Tag Archives: japan

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!

karamatsu shibori

the way i do it…and baby squirrels too!

As I sit here tonight writing this, the silk is steaming out in the studio and I go out every 30 minutes to change out the poles.  In between, I check the chicken roasting in the oven, think about doing that final sales tax return due in a few days, answer emails, and listen to the bees. Out back the guys are recording the weekly groove.  I’ve taken to doing my weekly blog post when that happens.  A schedule of sorts.

organizing dye work

organizing dye work

Listen to the bees?  Yes, the bees are back.  Actually they never really left but now they have become problematic again since I need to do the landscaping out front and they gave my helper a sting yesterday.  Turns out he is somewhat allergic so last night we foamed up and screened off all their entrances and exits.  And today they are just downright mad.

Oops, timer just went off so time to change out the poles.  Be(e!) right back!

OK.  Where was I? Where I sit at my computer is right above where the bees have fashioned their hive underneath the house and I can actually hear them through the electric outlet…buzzing up a storm! Yes, I have had the beekeepers out and it was decided that they are just too smart for us (thankfully) and the hive is completely inaccessible for removal, so that is that.  They’ve had a good run here (8 years off and on) and have minded their own business for the most part.  So, enough about the bees.

cute...Buddy

cute…Buddy

The dogs have been groomed as of yesterday and I was reminded via mail today that the whole pack of them including the cat need their rabies vaccines updated or I will face all kinds of fines and such.  So another thing on my “to do” list beckons.  Apparently, I can send my child to school unvaccinated but there is no “belief exemption” for dogs and cats.  Milo TOLD me he really, really, does not believe in the rabies vaccine.  He heard it gives him an odor that mice can detect from 50 yards.  I said, “Sorry, no go-it’s off to the low cost vaccine clinic with you!”

I promised a sort of SOTU address of sorts in this post, so here goes.  Fact is that I am fairly overwhelmed with ribbon orders.  I’m sorry you are having to wait but that’s just the way it is at the moment.  There are no shortcuts to take here in regards to making it and besides, that would be somewhat contrary to the point of it all wouldn’t it? I have my own way of prioritizing the orders too.  I try to honor the FIFO scenario but I can and do make exceptions.  I believe in honoring the most longstanding and regular customers whenever possible as well as those who are going out on the road with the shibori ribbon incurring show fees and travel costs- I know what that entails and I do appreciate you meeting up with the customer face to face.  Small folk and designers also get an extra point and larger entities who only sell online may have to wait a bit more.  Agree or disagree, that’s just the way I do it.

colorway-acorn

colorway-acorn

Again with the timer…back in a sec…

OK- back again.  Chicken is smelling good, fed the dogs, made a salad, wine now in hand. So back to the SOTU.  Making the ribbon has become my “day job” -a good thing since it supports the household and keeps things flowing here.  I don’t want to minimize it or take shortcuts with it because something gets lost in that.  It needs to be beautiful, and that takes time.  I don’t want to farm it out which takes the specialness from it.  Each inch IS an adventure– in the making of it and the using of it.  I have seen that over and over and respect that.  A good roll of the shibori ribbon reveals that sincerity, that intent.  It matters who is involved in the making of it and why.  So I continue making and sending it- for the enjoyment and wonderment of the end user.  In my “spare time” I stir the indigo vat and dip a little here and there.  I have my personal projects on the side for now.

shibori inspiration

shibori inspiration

Last weekend was the shibori workshop at the Japanese American National Museum.  It was wonderful as usual.  Great folks, each coming together to gather some new information and practice. It was really nice to see many familiar faces mixed in with the new ones. I really enjoyed hearing the snippets of conversation between participants getting to know each other a little bit.  By the end of the second day they were exchanging info and planning to get together outside the class and visit each other.  I like that too.  With 20 people in the class I was a little envious I couldn’t get to know more about each one of them- I was so busy! But it felt good that everyone enjoyed themselves so much! One thing I wanted to stress about the workshop is that we were mostly dyeing old kimono fabric. Many of the samples I had around the room were vintage pieces.  I wanted to remind them of the beauty of aging.  That is also a very Japanese concept especially when it comes to craft.  Things of beauty DO age.  That beauty is lasting, evolving.  A good thing to remember.

Ahhh… the last timer has sounded…now to finish up and set the fans.

Back again.  Dinner served and cleaned up. Guys back outside recording.  The rest of the night is mine!

This is getting to be a long post- hang in there!!  I am doing some organizing and work on the Silk Study Tour to Japan as well. (So many things to do!!) It is getting exciting.  We still have some spots open so please contact me if you *think* you might like to come along.  Yes, I know it is a bit of pocket change.  I don’t take that lightly, but believe me travel is always rewarding- and life is short. Looks like it will be a smaller group this year which in itself is nice for participants and easier on me. Financially, we will squeeze by.   I never know if we will do this again.  Can we ever know the future? The dollar is good against the yen right now so we are fortunate.  I remember back in 2011 when the earthquake in Japan on March 11 resulted in the tidal wave that wiped out the coastal areas in Miyako in Tōhoku’s Iwate Prefecture as well as created a level 7 meltdown  at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. That night it so happened I was online with friends in Japan and was informed about the strong earthquake.  As the evening proceeded, video of the tsunami in progress appeared. Devastating and hard to comprehend.  In the following weeks we were not sure we would continue the tour but kept an open mind.  As it turned out we went on May 14, 2011.  We were practically the only foreigners touring in Japan at that time.  The Japanese were somewhat in a state of shock still but very glad we were there as so many (most) tourists had cancelled plans- the economy suffered.  I cannot express how grateful and hospitable they were towards us.  We were not in any danger as we did not venture into areas of concern but of course there was much media coverage of possible dangers.  Two years later we went again and brought forth a whole new group of “silkies” ( those interested in sericulture and silk).  Now, 4 years later we plan to go again.  We will learn and see many things. Some of the artisans we visit are aging rapidly.  We may never see them again.  We visited with a very interesting natural dyer in 2009 that had passed away in his late 80’s by the time we visited again in 2011. His specialty was natural dyes and their UV resistance. Fascinating!   Time is of the essence sometimes…

In finishing up the lengthy post here I will end on the Adventures of Squirrelly Gurl.  As it happened, it seems she became a Squirrelly Mom on the day of the last post- National Squirrel Appreciation Day! Go figure.  Leave it to her to make a big deal out of it.  I hadn’t seen her that day and wondered. The next day she came out and visited me quite late in the day and was very frantic- wanted her food and wanted it NOW! Then she was off.  I thought it odd but accepted.  The next day the same.  I got suspicious as she seemed a bit more svelte than usual.  Sure enough, we have been hearing babies up in the palm tree when she leaves them to take a break and come down for food and a stretch.  They make a loud screech, almost like a bird.  So today they are one week old! We won’t see them for months yet- when they are almost ready to leave the high rise nest!

marking time

Seasons mark time like nothing else.  The visual signs all around us are unmistakable.

fall

persimmon

-the feel of the air in the morning and again in the evening. Sounds also turn the corner into fall.

And here at my desk I also must mark time.  The time that orders must ship, the time that show prep begins and materials must be sent off.  Schedules for next year are already filling in.  I do that as if I know how things will be when that time rolls around.  I laugh.  Ha!  What if?  We don’t know at all but here we are making plans.
The world seems so uncertain.

Just in case,  Richard and I are planning a new in-studio workshop (details coming), I’m planning dates for shows and other workshops in the new year.  And also a couple of trips are in the works.  I’ve been asked to coordinate two adventures in Japan next Spring. One is a private group of friends returning to the past in a way- sharing old memories and getting to know each other again in the present.  A reunion tour.  I hope to make it a very special time for all.
The other, is coordination of a short extension tour for Maggie Backman‘s Cross Culture Tour.  I have to say, when and if I get to be Maggie’s age, I hope I have her enthusiasm, energy and spunk.  This is an idea she has had for some time now.  It grew out of her love for sharing Japan, silk, and learning with others.  For quite a number of years now we have realized that while we are introducing gaijins (foreigners) to Japan through our own “Silk Road” via the Silk Study Tour to Japan, there were an equal number of Japanese who were interested in what we were doing.  And while Maggie was bringing in teachers from Japan to teach in the Silk Experience classroom at the Houston Quilt Festival and while Japanese visitors to the show were signing up for silk classes…she wondered…

-what if…? What if she organized a tour that combined US teachers and Japanese teachers and included both Japanese and American/foreign students in a bilingual workshop in Japan.  So here is what she has put together:

Cross Culture Tour to Japan

My job is to lead and coordinate the tour extension but I will also be around to lend a hand when needed during the workshop portion.  The US teachers are Katrina Walker and June Colburn.  Japanese instructors are Masako Wakayama and Noriko Endo.

So take a look and wonder…and imagine marking time between now and then.

summer indigo dyeing blues

I know that many of you are finally coming into your spring – with things warming up, plants budding out; gardening and planting might be on your mind.  As you get some of that done and look forward to summer are you considering some indigo dyeing?

indigo flowering 4/30/13

indigo flowering 4/30/13

If so, you might consider taking my online indigo dyeing class “Let’s Dye with Indigo“.  Now is a good time to consider starting your vat as the weather warms up.  I just started a new 40 gallon natural fermentation vat and within one week it was already producing beautiful blues.  My class consists of two parts- the 5 lesson workshop plus the student forum. Both are very informative.  You can easily jump from one to the other through links in the sidebar of each.  Four (4) types of vats are explained and maintained.  You choose which one is right for you.

adding the wetted out indigo into the new vat

adding the wetted out indigo into the new vat

Although this workshop covers 4 different vat types, continuing posts will focus on the fermentation vat. There have been a lot of things fermenting around here over this past year. Many having to do with how we go about our lives- what we add to it and what we take away from it; the marks we make, the marks we leave behind, perhaps leaving no mark at all!  Fermentation has produced many of the best things we can enjoy in life- wine, beer, miso, bread, yogurt, cheese, pickled vegetables and so much more (even compost!).

Fermentation is a cellular process that occurs in an environment lacking oxygen that converts organic matter into simpler compounds and releases energy as a result (along with the byproduct of many delicious and useful things).

Pretty cool huh?  Simplifying organic matter to create energy and other good things.  I’m gonna stick with that.   I’ll also be adding posts about growing and using indigo as well.

So let’s continue to dye indigo by fermentation this year.  Let’s Experiment. Let’s Wonder. Are you in? If so, sign up here:

Let’s Dye with Indigo-online workshop

Why should you sign up now?  For “This Week Only” (sounds like an infomercial!) I am adding in the Shibori Techniques on Silk -Self Study Online Workshop (usually sold separately for $25). The principles in the shibori techniques class can be applied to your indigo dyeing as well. This sale will be available only until this Saturday   – giving me enough time to add you into the class before the Silk Study Tour to Japan departs. So both classes for the price of the indigo class.  A sort of Sayonara Sale!

the daily dyer preview

Additionally, if you have been a part of my series the daily dyer for the past 5 months, you know we are entering the final month which will be broadcast from Japan.  Thank you to all who have participated in that little experiment- I hope you have found some of it useful or at least entertaining.  This last month should prove to be an exciting month.  I have decided to continue there as well and will be offering  two options for the daily dyer in the shop:

option one: continuing. for original subscribers only. this will secure your subscription through the end of the year.  cost is $35

option two: new subscriber. here you will get access to the full year; the upcoming Japan Silk Study Tour posts and whatever lies beyond that.  the past, the present, and the future. cost is $95.

Sign up in the shop here.

the wondering wall

as soon as the taxes are finished, i can get back to wondering.  and dyeing. it’s has been quite busy here as of late but a shop update is on the horizon! mostly ribbon to start out with but also some lovely old whites.  Jude is also busy wondering in white. I’m going to go there for a bit too. But my wonderings usually end up turning blue.

cranes in the moon-indigo on silk

cranes in the moon-indigo on silk

In Japan, cranes have long been associated with longevity and good fortune. Often a wedding kimono will have cranes incorporated into the design.  This old silk with jacquard crane imagery had me wondering if combining it with a moon might enhance its loveliness.  The moon has long been associated with beauty and the appreciation of beauty in Japan.  I think it makes a handsome pairing.

double arashi

some wondering about more shibori texture.  more of this soon.

first indigo

and the indigo has had its first haircut which has been dried and stored!  these plants volunteered themselves by self sowing.

itajime on silk

and some old silk kimono linings had me practicing my itajime with the fermentation vat

which is really liking spring!

mokume wondering

from the fermentation vat. i’ve been working almost exclusively with it since the beginning of the year.

the chem vat  is off in a corner. i wonder if i will ever use it again?

on my table

and… i’m going to saturday school to practice my Japanese (hence the old かな cards).  this old doll came out of the cupboard to help me design a piece for my friend Donna’s line of mannequins. it all looked interesting lying on the table soI snapped this shot for fun.

that’s it for now- back to finishing up the taxes.  need to get them in asap so my son can figure out if he can get the appropriate mix of financial aid and scholarship funds so he can accept his graduate school acceptance offer from ………

…the San Francisco Conservatory of Music!  (so proud of him….congrats Trev!) cross your fingers for him…it’s an honor and a really big deal. If he can swing it, he will be studying under Jack Van Geem and David Herbert the principal percussionist and principal timpanist of the San Francisco Symphony. He’s making his dreams come true through hard work, persistance and practice.