Tag Archives: handwork

At the intersection of craft and sanity

Who am I? I’m just going to say this here in the beginning. This post won’t be for everyone here. It’s not really about art, craft, or shibori, per se, but it touches on it and really is about balance, mental health, creativity, and life in general.

Maybe it is for everyone, come to think of it. But if you are here just for the shibori, then feel free to click away- I take no offense. Yes, this is already starting out as a weird post don’t you think?

This is a post I’ve often thought about writing over the years and actually it has been touched upon here and there. I might describe it as the intersection of craft and sanity.

Once upon a time there was a little red-headed child. Life was confusing. It was apparent from an early time to this child that she was pretty much on her own in many ways and needed a way to be balanced and stay sane. It was an intuitive thought, not verbally or even mentally articulated, but it was more a feeling of survival. As time passed, the child was more and more stressed due to issues within the family. Stress did not feel good. The child discovered that creating felt good! The child’s intuitive self awakened to this and made creating a way of life, not really knowing all this on an intellectual level, but only in an instinctual sort of way.
Stress=feeling bad, creating=feeling good.
So the child learned to spend more time in that creativity space. This way, life was livable!

Now I am not suggesting that in order to be creative, one must have anxiety, stress, and even PTSD in your life. I would never wish that upon ANY person, and especially not a child. But we do not live perfect lives and many children experience these issues on a regular basis due to many things (even in the most seemingly “normal” life), which is why it completely exhausts me to know that many kids do not get the space they need to counteract these life problems by having time for creativity.
Creativity can be in many forms- making by hand, singing, dancing performing, cooking, playing an instrument, gardening, (even cleaning the house!) and so forth.

This little redheaded child grew up and had her own children. Seeing the dearth of art and making in their school day, the redheaded mom created a space for that. Here’s an old blog for that here. There are only 55 posts published there. I’ve often thought I should delete it, but for some reason I keep putting it off. I just reread much of it and still feel pretty much the same about what I wrote there. It’s interesting to look back and read your thoughts from 15 years ago. Prior to starting that blog as a separate entity, I was writing posts about it here on Shibori Girl. It was fairly short-lived though, as we got the ax a couple of years later. (Most of the sidebar links are dead.) I did enjoy going back and reading the comments there. Special thanks to those commenters who read and participated-many whom are still readers today! (love you guys!)

This is not limited to children by the way. I only give the above example because people often tell me things like, ” you’re so talented!”, or “I could never do that”. My inner child-self knows they are coming from a different perspective and I usually say something like “well, it’s a practice” and ” really, I think you could!” (or just “thank you”). But the inner adult-self knows that for me this came as a result of an anxiety filled life where the child learned that living in that creative space was like medicine. It was also an escape where she could lose herself, feel better, and eventually it became a practice. It became a place where I made a home and just moved in.

I have seen this in many readers here, in people I meet at workshops or at shows. I hear stories from you. I saw it in the kids from the Elementary Art experience.

What is my motivation for writing this post? I wonder myself. I guess I want to remind ourselves that we can alleviate the stress in our lives with creativity. It’s positive! There are so many ways to be creative. It’s low cost! Many public schools have cut and altered art experiences and in doing so, cut off a vehicle for better mental health and well being for kids. Not good. Kids grow into adults. Our society needs every possible tool and material in the artbox to create good mental health in our schools and in our society. I’m also motivated to “pay it forward” as it were, since I personally had a situation which allowed this possibility to exist. Many do not.

Creativity leads to wondering, wondering can identify issues and problems and lead to solutions. Thusly, the algebraic equation is something like:

Creativity + Wonder = Solutions

We can see the results of the loss of factory production in the US. The loss of jobs where people produced things with their hands has left many jobless or in jobs that don’t give this sort of satisfaction and stimulation. Working with your hands stimulates chemicals in your brain (endorphins) that make you feel good. There are many studies about how working and creating with your hands benefits your overall health-both body and mind. You can be young or old for this to work. You don’t have to make it your career, you can practice it to the degree in which you choose. Like medicine, not everyone takes the same prescription or dosage.

These past couple of years have brought us new worries and stresses. We grieve the losses in our lives. There are new divisions. The recent stirrings of war…

It’s the perfect time to create and work with your hands. It can calm the mind, teach new skills, and point in new directions.

I’m going to just leave it at this for now. Isn’t it enough? And yes, I’m celebrating circles having completed another trip around the sun (or 834 moon trips around the planet if you’re keeping track…). So perhaps all this meandering is just part of that….

amazing to think that Paul MaCartney wrote this when he was 15 or 16!

No pictures, just thoughts this time…next post it’s back to “regular programming”, whatever that is!



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.