it’s summer. here, one can tell by the garden jobs that need attending each day before getting started on other things. plus, by the amount of tomatoes piling up on the kitchen counter.
and in all things summer, the mockingbirds sing throughout the night, the fans hum in the background by day, and earlier morning watering is preferred. also, the garden is filled with creatures. (and the dog got skunked)
the hornworm was put in a box in the garden where a bird flew off with it for a juicy meal. the monarch cats are now in their beautiful green chrysalis’ and the neighbor cat…well… let’s just say he appears to be moving in from over on the next block. i’ve taken to making tomato soup and hot processing it to use the extra tomatoes that i don’t pass on to friends and family. it’s even really good cold! i’m drying lots of the cherry tomatoes. there are thousands i think. each day, one at a time.
the ladybugs have been breeding here and having a garden party. they daily eat all the available aphids so no damage to plants-lucky me! seriously, they are everywhere. these are tiny! earlier in May I found tons of the nymphs. found these ones when i was picking tomatoes this morning. meanwhile i also continue to harvest and save assorted dye materials- right now mostly cassia pods and marigolds. speaking of doubt, out a an abundance of caution, i cancelled the in-person tekumo shibori workshop and reformed it as a zoom workshop. Covid does not seem to be done with us even as we vaccinate and with the delta variant and numbers rising throughout the state and county it seemed the right thing to do. and just when i do this, now silk organza is no longer available. at least not until late august i’m told. fortunately, i have enough on hand for the workshop but jeeze…it’s always something. fortunately, in addition to the organza i have on hand i have a nice selection of other japanese silks for us to experiment with. each cloth to its own.
stay safe, get vaccinated, and keep masking when indoors in public. your families love you. each moment is precious.
Tekumo is fun once you have mastered the movement of your hands. It’s especially exciting with silk organza that takes on not only vibrant colors but also crisp shapes. Come join us to explore the possibilities! All the pieces are in place and two dates are scheduled.
Session One-Friday and Saturday July 30 & 31 Day One: 10 AM-4 PM (with lunch/rest break included) Day Two: 11 AM-4 PM (with lunch/rest break included)
Session Two-Friday and Saturday August 20 & 21 Day One: 10 AM-4 PM (with lunch/rest break included) Day Two: 11 AM-4 PM (with lunch/rest break included)
… you’ve been watching, I’ve been practicing a shibori technique called tekumo, or kumo-as in spider web. My particular fascination is with the sculptural aspects of it after it is dyed steamed and dried. And if you know me, you know I like to practice a process. As with the arashi shibori ribbon, there is a process to make this fabric. And much like the arashi I do, it employs many of the same processes-base dyeing, ironing, binding, discharging, overdyeing, steaming, drying, and finally unbinding. The main difference being the type of binding. And then…what? What to do with the fabric? Well, flowers of course-for starters.
Aren’t they fun? I’ve added them to the shop here. I call them Hana Hoshi and you can click on the link to see why. Silk organza is really fun to shape and sculpt since it takes direction so well. It’s the perfect accomplice for sculptural shibori. Here are some photos along the way.
In the background, my 5 little silkworms have been eating mulberry. Only 5, since the eggs I saved from last year didn’t hatch well. And since I have so many things going one in the background here, I opted not to order eggs and make the commitment to feed 500 or 1000 for 4-5 weeks. The 5 that hatched have done just fine. I took one in its 5th instar to my grandson so he could watch it and see it cocoon He’s only 2 but hey- never too early to introduce nature. Since I had so few this year I decided to try something I was always curious about- having them spit silk to a flat surface rather than forming a regular cocoon. It’s trickier than you might think! One got started with it’s cocoon before I set up the flat surface so I was down to 3. And after two days they look ready to give up one the cocoon idea and start spitting the silk. I feel kinda bad for interrupting their natural inclination to make a cocoon but from what I understand it doesn’t harm them. In this process, you can watch them form their pupae and then transform into a moth outside of a cocoon. You have to make sure they are done pooping and also throwing up their guts before putting them on the platform to spit their silk otherwise they will get that all into the silk and you can’t remove it. Here’s a couple of pics…
I came across this article you might find interesting about an experiment to do this on a much larger scale. You might have to translate it if you don’t have your system set up to auto translate. I found it interesting.
And in the background of all this, much of the west is having a terrible heat wave. Here, we have been spared the brunt of it by being closer to the coast- this time anyway. But just the same, the garden is popping off with the warmer weather and the tomatoes and zuchinni are running amok. Must go pick the cherry tomatoes tomorrow and make some bags to give to the neighbors. Zuchinni every night in one form or another.
I had to move on to something else before I got this entry posted so I thought I’d add an update. I’ve been working on a ribbon order which I finished today. Lots of pretty colors! If you are in Europe and need a good place to mail order my ribbon from, check out Perles and Co. Give them a couple of weeks for transit time before they add the the new rolls to their shop.
I also made up a couple of new flowers. I did a test of the tekumo on the silk I use for the ribbon just to see. It works up nice enough but won’t replace the organza for these. It takes longer than making them with the organza and the cost is already up there.
Speaking of cost, I know most artisans don’t do much in the way of cost analysis when they price their items. Many don’t do ANY! Shocking I know. But it’s true. I’m thankful for my past experience in my porcelain company where it was MY job to do all the costing and time studies. When you are working on a large scale producing hundreds of thousands of pieces monthly and you are responsible for a payroll -and by virtue of that, people’s lives, you can’t screw it up! If you do the results are devastating. So, I always do a cost accounting and time studies on most of the things I sell. If you don’t, and don’t know how to do it ask & start now! I don’t do this on one offs for the most part but anything I intend to sell many multiples of, I do.
I’m working on setting up for a couple of small in person workshops teaching the tekumo technique. Hope to have those set up and in the shop next week.
OK, time to get this posted…and make pizza with LOTS of tomatoes!
(Oh, and to all of you emailing me to be added to the Silk Study Tour to Japan next May, please sign yourself up to the newsletter here. I’ll be sending out the first newsletter with applications in July.)
Now that I got that last post out of my draft folder I move on….
Today is all about shibori….stands. Or you may consider them to be a “third hand” which is how I think of them. I have several and show you here. (I have a couple more stored in workshop boxes but they are lesser ones and one in fact was broken in a workshop and I have yet to see my way to repairing it (if possible).
I’ll start by showing you a video of how I updated the old one pictured above. As I recall, I acquired it on a flea market trip one year after the Silk Study Tour. Is needle was missing and the hook where it once existed completely rusted through, but still…
I am working my way back to offering some shibori workshops and the first one will be tekumo shibori using shibori stands with a shibori hook. For this to work, I had to create enough stands for everyone in the workshop to use and the next video is my simple design which costs less than $10 to make with odds and ends from the local hardware store.
It feels good to have rescued an old shibori stand and to also create a new version that is very affordable. Each has its pros and cons- the older versions can be used anywhere, whereas the new version needs to be used on a tabletop to which it can be clamped.
I learned a lesson (well, probably more than one) recently when I casually mentioned to a friend that I had been keeping an eye out for a small floor loom, cheap. There was no rush and just like most things I was willing to wait for something to just come my way. The timing was right and this friend had seen one at a second hand shop and went back to check it out again. I’ll spare you the details but after texting me a few photos and negotiating a very low price, she had it delivered to me! It needs some cleaning up and a little refurbing but nothing really drastic that I can see. Another weaver friend approved of the photos and the price and sent them along to her friend who came back with a very good and detailed process to get this cleaned up and back in useful condition. Thank you Janice and Joe! Lesson: Be careful what you wish for and what you casually mention to Carolyn! There are no markings on this loom so maybe a homebuilt piece. The footprint is about 30″x 32″ and will fit nicely into the space where my son’s vibes now occupy (hint, hint). Vibes will be moved upstairs… Any comments or suggestions from weavers welcomed! What I am aiming for in the beginning is to weave some sakiori.
Recently I saw a video on Vimeo that showed Hiroshi Murase demonstrating te kumo shibori and I saw something in his hand movements that caught my eye and opened up a more efficient way to do tekumo. I was going to link the the video here but it appears to have been taken down (it was previously public). I saw it in an online advertisement for the WSN/Slow Fiber workshop coming up where this technique will be covered. Looks like it would be of interest to anyone who wants to practice this particular technique. I have taught this technique in workshops at the JANM but I never felt I was really good at it. I could accomplish a good end result but I always felt that I was not being very adept or efficient while doing it. So after seeing his technique, I knew what I was missing! I have been practicing it all week and returned to do some of the work I did way back then but had decided it was too time consuming (and annoying) -at least the way I was doing it before. I then went in search of another video to show this technique and discovered that the Shibori Museum in Kyoto has been very busy during the pandemic producing shibori videos- they are so very interesting! Here is the one on tekumo. Check out the rest of their channel! It’s pretty amazing! I spent a whole day watching and catching up on the videos there that I had not seen.
Here are a few of the early results…
I am experimenting with creating more textural pieces- I really have always been drawn to shibori for the sculptural aspects (hence all the pleating I’ve done over the years) and the silk organza just loves to be shaped! I also pleated up and dyed some new ribbons for the shop…added back the scrap bags too-I hadn’t realized they have been out of stock.
There is something ultimately satisfying to me when I use old cloth. Especially cloth that has been previously reused-who knows how many times? The feel of it is different, the smell of it, the texture…the memories it holds. Old cloth has lots to wonder about.
Then there is the variety of the cloth. The various weaves, the fiber itself, and the skill of the weaver, the dyer, the thread maker. The cloths original intent or purpose and ultimate uses is also something to wonder about.
Today I sorted through another bundle of old Japanese fabric, all previously reused and dismantled from its former use-kimono, yukata, futon cover and more. I love things made from these old fabrics. That someone felt the cloth was precious enough to mend and then use again in something else- is enough for me to continue treating the cloth with the same respect and frugality.
As I ironed, picked threads, and lint brushed the various fabrics, I ran my fingers over each piece wondering. Who made it? What had it been? What could it become? Japanese narrow woven cloth and the way it was used lent itself to being easily taken apart and reused after laundering. It is a testament to how cloth was valued. Mottainai! (Don’t waste!)
I see the worn and threadbare parts, the patched places, and the edges as the wisdom of the cloth. They are there to instruct me, to show me the way. I study all the parts of it. I look at the stitches of the patches, the selvedges. I pull a few weft threads and look at them under magnification. I imagine the journey the cloth has been on – from plant or animal up to the point where I now hold it in my own hands, generations later. In whose indigo vat was it dyed? Did this lovely katazome here serve an early 1900’s merchant family? Had this bolt or strip of cotton katazome been a wedding gift? This boro bit here later used for a layer of a futon cover for cold nights? Who raised the silkworms and warped the looms with the homespun threads? Did the shibori come from Arimatsu or Narumi? Through the passage of time and many hands I’m left with so much to wonder about as I imagine what I (or you) will do with this cloth.
The ancestors of the cloth speak to me as I run my fingers over the surfaces, identifying each textile technique as I prepare a new batch of takaramono treasure packs for the shop-kasuri, shibori, katazome, shima (woven stripes), plain dyed cloth. Some of it is very durable and some now quite thin. It all feels good in my hand and ready for a whole new “becoming”. The new takaramono packs are now in the shop here. Here’s a few ideas of things I’ve made-a couple are still available in the shop.
This has been my daily undoing lately. Trying to focus when chaos swirls around me. After spending over a week now with an unruly computer, I now have it back to limping along so will take this moment to write a quick post. I had to wipe the HD and reinstall the OS and all the data from a backup. SO lots of resetting work and getting things back to where they were. Not sure it’s done yet as the same problem popped back up during the resetting so I’m expecting more computer trouble on the horizon. But in the moment it is working…
All the chaos of the last year leaves me wondering where the path even is. In what direction do I head? What purpose can I serve? Does what I do even matter (some days I do wonder about this!) ? Chaos seems to zap away my creative energy… I know I’m not the only person experiencing this. I’m in good company.
After supporting myself for so long (over 40 years) I wonder-can I still do it? What if I can’t? What might that look like? With clearly 6-12 months more of COVID related challenges ahead of us, in-person workshops and shows are unlikely for the foreseeable future and even then, it won’t be like turning a switch back on. It will take time to rebuild. The planned 2021 Silk Study Tour to Japan is of course, cancelled. We have hopes for 2022 so I will refocus towards that.
Sometimes, focus is a matter of deciding what you are NOT going to do!
So just while I’m writing this the screen froze again. So clearly still having issues. Back to the shop it goes tomorrow. Let’s see if I can get a couple of things into my shop to help things out a bit before it completely dies off(crossing my fingers on this restart!). I’ve still been keeping myself busy, though not really sure what I should be making! I’ve been shooting videos for the Daily Dyer on using the pleater and how I create the silk organza I use for the flowerwork. Again, I’m backed up on the videos due to the computer problems but hope to get more of them up in the next day.
In the meantime, I added a couple of flowers to the shop. I really love the white ones. Here, I am using pleated and dyed silk batting for the leaves. I think it adds a nice textural contrast to the organza.
I’ve also been doing a bit of indigo dyeing for a garment I want to make. In doing that, I selected and organized some of my indigo fabrics into project packs and added them to the shop. It’s been a while since I put these back into the shop. They are assortments of various silks and cottons dyed in varying shades of indigo. There are also a few packs of solid indigo cotton yardage dyed in the three shades using the fermentation vat.
On a side note, I watched some of the Yoshiko Wada shibori lecture videos and enjoyed seeing the work of the featured shibori artists there. I was reminded that I am really more of a commercial shibori craftsperson. Whenever I am creating, it is with an eye towards selling my work. It needs to be this way for me. So when I am experimenting with an idea, I am always wondering how I can use it in a commercial way. Can I improve the process to a point where it satisfies both my aesthetic goal as well as be manageable in the marketplace. I also realize that in the best tradition of Arimatsu shibori, shibori was a way to create a commercial product for a living! This is part of the shibori challenge for me. While beauty and quality craftsmanship is part of the desired outcome, utility remains key and with a eye towards the commercial aspect. And within that utility was a need to sell the work for a fair price for the handwork. I always admire the Japanese ability to innovate the process with this in mind. While much shibori rises to the level of art now, most who are making shibori these days do so as art or as a hobby, what I do is quite different- I made it my profession. I enjoy the challenge of that.
Another interesting Covid related activity- crafting zooms. A group of gals in California have been getting together to make up some of the items for which I offer free instructions. They order the kit, then make the item during their social zoom, screen sharing my video instructions! They have time to check in with each other while hand stitching their kits and helping each other out if needed. Each month they pick a different project. Great idea! If your group wants to do something similar and you want to invite me to pop into your zoom to answer any questions, let me know!
When my focus starts to fade, I take a trip out to the garden and see what is happening there. RIght now the most inspiring thing is the feathery cassia (Senna artemisioides) whose scent is at its peak. It has a little spicy scent -some days it can remind me of Necco wafers-remember those? The clouded sulfur butterflies flit all around and are laying their eggs there. I can always count on Nature to set me straight.
PHEW! Made it through the post without another freezing episode!
It seems as though my ability to clearly recognize the usual landmarks marking the way has greatly diminished and, in some cases, completely disappeared. It’s OK to be a bit lost at times, and especially so right now (in America). It moves us in different directions, and asks us to consider more. More of what we wonder? More possibilities, more directions, more ideas. This is the kind of MORE that I appreciate. MORE can be more, and MORE can be less! I’m considering this (more and more).
As I travel down this increasingly altered road, abandoning the usual familiar roadmaps, thoughts of how and what if are my constant companions. I reach out to cherished and long time friends (how are you?), checking in with them to assure myself they are OK and are still there- realizing that perhaps PEOPLE are my new landmarks. This feels reasonable, if not truer, than some things I considered as landmarks previously. How are you?
Navigating the daily milieu these days takes a lot of energy. Remaining creative in the midst is a challenge. I find I must focus on balance of body, mind, and soul. Here, in my small world I seek the lessons of the garden, nature and handwork. The garden is feeding us well this summer and a steady stream of seedlings feeds the raised beds as plants are rotated through. The worm bin is very alive and well- I am experimenting with compost worm tubes in a couple of the raised beds- so far so good. Just trying to keep the soil alive and healthy. We have a bunch of praying mantis right now and I’m hoping they mate and make some more egg cases for us.
Silk shibori ribbon will be back in the shop soon! After at least a 6 month hiatus, I am making ribbon again. The silk satin I had been using became unavailable and I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting and considering other silks in various momme weights and weaves. I finally have settled on one that meets my qualifications. Pictures later this week. I am leading a free zoom workshop just for the regular shibori students from the Japanese American National Museum. It’s a group effort in many ways. It’s great to stay connected to them all while we can’t meet in person. The cool thing is that they all have made their own indigo vats at home! So over this 9 week course, they get to maintain their vat and really get to learn how it works over time. Several have even started fermentation vats! We have weekly zoom check-ins to see how the vats are doing, discuss and share the weekly techniques and patterns everyone is working on. It’s great that we can meet up this way and make sure everyone is ok. We are using Jane Callender’s book as a reference and inspiration. It really is the best one out there on stitched shibori.
It’s really been hot here-too hot. We have resorted to AC set at 78˚ when in the 90’s now and grateful to have it. Evenings are tolerable but still in the upper 70’s which is hotter than normal for us along the coast. Fires are ravaging the state, brought on by unusual weather and more than 300 lightning strikes. Over 500 fires are currently burning in CA. Such a devastating and environmental tragedy for so many. Currently the Santa Cruz area is suffering greatly along with Big Basin and Big Sur parks. California fires.
I will be updating the shop next week with more indigo (hopefully with some ribbon too-depending on the heat!). I will have packages of indigo cloth in various shades as well as some finished wall pieces. Indigo moons are ongoing as well as the cloth mooncards. I’ll also recommend the new USPS stamp celebrating the work of Ruth Asawa. The stamps are truly beautiful.
Considering new landmarks, tossing aside familiar roadmaps, we embark on new journeys together. May we choose Peace, Love, Health and Sanity when we come to a fork in the road. Together, we must.
I open up my wordpress site to write this post and see that almost 3 weeks have passed since the last post! Has reality melted time? Dali’s Persistence of Memory comes to mind. I’ve been busy, but time seems incongruous with reality. Maybe it’s my memory or perception of time that can be faulted. In any case…
It’s time for a new Moonmates tutorial. If you recall, they are free, but don’t let that discourage you from contributing using the pay as you wish link in the sidebar. In these times, all contributions are welcomed. Today’s tutorial is a bit different as we had lots of rain here the week I started working on the video, so I took a little different approach. I think you might like it. I also cleared out all the orders for the moons and ribbon scrap bags so if you were waiting for your moonsets, you may have them now or they are in transit. I also restocked the shop with moonsets.
In the news over the past week was an an announcement that Quilts Inc. was not going to refund vendors for their booth fees from the cancelled Pittsburg Spring Market. Then after what appears to be a virtual landslide of negative social media commentary lashing out at their decision, they found the money, turned that decision around and are now refunding booth fees. I know many who were relieved to hear it! My question is what are they doing regarding the scheduled Long Beach Quilt Festival scheduled July 9-11? They have yet to announce any cancellation of the show- although from everything I am hearing in the city and the state, there will not be any large events happening that early. Lots of vendors are wondering and have sent in booth fees. I seriously doubt that the public will be rushing out to attend large events this soon. I just received a cancellation for a show I was going to do in early October here in LA. If I were them, I’d get ahead of that and announce the cancellation now. The future is very uncertain isn’t it?
Working on moons this past week, I made a little discovery. I became obsessed with the patterns on the little blocking fabrics I was using to make a particular type of moon. I started setting them aside and then altering them in divergent ways. The rain, having driven me inside to work, I started arranging them in variously. I settled on one layout and started piecing them together using Jude’s non-paper piecing method. I have been enjoying the lookback review she is doing on her blog of all the techniques she uses in her work and I wanted to practice a bit with them. Now pieced and ready to attach to a background cloth, I have it hanging on the wall gathering thoughts on how I want to proceed. I’m leaning toward simplicity and see it as a bit of a meditation piece. I think I’ll use Jude’s glue stitch to mount this on the background cloth.
Several pieces have been added to the wall and are gathering thoughts on what they might become. here’s another…
Again, the woven moon is a takeoff on Jude’s cloth weaving technique. The background moon is dyed on an old grainsack that had been repaired. The lower moon is on some old thick silk organza I found in Japan. It looks like a planet with a gaseous cloud swirling around it. Who knows where this one will go? I hope I don’t have to wait for more rain to find out. It might be quite a while…
The post-rain garden is looking really wonderful and flowery. We pulled the rest of the beets and daikon for pickling, making room for more summer veggies. Another round of beets, lettuces and beans are in the works. Seeds are sprouting everywhere. The weed pulling continues…
Since we last visited, the full moon came and went and we are approaching the new moon soon. I’ve been playing with new ideas for moons and they become more complex.
Perhaps you would like to visit the shop?
If you have previously pondered purchasing one of the pieces in the shop under the Zakka category, you might want to take advantage of the marked down prices there. A lot of work went into these pieces and while I hate to do it, they aren’t doing me any good sitting here in my inventory. Maybe today is your lucky day-and mine too!