waiting for the thread to dry…

…is kind of like watching paint dry. Having finished off some orders in this heat I am able to get back to the vat today.  Dyeing a bit of this and that as needed.  As for the vat- it’s a happy vat at the moment.  My little experiment of sewing a big cotton scrim bag to put down into it (keeping any organic materials out of my more open weave cloth as I dye) has been successful.  I placed a few round stones in the bottom to keep it anchored below (somewhat). I also found I could move it over to my smaller light vat as well when needed.  It is not forming much hana (flower) but has a nice coppery sheen on top and is a deep green and dyeing well.
indigo vatAs a reminder- one needs to continue to stir the vat each day, especially when not using it.  This action reintegrates the organic materials and any undissolved indigo in the vat.  There are various theories on whether or not you want to get some oxygen into the vat while stirring (especially if the vat is in disuse).  My particular theory is that since the bacteria consume oxygen they need at least a little bit ongoing to keep up the good work.  That hana you see on your vat is a sign of good fermentation and the result of oxygen bubbling to the top and meeting with the air.

I am anxious to get on with it while I am in the mood but the thread I am dying to use is still wet.  I am working on a show piece for Houston (as in “show”, I mean a piece for the wall of my booth) and it seemed to me that I needed to set it aside and work on a smaller, simpler piece to solve some puzzles and answer some questions I was running into on the larger one.  I also depend on wondering here to catch a few thoughts.

Let’s just get clear on one thing. I am not a quilter.  This may not even be a quilt. It is something.

So that being stated, I have lots to wonder about as I go down the path with this one.  I will say that if you define a quilt as:

“layers of cloth held together with threads drawn through with a needle”

-then this is (a version of) a quilt. But maybe it is something else. Maybe it is a dyers cloth (run through with a needle)? Ahh…to define something. To categorize. To make it black or white. How can it be one thing and still be another? Two things at the same time? Or none at all.  Maybe it is its own thing. That might ring true sometimes. Maybe for today. For now, it is a beginning. It is blue. Many blues. And it has moons. Many moons.

moon

I think the thread may be dry now.

a moon memory…

On this day forty seven years ago I was 11 years old and living in Yokohama, Japan.  Our family had earned the privilege  of a home leave visit back to the US after having been there since 1965 and my dad having signed up for another stay in Japan.

It was the day my obsession with the moon began.

I had been dropped off to visit at the house of one of my best friends (prior to leaving WA) in Gig Harbor WA.  Her mom put on the TV to watch the moon landing which for us -in and of itself something of a novelty since we didn’t watch TV in Japan.

In the closet was her very pregnant cat having a whole box full of kittens.  We ran back and forth from the closet to the TV reporting with screams of delight, “There’s ANOTHER kitten!!” Running back to the closet, we named each kitten after the moon mission.  We started out with Neil, Apollo, Moon, Lunar, Armstrong, Rocket and others.  We started to run out of names!  There ended up being 9 kittens in all.  Such an exciting day.

It stayed with me all my life. Cats and moons.  We can all relate to both in some way. Last night was another full moon. I hope you looked up, just for a moment.  If not, don’t worry- it will still be there tonight.
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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.
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(3 available in the shop)

summertime, and…

I’m redoing my indigo fermentation vat this weekend.  It’s been a while in coming.  I emptied it out (25-30 gallons) about 2 months ago when I was redoing a fence line that it sat along and it needed to be moved.  At  the time I was also having some issues with fruit fly larva in the vat and wanted to have a fresh start and see if I could solve that issue.

The vat will take at least a week to ferment to a usable state and in addition I need to receive an order of ground indigo from Cheryl at Aurora Silks.  Coincidentally, she is having a sale on the 1 Kilo size ground natural indigo and offers free shipping.  I only had 4 oz on hand so made the vat up with that to get it started and will add the rest of the indigo when it arrives in a couple of days.

I am adding a fine mesh cover to the top of the vat since the lid to this container is not a complete seal.  Additionally, I am making a large net bag to drop into the vat while dyeing to keep all the organic materials and sludge to the bottom and away from the cloth as I work.  It’s really only an issue when working with larger open weave fabrics which I seem to use a lot these days.  It saves having to pick out the particles by hand or resort to lots of water wasting rinsing.  Water is precious here.

When I disposed of the old vat I balanced the ph with some citric acid down to about 7 and used the liquid on the ornamental drought tolerant landscaping.  The rest of the sludge in the bottom I added to the compost and was ready to start again. This vat had been in use for 4-5 years.

I am adding some video of the process of this new vat to the student forum for the online indigo workshop I have in my shop.   Here is a little bit of day two progress…

August 6-7 is the final summer indigo workshop at the Japanese American National Museum. Signups are through the museum here.
Last time this is some of what participants did…
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And likely,since Jude had been busy with moons, folks have been ordering the moon assortments which has kept me and my studio helper hard at work…
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Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.

wordy wondering…again

Sometimes I wonder.

As of late, in the curious world we are living in, I feel more and more that I am an outsider. More than just an outsider ( I have always been that) but as I have talked about before, the sort of species that is on the endangered list.  Something that is becoming extinct. As someone who for SOME reason believed I could become anything I wanted to to be (and I became an independent artisan) I feel that choice is in rapid decline in our world.  Maybe it is just me-I admit, I do have a weird perspective. I mean really, how many people do you personally know who has been able to make a living making things by hand and selling them for their entire adult life (40+ years so far)?  Any?  I’m not saying this to amaze or impress you.  Trust me, it’s not everyone’s gig-  THAT is for sure.  But the fact that it was even possible and at some points in history (all over the world) quite common, is interesting. The fact that it is in extreme decline is regrettable to me. I really don’t think that it is something that most people think about at all.

I think about it all the time.

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Why does this concern me?  I ask myself this question and it is not an easy answer.  I believe that a certain amount of distance from the norm is good for society in general. It can provide an example, a path to follow, or even inspiration.  It provides a balance of sorts. This kind of distance and independence allows for different thinking, different perspective and different choices.  Not to mention the benefits to many of working with your hands, of creating daily, of experimenting and problem solving, and for many-better mental and physical health.

I can only continue to be, to exist as I am.  All this outside the norms- whatever those are. It seems that that is really the best I can do at this point.  I am very fortunate to have a roof over my head.  Some sort of forethought allowed for that at least.  If I were to do this today, it would look very different I am sure (if I was able to do it at all). That is the point of this post in the end, I guess. It seems as if this choice is becoming so unavailable, so rare-a choice I once took for granted without even knowing what an extravagance it really was. I didn’t know because I just did it. One day at a time, every day-until it was my normal.

The rising cost of living in general seems to necessitate rushing to a job-the sort of job that can pay the bills and leaves little time for much else.  Once one has money coming in, there are the expectations of society, others and even ones self.  A car- a payment, a house-a payment, taxes-payments, health-payments, family-$, etc..  It is a cycle that once one arrives at, is very hard to disengage from.  Only if one can become very creative, frugal, and perhaps fortunate, can you craft a situation that allows distance from the norm. I see people all around me longing to disengage from the desk chair, the screens, the keyboards, the commutes.  Yet the lifestyle that has been created makes it difficult to do so.  The actions needed to disengage are overwhelmed by the changes needed to make this happen.   One is thought of as irresponsible (if not just plain crazy) for not fully engaging in this cycle.

All I can say at this point is find a way.  Just find a way. 
beautyI love Soetsu Yanagi‘s thoughts…

This exhibit is still up at he Mingei Museum in San Diego until Oct. 2nd. I’ve seen it three times now and loved it all three times.