Becoming December…it arrives,and here, we never know if we will don flip flops and short sleeves or warm boots and sweaters inside the house. This year we are wearing warm shoes and sweaters. Heavy snow in the local mountains is a welcome and beautiful sight from the hilltop nearby. The ginko is busily dropping its golden carpet of leaves on the back garden, mulching it with beauty. Narcissus are blooming early. I even had the first saffron crocus bloom and more are on the way. The pomegranates exhausted themselves (and me!), and the persimmons are ripening daily. I’m sharing them with friends and neighbors and even this (not so) little guy…late at night.
In the contradiction of clashing seasons, hand fulls of strawberries can be picked every few days as they are planted where the sun seeks them out and happily seem to produce year round there-at least so far. The late eggplant and tomatoes are still heavily laden, though with this recent cold streak they will definitely slow down, but are welcoming the rain. The cold and wet has slowed the outdoor studio work but still has not vanquished me completely from getting the necessities done.
This coming weekend is the last JANM workshop featuring indigo and shibori and we will make the most of it. Many regular participants will come together for this year end creativity laboratory. No need to put the link here as it has been sold out for quite a while. There is however a “save the date” list of upcoming workshops at JANM to sign up for as soon as the museum gets them listed. You can view it here. **EDIT** JANM just emailed me to say that the January Mandala Workshop is up on the website and taking registrations. Here is the link. See the full description on the calendar page here.
Two weekends ago I taught an in-studio flower making workshop with a small group. There were some beautiful results…a garden of beauties! I’ll be adding another one of these soon. Let me know if you are interested.
A post or two ago I introduced a new item into the shop-the shibori ribbon beaded necklace kit. At the time I had not finished the instructional video but the orders received kicked me into gear getting this done. I’m offering it up to you here (free youtube video) if you are interested in seeing how this piece gets made. Perhaps you have some shibori ribbon waiting to be made into something beautiful as a gift. I am also adding this video link into the sidebar under the Feeling Free(r) page/list.
I also just added some new Mooncloth card sets to the shop. Previously, I have had photo card sets using images I have taken of my work but these card sets have actual mooncloths attached to the front of the card that can be removed and used in a project. Sets come in 3’s or 6’s, are blank inside and include an envelope. I hope you enjoy them.
I just got back from picking up my son Trevor from the airport. He has been in Japan for the past three weeks on a long awaited trip there to make new friends and surf. It was an exciting adventure and he spent time in Kyushu, Amami Oshima, and Chiba-all prime surf areas. But one of the exciting things for me was that he met up with my long time blog friend Jan Hillstead Fujikawa in Nagasaki! Long time readers of this blog might know her from her blog Oh Brother! (WhereIsSheNow) She started blogging in 2007 and hasn’t updated since 2014 but we keep up through FB and other social media. She’s an expat of over 30 years and I hope I get to meet her myself next trip. But it was kind of her to spend the day with Trevor and he also got to meet her son! In Amami Oshima, Trevor was able to meet up with our friend and surfer Ko, who showed us around Amami when we were there earlier this year. Trevor also started a blog highlighting his trip which you might enjoy. This is his first blogging experience. His blog, day one starts here.
It’s another rainy day here and the rain barrels are already overflowing. The cactus has finally stopped blooming- it was a solid 2 months of nightly blooms! Pretty amazing really. Here are a few photos collected recently from around the garden.
And a few more of some shibori ideas for this weekends workshop…shibori images on greeting cards for the holiday. I did one with a dove but tried to get too fancy and put a twig with leaves in its mouth which complicated and distorted the image making the head of the bird unclear. Will redo… Lesson: when working on small images, keep it fairly simple and use a good fine linen for best results!
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.
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.
Kokoro means “heart” in Japanese and this past Sunday I participated in the Kokoro Craft Fair at the Japanese American National Museum. The event is staffed by volunteers who organize and run the event to great success in fundraising for the museum’s educational programs and more. They have lots of heart! I have never been able to participate before since it is too close to the show I usually do in Houston towards the end of October/early November but this year since I am not in Houston, it was a pleasure to be able to do this event. As is often the case, since it was only a one day affair, I forgot to take photos as I was focused on what I was doing and engaged with customers and attendees. I met many interesting customers & vendors and thought the overall quality of vendor there was very good. Handmade, no imports, and lots of fun Japanese related crafts from what I could see in my quick walk through as people were setting up. I had a lot of people interested in my classes at JANM (ran out of flyers!) and also in the Silk Study Tour for 2021! Three years ago we had the first Japanese American join us on the tour and this year there were three! It is my distinct pleasure to have more Japanese Americans join us and explore their cultural heritage through the tour. I have to say a little something about the volunteer staff at JANM. Many are senior Japanese Americans and they do so much for the museum! The JANM is a welcoming place and has always made use of volunteer staff. Sometimes I think that we forget how much seniors have to offer, but not at JANM! Some of them are well into their 70’s and 80’s, maybe 90’s! I hope I have as much vitality as they do when I get there! It was a pleasure to work with them at the event! Thank you Kokoro volunteers! I also enjoyed meeting Ann Burroughs the President CEO of the museum for the first time. We had a nice conversation and she even made a purchase of some of my shibori blank cards to use when sending out thank you notes to donors. That was a wonderful thing!
Coming up on October 19-20 at JANM is the second workshop on making a komebukuro (offering bag) incorporating indigo dyeing, boro, shibori, and sashiko. There are only a couple of spots left…. Click for details and signups…
I am busy preparing the material kits and supplies for this class. It’s a bit more work than any of the other workshops so I’m making sure I get a good headstart on it! I am going through all the japanese fabrics from the tour and auditioning the ones I think I want to use for this class. I’ll make another one this week just to settle back into the project.
There are 7 new silk shibori ribbon colors into the shop. All pretty and hard to choose a favorite! One thing I will mention, after making this ribbon for so many years now I surprised even myself by discovering something in the pleating that made a big improvement! Just goes to show you that there is always room for wondering! You can order them in the shop here.
The tree is loaded with pomegranates and is coming all at once so I am also busy processing them both for dyeing and eating. I’m freezing some of the arils for later and drying and freezing the peels for dyeing. I plan to do some special gold pom dyed pieces soon. This here is the largest one I have ever grown- a blue ribbon winner for sure weighing in at over 2 pounds! Pomegranates are time consuming and delicious!
Kuro in a sleepy moment out in the garden and I couldn’t resist taking a photo. He still decides on when and if he wants petting from us, but with the night temps dropping a bit, he actually came in and slept on the bed for a few hours last night! He’s very independent! The feral in him I suppose.
I also added another silk shibori flower making class into the mix for November. I had a few people who wanted to do this but missed the last workshop. It is a small group class and you can see the details here. This will be a fun afternoon and a great time to make a few handmade pretties for holiday gift giving.
I’ve been enjoying following Peggy Osterkamp’s weaving blog as she is touring in Japan visiting many textile sites. She went to Amami Oshima as well and saw some of the same things I did. Seeing it again through her weaver’s eye I learned some things that I didn’t get a chance to learn while I was there. The main part of her trip is traveling around Kyushu which is on my list for my next adventure to Japan. In fact, my son is going there for 3 weeks and spending a good chunk of his 3 weeks on Kyushu. Additionally, John Marshall just sent out a newsletter announcing his new book. I hope I will be able to add it to my workshop library collection of great textile books. It includes over 100 swatch samples and he characterizes it as a “field study guide to Japanese textiles”.
And from my friend Jude who is moving, a look at the place they will now call H O M E. I’ve enjoyed her adventure and will move right along with her.
I’ll end this post with a couple of thoughts that passed my way today which resonated with me. The first one was during an interview with Presidential candidate Andrew Yang- “take a dream and turn it into something.” He also remarked that women are never truly idle. How true! And the other is the last line of a poem that Michelle posted on her FB page today “Everywhere I look, my thoughts run wild.” (‘2011’ by Fanny Howe)
Let’s keep wondering and dreaming and let our thoughts grow wild.
On the eve of the autumnal equinox, we gathered at JANM to explore plant dyeing. We were fortunate to have a photographer join in as he had a special project in mind and wanted to incorporate some dye techniques. He really captured the community spirit of the class in his photos and we thank him for that!
My personal goal for plant dyeing is to continue to grow and gather materials in my immediate surroundings and have an ongoing range of items using seasonally collected materials. This is a goal borrowed from Yamazaki sensei and family in Japan whom we visit while on the silk study tour. Of course he takes it to a whole new level using his dyes and pigments for his masterful katazome work. We are just beginning our adventures.
Dye materials and mordants locally gathered and grown are regionally specific, each material reflecting the conditions of the soil they are grown in, the seasonal climate challenges, the time of year the materials are harvested, whether they are used fresh or dried for later use. Of course these days one can order a vast array of dye materials sourced worldwide but I want to learn and push to the limits my knowledge of what I have on hand here- coaxing color from each material and applying mordants, ph differences and temperature changes to shift colors. Learning the lightfast properties of each dye material is an additional challenge.
My beginning colors reflect what I have on hand, pomegranate, persimmon, marigold, mint, senna seed pods, madder, and further experimentations with apricot wood ash (we had to cut down the apricot tree and use the wood for outdoor cooking) and kaffir lime juice as an acidifier. We did have a small pot of cochineal at the workshop using the lime juice. I have a kaffir lime tree and really only use the leaves and a bit of zest for cooking. The juice is just too strong so it’s perfect that it can be used in dyeing. I continue with the indigo (but not from here for now).
Writing this post I realize I had a dream last night where I was wandering in a yard somewhere with someone wanting to do natural dyeing from their backyard and I passed by an old rusty metal wind chime hanging on a tree, noting it would make great iron water… dreaming solidifying my thoughts.
I’vee had a couple requests to set up a local silk shibori flower making class, so I did!
There are only 4 spots open so if you are interested, please check the shop listing here.
All materials are included in this small group class.
assorted silk pleated flowers
I was going to post this on FB yesterday as a new event but there was a worldwide FB outage affecting postings,comments etc. Maybe that isn’t a bad thing?
And while I am at it, I will remind you of the upcoming April 6-7 Shibori and Indigo workshop at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles (or as it is sometimes known as- Japangeles). Signups are through the museum at above link.
The rain here has gone away for at least the next couple of weeks and I was able to replace the shade structure over the dye space outside. There is a new squirrel in town (or even possibly Squirrelly Gurl herself as they can live up to 8 years or so). She is so friendly to me and personality wise, much like the OG Squirrelly Gurl. I can’t know for sure but am enjoying her daily visits. Buddy the dog enjoys watching her and feeding time but the new cat-Kuro chan is trying to chase her when she can! SG is too fast for Kuro-thankfully and outsmarts him every time.
risu chan- Onakagasuita!
I did channel a little bit of Ume san last week and made this bag from the piece of sashiko laced boro from the last blog post. Adding it to the shop now.
Cross shoulder bag, made entirely from used/recycled and vintage materials outside of the thread and the shoulder strap. One outside pocket on back side, one inside. Completely lined with vintage kasuri kimono silk.
Front fabric covered button closure with indigo twined wrap-around cording. Outside pocket fits large mobile phone while an ipad can fit inside.
Plus the Silk Study Tour to Japan is in high gear. Everyone is getting ready for this great adventure. I’m receiving the bio pages for the booklet I make to hand out to our hosts so they can learn more about us. It’s always interesting to them! We still have 2 spots open for anyone wanting to make last minute plans to join our textile adventure. Link here.
In the absence of the Amuse Boro Museum (which closes this month) we are making plans to visit the Mingei Folk Museum instead. It just so happens that they are having a special exhibit of the work of Motohiko Katano, known for his adventurous and creative shibori patterns. I have never seen his work in person so I am quite excited about this. My first visit to this museum was with vintage textile dealer Carola Pfau’s husband Makoto (now passed), who also treated me that day to several of his favorite temple sales. Boy did we have a good time! Great memories…
We will also be visiting the Ichiku Kubota Museum as well as the Kyoto Shibori Museum so participants will have the opportunity to study some of the best shibori in the world!
Time to go and dye the rest of the indigo thread for this weekend’s workshop!
I remember when I was 13 and this song came out. I believed it. So did many others I’m guessing. We lived in Japan and we heard it on Armed Forces Radio like all the top hits. The Vietnam War was ongoing and not to be ended for several more years. We got a lot of the war news in the daily Stars and Stripes.
I heard it again the other day and I still loved the emotion behind it. But it made me sad to hear it in our present time. In 1970 it made me feel happy and hopeful! At 13 I was not very aware of race, racism, or of the disparity life was dealing out to non-whites in the US. We were growing up in another country and when listening to the radio I often did not know (or wonder about) the race of the groups we heard until I stumbled on an album cover at the PX and when that happened it was exciting. I had my own reasons for wanting to believe the words of this song and it wasn’t until years later when we had returned to the US that it started occurring to me that this song was written about something I had no reason to understand based on my own experience at that time. Thankfully, that has changed. But maddeningly, for many, that day has still not come to pass. We simply cannot continue down this path. It is such a waste of our collective potential.
I was reading as I always do, jude’s blog, about saying what we are thinking. I tend to keep most of it to myself, at least here. But I am always thinking as I work and it becomes intertwined in everything I do and everything I make. It can’t NOT be that way.
So, this is what I was thinking about this morning as I prepared some silk for an upcoming workshop at the JANM. You can read more about the workshop in the previous post.
As for the silks, these are mostly collected from the last trip to Japan. Found in dark shop corners, as they are all leftover from unassembled kimono and were un-dyed which makes them perfectly suited for dyeing mandala but generally overlooked by other customers there. Fabric kits this time include habutai, jacquards, chirimen, organza and some satin organza (new to me and difficult to work with -so far).
I actually had to go out and buy a backup sewing machine for this workshop-picked up a low end brother machine-something in case my regular machine takes a dive during the workshop and allows us to have two machines going. In the past I just had the one and hoped for the best! In Houston when I do this workshop we have rooms full of machines and everyone can sew their own. This workshop requires a sewing machine.
Encouraged by jude’s blog post this morning, I dug out a video I made a month or so ago that I never used. It’s a few “loose thoughts” stitched together in video form. This one’s for you jude!
As for other goings on here, my shibori ribbon likes to travel the world and has been to so many more places than I have! Recently to Russia, Italy, Poland, and the UK. So that continues.
The garden is producing tomatoes! Kind of crazy for January but I took a chance on equally crazy weather and voila-tomatoes! Also there are lettuces, swiss chard, carrots, onions, beets and broccoli for now. It’s also citrus time here still and whether I am sharing my own or enjoying the bounty from others we have our quota of vitamin C covered daily here. I hope you are as fortunate.
Gosh, has it been that long? The first quilt Journey started here. Further photos from the wayback time machine here on Flickr. And it has been a journey that has developed into an Odyssey. Journey was the original mooncloth.
Sometimes it’s funny to go back and read an old post. Notice how some things change and others remain the same. Like how I am still not a quilter. Blogging for over 10 years now and there are so many posts I still enjoy going back and re-reading- as a reminder. Others not so much- but still a good reminder.
In a much more recent post, I showed you how I was binding the edge of the test mooncloth Under One Moon in a little video. A couple of pics of the semi-finished piece:
under one moon
This was sent off as a gift with a hope of continuing. Some thread and a needle included.
Continuing on with the larger one I’m calling Odyssey, I’m realizing how much I like the feel and drape of this cloth in my hands as I stitch on it. And right now as I head towards Quilt Festival I also realize that about 90%+ of the fabric I see there is not fabric that I would want to hand quilt with. Of course quilting began with the reuse of scraps from clothing and household textiles that lived previous lives and had a softness built into them. Fabrics now are made for machines with tight weaves, bright colors, and slick finishes. This makes them harder to push a needle through by hand. And less desirable to hand quilters. I don’t know how others feel about this but I will be noticing next month at the festival and wondering about it more.
I hope I can get this one finished in time. Or near to-at least in a way that it can be continued on the road. Late afternoon light… Seems it’s a Nine patch. Just turned out that way.
And in workshop news… the upcoming indigo workshop at the Japanese American National Museum is going to be a little different. We will be making some small fermentation vats that folks can take home and continue with. We will also be using the pre-reduced indigo and doing more shibori. Perhaps you want to explore doing some more detailed stitched shibori on larger cloth?