Tag Archives: sericulture

yes, it matters how a thing is done.

craft to industry, guild to union, cottage to factory. this is what is generally considered as progress.

sometimes, progress has a high price to pay.  some things become streamlined, simplified. other things become automated, even people become cogs in the automation (and consumption) wheel. other things become lost and forgotten.  do we stop to think of what these prices extract from us?

i am still reading. speaking of SustainAbility,  the current essay asks the question “how have we been able to sustain such unsustainability for so long?”. a good question

i think it helps to know the history of this. how did we get here?  the earth is plentiful in it’s bounty but we are poor and careless consumers of it’s offerings. in his essay titled “The Historical Production (and Consumption) of Unsustainability: Technology, Policy, and Culture”,  Benjamin Cohen restates a cultural axiom of technology and risk this way:

“The more we seek to control nature, the more risk we create.”

hmmm…i think we can all think of some pretty big examples of this. some might say Monsanto, others might say Fukushima,  or monoculture.  most of this progress has distanced consumers from producers. a move over time from the qualitative to quantitative gave rise to more human control over the natural world.

by distancing ourselves from the gathering of energy materials and water sources, the growing of food, the making of product in far away places extracts a toll not only on those locales and their culture and environments but on us physically, morally, and spiritually.

ah…such big thoughts for such a lazy hot day like today. a morning earthquake here shook us up a bit and reminded us that nature is truly in charge. but what does craft have to do with all this?  i wonder…

silkworm workers prepare straw bedding for cocooning

yesterday i was testing out more cocoons and and was wondering about tsumugi.i have been experimenting with this. i like that it requires almost no equipment.  i remembered seeing this video a while back and went to watch it again.  the part i was most interested in seeing again begins at 3:07.

i am stacking up a few good books to take to the woods next weekend.  some i have already read or partially read and want more time with.  one of them is Azby Brown’s book “just enough- lessons in living green from traditional japan”. i really enjoy this book.

i am also gathering up food from the garden to take and we are looking forward to this annual retreat where we are able to separate ourselves from daily city life. where i can sit with nothing more than the squaw hole covered granite stones listening to the sound of water rushing below and the winds whispering in the oaks overhead.  this former Sierra Miwok summer camp, later a travelers lodge visited by those traveling to the Yosemite valley by foot or horseback (perhaps even John Muir and Ansel Adams), and even later still the summer camp for the Oakland Council of Girl Scouts- bringing girls into the woods for an experience to last a lifetime.  now in private hands of old friends who kindly offer its use to us we thank them and all the past caretakers who have allowed it to remain wild with its history quite intact.

i will even be stopping by a local gallery on the way in to drop off some nigella seeds for a blog reader and quilter in the area.  perhaps we will meet up at some point- but once i am in i tend to stay put. i have some stitching i intend to take as well.

a few orders must be finished, some emails sent, so off to continue that now…

oh- and richard send me one more very intriguing item for the silk exhibit- a straw bed for silkworm cocooning- so interesting.

from an old farmhouse in rural Japan

hanamayu- はなまゆ

Over the weekend the silk moths began to emerge.  This year I separated out a half dozen or so of the best white and yellow cocoons for mating.  Last year,  I let them mix and got a lot of variations.  We will see where this leads.

Mr Koizumi, the former Director of the Yokohama Silk Center show us cocoons from all the past periods of Japan’s sericulture history. So many types!

When I was at the Silk Center in Yokohama recently, I picked up a book on silk cocoon flowers (hanamayu- はなまゆ or cocoon flower) by artist Tomiko Sakai. She is a Nagoya native and has been making her fantastic floral creations for over 20 years. Each diminutive blossom is often fashioned into larger sprays with each complete floral work worthy of display at the most formal event. Imagine wedding, tea ceremony, formal entry, or any honorific occasion. One day, I would love to see some of her work in person. She uses only the finest of Gunma produced silk cocoons.  I see that an exhibit of her work was sponsored by both the Gunma Prefectural Government and the Tokyo Silk Science Research Center-both entities that we have visited on previous Silk Study tours.  I wonder…

The book is all in Japanese and was the only one in stock but has an ISBN 0f 4-89977-174-6 which you might be able to track down if desired.  I think the title is something like “Flower Born of a Silk Cocoon” but don’t quote me on that. I will contact the museum in Yokohama prior to our visit there next year and ask about the possibility of having a few in stock for our group when we are there.

The flowers are not anything like the ones I recently did but I would like to see what I could create based on some of her works.  Her craftsmanship (or perhaps the craftsmanship of her studio directed by her) is supreme.  She also uses some of the stained cocoons, incorporating the natural stains created by the emerging moths into the works.  My recent trials pale in comparison!

And on Saturday, I had the privilege of giving an indigo shibori workshop for a group of great high school kids here in So Cal.  Their teacher, Debra, has been the art teacher at this school (gr 7-12) for 32 years and you can tell that she loves her work and that her students love her.  This is a great credit to her, as difficult as it is to be a teacher in the public school system these days, she is full of energy and ideas for her students.  As she told me, she was in the right place at the right time and this is a very special school.  The students were wonderful and we all had a great time.  Several of the students are off to college soon and this was a great way for them to end the year.  A few pics:

the group and Debra waving from the back

gathering threads

discovering the results and wondering

resisting the temptations to pull it up and look

they got a glimpse of arashi shibori too-

volvo doubles as a clothes line…

some results- they all did a sample stitched piece before trying the dragonfly motif

and before i left i turned the drying indigo

me waving to you and the dried and separated first indigo harvest

early summer garden- happy to say that i have been meeting my personal challenge to feed us at least something daily out of the garden here for over a year. may it continue!

Thanks to Cathy Bullington of Elephant Booty for the idea to save all the various harvests through the summer and use an ice chest for a composting bin.  Also, thanks to jude for  introducing me to Debra’s blog Artisun through the link in her sidebar.

Now back to the dyepot, cocoons.

a perfect storm & a little sayonara sale…

Even though I have a million things to do, I have to write this post! This morning I came across this video on youtube that answered a couple of my questions regarding processing my indigo- at least one approach.  And there is a good explanation of three sorts of indigo producing plants, how they differ and how to grow them.  It ends with a demo of processing the plant and collecting the indigo:

growing and processing indigo

Then, a lightbulb went off in my head…why was I putting the silkworm castings in the vegetable garden when I could oh so easily put them in the indigo patch where they would up the nitrogen level thereby producing more blue naturally?

A  perfect indigo silk circle.

Yesterday there was some fun interaction on the FB studio page regarding frass where I came to discover May Berenbaum…I’d love to meet her someday.  Here, she writes about frass. and here is an interesting podcast interview she did with scientific american.

frass

And for a little Sayonara Sale…typically in Japan, when one moves, one has a sayonara sale. That’s just the way they do it there. Also, a sayonara sale is a great place to pick up stuff you need when furnishing a new apartment. Check out the sayonara sale ads in the Tokyo craigslist. Garage sale- Japanese style.

Well I’m not moving in the classical sense but I thought it would be fun to have a sayonara sale prior to leaving to Japan. And besides, who couldn’t use a little extra yen on a 10 day trip to Japan? Not to mention keeping the bills paid up while I’m gone. Count me in-and maybe you too if you have been thinking about buying some scrumptious silk shibori ribbon. Here’s what I have to offer:

-packs of 6 one yard cuts of six different colors of pleated silk shibori ribbon. Dyer’s choice as far as the colors go but what color wouldn’t you want? Sayonara sale through Friday night only with the last order to ship Saturday. 6 yards for $60- in the shop now.

~and speaking of perfect circles…jude is gathering stones.

just dreaming…of indigo and Japan

Recent ribbon dyeing has kept me away from the indigo (but also keeping the bills paid-thank you!) but while I have been wrapping and dyeing, the indigo has been growing! It’s about a foot tall now.

Which leads me to wondering..as usual.  What if I harvested this indigo and set about composting it?  How will I compost it?  Apparently, it takes 100 days according to Rowland Ricketts.  He has completed construction of a composting shed (so cool!) but I have no such shed at my disposal nor will there be one.  But in usual Shibori Girl form, I will figure something out.  Perhaps in  a sort of Heath Robinson sort of way…

I understand that the floor of the shed is made of sand, rice hulls, and clay in order to draw moisture away from the composting indigo.  I imagine the shed maintains an even temperature and humidity and the floor draws a stable temp from the ground.  The shed provides protection from sunlight, rain, and wind- not to mention bugs and such things…I will learn more of what is required.

Now how to create such an environment here in the yard… I am wondering.

Also wondering- what if I were to dry the indigo leaves and just dump them into a fermentation vat?  I wonder where (not if!) this has been done before.

As always,  I may need to return to my source- Japan.  And it just so happens I am leaving on Monday for just such a trip.  To finalize details and make a few visits, see a few folks, and have a few meetings for the 2013 Silk Study Tour.  I have a lot on my plate!  Fortunately, I will see Sato-san as she is having an exhibition in Tokyo while I am there.  Before she started dyeing indigo she worked up north for several years for an indigo farmer.  I think she will have some answers to some of my questions and it will be so very good to see her again!  I will also meet a new sericulture farmer, a new natural dye master, test out a new ryokan, visit the Yokohama Silk Museum and meet with it’s former Director.  In Tokyo, I will be hosted by Makoto san who’s wife is a long time friend from Austin who always has a fantastic collection of Japanese and vintage fabrics at the Houston Quilt Festival each year.  I will also meet up with Masae whose family specialized in kanoko shibori for 4 generations out of Narumi, as well as with her friend Watanabe san and hope to hear more about the artist shop we visited last time.

A day at a temple sale, just to browse and do some wandering- good for the soul.  And back just in time to post the Indigo Mandala class!

Also looking to collect a few artifacts to be loaned for the upcoming Silk Exhibit at Quilt Festival this year-Experience Silk, Then and Now.  Did I mention this before?

The exhibit will include exceptional silk works from teachers, artists and authors prominent in the textile/quilt  world.  It is also out our aim to show silk “from moth to cloth”, featuring historical silk pieces, as well as educational displays of silk production.  The exhibit is in conjunction with the Silk Experience festival classes/lectures, sponsored by Quilts, Inc., and the Special Exhibits coordinators. The prime organizers of the exhibit include Maggie Backman, Glennis Dolce and Katrina Walker and a host of other Silk Experience volunteers.

In many ways we intend this silk exhibit to be a collaboration and partnership in the continuing goal of education, creativity, and commerce.


And, the silkworms are getting crazy-big-fat and healthy!! Have lined up my silkworm sitters who are excited to have them again.  They might even be starting to spin when I return! Did I mention Mawata Madness here already?  Come and work with some of my very own cocoons- from my very own 2nd generation! It’s the weird things that excite me…

Gotta go-out of fresh mulberry and the cats need feeding…

mata ne!

 

time passes by…

seems so long since the last post but it’s only been 4 days. odd.

first i should report…the cats are getting big. seriously big.

feel like i am in a bit of a fog. just working too much and other household/garden chores. got the shipment out for houston containing all my stuff for the workshops. that’s a big worry off my mind. i got an order off to a lovely jewelry maker in switzerland after some minor difficulties but all turned out well and much was learned. i have spend lots of time making up ribbon kits and more. spent the whole day today making silk flowers and new samples in between feeding the silkworms. no flower photos until after the show i think-just no time. will be doing a weeks worth of dyeing beginning tomorrow. the last hurrah before the show. there are some really beautiful things being gathered. it’s going to be fun presenting it all once i get to houston.

the above photo was just a teaser…based on something i saw when i was in japan. here is another view…

let's be friends...

like i said, the cats are getting big. i was surprised none started spinning this weekend. they just eat, and eat, and eat. and eat more. they should start spinning by wednesday for sure that will mark 30 days since they started hatching. i have a big container ready and waiting.

i should probably mention, if you want to purchase anything before houston, please do so by this friday ( Oct.21st). sales are always welcome~ but after that, things will be shipped upon my return. (after nov. 7)

i’ll be busy for the next few days but will let you know when the cats start spinning.

of service

being of service

with all the stories in the news these days about people in need, corporate excesses, dysfunctional government, abuse of power, and more- i am reminded each time i serve “the tiny masters” how important it is for those who have the power (ie money,control, and mulberry leaves) to have compassion and make sure that the gap is not too wide.

each time i clear the frass from the trays of caterpillars there are those who, for whatever reasons have not made it to the top of the pile and need a little extra help to continue on. that might mean i move them by hand, give them a little more time, and save the tenderest leaf tips for them. sometimes, no matter what i do a few don’t make it but in the end i know i made the effort. and in the very end, most will spin a cocoon.

each time i raise a batch of silkworms, i realize how dependent they are on me to collect fresh leaves each day for them, to keep their trays cleared of frass and worm poop, to keep them at the correct temperature and humidity. their very lives depend on all of it. and if i succeed, they will spin large lovely cocoons in return for my efforts.

silkworm samba

the silkworm cats are really starting to grow now. i started with 500 regular eggs and 200 reverse (striped). the reverse should spin golden cocoons which will be interesting. in the end though, it doesn’t matter the color of the cocoon as the color is in the sericin which is ultimately removed when silk is processed.

reverse cats at 2 weeks


a neighborhood tree generously gives its leaves to feed the tiny masters.


i can’t wait to hear Noriko Furukawa’s lecture in houston- it’s all about silk in your life. here is something you can do with silk cocoons.