Always during this time of year I begin to get the urge to raise silkworms. Recent walks in the neighborhood encourage me when I see mulberry trees leafing out with fresh tender greens. What silkie could resist?
Reading an account of rice farming and poverty in early 1900’s Japan from one of my favorite books “Memories of Silk and Straw” I saw this, adding further to my yearning…
Watching and caring for small creatures such as silkworms is very calming-at least to me. Seeing them eat, grow, and transform is a reminder of so many things. It makes me a little sad that the local schools no longer do this even though they often have mulberry trees on their campuses, originally planted there for this very purpose.
The neighbor kids are home a lot more now so perhaps they might be interested.
I have eggs in cold storage in my fridge which I saved from my last rearing dated July 2018. A bit old and who knows if they are still viable? I took out one set and will test to see if they will hatch. If not, I may order a small amount of eggs just for fun.
Growing up in Japan in the mid ‘60’s we lived in a house owned by a very wealthy Japanese family. It was located high on a bluff which overlooked the port area of Yokohama. As a child we went on field trips to the Yokohama Silk Center and came home with a small box containing one silk cocoon, one small square of silk, one bit of reeled silk. We regularly visited a nearby famous garden (Sankeien).
Later, much later, say 40 years later, I came to realize that the wealth of the owners of that house we lived in was most likely afforded to the family by the main industry of the time-silk. All wealth in Yokohama and in many other areas of japan was driven by silk trade.
That garden we regularly visited was built and owned by a wealthy silk merchant who many decades later donated the property to the city of Yokohama. It had been their family residence. Only in the past ten years did I learn that one of my early schoolmates was a granddaughter of this family and grew up playing and roaming the private sections of this grand place and it was through her connection that special field trips there were arranged.
The Yokohama Silk Center still exists and I make an effort to go again each time I visit.
So yes, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic today and hoping some of the silkworms will hatch. I’ve put them in a warm spot, with some humidity and hoping for the best in this current corona cocoon.
Be well everyone…
It’s a good thing I don’t share all the letters I receive as some just make me want to throw something and others make me want to shed a tear. Some are so uplifting, yet too personal or bittersweet at times to publish on the blog. This week so far I have received one of each. Just for balance.
Remember Balance? Balance has been a theme here over time on the blog and in reality, everyday.
Which brings me to an email I received this morning.
I ran across a piece of art that I thought was public domain but have traced it back to you. I work for Hanes, and was thinking about using the art “Indigo wall panel” in a panty print but doing it in different colors, modified digitally so that it can be rotary screen printed. Would you grant me permission to use? If not, I will do something different and try to create the look of the technique digitally and that’s perfectly fine. Have a great day.
Thank you either way,
So, basically he is saying that they want permission to use the image of my shibori work as a shortcut to a graphic design to screen print onto underwear. And if I don’t grant permission, they will “create the look of the technique digitally” and carry on. In my mind, I hear- “we will alter your image enough (digitally) so as to be able to call it our own or derived and skip your permission altogether. Have a great day!
So what happened to common courtesy? How about “I came across your work (while searching for patterns in indigo and shibori images online that we could glean for free use of artwork for our commercial product line) and would love to use your image and compensate you modestly (say $500) for it’s use.
I don’t know. I really don’t know anymore. Why? When a company that has reported net sales of $5.7 billion in their most recent report has their design staff searching the internet and basically bullying artists(my opinion) into granting permission for use of their works I just don’t know anymore.
So what say you, fair readers?
Should we say yes and allow them to use this artwork knowing that every time we see this pattern on Hanes panties (and we will see them) we will be reminded of the corporately owned world we must now operate within? It might be a good thing to remind ourselves of this on a regular basis. It is in all our lives daily in even the smallest of things.
Or should we say no, allowing them to feel like they did the right thing by asking and either remake my design in their own image (costing them a bit more) or even just to continue searching online for some other image they can use without actually having to do more than work the keyboard.
Indigo Blues was published in 2012. Like many images of my work, I find them regularly online without attribution. This is a detail shot of the full piece that was sold through my online shop quite some time ago. The full image here.
On the other side of Balance, I received an order for moons the other day with an immediate email follow-up note from a fellow undergoing a very serious health challenge. Having been hospitalized for many recent months he tells me the following:
I have decorated each room I’ve spent time in– sometimes 4 to 6 weeks at a stretch — with fukuro obi hangings and other silk kimono fabrics, which have always brought pleasure to me and to visitors. A calming healing environment visitors would exclaim! I will continue this “tradition” of Japanese design in the rooms when I re-enter for hospital for the transplant, a “cure”, in early September. I plan to add your beautiful moons to the room. Many thanks.
and I reply(in part)…
It will be a privilege to make some moons for you. Thank you for your order.
I can imagine your room…your creating it with a certain peaceful attitude that promotes calmness, enjoyment, and healing qualities for both you and your visitors.
I will be thinking of this as I dye your fabrics. My favorite thing to do is to create intentional fabrics that I can infuse with thoughts and intentions for their recipients as I make them. Thank you. Be well, take care…
Of course a special package is being prepared.
a small couture mfg sees some of my work and wants to incorporate it into their line. meeting takes place where we discuss the possibilities. i share some sources and ideas, send samples etc. there actually was a decent possibility that i could produce something for them -basically a wide cotton woven tape arashi dyed with natural indigo. they loved this-something of mine they had seen from a while back:
they also loved the silk ribbon but the above was what they started with. indigo being ever so “popular” at the moment and the cotton being more practical for the purpose. fast forward to now. they have worked with the cotton tape supplier i directed them to to produce a faux version of this. of course it is only faux. the company actually did a decent job of interpreting the idea but since it is a woven it is very regular and well, manufactured looking. originally we talked about how adding a very artisanal element to the product was highly desired. so now i receive an email asking if i can take what they have created and add an “artisanal” touch to it. or if i have any ideas.
i had to sit with it a bit and think about how i would reply. here are my thoughts on it…
I know it is a desire of many to produce a handmade artisanal effect through a quicker manufacturing process. The result of that often lacks the desired end. My work strives to keep the hand in the making. It is an intentional thought all along the process. I believe that through this intention the final result contains this energy of beauty. It is there, even if one doesn’t recognize it as such.
it is like this process of silk and indigo. to raise some silk myself, to grow the indigo. to use a natural fermentation vat. to make the silk shibori ribbon by hand. it is all intention. to let the end result speak for itself.
i just thought it was interesting that at this point i was being asked back into the project to somehow inject what seemed to be missing-even to them. i actually see it as a good sign. that something different is being sought or desired.
perhaps next time!
Seems like lately I’ve been in the employ of words ending in –tion and -sion. words like:
instruction, concentration, immersion, connection, destination, impression, revelation, fermentation
and the main one:
All through the recent couple of weeks these words rolled around inside my head and I find that they apply to so many things throughout my day. All of them though, bound up by intent. I am focusing more on intent these days. Maybe focusing isn’t the right word really. At least being more conscious of it, wondering about it, taking it into consideration . Noticing it, within myself and beyond.
I think that the silks that Richard brought over made it ever clear. These fabrics have intent. Working with them I can feel and see it. Even though most were produced many decades ago (and maybe especially because they were) the intent seems clear to me. They are still here. They were saved all this time. The intent was carried on through many hands into their present form.
And over time here, I have been wondering not only about silk, but about indigo too. Last year I grew indigo-cut and dried it, even saved the seed. Eventually I composted the leaves into a claylike mass. Now, I have made a fermentation vat with the homegrown indigo. I think the past is about to meet the future, blending the past with the future, sustainably.
This intention has been brewing in me for a very long time. Some days I think maybe since the dawn. I am only beginning to recognize it as such. I can be a slow learner…
once upon a time there were many many kimono. some were worn daily, some were worn for special occasions and when they needed cleaning, they were taken apart, cleaned, then sewn back together. as time passed, many of these kimono were no longer being worn. the outer fine colorful silks were often stripped of the inner linings and resold to be remade into other things. but the lowly inner lining silks-though also fine, but often plain and with little pattern or color, were set aside (if not discarded!) since no one knew what to do with them.
Richard has been collecting them and remaking them into his beautiful silk mandalas. he is here once again to give a workshop and for the past couple of days we have been preparing things. today, we took some pieces out to get a few photos and some video for the daily dyer.
my, they looked glorious! so alive & revivied.
for this workshop, we decided that we wanted to concentrate on using some of these silks and show what can be done with them . we will be using them freely both for the arashi and the mandalas. if they don’t start being used, they are simply going to be discarded. silk was used as a form of currency at one time, so it is interesting to me that something that was once so highly valued is now being cast away.
i like the intention of these pieces we are making. some of the silks are quite old. they were important enough to have been saved by someone all this time. some appear to be hand loomed, even hand spun! imagine throwing that away. some are simple but perfect for dyeing. some have spots or stains. all are unique in various ways. most of the blemishes were no longer noticeable once they were dyed. my favorites are the ones where you can see the slubs, tyoffs and the uneven tensions from the weaving. like these-
there was more than enough for the workshop so i spent some time today sorting and ironing and packaging up some to put into the shop.
i like that we can use this silk from the past in our work today. i can learn things just by looking at it! and some of it is here now in the shop.