Tag Archives: workshops

the beauty of teaching

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.

What I find really exciting about what has been happening at the JANM workshops is the sense of family and friendship that has evolved through my workshops there. By having ongoing workshops in one place, many people come back over and over to practice their skills, work on new and ongoing projects and to make, continue, and renew friendships with other participants.

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.

Kokoro- the heart of things…

Kokoro means “heart” in Japanese and this past Sunday I participated in the Kokoro Craft Fair at the Japanese American National Museum. The event is staffed by volunteers who organize and run the event to great success in fundraising for the museum’s educational programs and more. They have lots of heart!
I have never been able to participate before since it is too close to the show I usually do in Houston towards the end of October/early November but this year since I am not in Houston, it was a pleasure to be able to do this event.
As is often the case, since it was only a one day affair, I forgot to take photos as I was focused on what I was doing and engaged with customers and attendees. I met many interesting customers & vendors and thought the overall quality of vendor there was very good. Handmade, no imports, and lots of fun Japanese related crafts from what I could see in my quick walk through as people were setting up.
I had a lot of people interested in my classes at JANM (ran out of flyers!) and also in the Silk Study Tour for 2021! Three years ago we had the first Japanese American join us on the tour and this year there were three! It is my distinct pleasure to have more Japanese Americans join us and explore their cultural heritage through the tour.
I have to say a little something about the volunteer staff at JANM. Many are senior Japanese Americans and they do so much for the museum! The JANM is a welcoming place and has always made use of volunteer staff. Sometimes I think that we forget how much seniors have to offer, but not at JANM! Some of them are well into their 70’s and 80’s, maybe 90’s! I hope I have as much vitality as they do when I get there! It was a pleasure to work with them at the event!
Thank you Kokoro volunteers!
I also enjoyed meeting Ann Burroughs the President CEO of the museum for the first time. We had a nice conversation and she even made a purchase of some of my shibori blank cards to use when sending out thank you notes to donors. That was a wonderful thing!

Coming up on October 19-20 at JANM is the second workshop on making a komebukuro (offering bag) incorporating indigo dyeing, boro, shibori, and sashiko. There are only a couple of spots left….
Click for details and signups…

I am busy preparing the material kits and supplies for this class. It’s a bit more work than any of the other workshops so I’m making sure I get a good headstart on it! I am going through all the japanese fabrics from the tour and auditioning the ones I think I want to use for this class. I’ll make another one this week just to settle back into the project.


There are 7 new silk shibori ribbon colors into the shop. All pretty and hard to choose a favorite! One thing I will mention, after making this ribbon for so many years now I surprised even myself by discovering something in the pleating that made a big improvement! Just goes to show you that there is always room for wondering!
You can order them in the shop here.

The tree is loaded with pomegranates and is coming all at once so I am also busy processing them both for dyeing and eating. I’m freezing some of the arils for later and drying and freezing the peels for dyeing. I plan to do some special gold pom dyed pieces soon. This here is the largest one I have ever grown- a blue ribbon winner for sure weighing in at over 2 pounds! Pomegranates are time consuming and delicious!

Kuro in a sleepy moment out in the garden and I couldn’t resist taking a photo. He still decides on when and if he wants petting from us, but with the night temps dropping a bit, he actually came in and slept on the bed for a few hours last night! He’s very independent!
The feral in him I suppose.

I also added another silk shibori flower making class into the mix for November. I had a few people who wanted to do this but missed the last workshop. It is a small group class and you can see the details here. This will be a fun afternoon and a great time to make a few handmade pretties for holiday gift giving.

I’ve been enjoying following Peggy Osterkamp’s weaving blog as she is touring in Japan visiting many textile sites. She went to Amami Oshima as well and saw some of the same things I did. Seeing it again through her weaver’s eye I learned some things that I didn’t get a chance to learn while I was there. The main part of her trip is traveling around Kyushu which is on my list for my next adventure to Japan. In fact, my son is going there for 3 weeks and spending a good chunk of his 3 weeks on Kyushu.
Additionally, John Marshall just sent out a newsletter announcing his new book. I hope I will be able to add it to my workshop library collection of great textile books. It includes over 100 swatch samples and he characterizes it as a “field study guide to Japanese textiles”.

And from my friend Jude who is moving, a look at the place they will now call H O M E. I’ve enjoyed her adventure and will move right along with her.

I’ll end this post with a couple of thoughts that passed my way today which resonated with me. The first one was during an interview with Presidential candidate Andrew Yang- “take a dream and turn it into something.” He also remarked that women are never truly idle. How true!
And the other is the last line of a poem that Michelle posted on her FB page today “Everywhere I look, my thoughts run wild.” (‘2011’ by Fanny Howe)

Let’s keep wondering and dreaming and let our thoughts grow wild.

Solstice Silkworms

On this solstice, I think of Nature and the natural world. I think of the passing of time, our place on this planet and the global environment. The sun is not standing still, nor is time.  Recent days have seemed very, very long and dark- even at a time when light lingers. I let the change flow over me knowing it WILL change. All things change.

I am watching the silkworms change every day. They are my daily reminder.

I am sorry to report that this weekend’s workshop titled Moth to Cloth at the JANM has been cancelled due to low enrollment.  I’m a bit sad about this as I was really looking forward to it.  I guess the topic was a little esoteric for the venue. I feel like I’m taking it a little personally though.  Everyone wants indigo and shibori workshops.  The August offering there is already sold out with a waiting list now.  So for now, my 500 silkworms and I will just carry on…marking time.

pressing on… indigo and other stuff

On this hot and muggy Sunday I finish up a large order of the shibori ribbon and wonder. Often when I wonder about what I am doing I take to the vat and gain some perspective.  Besides, I have a couple of workshops ahead of me here-3 that involve indigo and need some wondering and planning time.

today the natural vat has a good coppery sheen but little flower. however, it is dyeing well

today the natural vat has a good coppery sheen but little flower. however, it is dyeing well

Starting off with some moons on old tattered asa (hemp) from Japan got me thinking about what ties us all together on this little planet we named Earth – as well as what tears us apart. 

tattered moon- somedays i feel just like this and am in need of a little mending

tattered moon- somedays i feel just like this and am in need of a little mending

I figure I need to order 30 yards of cotton scrim for my workshop in Houston October 26- done and crossed off the list.  The rest of the fabrics to be used are remnants and scraps I have been collecting of some very lovely old and reused fabrics brought back from Japan.  We will dye them in indigo and apply different techniques- shibori mostly, as well as use our imagination before stitching them to the indigo dyed scrim.  Kits will also include swatches of vintage kasuri, katazome, and shibori.  I will have several very nice vintage boro textiles on display for students to study as well as a selection of books and photos from my recent visit to the Amuse Boro Museum in Asakusa, Japan.

workshops start with me creating a new sample- even if I have taught the class before- I want to be very familiar with it and add to previous knowledge I  taught this class at the JANM over a year ago

workshops start with me creating a new sample- even if I have taught the class before- I want to be very familiar with it and add to previous knowledge
I taught this class at the JANM over a year ago

Pressing on, I make my sample by my own hand, I cut the fabrics, collect the swatches.  As I dye the new sample I think about the room that I will be teaching in, the number of students, the problems that will be encountered by restrictions of such a setting and must be solved before anyone walks through the door to make things go smoothly and find success for all who gather that day in that room. I aim for a version of perfection knowing full well that there will be less than that achieved but aiming high is where I like to begin.  I am already looking forward to teaching this class and its myriad lessons.

My class is called Indigo dyed and Boro Stitched and can be signed up for by going to the Quilts Inc. site for the Houston International Quilt Festival.  The class is # 117  on Monday Oct. 26, 2015 in the online catalog.

I am teaching two other classes there as well- Shibori Mandala Magic on Silk (class #217) and Splendid Silk Shibori Poinsettias (class # 611).
The Mandala class is an outcome of working with Richard Carbin and combines the folding techniques I learned from him with a completely different method of resisting and applying the dyes.
Richard’s presence will be felt in the vintage silk fabrics we will use which were collected by and purchased from him.

The Silk Shibori Poinsettia class is a fun Friday evening class- a good sit down and relax class at the end of a busy week.  Many lovely pieces are sure to be made as gifts for friends and family on this night.
poinsettia

I tried to upload an image of a great little boro piece I brought back from Japan but WP is being fussy right now so it will have to wait until later.  Until then, I’ll add a couple of photos of something I made the other day just to satisfy a need I had-a small bag that snaps open by pinching the sides and holds all I need. I used some obishin between the cloth layers.

It’s raining again now- hardly can believe it! It has been such a gift.  I have somewhere I’m supposed to be so until later-

mata ne!

mending, again.

last post had me thinking about what gets lost in the rush.  the rush to move ahead.

mending has a way of slowing you down. and besides, i really like the way it ends up looking.

instead of rushing something into the rag bag or even into the charity bag (have you seen this?) you can mend it! and slow down a little bit.

so here are a few new images of recent mending i did while i was away.  seems everyone brought a few things for me to work on-

before the mend

little crosses and a star

small pockets

knee rips

holes from phones rubbing in a pocket-modern problem

pocket patches

this one said “color me!”

crotch rips-extra care and more work

by the way, I updated the workshops and events page.  there is a shibori workshop at the Japanese American National Museum on Sat. Sept. 8.

 

 

 

 

 

 

a letter…

Dear purplecats in Walnut Creek,

Please do not use images of my work to sell your workshops. It’s disingenuous at best and deceptive beyond that. If you are giving shibori workshops, the integrity thing to do is to post images of your own work. I recognize 3 out of the 4 images as belonging to others and I’m sure your potential students would like to see YOUR work before they sign up- not the work of others whose images you’ve collected from around the net.

Please remove this ad before it gets flagged. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Shibori Girl


For those of you who have followed this blog over time, you know how I feel about having images of my work lifted from the net and used commercially without permission. Many of you also know that I often give permission to use my images for a wide variety of things when asked (as many have). But for those who insist on operating at a level where integrity is nil, I’m tired of it. I have better things to do than police my stuff all over the internet. But I will still continue to do it because it seems that it is the right thing to do, for the greater good of all of us creative types (including you purplecats).

~and here is what the oatmeal does about lifted content. he also says: “I realize that trying to police copyright infringement on the internet is like strolling into the Vietnamese jungle circa 1964 and politely asking everyone to use squirt guns.” but he too, carries on with the task in spite of seemingly impossible odds.

That is all.

(going to wash all this away today by working at the vats all day!!)