Tag Archives: japan

Mottainai!

I didn’t want to add this to the last post on the Houston show since it’s a bit of a “Debbie Downer” (apologies to all Debbie’s out there), but I discovered something that I found very disappointing/disturbing (once again) at the show.  I walked the wholesale market on Sunday as I had to wait a couple of hours for the Ed office to open.

On the show floor, I saw that Moda is now producing, for February delivery, a line of fabrics called “Boro”. Now those of you regular readers of this blog probably know how I feel about this. We had a similar discussion when they came out with their “Shibori” fabric line. But this one is even MORE disturbing to me.  Is that possible? Why yes, yes it is.

Why is it that everything has to be bastardized for profit?  You might find my mindset a bit harsh but boro -really??  So now we are going to take the Japanese historical tradition of using scrap cloth to make utilitarian items for daily use and commercialize it to the point of PRINTING scanned images of boro on cotton sheeting for quilters to use in boro-esque quilt projects?  Are we really going there? And for quilters– who in general, have more scrap fabrics than any God of your choice!

I am really appalled at this.  Do they even understand the history of these fabrics? They wax poetically in their catalog about boro, but there is a certain dissonance I find disturbing. Boro was created out of poverty, a lack of having textiles for everyday needs. A certain need to use all that was at hand- to not waste.  Mottainai! Do not waste the resources you have! The ways that people in Japan found to creatively reuse what they did have is remarkable and noteworthy.  To take this and create a line of printed “boro” quilt fabrics just really is the height of irreverent insincerity in my opinion. It’s nothing more than the use of a term seen as a trend for profit. It’s actually quite the opposite of boro, which translates to tattered, ragged, torn or scrap fabrics.

We can celebrate boro by using what we already have, by stitching together the fabrics of our lives. We can study the boro fabrics so lovingly stitched by those who truly were stitching to survive cold winters in northern Japan. We can honor their resourcefulness by adopting the spirit of Mottainai in our everyday lives. Let’s do that instead.

cocoons!

After six weeks of silkworm rearing, I have about 400 cocoons.  I started off with an order of 500 eggs, so here and there, lost a few.  There were no noticeable die-offs of any great number- a good thing that tells me I avoided any major disease issues by keeping the silkworms clean, well fed as well as in good temperature and humidity.  It can be a real disappointment when something starts to kill them off. I can only imagine what can happen to large scale sericulturists.

I stifled these today in the oven at about 180 degrees. This will allow these cocoons to be reeled or used in ways where I want a whole uncut cocoon.  With about 400 cocoons, if I let them all emerge I would end up with 10,000 or so eggs.  I can’t imagine having to feed that many here.  In fact, if I did allow the silkmoths to all emerge, mate, and lay eggs they would end up dying by starvation unless I put the eggs into cold storage.  I would never be raising that many here anyway.  I do have a few folks who wanted to get some eggs from me so I will save some for them.  I will store the cocoons in the freezer in a net bag until needed. These cocoons will be used in Houston for my mawata class there along with some I purchased from Nobue Higashi who raises silkworms in Japan.

silk,silkworms

I should not let you leave this post without paying homage to the life of the silkworm. Yes, I have killed them and have feelings about that.  In Japan, there are temples and shrines devoted to the silkworm or sericulture in general.  Giving thanks for a good harvest and for the protection of the silkworm until cocooning are common among sericulturists in Japan even today. Shouldn’t we remember to be grateful for everything? There are many shrines devoted to sericulture scattered throughout Japan.

It was perhaps not a coincidence that today I was catching up with Nobue on her blog that I read this post where she talks about just this thing…the google translate is very rough but you can get the jist of it. I am looking forward to seeing Nobue san again next year!

You can read about the silkworm deities at Kaiko no yashiro (蚕ノ社) – the Silkworm Shrine here. It’s an interesting story.
Next year on the Silk Study Tour to Japan we will add a short visit to this Shinto shrine. It is about 20 minutes by car from our Kyoto hotel I am told.  If there is not time to add it to the whole group itinerary, I will make time for those interested in a visit here in an early morning trip by taxi.

Following this down a bit further, I found an excellent couple of blog posts on this shrine.

-about the Kaiko no Yashiro (Silkworm Shrine)

-speculation about the triangular torii

-fascinating history of the Hata clan
part one

part two

I made another little video that covers the cocoon harvesting.

 

 

 

 

If a picture is worth a thousand words…

Thought I’d do a little (or maybe not so little) post on whats been going on behind the scenes here lately.  Lot’s of various things- like workshops, studio work, a little flu (all gone now!), RAIN!, and working on the Silk Study Tour to Japan for 2019.

I received the Newsletter from the Fresno FiberArts Guild where I gave a workshop recently. What a great guild-very energized and involved in the community. It was wonderful to see the many resources  and skills available within the membership.  Plus, they were a delightful group to work with!

In the studio, ribbon making continues…

as well as more playing around with silk organza…

The flu came and went -thankfully, not too bad. Hoping the same for you out there! So many have had it in one form or another.
We did get rain this month-so big YAY on that!  Rain barrels full and the garden is refreshed. Snowpack increasing…
There are a number of milkweed plants out back with caterpillars on them but one in particular has about 15 large caterpillars about ready to form crysalis’. I never get tired of watching them.

All the other critters here are well…

And finally, I sent out the information packs, itinerary, and registration forms for the upcoming Silk Study Tour to Japan 2019 last week to those early birds who had signed up via the Constant Contact newsletter. Already 1/3 of the spots are filled.  If you need info, you can access the newsletter here. Here are some highlights from last year:

Next post I will list upcoming workshops both at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and my November workshops at the Houston Quilt Festival.

Hope you are well and wondering daily!

 

 

and then there is Life…

It’s been a whole moon since that last post- a record of sorts here.  One that I don’t plan repeating often in the future. Life happens though and one never knows.  In this past month there have been some significant events- a death in the family and a marriage too! Balancing the sad with the happy, blurring the past and the future.
Life.

a recent get together-
Olivia will be missed…

Took the sisters to have Filipino food one day- they had a great time reminiscing over past get togethers where this food was prevalent. Good times.

Plus we both had the flu which also complicated things.  Hence, no posting here.  Just living.

Spring here is glorious this year thanks to the rainfall received. So much blooming! A simple walk around the backyard is proof that Nature is pleased (at least for now, politics be damned!).

I’m finally back in the studio daily this week and working on orders again.  As if to remind myself of the whimsy that can occur while dyeing, I over-discharged 80 yards of pink shibori ribbon the other day.  I was working on the final color for a large order that included the colorway Pink Storm and when it went into the discharge bath it discharged deep and immediately! I tried to correct on the second pole but *poof*…color disappeared immediately. This pink is very easily discharged (a medium pink using mainly polar red) but the discharge bath was too hot and strong for a controlled discharge. SO, I took the 80 yards and dyed some new and fun colors with it.  Now, I  am back with a new batch of ribbon all base dyed and pole wrapped for some careful discharging today.  Here’s some photos of what went on, and what I was trying to achieve.

The fun part is that now I have some yardage of really pretty colors to play with and sell.  I’ll be taking some photos today and putting some of it in the shop.  I’m also trying to get together a small selection of ribbon to take with me to Japan in May to sample some of my customers while I am there. Yes, Japan. The Silk Study Tour to Japan is coming up soon! May 16th to be exact. I’m really looking forward to it.  Each tour is filled with unique experiences created by the harmonic blending of people and places. We will learn so much, see many extraordinary things, and make new friends and connections for today and tomorrow.

It is my great pleasure to facilitate this tour and watch many people experience Japan for the first time- much of it through the eyes of the silkworm! This year’s tour is full with many interesting people, most who are visiting Japan for their first time. Exciting times ahead! Hirata san and I have added Kyoto to this years experience and our faithful charter bus company will soon be whisking us from place to place while we enjoy some beautiful scenery from the comfort of the bus and its large panoramic windows. In addition we will walk, ride trains and eat lots of great food! Get ready to follow along as I update from Japan along our silk road.

Indigo dyeing has been taking a back seat for the moment- the fermentation vat is back to misbehaving and with all the disruption around here lately I have not been able to concentrate on it.  One thing though, I will be spending several days with my indigo sensei Fumiko Satou in Japan after the tour is over.  I have lots of new questions and hope to be of help to her (as studio helpmate) as she prepares for an upcoming event. I am really looking forward to this.

The next couple of weeks is devoted to clearing out some of the orders, making a little stock, and getting taxes done. Then, final preparations for Japan will be in full swing. That, and a day trip to see the beautiful wildflowers in bloom here in California-where we are thankful to continue the quest for clean air, water and energy (again, politics be damned!).

Love to all… may your path lead you to places unknown. Keep wondering, always wondering…

 

wordy wondering…again

Sometimes I wonder.

As of late, in the curious world we are living in, I feel more and more that I am an outsider. More than just an outsider ( I have always been that) but as I have talked about before, the sort of species that is on the endangered list.  Something that is becoming extinct. As someone who for SOME reason believed I could become anything I wanted to to be (and I became an independent artisan) I feel that choice is in rapid decline in our world.  Maybe it is just me-I admit, I do have a weird perspective. I mean really, how many people do you personally know who has been able to make a living making things by hand and selling them for their entire adult life (40+ years so far)?  Any?  I’m not saying this to amaze or impress you.  Trust me, it’s not everyone’s gig-  THAT is for sure.  But the fact that it was even possible and at some points in history (all over the world) quite common, is interesting. The fact that it is in extreme decline is regrettable to me. I really don’t think that it is something that most people think about at all.

I think about it all the time.

hands

Why does this concern me?  I ask myself this question and it is not an easy answer.  I believe that a certain amount of distance from the norm is good for society in general. It can provide an example, a path to follow, or even inspiration.  It provides a balance of sorts. This kind of distance and independence allows for different thinking, different perspective and different choices.  Not to mention the benefits to many of working with your hands, of creating daily, of experimenting and problem solving, and for many-better mental and physical health.

I can only continue to be, to exist as I am.  All this outside the norms- whatever those are. It seems that that is really the best I can do at this point.  I am very fortunate to have a roof over my head.  Some sort of forethought allowed for that at least.  If I were to do this today, it would look very different I am sure (if I was able to do it at all). That is the point of this post in the end, I guess. It seems as if this choice is becoming so unavailable, so rare-a choice I once took for granted without even knowing what an extravagance it really was. I didn’t know because I just did it. One day at a time, every day-until it was my normal.

The rising cost of living in general seems to necessitate rushing to a job-the sort of job that can pay the bills and leaves little time for much else.  Once one has money coming in, there are the expectations of society, others and even ones self.  A car- a payment, a house-a payment, taxes-payments, health-payments, family-$, etc..  It is a cycle that once one arrives at, is very hard to disengage from.  Only if one can become very creative, frugal, and perhaps fortunate, can you craft a situation that allows distance from the norm. I see people all around me longing to disengage from the desk chair, the screens, the keyboards, the commutes.  Yet the lifestyle that has been created makes it difficult to do so.  The actions needed to disengage are overwhelmed by the changes needed to make this happen.   One is thought of as irresponsible (if not just plain crazy) for not fully engaging in this cycle.

All I can say at this point is find a way.  Just find a way. 
beautyI love Soetsu Yanagi‘s thoughts…

This exhibit is still up at he Mingei Museum in San Diego until Oct. 2nd. I’ve seen it three times now and loved it all three times.

seeds, seedlings, seeded

Back to seeds

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.
so many poppy seeds

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.

demonstrated at the workshop

 

Silk Study Tour to Japan 2017

This past week has had me busy on a number of things.  I finally updated the events page here on the blog.  Sheesh. You’d think that would be a priority.  It use to be! These days with Facebook and Instagram I also list events there as well and things seem to fill anyway.  Thankfully! But I do resolve to get back to keeping it more updated.  Promise.

Also, I sent out the information on the upcoming Silk Study Tour to Japan 2017 last week.  That takes quite a bit of time.  I had promised to get that out in March but… well, things happened.  But now it is done and last night I even played around a bit with my iMovie.  Made a little trailer.  For fun.

The tour info can be found here.  Signups are ongoing and in the first week it is halfway filled with another 25% corresponding and wondering.  So if you had your eye on this trip before, better to wonder earlier than later.  We will keep a short wait list just in case.

Mata ne!