I’ve been meaning to do this for awhile now and after receiving several inquiries after the recent post I am getting it checked off of my list today. I am including here a new link for those who are interested in receiving the sign up email for the tour which I expect to go out in early June. Here it is!
The 2021 Silk Study Tour to Japan has now been rescheduled for May 11-26 2022. Please know that it will be a requirement of the tour to have been fully COVID19 vaccinated in addition to any other health requirements put in place by the Japanese government, the airlines, and our hired bus company. We will strictly adhere to all health requests of the host artisans, museums, hotels, restaurants, shops, and any other places to which we travel.
Hirata san (our Japan-side coordinator and guide) and I have been in frequent communication over the past year and are excited about organizing the upcoming tour. We have a new itinerary that includes some of the past favorites and a few new ones! Prices have not yet been confirmed as all that has to be redone in light of this past year.
Time seems to have taken on a strange floating quality these days. Not really sure where it’s going, or where we are on the timeline. Here we don’t operate on a M-F or a 9-5 schedule anyway, but I hear others asking “what day is it?”. I know it’s Wednesday here because it’s street sweeping, if that helps…
I hope you are reaching out to close friends and family to check in on them and say hello. I know I am. In most cases, they are fine, staying home, and riding this out. But sometimes, they are not. I reached out to my good friend VaVa in Houston to see how she was and how it was going there, only to find out that last week she had a stroke and was in a car accident! She will be in rehab for at least a couple of months to recover and regain her lost functions. Some of you may have met her working in my booth at the Houston show. I was so glad I reached out now. I am so far away and can’t pop in to visit her but will be checking in with her daily. Love to you VaVa! So do, check in. You just never know!
As the “stay at home” order continues, we can’t go and visit my MIL who we had just moved to a board and care home that is much closer to us. She’s doing OK but not being able to visit her is concerning. Our communication is limited to texting and facebook-she has aphasia as well and can no longer speak. Her iPad is her window to the world and to her family in NZ and Iceland. We go and drop off things she needs each week. We will have a party when this is over and get to see her in person again! I know many of you are separated from family as well. It’s really an easy choice as they are safer in isolation. We will hang in there together!
After the last post and video tutorial I decided I wanted to make the tutorial vids 5-7 minutes long max. Nope! Today’s moonmaker tutorial was even longer, so I broke it up into two vids. Hopefully, I can get them down to the 5-7 minute goal. Today’s tutorial shows a moon using two different techniques- arashi and itajime shibori. I also added a little something else in the second video. This video shows you how to use a “blocking fabric” in itajime. It can be applied to larger board itajime as well. Think about how you might use this technique.
Today is a new moon with all the possibilities of starting anew. It’s a good time to sprout new seeds of intention. Soon, we will be able to look up at the moon together again and watch as it grows full. Meanwhile, take care, reach out, stay healthy.
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.
So much lately, I feel at a loss for words when approaching the blog. My inner self is exploring why. I continue in the studio, trying to find my way yet feeling a bit lost. But I am Here.
But this IS the way, the path, and I am looking to find it again. Everything up to this point has been a vehicle that brought me to this place. It’s always that unsettled and uncomfortable place that leads me on, leads me forward…to Here. I am not a stranger to this feeling. When one is self employed (for over 40 years now!) one recognizes this feeling. Part of it is the unknowing of what comes next, or how to continue. But we do continue.
I’m actually feeling sick to my stomach this morning, a state of anxiety overwhelms. Who are these politicians who cravenly use their donors dollars for personal gain while demeaning others and darkening lives? Do they vote for the greater good, or for their own monied interests? I’d like to just walk away from it all but feel the pull to do SOMETHING. So I do a little, locally. That’s where I live. Here.
I’m hoping that when I get this post finally done, I will feel a little better. I have started so many posts over the last couple of months only to walk away from them unfinished, later returning to find myself unable to complete my thoughts. But that’s where I am…right Here.
This past weekend found me at the Japanese American National Museum, leading the shibori and indigo workshop. As always, it is such a warm and inviting environment with great people creatively working together, sharing, caring, and telling stories. I am so fortunate to have many continuing students always mixing in with new comers. For two days we learn and teach each other. We even started a Sunday morning “Breakfast Club” meeting prior to the start of day two of the workshop. (Great idea prompted by Komo-one of the museums biggest advocates who drives from San Jose for the workshops and brings mochi from Kogetsu-do!). I love when Keiko comes with her enthusiasm for shibori and the stories of her many family members who were interred in the concentration camps during the war-I learn so much from these women! Then there’s Cheryl, who is signed up for her second adventure on the Silk Study Tour to Japan and takes advantage of the trip to visit relatives there that she had not seen for many years and who are growing older all the time. I could go on and on but suffice to say, when I hear two of the newcomers tell me at the end of the workshop “this weekend has been the most fun I’ve had in years!”, my work is done and I go home fulfilled. So thank you all! Here are a few photos…
kumo binding with arashi shibori
ready for the vat
first time student was patient and deliberate-guntai shibori
arashi indigo moon
Kaiju vs. Heroes exhibit at the JANM
first “breakfast club” get together
The new exhibit at the JANM is Kaiju vs. Heroes-a wonderful collection of Japanese toys from Mark Nagata who had an equally wonderful story to tell about his collection and how it inspired his life as an artist and illustrator.
I have one more workshop to give before the end of the month- I may have mentioned it before, I can’t remember. It was full but Beth Marx, who organized it just emailed me that there was one cancellation- so if you are interested you can email her Here. I am filling in for the other instructor who wasn’t able to make it.
So now I prepare for my classes and booth at the Houston International Quilt Festival. I’m hoping to be ready enough. Sometimes, enough just has to be ok.
And, the pomegranates are ready! It’s fall. Or as we call it Here, our endless summer.
Ahhh….time for a blog post. Seems I’ve been blogging in my head for a few months now. But now for real, here. Let’s see how this goes…
As always, gardening is keeping me sane here- a good time for gardening and sanity with elections (finally behind us here until November) and more of the same old BS of copyright issues, Amazon(this time), and Chinese sellers. If you follow me on FB you may have seen some of these pics but I add them here once more.
I think I will call it the Sanity Garden!
Regarding Amazon, I had to spend a bit of time playing Whack-A Mole there by issuing complaints to Amazon regarding a network of Chinese sellers slapping my images on over 40 crap products. Some have been taken down, some strangely remain (how Amazon decides these things is beyond me) and new ones have popped up under new names with slightly reworded descriptions. They all seem to contain the wording “Printed Watermarked Shibori Ribbon” which is hilarious seeing that they stole the watermarked image of mine online and used the metadata info to describe. Yes, folks they are that kind of stupid. Kind folks have added their 2¢ in some of the product reviews. One of the items was a doormat (since removed) which seemed demoralizing in a funny way and another was a brandy flask which I could certainly make of use! Moving on…
The last Indigo and Shibori workshop at the JAMN was wonderful and filled with good, creative and enthusiastic folks. The next Shibori On! workshop at the Japanese American National Museum is August 4-5. It has only 3 spots left so if interested please check in there soon! They do keep a waiting list so, if full, ask to have your name added. Some pics from the last workshop:
Next up at the JANM though is Moth to Cloth Silk Workshop (sign up through the link)–there are still spots open. I have some great video and photos of silk production in Japan as well as a collection of tools and implements to explore and use. We will reel silk cocoons purchased from my friend and sericulturist in Japan, Nobue Higashi san as well as make silk hankies for spinning and dyeing (both of which we will do in the class). Cut flowers made from cocoons will also be made. But the real star of the workshop will be the live silkworms that just hatched two days ago and for those interested and willing, you can take some home to watch them spin and emerge from their cocoons. Here is what they are looking like as of yesterday. At this stage we call them kego and they remind us of hairy ants. I have already found my mulberry sources in the neighborhood and am ready to feed the “tiny masters” as Micheal Cook of Wormspit affectionately calls them.
Moving right along, work slowed up a bit the past couple of months which let me somehow to doing a quick turn-around for a bridal designer in LA whose customer wanted her wedding dress indigo ombre dyed for her one year anniversary. Apparently, the other dyers she had previously used were not available and my name came up. these sort of things are not undertaken lightly as you only have one chance to do it and it must be done right. The dress was all silk and the skirting was 3 layers of different silks. Here is the result:
In addition, I am filling in with my indigo and shibori teachings at a garment felting workshop by Beth Marx in October that will also include some eco-printing (hers, not mine). Apparently there was an issue with the original teacher coming from the EU and I agreed to fill in with the acceptance of the already signed up students (they all agreed!) Class is full with a waiting list. Interesting to me was that Beth also lives in Long Beach and we don’t know each other. I’m such a loner in that regard. It sounds interesting.
I added some new shibori ribbon colors to the shop- my favorite is the colorway called CopperPlate. I had beaders who like rich colored metals in their beadwork in mind when I made it. I also added some shibori pieces I call “A Little Fancy”. Check it out!
Let’s not make it so long between visits next time shall we?
More expected tonight. We are way behind and grateful. So far no downpours here and we hope for the best in the burn areas.
Rain necessitated taking some photos indoors in poor lighting in order to list some things in the shop. Moons mainly. All indigo. Some moons on silk, some on cotton and all vintage cloth and collected in Japan. Several scarves, some with moons and others using various shibori techniques are also there. In she shop now, here.
old cotton moons
old silk moons
silk moon scarf
arashi chaos scarf
ombre indigo scarf
moon and shibori scarf
silk ro moons
In addition, over the turn of the new year, some lovely new silk shibori ribbon has arrived in Italy and in Russia.
There are new classes coming up as well. Two at the Japanese American National Museum (still open) and one at the Fresno Fiber Guild (sold out).
I did a little slideshow for each one –
-on Saturday and Sunday, February 3-4 from 11 AM to 4PM it’s Shibori Mandalas on Silk.
(sign up here)
-and then on March 24th and 25th it’s more of Indigo Shibori dyeing
(sign up here)
And one last thing, I will be sending out an email for the 2019 Silk Study Tour to Japan to interested parties who have indicated interest via the Constant Contact newsletter (signup here and in the right hand sidebar). I have been working on editing a group of photos into a slideshow from last year’s tour. It’s hard to select 30 or so out of thousands! But the memories I had while sorting were wonderful!
I have been existing in a silk cocoon these past 10 days which has been wonderful considering the noise out there in the “real” world.
In the lifecycle of a silkworm, the cocoon has evolved to protect the silkworm as it pupates and transforms into a silk moth. It offers protection against predator threats as well as not so obvious threats of bacteria and other harsh realities providing its own ideal environment inside, regulating air, water, and temperature conditions inside the cocoon as the transformation occurs.
This is not unlike a trip to Houston and the International Quilt Festival. We are inside the GRB Convention Center halls, in our own little (HUGE!) cocoon. As I observe my own self in this cocoon, I also observe others around me and see many transformations taking place. We are seemingly oblivious to the noise occurring outside this cocoon. We are buzzing inside here, creating an energy that is exciting and palpable. The election, other news, and even connections to family and friends not present, cease to exist for the most part.
We Are Here. We are reminded what it is to get away from our usual activities and places. We are gathered together inside to create, learn, teach, view beauty and connect. Inside this cocoon we meet new people and learn from them, and we learn about ourselves from these interactions. We work as a team, making things go smoothly for all. When something falls out of place, there is a rush forward to help, to solve. In classes (both as teachers and students) we learn how to fail, to accept, to improve and to create solutions. We share joy in all of this and through viewing the immense display of quilts we experience beauty, talent, process and progress.
We know we will return, each of us to our own realities and places, back to our friends and families and home. But we will return transformed. We have seen so much beauty inside that cocoon, so much joy, sharing and caring for each other in this creative playground of cloth and fiber. Perhaps this is where the comparison ends. Unlike the silk moth who will exist only a short time more, we will continue on, perhaps unraveling the cocoon as we return filled with new ideas and intention, having made new friends, strengthened old ones and set out on new paths and directions.
Here now at the airport, I am slowly emerging from this cocoon, having been once again transformed by the experience. I met so many, heard many stories, and shared much. Thanks to all who visited, took classes, participated in so many ways large and small.
the machine room
lunch walk on Discovery Green
SIlk Experience Classes
booth set up begins
indigo, pomegranate and moons
fedex- always needed!
this quilt captured my wonder
indigo moons on silk wrap
Vietnamese food at Huynm
at the Black Lab- comfort food and a cocktail-an after packout tradition
It’s a good thing I don’t share all the letters I receive as some just make me want to throw something and others make me want to shed a tear. Some are so uplifting, yet too personal or bittersweet at times to publish on the blog. This week so far I have received one of each. Just for balance.
Remember Balance? Balance has been a theme here over time on the blog and in reality, everyday.
Which brings me to an email I received this morning.
I ran across a piece of art that I thought was public domain but have traced it back to you. I work for Hanes, and was thinking about using the art “Indigo wall panel” in a panty print but doing it in different colors, modified digitally so that it can be rotary screen printed. Would you grant me permission to use? If not, I will do something different and try to create the look of the technique digitally and that’s perfectly fine. Have a great day.
Thank you either way,
So, basically he is saying that they want permission to use the image of my shibori work as a shortcut to a graphic design to screen print onto underwear. And if I don’t grant permission, they will “create the look of the technique digitally” and carry on. In my mind, I hear- “we will alter your image enough (digitally) so as to be able to call it our own or derived and skip your permission altogether. Have a great day!
So what happened to common courtesy? How about “I came across your work (while searching for patterns in indigo and shibori images online that we could glean for free use of artwork for our commercial product line) and would love to use your image and compensate you modestly (say $500) for it’s use.
I don’t know. I really don’t know anymore. Why? When a company that has reported net sales of $5.7 billion in their most recent report has their design staff searching the internet and basically bullying artists(my opinion) into granting permission for use of their works I just don’t know anymore.
So what say you, fair readers?
Should we say yes and allow them to use this artwork knowing that every time we see this pattern on Hanes panties (and we will see them) we will be reminded of the corporately owned world we must now operate within? It might be a good thing to remind ourselves of this on a regular basis. It is in all our lives daily in even the smallest of things.
Or should we say no, allowing them to feel like they did the right thing by asking and either remake my design in their own image (costing them a bit more) or even just to continue searching online for some other image they can use without actually having to do more than work the keyboard.
Indigo Blues was published in 2012. Like many images of my work, I find them regularly online without attribution. This is a detail shot of the full piece that was sold through my online shop quite some time ago. The full image here.
On the other side of Balance, I received an order for moons the other day with an immediate email follow-up note from a fellow undergoing a very serious health challenge. Having been hospitalized for many recent months he tells me the following:
I have decorated each room I’ve spent time in– sometimes 4 to 6 weeks at a stretch — with fukuro obi hangings and other silk kimono fabrics, which have always brought pleasure to me and to visitors. A calming healing environment visitors would exclaim! I will continue this “tradition” of Japanese design in the rooms when I re-enter for hospital for the transplant, a “cure”, in early September. I plan to add your beautiful moons to the room. Many thanks.
and I reply(in part)…
It will be a privilege to make some moons for you. Thank you for your order.
I can imagine your room…your creating it with a certain peaceful attitude that promotes calmness, enjoyment, and healing qualities for both you and your visitors.
I will be thinking of this as I dye your fabrics. My favorite thing to do is to create intentional fabrics that I can infuse with thoughts and intentions for their recipients as I make them. Thank you. Be well, take care…
I like to take a material and make it into something else. I like to figure out and create a process for that. To repeat that process. So many times…to create the process and then alter it. The process and the repeating keeps me balanced. Even when operating within the maze.
I like to discover via process. I discovered this process after doing a lot of this. It takes doing. And going there many times. And still…
In the workshops I teach, I like to lead a path to discovering. Not solve everything for you. Your path will be different from mine. If I am rigid and demand that you follow my example you may not find your own path. I like to encourage wondering- which in the end means experimenting and questioning.
Lately, life does seem like a maze. We will get through. Life is a Maze ing.