a towel to keep the edges from fading.

Finished pieces (such as a quilt on a bed, a pillow, a wall hanging) will fade more evenly and possibly without notice as they are more evenly exposed to the atmosphere. All indigo will fade with use (think denim).  Well dyed dark shades built up by many dips seem less susceptible.   This is one reason I prefer the fermentation vat over the pre-reduced or chemical vat-more work but a more satisfying process and result. Also, be aware that different fabrics will fade differently. Think about the weave and the fiber.

There are even products out now for commercial dye houses that speed indigo fading (ozone finishing!) with the use of ozone related treatments said to be less labor and water intensive. Consulting companies work with manufacturers to troubleshoot their process and diminish the fading (or even speed it up!).

What if it’s not a problem at all?  It’s a matter of perspective.


Yesterday’s moon- on an open weave linen


from the letters file…

It’s a good thing I don’t share all the letters I receive as some just make me want to throw something and others make me want to shed a tear. Some are so uplifting, yet too personal or bittersweet at times to publish on the blog.  This week so far I have received one of each.  Just for balance.
Remember Balance? Balance has been a theme here over time on the blog and in reality, everyday.
Which brings me to an email I received this morning.


I ran across a piece of art that I thought was public domain but have traced it back to you. I work for Hanes, and was thinking about using the art “Indigo wall panel” in a panty print but doing it in different colors, modified digitally so that it can be rotary screen printed. Would you grant me permission to use? If not, I will do something different and try to create the look of the technique digitally and that’s perfectly fine. Have a great day.

Thank you either way,



So, basically he is saying that they want permission to use the image of my shibori work as a shortcut to a graphic design to screen print onto underwear.  And if I don’t grant permission, they will “create the look of the technique digitally” and carry on. In my mind, I hear- “we will alter your image enough (digitally) so as to be able to call it our own or derived and skip your permission altogether.  Have a great day!

So what happened to common courtesy?  How about “I came across your work (while searching for patterns in indigo and shibori images online that we could glean for free use of artwork for our commercial product line) and would love to use your image and compensate you modestly (say $500) for it’s use.

I don’t know.  I really don’t know anymore.  Why? When a company that has reported net sales of $5.7 billion in their most recent report has their design staff searching the internet and basically bullying artists(my opinion) into granting permission for use of their works I just don’t know anymore.

So what say you, fair readers?

Should we say yes and allow them to use this artwork knowing that every time we see this pattern on Hanes panties (and we will see them) we will be reminded of the corporately owned world we must now operate within?  It might be a good thing to remind ourselves of this on a regular basis.  It is in all our lives daily in even the smallest of things.

Or should we say no, allowing them to feel like they did the right thing by asking and either remake my design in their own image (costing them a bit more) or even just to continue searching online for some other image they can use without actually having to do more than work the keyboard.

Indigo Blues was published in 2012. Like many images of my work, I find them regularly online without attribution.  This is a detail shot of the full piece that was sold through my online shop quite some time ago. The full image here.
indigo blues

On the other side of Balance, I received an order for moons the other day with an immediate email follow-up note from a fellow undergoing a very serious health challenge.  Having been hospitalized for many recent months he tells me the following:

 I have decorated each room I’ve spent time in– sometimes 4 to 6 weeks at a stretch — with fukuro obi hangings and other silk kimono fabrics,  which have always brought pleasure to me and to visitors.  A calming healing environment visitors would exclaim!    I will continue this “tradition” of Japanese design in the rooms when I re-enter for hospital for the transplant, a “cure”, in early September.  I plan to add your beautiful  moons to the room.  Many thanks.

and I reply(in part)…

It will be a privilege to make some moons for you.  Thank you for your order.

 I can imagine your room…your creating it with a certain peaceful attitude that promotes calmness, enjoyment, and healing qualities for both you and your visitors.  

I will be thinking of this as I dye your fabrics.  My favorite thing to do is to create intentional fabrics that I can infuse with thoughts and intentions for their recipients as I make them. Thank you. Be well, take care…


Of course a special package is being prepared.

heart of blue

This is a thought I’ve had on my mind for oh-so-long.  Sort of a marriage of the past with the present.
the past…

the present…
Watermarked Photo 1 (2016-08-11-1632) Watermarked Photo 2 (2016-08-11-1632)I was playing around with some sample making for my upcoming shibori ribbon brooch class in Houston and started on this.  It answered some questions but once I got started I realized it is a little too complicated for the class project which must be completed in large part in the 3 hour time frame with most students being fairly novice to bead embroidery.  So I must simplify.  I realized it fairly early on so I decided to just let this one take me away.  I’ll be making a few more for the class, smaller and simpler but with enough technique that one can carry on and wonder after the first class piece. Sometimes these classes are a real challenge.

So in the meantime, since I still have to pay for the last half of my booth by Monday I am listing a few things in the shop.  So far, I have the booth deposit paid, the airfare for 2, and the AirBnb apartment (more economical than a hotel) for 10 days paid for.  Phew!  Now just the second half of the booth and any electricity, lights, pipes, and freight.  These show costs are a killer.  And not to mention I have to have all the inventory made and paid for up front. The money from all this doesn’t arrive until mid to late November.  It’s a long game.

On the other side of life, the night blooming cereus cactus is putting on its evening show with at least 12-18 flowers open every night (for over a week now and on into one or two more from the looks of it). The bees hang out until almost dark in anticipation,  buzzing from 15 feet up and drawing your attention as you pass by.  Once the dark has settled in, the flowers glow their fluorescent yellow under the moonlight. In the early morning the bees are back at it, eager for every last bit of pollen they can collect until the sun signals the flowers to close, once and for all, before dropping to the ground below and perhaps leaving behind the prospect of a delicious jewel.

Juicy like a watermelon, crunchy black seeds and just sweet enough with a flowery mouth perfume finish!

There are some things which are truly a gift.


Old cloth, old books (and a piano)

I never should have borrowed this book from my friend Donna:


It is very interesting and hysterical even, at times.  Especially the chapter titled “Cats and Dogs”. You might wonder why (especially now!) that I would choose NOT to entertain myself with such mirth given the dearth of nonsense going on about us.

The reason being that yesterday a piano fell on my face.


yes, this piano…

And it hurts to smile or laugh.  And it is just in time for my weekend workshop at the museum (sorry- but all filled up). It’s not as bad as it sounds but it does hurt a bit and as long as I keep a straight face it doesn’t bother much.  Admittedly, I probably should have gone for a stitch or maybe two but being a bit cheap these days I lay around with a bit of ice and some pressure on it to make it behave (took a while). That being said, I was trying to come up with a funny way to describe to my workshop attendees what the heck happened.  The simple “a piano fell on my face” seemed appropriate (considering I can deliver the line with a straight face).

In actuality, I was cleaning behind the old upright piano and moving it back into position when the front board fell forward onto me and caught me in the face and arm(nice hurty bruise there too-but not too noticeable). By the end of the evening I had the room there all cleaned up and Phil got some new space to store and organize all his accumulating music. Yay! Plus I cleaned up some of my fabric stuff I needed to get to for the weekend of indigo dyeing.

Speaking of fabric, the end of the day resulted in about 50 meters of old silk kimono linings all washed up, most threads removed, ironed and folded.  These will be used this weekend and also at the upcoming Yosemite workshop. Cloth with a memory. Imperfectly perfect.

Back to the book- apparently you can get a reprint of it and also it is available on the Gutenburg Project- Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow

“Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, published in 1886, is a collection of humorous essays by Jerome K. Jerome. It was the author’s second published book and it helped establish him as a leading English humorist.” Wikipedia
 Originally published: 1886
Author: Jerome K. Jerome

Donna was also clearing out some space and found it lurking there in some dark corner. It is much more satisfying to hold this old original copy in my hand than read it off a screen though I may have to save it for next week’s readings when I can laugh out loud as I do.
Even the preface was humorous-


wouldn’t elevate a cow… 

And really, isn’t change what we are looking for?

Old books, old cloth…got me to wondering.  What is the oldest book and the oldest cloth I have here? I wonder…

(And by the way, if you see me around town- don’t tell me a joke for at least a week!)


weaving across colors and then some

Some things take a long time to figure out.  I wondered about this quite some time ago while participating in one of Jude’s classes.  Then I set it aside. Recently while working on something new, I realized exactly what this was for.  And now I’m wondering again. Getting into the Spirit of things.
woven moon

encouraging process

I have always been a process oriented person.

I like to take a material and make it into something else.  I like to figure out and create a process for that.  To repeat that process.  So many times…to create the process and then alter it. The process and the repeating keeps me balanced. Even when operating within the maze.

I like to discover via process.  I discovered this process after doing a lot of this.  It takes doing. And going there many times.  And still…

In the workshops I teach, I like to lead a path to discovering.  Not solve everything for you. Your path will be different from mine.  If I am rigid and demand that you follow my example you may not find your own path.  I like to encourage wondering- which in the end means experimenting and questioning.

Lately, life does seem like a maze.  We will get through. Life is a Maze ing.
(3 available in the shop)