Tag Archives: handmade

enjoy, create, wonder

As a practitioner of shibori dyeing and maker of silk shibori ribbon for over ten years now, I continue to wonder about what I do for a living, and why.  It’s a good thing to wonder about consciously in order to keep ahead of things and remain independently viable.

Things I know that have been part of the cloth of a life woven with craft, at least for me are the following:
I was born to work with my hands and to make things. This has been true since I was a child and cannot be removed from who I am, except perhaps by a lobotomy. I learned at an early age I felt better when being creative and productive making things by hand and later on learned I also did enjoy the marketing of my own work,even though I hated it in the beginning and remember crying in my ’69 VW bug after an unproductive day of sales calls and appointments -I was about 19 at the time. I persisted. Forty years later now, I do it from behind a computer and the rare consumer trade show.

I seem to have a knack for creating things that others want to buy, and in enough quantity that at times I have had to employ quite a number of others to participate in this unlikely form of employment. I found a certain joy in being able to provide a living for others in addition to myself in handmade craft here in California.  It has been an honor really-because of the people I worked with.  Eventually (and after over 30 years), the joy of that was diminished by the burden of being an employer and the demise of manufacturing in the US. No problem!  I reinvented my life as a solo dyer and continued on my way. Even my shibori ribbon has the privilege of helping support many others as they resell it or make things with it which to resell. Kinda cool.

I enjoy the interaction with customers from all over the world. I love seeing other creative folks take something I made and add it to their own work in so many ways I never ever conceived. Some of the things they make are quite extraordinary!

-I wonder weekly, what comes next? Who knows? I just know that every day I get up and take the next step. I hope you do too. I enjoy the interaction with readers of this blog and the many who have followed and contributed here for so many years as I wondered, created, and thought out loud about things.

This week, I started thinking more about the most recent issues I had with image copyrights and decided to resurrect something I used to make and sell- blank greeting cards. Now, for some of you that go WAY back (even further back than this blog) I had a line of greeting cards with porcelain pins incorporated into them that were sold throughout the US.  When I first started doing shibori, at shows I also sold blank greeting cards with images of my shibori work as well as cards with small pieces of shibori attached to them.  I have been making them for my own and friends’ personal use over the more recent years. Sometimes I send them out with a personal note in an order or as a thank you for a small kindness afforded to me. Recently, someone asked me if they could purchase some and I wondered…

So, for now, I decided to reintroduce sets of these cards in my webshop. Right now I have two collections- Shiboriscapes and Indigo Moonscapes.  In the works are Shibori Flowerscapes.  This will perhaps, help even out the financial ups and downs every artisan has in their flow of work and money but also it feels good to know that I will be the beneficiary of my own work as I continue to hound Amazon into removing those sellers on their site that use my images without permission.

Here’s the link to the card sets. It’s nice to have a few blank cards on hand when you find yourself in need to send a thought or a thank you…

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.
IMG_0080
(3 available in the shop)

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.

hands

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.

There arises a circle…

There is really something special about receiving a handmade gift from someone who used what they purchased from me to make it.  It returns to me transformed. It has new life and energy that has been added.  It reminds me why I do what I do and why I enjoy it.  When I send something out I get to wonder what will become of it.  Sometimes I receive emails with photos or links showing what folks have done or made with their purchases.  I receive stories. Some are simple and heartwarming, some are funny, some are sad, and some are transformative. They are all good. There arises a circle -like the moon, a give and take -like the tides, that connects us.  So although it hardly seems enough for all these riches, I want to thank you once again. Thanks for sharing your abundance of creativity-with me and all the others in your lives.

indigo moon detail by Therese S-H

indigo moon detail by Therese S-H

mounted on a card, many tiny stitches on indigo and pommegranate by Therese S-H

mounted on a card, many tiny stitches on indigo and pomegranate by Therese S-H

When I make new things I explore them a bit knowing that once I add them to my shop offerings  the receivers will expound upon my ideas or create their own- even better and more wonderfully creative things.  This has been an intention of mine for a long time now. I wondered why-how I came to it. I’ve had a lot of years to come to understand why that is- too much to explain in a simple post.  It’s enough for me to understand it in my own life.

I returned here the other day to reread this post upon the news that my favorite ceramist Harrison McIntosh passed away locally at the age of 101. You can read about his life here. I can’t really add much to all that has been written about him and his life/work except to say that I have really admired his ability to integrate the two things seamlessly (and perhaps a message to him to tell Woody I said hello).

Harrison McIntosh (screen capture from Google)

Harrison McIntosh (screen capture from Google)

And if all this isn’t enough, with everything that has been going on here I did not do my usual announcing or my upcoming (this weekend!) workshop at the JANM.  We will be focusing on mandalas on vintage silks and there are still spots available.  You can sign up here through the museum-and I apologize for the late notice here.
JanmThere’s more, but enough for now…

mata ne!

wondering leads down new paths… and back again

It’s true, my blogging sabbatical is over.  It was never really “official”, whatever that means, but in the 9 months in which I haven’t blogged here I have been missing it.  Missing you, those of you who don’t partake in the flurry of other social media offerings.

What exactly do I miss about it?  I miss the wordier, more thoughtful, slower pace of writing a blog post as opposed to the quick quip on Facebook or a clever (maybe) image on Instagram.  If I want to give myself a sorry excuse, I will say I have been very busy these past months. I am quite thankful for that as there have been times when I wondered…financially speaking, if continuing was the way to go.  But being my persistent self, yes, once again persistence was the way.

Often over the past nine months I have thought- “Oh!  I should blog about that.”  Then I let it be and carried on in my work and the moment passed.  (Sometimes for the better I will admit.)

Blogging is more like a homemade meal, often with ingredients right out of your own garden. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the rest are more akin to a fast food joint- you’re in and you’re out. Things can happen in fits and bits.  That is what I have noticed.  And while I work out in the dye studio I can keep up with all that on my phone in a staccato-like way.  I can even throw up a photo ever so easily as I work.(Squirrelly Gurl says Hello!) Throw out a comment or two, commiserate, cheer on, congratulate, and send birthday wishes to people (some of whom I actually know!)  But in the end,  it’s the words and thoughts I miss.  Expression in a different form.

So, even if you can only stop in for a home cooked meal every now and then, come on by- I’ll be here stirring the pot a bit.

Some images from 2014 on your way out, great thanks to all who were a part of it- enjoy, create and wonder!!  We need more wonder in the world…

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

practicality

Image

Image

just working with some vintage kimono lining silk and came across a piece that still had it’s tag on it.  these tags were placed to identify the owner when the kimono was taken apart for cleaning.  often, they were never reassembled.  i removed this tag and realized it was washi (handmade paper).  i loved that the end of it was just twisted into a string/cord and run through and tied into the silk’s selvedge. 

practical.  and lovely.