Tag Archives: indigo

fragility

I started working on this piece of cloth in order to add it to a larger piece I am stitching. The whole cloth itself is made from reclaimed, recovered, and salvaged bits of cloth-some redyed, restitched. This one in particular is from a couple of those categories.

Time stitching is time to think and reflect…
When the fabric of our lives seems to errode and threads are laid bare, those of us who have the means, the desire, or the ability to strengthen the surrounding cloth/life can help hold it together. Stitching around the red silk, the cloth/wound was revealed, memorializing it’s existence, strengthened and preserved. The still fragile and ever eroding stripes/lives are grounded by solid yet invisible (on the front side) tiny stitches. The back side shows the structure and the pieces and stitches added in an effort, though impossible, to make the cloth/person whole again. Scars/tears will remain, lives lost and forever altered.
This cloth is a small tribute to those who lost their lives this past week in Long Beach CA. In quiet moments of handwork, these thoughts rise up.

I chose this piece as it showed the story of the cloth from several perspectives. It had been reused previously (most likely as a cushion or futon cover) and taken apart. With several holes in it perhaps, the intention being to patch and reuse again.

As I handled the piece to think about how to apply it to the larger piece it became apparent that it needed some stabilization first. Using that same red silk I’ve shown you recently, I decided to highlight a couple of the duty worn areas. As I turned it over in my hand, I realized that the wear on this piece was really only in the warp areas of the brown dyed sections. This being a mainly indigo piece, it was warped in a couple of shades of indigo and what looks to be kakishibu (persimmon) dyes. The weft is indigo in two shades. What you notice is that only the kakishibu dyed sections are deteriorating- telling me that this dye was more damaging to the fibers over time. Was it treated with an iron mordant and not well rinsed? Not sure. But it’s very clear that only those sections broke down over time telling me it is dye related and not wear related.

I applied the lightest weight stabilizer to the back of the very fine red silk which I used. First stitching invisibly (front side) to stabilize the section and then further stitching the open areas revealing a bit of the red silk. Holding it up to the light, reveals its strengths and weaknesses.

I further decided that it needed more stability and added a larger piece of thin indigo dyed cotton to the backside. Copying methods I have seen on some of the vintage boro I have, I stitched the edges and again along either sides of the deteriorating stripes. It’s now ready to be part of the larger piece.

Above is just the process I used to stabilize the worn scrap. As I said in the video (last post), using the red silk to highlight patched areas reminds me of the Japanese ceramic technique generally called kintsugi. Looking up the translation of that word it contains the kanji for tsugi which means “inherit, succeed, continue, patch, graft”. So carrying this further, tsugimono would be something that is in need of patching.
Yes, the patchwork that is our life, our clothstory. Stabilized, but not made whole.

Zakka and the beauty of learning

Originally, zakka referred to uncategorized or common tools and things one would use in everyday life. Nowadays, it refers to a much broader category of items- generally useful and beautiful things that improve your life or bring you joy.

I added a few new things to the shop under the category Zakka.

I really do get a lot of joy from making these pieces. I love to figure out what cloth I will use, how I will lay out the design and fabrics including the stitched pieces. As I work with each piece I can often associate where I collected each bit of fabric and reminisce as I sew. Each is done one at a time and without any formal pattern- I just work it all out as I go. Sometimes I need to redo something to improve the end result and I even like that part of it because I learn something new each time. The beauty of learning…
Here’s a little video of the wallet piece…

If you want to try your hand at making one of these, RIchard always has a nice selection of various textiles to enhance your project in his etsy shop. Plus other wonderful one of a kind objects!

the beauty of teaching

I’ve let this post rumble around in my head the past few days while absorbing and collecting all my thoughts from the workshop at the Japanese American National Museum this past weekend.

Some things it seems I’ve known forever. Other things, I’ve acquired and built up my knowingness over time. I think this past weekend’s workshop really turned a corner in solidifying why and how I find myself at this point in my craftlife experience. It’s been a long time in coming. I’ve seen glimpses of it over time and place but I’ve never really written about it to any great extent.

I know you’ve read me here saying how great a recent workshop was etc., etc. … and I don’t often go into much detail. Today, I’ll write a bit more about this.

For many here, you already know this. Making something by hand yourself is very rewarding in many ways. It can enhance or teach a new skill, provide a different sort of activity from your daily job-whether that is out in the world or inside your own home taking care of others. It can offer quiet time-a peaceful mindfulness as you work on a project. It can provide a focus away from stress or even illness. It can literally keep you sane! In a group, you might gain social interaction with people you didn’t previously know and who have gathered together in a particular place and time for similar and varied reasons.

Some of you may be long time readers (since I’ve been blogging here since 2006) and know I have sold my handmade things for a living since I was in HS. Sometime around the same time(2007-2008), I started teaching workshops at the request of Maggie Backman for the Silk Experience group at the Quilt Festival in Houston. Prior to that I had been volunteer teaching art at the local elementary school. More recently (maybe since 2000-ish), I have been leading workshops at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and various other places.

What prompted me to write about this particular aspect of my work (teaching as opposed to the actual making) was the increasing feedback as well as my own observations from these workshops and my interpretation of it.
We have all heard over the years how the arts are declining in much of our public education and yet at the same time, how the arts foster better outcomes in all areas of education and create more well rounded students. What I do know from personal experience is that art and craft have saved my own sanity in my lifetime. This experience was born out of the loss of my mother at a very young age to the ravages of mental illness, through a very trying childhood that included abuse of various kinds. Where did I go to find solace and peace of mind? Art and craft. The handmade. Why? At the time all I really knew was that it felt good, it felt right. I felt better when I was making something. I went back to this well over and over until it simply became second nature to me. It was (and still is) my medicine. It ended up being my path. You may have noticed here and there the tagline I have used over the years that reads:

“One at a time and Every Day
Moonmaker, Pathfinder, Wonderer.
Art’s apprentice, Color’s mistress, Nature’s admirer.”


I didn’t write this lightly. I meant every word of it, and it still feels honest and fitting to me.
Now getting back to the workshop…here’s a little gallery to glimpse some of what went on.

This time we had over 2/3 new participants! Somewhat of an outlier workshop. Most if not all had never dyed with indigo or done shibori. Some had never done any hand sewing. We had two men. We had people in their early 20’s to 65+. We had 3 gals who were costumers, a municipal financial advisor, a patent paralegal specialist, a retired social science data archivist, an IT aerospace project manager, a dance and arts teacher, you get the idea- wildly varied! For many who were new to the museum they also had the pleasure of joining as a member and seeing all that JANM has to offer. We had people who drove from San Mateo, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Riverside, Arcadia, and all over the LA downtown & coastal areas.

What I find really exciting about what has been happening at the JANM workshops is the sense of family and friendship that has evolved through my workshops there. By having ongoing workshops in one place, many people come back over and over to practice their skills, work on new and ongoing projects and to make, continue, and renew friendships with other participants.

Comments and conversations heard throughout this last workshop really moved me. Expressions of joy from learning a technique of tying a knot on a threaded needle remind me that simple skills are so important and what I may take for granted may be a revelation for another. Another comment I heard was ” I haven’t thought of work all weekend!” Don’t we all need this? During the finishing stage a gal commented that her friend wanted her to gift her the bag she was making. She remarked “Heck no! This is going on display on a table in my entryway with a light shining on it!” She had never made something like this before. Another person finished the bag she started at the first class and began a second one. One gal said that being her second time taking this class she wanted to make one of these each year to “commemorate where I am in life while making it”. Sometimes I see my place in these workshops as a life coach of sorts, a therapist perhaps, encouraging and cheerleading along the sidelines while providing a creative environment for all to move at their own pace, direction and within their own boundaries and limits. Sometimes people need encouragement, sometimes they need inspiration, other times they need permission. Sometimes a gentle nudge, a reminder to persist-it is all happening along the path. All the while teaching the textile techniques required.

My job is to discern what is needed in the moment and provide it through the medium at hand to the best of my ability. There is a bit of an empathic quality that has been developed through the many workshops I have taught over the years. For me, teaching a craft workshop has morphed into much more than passing along a skill or technique. It is my profound honor and pleasure to do this. Who knew?

This week the Houston show begins and for the first time in a couple of decades I am not there. It does make me a little sad. I will miss the people I consider my Houston family who always took my classes and came to my booth and friends who help me there. Teaching this workshop this past weekend however, took a bit of that sting away. This was a workshop I had proposed to teach at Quilt Festival that was not accepted and honestly, I feel this was a loss for those who might have signed up for it but at the same time I have filled that time with other work and don’t miss the stress of all the preparation that goes into doing that show.

And speaking of family, JANM offers this service in their resource center. I took this photo of a flyer I saw there. You can research your family’s history of incarceration in the WWII Japanese American concentration camps as well as immigration records! There is a fantastic oral history archive as well. I love listening to it. Lots of info is available online in the National Archives. Since so many participants of the workshops are Japanese American, as we work, we get to hear shared family stories of incarceration and reintegration into society after the war. The folks who are still living that were incarcerated in camps Mainly as children) are getting older and I feel the privilege of listening to the younger generations share their family stories. I have learned so much from them!

Getting back to the medicine part of teaching and the idea that handwork is medicine for the mind isn’t a new one. Any kind of handwork (think knitting, embroidery , beading, quilting and more) can be therapeutic and restorative. These days people are more likely to have a screen device in their hand as opposed to a needle and thread, a lump of clay, or a paper and paintbrush. But does this serve the same function? One might argue that there are benefits to both but the imbalance I see around me is what concerns. Making or repairing something offers a satisfaction that just isn’t there with digital devices. Enjoying a process on the path towards a goal or completion serves us well.

Take Shinischi Kobayashi for example. At the age of 72, he started drawing. On everything!
I’m sure he benefits from the neurochemicals that his brain releases and keeps him continuing to draw. Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins are the four major chemicals in the brain that influence our feeling of well being (DOSE). Medicine without pharma! Generally, we don’t think about these things when we apply ourselves to activities that trigger brain chemistry responses. We just know that we enjoy it-that time seems to pass quickly, and we want to do more of it! I am looking forward to seeing a day when education realizes that the health benefits of applying hands and minds to materials in creative ways, in equal doses to STEM and all the testing. It makes for healthier humans. And with plenty of challenges ahead of us, we want to be as healthy as possible!

Here is my finished komebukuro (offering bag) made at the workshop as a demonstration piece for the class. I had to finish it at home since I was busy at the sewing machine on day 2 assembling eveyone’s bags. I’m working to finish up a couple of complementary pieces for the shop and will post when they have been added.
We all have something to offer.

Kamakura, Yamanashi, and heading to Kyoto…

I’m finally getting a bit of time to do another post or two while I’m still here in the Tokyo area (I’m now in Amamioshima)! I really am struggling with all the information and photos I have collected-trying to get it put together into some order that makes sense without just rambling on and on…
Not to mention that Hirata sends me folders of photos each day on dropbox to share with participants and some were mistakenly deleted and I had to sort through that and figure out what was missing and get them re-uploaded. Easy to do if you are not used to dropbox. Need to get a new system for that. Anyway,here goes…

The last day of our time in Tokyo we headed to Kamakura where Hirata is always eager to share the sights and sounds of his hometown. Everyone got a taste of riding the train and learned to use their Suica cards to enter and exit the stations and I’m glad to say that this time we didn’t lose anyone (it has happened-but the lost is always found in Japan)! They saw the first of their temple and shrines- Engaku-ji, Tsurugaoka Hachimangū and the Daibutsu (the Great Buddha) as well. Schoolchildren and tourists crowded Komachi-dori (the main shopping street) and at a point we broke up into smaller groups with the promise to either meet up for the return train trip to Ginza or to adventure it on their own. Hirata’s wife Rumiko and good friend Megumi welcomed us to their home to rest and have cold tea to those who needed a break from the heat and the walking.
Photos from Kamakura…



The next day we checked out of the Ginza hotel and our charter bus whisked us away towards Kyoto for a four night stay via Kawaguchiko and one night there. The Star Pegasus was complete with wifi, USB charging, and a bathroom! Not to mention the best bus drivers ever-they had some crazy skills!



but first… a visit with Fumiko Sato to see her studio, have a demonstration of indigo dyeing and opportunity to view and buy some of her work, as well as enjoy a bento lunch of macrobiotic vegetarian sushi that was almost too beautiful to eat!

it’s always hard for me to say goodbye to Sato-san-I want to stay, work and spend time with her. Unfortunately, this time I won’t be able to return as I usually do.

Afterwards, we headed to the Ichiku Kubota Museum to see the work of this imaginative shibori dyer who took tsujigahana dyeing to a whole new level. It’s always a pleasure to take people here since it’s such a mind-blowing experience. Unfortunately, the gift shop here no longer carries any books or postcards depicting his work. When we asked why the answer was “copyrights” without any further explanation. Also no photos this time. I’m glad for the ones I do have. The bead collection is wildly diminished and not on view as it was before. ¥500 additional gets you into the cafe where there are a few cases but we opted out of that in order to get to our hotel and relax in the onsen. Perhaps they sold off the collection to raise funds. Not sure what is going on there. Still, a beautiful museum and ever changing collection of his work.

After a full day we retired to the beautiful Kakuna Hotel for a one night stay. Views over the lake towards Mt. Fuji (which only peeked out from behind the clouds here and there as we visited the rooftop onsen) and a beautiful dinner put the day over the top and we slept with dreams of indigo, tsujigahana and beautiful Japan swirling in our heads.

The next morning it was off to Kyoto for 4 nights which deserves it’s own post (or two)!

Let’s see if I can get the next post started (Kyoto)tonight- today in Amamioshima it was very warm and humid but the day was filled with dorozome- (mud dyeing) which also will be it’s own post down the road. But just to tease a little bit…

Amami Oshima

continuing tradition…

Wednesday’s post was long enough so I didn’t add specific information about the side trip I’m taking after the Silk Study Tour to Japan ends. Prompted by one of the tour participants who is researching the mud dyeing traditions of various cultures and locales, I was inspired to go and see this for myself and add to my Japanese textile knowledge. I will spend 4 days there learning and exploring the textiles of Amami Oshima.
Amami Oshima (oshima means island in Japanese) is the northernmost island in the Okinawan archipelago.

it is part of the Ryuku Islands

While the Ryuku Islands (and Okinawa) are well known for their Indigo dyeing and beautiful weavings using tropical plant fibers, Amami Oshima is known for its tradition of plant and mud dyeing on silk, often supplemented with indigo. Its beautiful and intricate weavings using the previously bound and dyed warp and weft threads are called Oshima Tsumugi.
This link has a good description of the process and terms.
Japan seems like it is filled with endless opportunities to learn and discover so many textile traditions and this is one I have not previously explored.
Interestingly, I realize I have already collected a small sampling of these textiles! I’ve seen them here and there in Japan and picked some up when the price was not too steep just to study and enjoy them. A sampling:

A recent video shows more of the process and the issues facing the economics behind weaving this very time consuming textile.
There is also a lot of indigo dyeing that occurs in the Ryukyu Islands perhaps in part due to its tropical and mild climate as well as the weaving of choice bast fibers, especially on Okinawa. I expect I will also see some of that on Amami Oshima as well.
I also read where they produce a special type of sake there using sugar cane…will have to try it!

So the fabric collections I will be putting together for you includes one selection that will be collected only from Amami Oshima and I wanted to explain a little bit more about what that was all about. You can see the various collections that can be ordered here in the shop.

I look forward to sharing my Amami Oshima adventures here on the blog in early June.

apparently, i sent the wrong message…

Now that I can get into a somewhat comfortable position to type on the keyboard, I thought I’d do a blog post and catch up with what is going on around here. I always start by going back and reading my last post.

Apparently, I sent the wrong message. I definitely did not send a message that said, “let’s make everything MORE difficult than it already is”! But alas, that is what ended up happening last week as I stepped over the low dog barrier keeping Bella and Buddy out of the vegetable patch. My foot caught the top of it and I went down hard on my left shoulder, feet in the air behind me!  A day long event at the UCare ended in an xray confirming that I had fractured my left humerus. Even though it was April Fools Day, it wasn’t humorous at all. Thankfully though, it wasn’t worse, like tearing something that required surgery. Got lucky there.  But this is really a major inconvenience and I will need to do something to carry me through until I can return to do my usual studio work.  Fortunately, no cast but wearing a sling. Yikes! This is the sort of thing that always instills a fair amount of fear in me. The inability to work! For any of you that are working artists/craftspeople whose only income comes from what we create, you probably know what I’m talking about here.  But this is the life I chose and so far it has been pretty dependable.  Don’t we all wish we could redo certain moments like this?

I did however make it to last weekend’s shibori and indigo workshop with the help of many since I can’t drive, let alone lift anything that requires two arms. Trevor drove and helped set up and load the car, students helped clean up and pack things back up for Phil to load into the car and drive me home. One of the students even picked me up on Sunday and took me to LA (thanks Cheryl!). We took it slow and the students were so helpful- I couldn’t be more fortunate on that account. Much gratitude and blessings to all the helpers in the world!
The workshop was full with both new and returning shibori practitioners.  It’s really great to see those who have continued really exploring the possibilities and coming up with their own techniques as well as challenging themselves to replicate some of the samples and books I bring.

working away…

So at the moment, I am focusing on being careful, doing the small movements that physical therapy has outlined for me and wondering about this coming month.  I will focus on some small works to put into the shop and see what else I can do that is within the realm of the permitted…

In the meantime, plans continue marching along for the Silk Study Tour to Japan (Dr says I will be good to go by then-mid May) and towards that end I have been working on a couple of items for the shop you might be interested in.

During my upcoming trip to Japan leading the Silk Study Tour this May, I will collect an assortment of wonderful vintage Japanese textiles to package up into collections for you to re-create into something wonderful or simply to study! These collections will all be unique, inspiring and varied. I always learn so much by looking at and re-using cloth with a past.

Some of the best wonderful bits and pieces are found in the odd corners, the small resell shop, the back corner of seamstress shop, or the temple sale. Many shop owners are thrilled when you come with a little knowledge of the fabrics and are often willing to teach you more as you share that knowledge and ask more questions. Each package will include some annotations and thoughts on the fabrics. Over the years, I have become better at recognizing the fabrics that have an interesting technique, are more rare, or have interesting stories to tell. There is always so much to comb through but only certain things stand out to me.  Often these are pieces that I might not completely understand but that from looking at so many textiles over the years, I just know there is something special about them. Many become study pieces and I have learned so much!

The collections will be limited and will be broken into the following selections:

Shibori, Kasuri, & Indigo Collection (20)
Amami Oshima Collecion (10)
Wonderer’s Collection (10)
Dyer’s Collection (10)

Please visit the shop here to see the detailed descriptions and pricing for each collection.  Since I return in Mid June, I will have these shipped out to you by June 30th.  Expect some fun, additional (non-cloth) surprises that will be slipped into your package for coming along on the adventure!  Your purchases will really make this month so much easier…
Plus, I will be uploading to the blog my findings along the way…the adventure begins May 14!

And… the new era name was announced in Japan-Reiwa.

intermission

a placeholder of sorts while I decide what to make from it
a pause, to breath, to notice the ebb and flow of the tides
to hear my own heartbeat.
there is some indigo dyeing in the studio this week
and of course some moons.

a few of my favorite scraps

and here is a little something to wonder about-

“You’re only given a little spark of madness.  You mustn’t lose it.”
~Robin Williams

mata-ne!