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.
As a followup to the last post, I continue with the weaving portion of my trip to Amami.
On the way to Higo Dorozome Friday, I saw a sign that read “Oshima Tsumugi Village” so we decided to start there on Saturday. I didn’t realize until afterwards that this is where Jackie did her mud -dyeing workshop (we later compared notes). Since I had already done the sharimbai/dorozome workshop we opted for the basic tour and focused on weaving. They have a good but short tour of the weaving process but the real highlight was the addition of a weaving session on one of their looms where you could weave and keep a length of Oshima silk tsumugi. This was purchased at the beginning of the tour with the entrance fee.
Of course, the plain weaving of a piece of silk oshima tsumugi is a fairly basic process even for a novice. The real work as most weavers know, is in the preparation of the warp and the set-up of the loom. Oshima tsumugi takes this to new heights with its complicated pattern drafting, the precise dyeing of both the warp AND the weft threads prior to measuring and warping the loom. In addition, starch is also applied to the silk threads prior to “shim-bata” weaving as well as after the dyeing prior to warping. the starch or glue is made of specific types of local seaweed.
The process of dyeing the threads: Prior to the late 1800’s, the threads were wrapped with banana plant fiber to resist the dye and form the kasuri patterns. Other methods, from various areas dyeing resisted threads for kasuri weaving, include tying and clamping the threads, but in 1907 two men from Amami in Kagoshima prefecture invented a new method. This consisted of weaving the warps and the wefts temporarily with cotton threads on a special shim-bata loom which resulted in more precise and complicated patterning as well as improvements in production quantity and quality.(The tightly woven cotton wefts over the silk warps resist the dye in shibori-like fashion.)
We saw the preparation of the warping threads-the weaving of the patterns from a precise draft of the pattern desired as well as the additional colored dyeing of the wefts post-dorozome dyeing. Apparently there are 28 (!)preliminary processes that take place in preparation of the actual weaving. Once the loom is warped (we did not see that process) the weaving begins and the weaver takes over. The weaver handles the shuttles adeptly and quickly, stopping every 7-10 centimeters or so to adjust the threads with a sturdy needle and correct any errors in the pattern caused by tension issues, by adjusting the warp threads before continuing on.
I was sat at a loom and after a brief instruction in Japanese and (international hand waving) I wove about 20 centimeters of beautiful plain woven silk, alternating shuttles filled with a variety of solid and multi-colored silk bobbins. It was like magic! The finished piece was a simple striped pattern and the resulting cloth was very smooth and lightweight.
It really is amazing how the skills for this type of silk fabric came to be developed, practiced and cherished by the Japanese of Amami Oshima and beyond. You can really appreciate the very high prices of this fine silk cloth once you have seen it first-hand. You can read about it, see photos & videos, but to experience it first hand- even for a short time is precious. One of the weavers told me she had been weaving for over 40 years. She said that anyone could do it but that it takes 4 years of 8 hours a day weaving to achieve the correct quality as a weaver of oshima tsumugi. I actually thought that might be understated. I told her I have a lot of catching up to do! The whole process is such a team effort and the failure of the materials or quality at any point in the process has the potential to ruin the work of all the prior steps taken by the other artisans to that point. Everyone is very focused on a good outcome.
A couple of other points to note- the silk used is not filature silk, meaning that it is not reeled from the cocoon. It is referred to as a yarn, meaning that it is spun from a silk like mawata. Apparently, sericulture was (is?) practiced on the island but I did not get to see any of that this time. Further research ahead… I’m interested in seeing how the silk used for the Amami oshima tsumugi is spun and prepared for weaving here, who does it, and where. Another note- during our tour of the tsumugi village, our guide/driver Kounosuke tells us that his mother was a weaver on the island before she had children (4). AND that his grandfather was a dyer….he has lived on Amami his entire life and had not seen the weaving process before.
About the guided tour at the Amami Oshima Village: If you are not there to do a workshop, the tour seems quite rushed. They have a specific amount of time devoted to each group before ushering them into the gift shop. I get the impression that there are a lot of casual tourist that go through there by the busloads in the high season. The gift shop does have two parts- the VERY expensive side featuring full kimono, full bolts of woven silk, obi, and various other very fine clothing items and also another side which is filled with fine but more affordable and smaller items- all beautiful and interesting to see. Kounosuke told us that the high season is of course Golden Week, July and August (when school is out and workers have vacation time) as well as during the Hatchi-matsuri or August festival. He said that was his favorite holiday of the year in Amami. Our other guide who did speak English was Yui who grew up in Yokohama (!)and came to live in Amami one year ago after visiting it on vacation. It’s that kind of place.
Here is a photo gallery from the tour:
As before- there is a lot of video to edit so perhaps on the plane I will do some of it. To follow, the rest of the day tripping around Amami and then time traveling again back to Kyoto.
It’s the end of Saturday here in Japan -only three days into the tour and we have already experienced many wonderful things! I always think I will have more time to blog our adventures than ends up being the reality. There is a desire to record the day to day-ness of it all, balanced by the reality of the schedule while still remaining in the moment. So tonight I have a bit of time to catch up here, so will backtrack a bit first…
There are certain stages of the tour …milestones of a sort. The first one being- having spent almost two years gathering the group and organizing the details-I finally get to meet everyone in person! The majority of us departed from LAX (Los Angeles) and others we will meet in Japan at Narita Airport. We had a little time at the departure gate to introduce ourselves and put names that have been on lists and in emails to the actual faces! We have three people traveling with us that have been on previous tours but even still I have not seen two of them for many years so it feels good to catch up a bit! As always, when I meet the rest face to face, I’m so pleased that this tour always attracts such a wonderful group of people who want to learn more about silk, Japan, and textiles in general. Cloth people are just good folks! I’m not quite comfortable until the plane door closes and everyone is on board. At this point, final boarding is done and the door closes- I relax. A 10.5 hour flight passes quickly and uneventfully in relative comfort. Watching a movie or reading a good book wearing noise cancelling headphones takes one away like an old fashioned Calgon bath. A couple of people knit the hours away. Arriving at Narita we gather up the rest of the group and Hirata san who has been at the airport ahead of time to meet the early arrivals leads us and our luggage to the hired bus for the trip to the the Ginza where we will stay for the following 3 days. Hotel check-in and a brief rest was followed by a short walk to Hirata-san’s favorite Ginza shabu shabu restaurant with those who were interested.
Tokyo Ginza is where we stop first with a small hotel one block off the main street. The first day was reserved to visit the Mingei-kan- the Folk and Craft Museum which represents the finest of simple and masterful craftwork for use in everyday life. We traveled there by train and with 17 people trailing through the train stations for their first time and using their Suica cards we arrived without too much confusion! Once inside the museum we were given a short introduction in English by a docent. The Mingei folk and craft museum celebrates the beauty in the handmade object-useful items used in everyday life. Beauty is appreciated by all and to have and use basic things of beauty enhances and enriches ones life. Simplicity and beauty can be seen in everyday objects here. We were fortunate to discover that a temporary exhibit of shibori by Motohiko Katano was on display during our stay and a highlight of the visit. No photos inside the museum are allowed so here are a few from the outside and a short video…
From there we divided into two groups- one headed to a craft and folk art shop called Bingoya to see works by current craftsman across Japan. My group returned to Tokyo Ginza where a couple of us were to meet up with Megumi-san who would introduce us to a kimono shop specializing in Amami Oshima Tsumugi. Two of us will travel to Amami Oshima at the end of the tour and this visit was to educate us a bit about Amami textiles and dorozome (mud dyeing) which is done there. Completely fascinating and a very special treat! Following this Megumi-san (an expert in kimono and known to the best shops in the Ginza) took us to several shops to see the finest of kimono made with top quality textiles.
Tea was enjoyed at the end of the day in one of the oldest tea shops along with fruit and agar. Returning to the hotel, everyone went their own way, some meeting up with Hirata-san who led a group to Tsukiji for sushi dinner and others who just couldn’t walk one more step went next door to Ginza Six for dinner.
Ok…gotta run! It’s monday and we’re in Kyoto where I was able to steal an hour of early morning computer time. Will do more catching up later!
Wednesday’s post was long enough so I didn’t add specific information about the side trip I’m taking after the Silk Study Tour to Japan ends. Prompted by one of the tour participants who is researching the mud dyeing traditions of various cultures and locales, I was inspired to go and see this for myself and add to my Japanese textile knowledge. I will spend 4 days there learning and exploring the textiles of Amami Oshima. Amami Oshima (oshima means island in Japanese) is the northernmost island in the Okinawan archipelago.
While the Ryuku Islands (and Okinawa) are well known for their Indigo dyeing and beautiful weavings using tropical plant fibers, Amami Oshima is known for its tradition of plant and mud dyeing on silk, often supplemented with indigo. Its beautiful and intricate weavings using the previously bound and dyed warp and weft threads are called Oshima Tsumugi. This link has a good description of the process and terms. Japan seems like it is filled with endless opportunities to learn and discover so many textile traditions and this is one I have not previously explored. Interestingly, I realize I have already collected a small sampling of these textiles! I’ve seen them here and there in Japan and picked some up when the price was not too steep just to study and enjoy them. A sampling:
A recent video shows more of the process and the issues facing the economics behind weaving this very time consuming textile. There is also a lot of indigo dyeing that occurs in the Ryukyu Islands perhaps in part due to its tropical and mild climate as well as the weaving of choice bast fibers, especially on Okinawa. I expect I will also see some of that on Amami Oshima as well. I also read where they produce a special type of sake there using sugar cane…will have to try it!
So the fabric collections I will be putting together for you includes one selection that will be collected only from Amami Oshima and I wanted to explain a little bit more about what that was all about. You can see the various collections that can be ordered here in the shop.
I look forward to sharing my Amami Oshima adventures here on the blog in early June.
Another month comes to a close here. We are getting some good rain again and are grateful. A cold and wet day means a good day for working inside and cleaning up paperwork, posting online, and answering emails.
shibori curves… like life and the unexpected curves
first time student was patient and deliberate-guntai shibori
Unfortunately, one of those emails was accepting the cancellation of two spots for this year’s Silk Study Tour to Japan. This year’s tour has been the year of cancellations! Never before have I had this many having to bow out of the tour! Almost all for health reasons unfortunately. What a disappointment for those who have had to back out! Every time I have been able to fill in the earlier spots but now, here we are in the home stretch, having to fill in a couple of spaces. Would you or someone you know like to join us? This tour is an exciting and educational adventure into the textile world of Japan wrapped in the culture and beauty of the Japanese people.
What will you experience?
a visit to a traditional sericulture farm
a visit with an indigo dyer
entrance into the beautiful museum of Ichiku Kubota
a night at a resort hotel overlooking Kawaguchi Lake
tour of a Silk Museum (or two! Yokohama optional)
several nights at a resort spa ryokan (inn) with traditional Japanese baths and a lovely traditional Japanese dinner
two nights in Tokyo Ginza area with free time to visit museums,shop and a day side trip to Kamakura and Yokohama-optional
a stop at a kimono museum (if open)
a visit to an obi weaver
a visit to Tomioka Silk Mill (new World Cultural Heritage site)
a stop at a textile museum
a morning at the famous Kyoto temple sales
a visit to the shibori museum in Kyoto
visit the Amuse Boro Museum in Tokyo(optional) Sadly, this museum is closing March 31
a visit to a washi studio (handmade papermaker)
a visit with a modern sericulturist
and any added invitations we may receive and accept! (we already have a few!)
a workshop with a natural dyer
a workshop with Ton Cara-a silk processing and weaving studio
Not to mention all the small moments that you will experience if you wonder and notice!This year (we always have repeat travelers as it is a trip that can be taken more than once), we have the honor to include once again, the author of the book American Silk, 1830-1930:Entrepreneurs and Artifacts, by Jacqueline Roberts and Madelyn Shaw. This book details the history of silk production in the US and is a wonderful look at early entrepreneurs and the textile mills pre-synthetics. I enjoyed it very much.
Coincidentally, I met Jacqueline at a Costume Society of America convention many years ago when it was in San Diego (2007 or ’08). She had a table in the vendor room and I saw her book on the table as I passed by. Of course I stopped and talked to her and bought the book. It was several years later that she came on the silk tour and I recognized her name. I had to ask if that had been her I bought her book from and of course it was! How interesting that our paths would cross like that!You can book the tour with or without airfare- ask me for the Land Only price. More info here. Single supplement also available. Please share with anyone you know who might be interested!
This little moon fragment carried me north recently to lead a shibori and indigo workshop for the Central Coast Weavers. It was a wonderful group of women who weave and share an enthusiasm for fiber in many forms. The workshop space, a large private studio affectionally known as “The Barn” kept us warm with a wood burning stove in one corner, fed with a kitchen area stocked with home baked breads and more, and busy with a large working area. Rosemary and Kay, the owners and creators of The Barn, have the second floor space lined with rows of large floor looms- maybe 15-20. I don’t think I have ever seen such a variety of large working looms in one location.
Previous to the workshop day, I gave a lecture on silk at their monthly members meeting where they have a “show and tell”. Some of the things that they brought to share with members included this wonderful rug that was woven by one of the women. I think it was my favorite!
hand woven wool rug by Central Coast Weavers member
I can’t remember her name but she is the one holding the rug at the far end. They also had a little fundraising raffle at the meeting where members bring something fiber related they no longer need and if it is something you would like to re-home you can put some of your raffle tickets in the cup for that item. Everything found a new home-plus the guild got some money for new books for their library. Lovely to see and thoughtfully purposeful!
The Barn workspace-a half-view
There is a new package being prepared for Wendy. It will contain a set of needles and indigo threads.Someone might have a desire to add to the cloth in their own way, to hold the needle in their hand and feel of the thread as it is pulled through the cloth. It might just start someone wondering.
a moon divided,united in stitch
across many moons
Right now though, the 3rd storm of the week here is drenching us-as if trying to wash away and clear out all the drama of this past week. I welcome it. I just hope all my monarch cats are finding refuge out there somewhere. And that the sun will come out next week and dry out my poor flooded studio space!
leave it to jude and the other clothmates to distract me from my other work today. but being sunday it felt right to follow and honor the muse with a little free weaving. even the moon was game. collecting and catching cloth and ideas for the boro panel of the jacket.
i started a flickr set for extra pics from the workshop here.
started in on some of the large custom indigo boro packs and some base dyeing for ribbon and pocket squares. tonight i’ll be at the ironing board then out to wrap the silk for the discharge bath tomorrow.
last night as a guest of diana (thank you!!), i attended a lecture, dinner and opening of the 67th Scripps Ceramic Annual, which is the longest continuous exhibition of contemporary ceramics in the United States. it is her alma mater and the same college where Paul Soldner (contemporary raku master- now passed) taught ceramics. Paul Soldner himself curated this annual exhibition for over 30 years and now it features a list of guest curators. it was wonderful to see what support they have engendered for ceramics there- many long time contributors and patrons to the program. 67 years is a LOT of ceramics! I particularly liked the works by Brendan Tang and Matt Wedel. although i listened to the hour long talk by this year’s curator, i wasn’t buying all of it. i admit, the balloon thing just wasn’t working for me or even the clay pieces with the rotting tomatoes- no matter what kind of spin you put on it. from my perspective it was definitely trying my patience to convince me it was worth being part of the show. i must be getting old or something…
sometimes art just gets to conceptual for me.