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.
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.
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…
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…
Creating circles of inclusion. Widening circles.
The circle as a natural shape.
A mindset of circles.
Remember when we were children? We sat in circles. We could easily play circle games. Easily drop hands to include another in the circle.
The illimitability of a circle.
The beauty of seeds is that they can become. What? Something of beauty perhaps. Many seeds are beautiful themselves. Today I was noticing the seeds in the yard.
I will save some of the sunflower and poppy seeds. That sunflower plant had over 70 flower heads all at once. There are so many. The birds love them too and we share them. The poppies were so successful this year and gave much delight to all who saw them. And so easy. I really didn’t have to do anything at all except cast them out at the right time. Nature did the rest. Next year, if you drive by you’ll know the house for all the poppies. The seed heads for both the sunflowers and poppies are in the drying and maturing stage. Some will just drop on their own and surprise me next year. Faithful volunteers.
Yesterday, I went to present myself and my “career” for Career Day at a South LA Elementary school. First, I want to say that the kids were great. They are like little sponges that soak things up. They were enthusiastic. Turns out- the school does have two mulberry trees on its campus. Just no memory of why. I think I can solve that. Next year, I will get some silkworms started early- just when the mulberry leafs out. Plant some silk seeds and water them into fertile ground there. As for explaining my “career” to the kids-it was challenging, funny, and informative. I only had 30 minutes with each of the 4 classes. Most of the time was spent talking about silk and silkworms. I brought a tray of them-still so tiny. We cut open the cocoons and saw the pupae inside. I passed around a hank of reeled filament silk, mawata, yarn, kibisu and more. I showed them the cocoon frames-both straw and cardboard. They all took home a cocoon and a square of silk. Three classes were 3rd graders and one was 4th grade. Trevor had 4th and 5th graders and did 5 sessions. His kids learned to play a couple of rhythms with straws at their desks with him playing bells. This K-5 has no dedicated art or instrumental music teacher.
Unfortunately, I must report that the silkworms are not thriving. This is the latest I have ever started them. I really wanted them for the career day event and was taking a bit of a chance. Although there is green mulberry leaf here it is not new and succulent. It is just too dry. We had rain earlier this season but has been very dry for over a month now. El Nino did not arrive in the south this year as predicted. Moving on…sadly.
But fortunately, my friend Nobue Higashi in Annaka, Japan is having a very successful cocoon rearing season. I recently watched this NHK short video on a visit to her place there. I couldn’t find one video of the entire episode and this one repeats but you can see the portion of the show in which they visit her.
A long hot dry summer is ahead. Water will continue to be precious.
There are a few openings left for the indigo and shibori workshop on June 18 & 19. Contact the Japanese American National Museum to sign up. I will have some indigo seeds to share as well.
Here we enjoy some cooler than usual weather this week. That and some great clouds and broken sunlight. I say that since we usually have all sun all day until June when in a good year we along the coast are protected by what is known as “June Gloom”(somewhat a misnomer unless you want to go to the beach). This offers us some coastal fog and cloud cover in the mornings until the sun comes out to heat us up until sunset.
This weather is my favorite weather of the year-where it is temperate even inside my garage studio where it can easily reach over 100 degrees on many days. Still one must shibori on!
The big distraction (my enjoyment on mini-breaks I take throughout the day) is a wander through the yard to notice. So many things in bloom, creatures crawling, wings fluttering, birds in song. I wonder.
and from a distance…
In between. That’s where real things happen. Where one can slow time down a bit and wonder. Test out some new thoughts and answer some questions. In between making shibori ribbon for orders I did some more wondering about the silk shibori ribbon tailings with beads, some thread and a needle.
Let me be the first to say I am not a beader. I dabble. Through my shibori ribbon I have come to know and really appreciate the artistry and craft of beading. I have enjoyed dabbling in the in-betweens. I am too hands-on to really follow instructions and patterns in the several beading books I have acquired. I’d really rather enjoy just exploring an idea until something credible happens. One day I’ll take a workshop and learn some basic beading techniques. Until then…
more shibori on silk.
“silk tailing” particularly alluring and craving some beads i think…
I’ll keep dabbling.
Wondering about the persimmons that are self thinning as you can see by the photo earlier, I saved the tiny fallen kakis to see if I could extract and ferment them to gain some color. Next step will be the food processor and some straining. Fall seems a long way off from here.
I love what Deb is doing here with her indigo. My vat has been drained and added to the compost. A new one will be started soon. I am devising a method for keeping out the flies. Hopefully…
In Silk Study Tour to Japan news- we are 3/4 of the way there with the minimum number of participants. Still room for more if you are interested. I’m looking forward to getting this part settled earlier than usual this time. Hirata san sent me some fun photos and we “facetimed” with an interesting vendor at the Kitano Tenmangu flea market in Kyoto which we will visit next year (me here and Hirata san on the street in Kyoto- gotta love it!). Hopefully the next blog post will detail that visit.