wondering in white

White.  Is it a color? If black is the absence of color (darkness) then is white (light)  the combination of all colors in the visible spectrum? As a dyer, this is interesting to me.  White is often my canvas when dyeing and dyeing something black takes a whole lot of colors mixed together.  Strange.

As a dyer with an eye towards using what is around and available I have collected lots of old cloth that can be dyed. But are they white?  Many are what I would call a natural white. They are what they are-ivory, cream, white, eggshell,off-white, antique white, snow white, pearl white, bleached white etc…

detail white

Many of you who have taken indigo classes from me recently have received materials kits containing a whole variety of great old fabrics-all natural and of course dyeable in indigo. It’s informative to look at the structure of old fabrics. This cloth that was formally the fabric of people’s  lives. Literally- laces, tablecloths, clothing, bed coverings, kitchen towels, even mosquito netting and more. Each type of cloth reveals more about itself when dyed in the vat-it’s thickness, weave, age, and even stains that dye differently from the whole cloth.  Next to each other, they can form an amazing array of beautiful blues or whites.

But what if they were left as they are?  Left to use in other ways, to stitch together new dreams and aspirations? That is what I see going on in Jude’s new class What If Diaries. Definitely not a craftsy class where everything is laid out for you to make or do according to the plan, but a way to explore much deeper. The class is now sold out but she has others of a similar nature to explore. I like that the cloth is explored more deeply- that students not only connect themselves to the fabrics, the stitches, but that there is always a stream of consciousness floating in the background as a jumping off point to some new or even old idea. It’s kind of like what I imagine the beginning of the universe to be-  sort of like a primordial soup of creation.

battenburgold battenburg lace- in process

And speaking of creation- last weekend at the JANM (Japanese American National Museum) we had a really grand time. I took a whole silk display and we even reeled silk on the old zakuri. The students were in awe as most had never seen this before. The ingeniousness of the device AND that of the silkworm and it’s cocoon. I don’t think they’ll ever take silk for granted again!

reeling silkstudent reeling silk on the old zakuri

And of course we dyed silk- new and old. Itajime was the focus and this was a quick pic of their first pieces of the day.  After this, I got too busy to take photos-as usual. Many left class and went straight out to the front desk to sign up for the Aug 31-Sept 1 class.  

Saturday, August 31, 2013

12:00 PM—4:30 PM

Indigo and Shibori Techniques with Shibori Girl

events/shibori2.jpegIn this 2-day workshop we will focus our intentions on practicing itajime (fold and clamp) shibori on recycled kimono lining silks. Once considered as precious as gold, old silks are being discarded at an alarming rate! Let’s breathe new life into them and improve our understanding of both silk and itajime shibori. Indigo and colorhue dyes will be used in this workshop. Both days: $70 members; $90 non-members, an additional $45 materials fee (cash only) will be collected at the beginning of class, admission is included. RSVP early, 20 students max.
So, if you are in the mood for some cloth that really moves you-cloth containing texture as a main component, fragments like scattered thoughts across time and place, imperfection seen as perfection, then click on over to the shop and see what’s old.
And if you think you want to join the JANM workshop in Aug. you might want to sign up early.


the wondering wall

as soon as the taxes are finished, i can get back to wondering.  and dyeing. it’s has been quite busy here as of late but a shop update is on the horizon! mostly ribbon to start out with but also some lovely old whites.  Jude is also busy wondering in white. I’m going to go there for a bit too. But my wonderings usually end up turning blue.

cranes in the moon-indigo on silk

cranes in the moon-indigo on silk

In Japan, cranes have long been associated with longevity and good fortune. Often a wedding kimono will have cranes incorporated into the design.  This old silk with jacquard crane imagery had me wondering if combining it with a moon might enhance its loveliness.  The moon has long been associated with beauty and the appreciation of beauty in Japan.  I think it makes a handsome pairing.

double arashi

some wondering about more shibori texture.  more of this soon.

first indigo

and the indigo has had its first haircut which has been dried and stored!  these plants volunteered themselves by self sowing.

itajime on silk

and some old silk kimono linings had me practicing my itajime with the fermentation vat

which is really liking spring!

mokume wondering

from the fermentation vat. i’ve been working almost exclusively with it since the beginning of the year.

the chem vat  is off in a corner. i wonder if i will ever use it again?

on my table

and… i’m going to saturday school to practice my Japanese (hence the old かな cards).  this old doll came out of the cupboard to help me design a piece for my friend Donna’s line of mannequins. it all looked interesting lying on the table soI snapped this shot for fun.

that’s it for now- back to finishing up the taxes.  need to get them in asap so my son can figure out if he can get the appropriate mix of financial aid and scholarship funds so he can accept his graduate school acceptance offer from ………

…the San Francisco Conservatory of Music!  (so proud of him….congrats Trev!) cross your fingers for him…it’s an honor and a really big deal. If he can swing it, he will be studying under Jack Van Geem and David Herbert the principal percussionist and principal timpanist of the San Francisco Symphony. He’s making his dreams come true through hard work, persistance and practice.

living in the wind’s shadow

sometimes the time after a show is my favorite time.  the busy preparation time is over, the workshops given, information imparted, items sold, people met, much talking, boxes returned, unpacked, put away.  and best of all,  bills paid for the coming month from proceeds of the show.

this is the time when i can “live in the shadow of the wind”. a small space in time of seeming protection from outside forces.

i am working still, of course.  but more at my own pace.  and moving at one’s own pace, one can linger here and there. wonder about a thing or two. even plant a few seeds between dyepots.

saving seed

last year i had saved some tomato seeds from a plant that grew along the driveway. it was particularly productive with an early , moderately sized flavorful crop.  i dried them on a piece of paper toweling just because it seemed practical at the time.  now that i am planting them, i just had to snip the paper towel into bits and plant it right along with the attached seeds.

and the cores of the ribbon rolls i had been saving worked great.  also planted were えだまめ、ししと、おちゃ、みずな。(that would be edamame (soybeans),shishito (sweet peppers great for grilling),mizuna (greens),and tea.)


i am working at reviewing some of my offerings and changing up a few things.  trying out some new ideas on arashi.  stitching lots of silk.  dyeing indigo. the vat continues and yesterday i started a new  indigo fermentation soup.  i’ve decided to leave the madder alone for now.  too many things going on in one small workspace leads to confusion and mediocrity.  i have enough going on at the moment. but the madder out back along the fence continues to grow…madly!

i do want to say thank you to all the wonderful folks who came out to the Sew Expo show in Puyallup.  i was very pleasantly surprised by this show.  it is a bit different from the other shows i have been doing in that many of the attendees are garment sewers.  i like that.  there were even some young middle schoolers who were learning to sew for themselves (thanks to the 4H programs there) and were eager to show me their projects.  i noticed that some of the items that didn’t sell at the houston show were the first to go at this show!  interesting.  i was pleased because i really do want to make more of those items and next year i will be tailoring my fare to suit this customer even more.

and buddy, the new pup stayed on top of things in the office while i was gone.

and buddy, the new pup stayed on top of things in the office while i was gone.

now- i’m off to do some work on the Japan Silk Study Tour and to get to work on a boatload of silk shibori ribbon. the wind’s shadow is fading fast…


looking from the inside out

just a view of what doing a show can look like from the inside

Mt Rainier from the room (over the freeway) at the extended stay in Fife

we were instructed first thing at the desk not to leave personal items in the car. apparently, break-ins are rampant here.
inside the room though all was good.

a small kitchen so we don’t have to go out much. I await Katrina’s arrival. We are sharing expenses and so forth.

later, we have hauled most of our stuff into the room and are settling in for the week of teaching and vending.
the room is filled with sewing machines, dye, kits, electronics, fancy irons and more.

this is while we are still organized.

it’s less glamorous than it sounds but we are READY- almost. booth set up starts in one hour.

is it spring yet? それはまだ春です?

apricot blossoms' sweet promise...

apricot blossoms’ sweet promise…

there are days.  then there are THOSE days, yesterday being one of them.  i was reminded of the toll mental illness can take and where it leads to in a society with heels firmly dug in against the costs of creating solutions-or at the very least putting into place a safety net for people who are in no condition to make decisions for their own health, safety, and welfare without going to extremes.  but no, once again we must wait for the bottom to fall out before we can affect some sort of solution.   in that waiting period, we trust;  what else can we do?

on another front, i am reminded that even if you do your best work over many years,   you share that work far and wide,  you teach that work, that this does not assure education managers of trade shows won’t pass over your teaching proposal in favor of someone who signed up for your online class a year ago; someone who has no body of work on the subject at hand to back it up but has an “in” with the right crowd.  just know that to be true.  i am reminded to remember this when choosing shows and teaching venues.  sometimes i am naive and forget these things,  being in the bubble of my studio here.

then, as if that were not the end of a very, very long day, a late email arrives effusively deriding (even threatening!) me for a mistake on an order. crestfallen, i make haste in correcting the error, reshipping the order via express mail and emailing back all pertinent info and an even more effusive apology AND refunding the original order (although, admittedly, in the back of my mind thinking- ya know, i really don’t need this sort of treatment from a customer even if i did make a mistake). 

waking up this morning, i see an email from said customer. the order WAS correctly received.  oops.  sorry.  her mistake.

i had sent a small gift of a silk shibori ribbon scrap bag with the order and for some reason she thought it was all she had received. ahh…nice.  a gift turns into this?  perhaps we should not be so hasty next time…beauty takes time. even the buds on the apricot tree are slowly bringing us their beautiful sweet bounty.   

have a little sympathy for us who make for a living.  we are not robots, amazon.com,  walmart, or even craftsy.  we will make a mistake now and again.  we might get a little behind, trying to balance all the things we must do to keep the ship afloat. but the makers i know will go above and beyond for you, making each item by hand.  and we will often tuck a little something extra into your package just because we like to imagine your surprise when you receive the order.

all i can say is, i’m glad it is a new day… is it spring where you are yet?

maybe it’s just spring fever!

is it spring yet?

in the shop 

back to the future-again

The story goes something like this:

One day Richard and I were emailing back and forth about this and that.  Mostly about textiles and old things he had come across and how they could be saved and utilized.  And about him coming here from Japan to teach another workshop.  And about how he had gone into the attic of an old farmhouse and found some remnants of the family’s sericulture activities.  At the time I was putting together the “Silk Experience, Then and Now” exhibit for last year’s Houston’s International Quilt Festival.  He had found some examples of the straw cocoon bedding and of the cardboard cocoon trays which followed years later.  He saved me some samples that I was able to display at the show.  A couple of weeks later, he emailed me to say that he had come across some washi “cocoon bags”- was I interested?  Without hesitation I said yes! Get what you can, I said, not really knowing what they were but instinctually sure they were important somehow.  If you saw the exhibit last year you saw these remarkable examples of what I consider to be folk craft-handmade objects that served a purpose in daily life. I love stuff like this.  Everyday objects that are used but also are beautiful both visually and for the fact that they fit into the structure of everyday life of the time in which they were produced by craftsman of those times.  Eventually, he had the opportunity to acquire a few more.

cocoon bags at exhibit

cocoon bags at exhibit

Now,  I have been to the main sericulture/silk museums in Japan as well as seen the collection of items at the Tokyo Silk Science Institute associated with Tokyo University.  I had never before seen anything like these washi bags!  I wondered…

cotton coon bag with markings

cotton cocoon bag with markings

I started researching online.  Couldn’t find anything.  In fact, vintage or antique washi itself was rare to find.  Mostly now you find a scrapbooking product claiming to be vintage washi tape.  An image search of “vintage Japanese washi” comes up with this page.  Not e x a c t l y…

this is washi

this is washi

What we have surmised so far is this- that these bags were made in Mino City-known for it’s papermaking and it’s close proximity to where they were discovered by Richard.  That they are easily over 100 years old. That some are treated with kakishibu (persimmon tannin) and others were dyed with tumeric (the yellow ones or yellow patches on them).  That they predate the use of cotton bags for silk cocoon transportation and storage.  That they were regularly sent back for repair and patching when needed and in the end, they were abandoned in favor of cotton bags.  Since Mino was a center of papermaking, they may be a somewhat regional object-using what comes naturally and is close at hand.  Hence, why I have yet to see them in other areas like Gunma or Yokohama which are more north.

Imagine!  Giant gusseted cocoon bags made of thick fibrous paper, patched, repaired and saved for tens of decades.  I have saved one out to give as a gift to the Yokohama Silk Museum if they are interested.  I have not seen one there.  I have saved myself one and have it hanging on a wall where I can see it every day and wonder.  Some people have expressed an interest in using the paper itself in their own artwork.  Either way, these pieces have ki or 気 which is another way to say vital life energy.  That they have resurfaced after all these years is so interesting to me.  We have several of them available in the shop.  It’s a joint effort between us to find these pieces good homes where they can continue to produce 気.

in the shop now

Silk Study Tour to Japan

Just a quickie post here about the upcoming tour. The tour has been filled now for some time. BUT…. we just yesterday had one couple drop out due to personal health issues and although they are OK,  they are sad to not be coming along.  This does however, leave us with two openings….

If you are interested or know someone who is, it might just be that these spots have opened up for you.

For information and details you can go here:

Silk Study Tour to Japan details

It promises to be a very illuminating experience.

raw silk

raw silk