Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ten + 1 / Cultural Appropriation

Yesterday was Unravelling's tenth birthday. I intended a special post and for a few months auditioned topics/projects/giveaways, drafted posts and looked at photos, but nothing stood out. Because in a weaver's life, I feel, ten years is nothing but an "approach run". (Really? There is not the one word to describe the few steps athletes takes before they do the deed, that short run; or are my online Japanese-English dictionaries bonkers??) By the afternoon not mentioning the birthday looked to be the best option, but that felt... dishonest, so here I am. Thank you for your presence in the last ten years, be it for most of it, since last week, or here and there occasionally.

That taken care of, I want to record a mishmash of thoughts I've collected in the last few months/years which seem to belong to one category/direction, which in the current parlance, could loosely be labeled "cultural appropriation".

Warning: I'm going to consider race and other potentially offensive stuff because I lack the latest appropriate vocabulary but am still interested, also because I believe people involved in "arts" are open to discourse and expressing opinions over politics and being the smartest guy in this tiny room. But if you are sensitive, you might want to walk away.

Let's see how many I can remember:

1) Cultural appropriation in New Zealand art education; I don't know how it is now, but basically the word then was, if you're not from that group, don't use it. This was my first introduction to the concept although it makes the news here from time to time. How about newer, more "international" stuff, though? Hip hop/rap?

2) Before I went to Japan in February, I looked up exhibitions and bookmarked a bunch, the most interesting being one of textiles/garments used in or related to superstition/voodoo and protection. I didn't read the details then, but from memory the exhibition was to be held in a fashion/art school gallery, showing items from Asia or "The Third World". When I finally had time to go, the link was invalid and I could not for the life of me find anything, but the idea of garment as protection and/or infused with magic intrigued me. It also tied in nicely with my pet peeve of textiles (other than symbolic garments/fragments,) not being represented enough in ethnological/history museums because they are often not seen as valuable. (I know, they don't last as well as hard stuff.)

3) General lack of knowledge/research/care of places/people/cultures/things we are nevertheless sincerely interested in/inspired by; what's the right way, how much is enough, and if/when we learn, what's the right balance of sensitivity vs. change/innovation/creativity? Were, for example, cave paintings available to everybody in the respective communities or only to a subset? I've been a fan of Torres Straight Islands' carvings/masks since 2001 but they were hard to find in Australia; do they have tribal/ritual/spiritual/(religious) meaning and/or simply should be hidden to outsiders? I know some West African masks are hard to see for this reason. Is it OK for outsiders to take them out of context/place, be shown far away/traded for money vs educational benefit? How do we reconcile today's technology with knowing what is accurate; who do we ask and who can approve of what we do? How do we know when we've appropriated if something magical was embedded in our subconscious way back?

4) This weekend a couple of issues popped up on Facebook, one being Beyoncé's new video and the other George Takei's objection to Tilda Swindon being cast as a "Tibetan/Nepalese superhero" hat-tipping to the Chinese government/market. I don't know much about Beyoncé nor about yet another superhero film, but I read a few op-eds and free-for-all comments. Is it appropriation, (i.e bad,) when the majority ("Whites") take from minorities but adaptation (i.e. good,) in the other direction? Is it OK if the borrower pays the originators, if this possible? Is there a societal norm/standard to which every member is automagically exposed? Oh, what about all the food we all appropriate and adapt? (Do you know how many neighborhood eateries serve "curry" in Japan??) I tend to favor political correctness because I think it propels us, but re. "art", does it also hinder, perhaps unnecessarily, and if so, where do we place import?

5) My struggle with my own lapsed-Japanese-ness. I loathe "Western" oversimplification: of samurai; of feminine (sexual) submissiveness; of kimono where authentic is more appropriate; of our presumed penchant for minimalism; of haiku, et al; and the recent boro craze. (Likewise I cringe at the entertainment/media/political take on Arab=Muslim=terrorist, including lumping Kiwi and other darker actors in Arab roles, Russia=bad, etc.) Yet in many cases, I don't have much information, I haven't researched enough, and can only tell you, "Because it's not true/it's just wrong or in bad taste/you have to be Japanese to understand." In other words, sometimes it's only my gut feeling. But don't we trust gut feeling of others when their culture is involved? On the other hand, I appreciate the seemingly less-filtered appreciation of Japanese art by 19C Impressionists, or aizome/indigo-dye works and techniques shown together with techniques and aesthetics from other places. I've thought about by feelings but they're feelings and I don't have good answers.

6) How Japanese am I? How anything? Can I, from urban Yokohama, speak for or take part in preserving, (by way of talking about,) say, Ohshima Tsumugi, an ikat tradition from Okinawa? When I "talk" about it, for the most part I look research online, books if I have any, and translate, with emphasis on conveying meanings and nuances rather than accuracy of lexicon, but I'm seldom if ever reviewed by others. (I do correct when I find I've been wrong or misleading.) How responsible am I as a Japanese talking about things Japanese, vs. how important is it for anyone to keep traditions alive any way possible?

How about other people who move around, or have mixed heritage? I'm thinking not only of the ease of travel and ever-handy technology, but also of Japanese who immigrated to Brazil three-to-generations ago, who maintained the culture better than us; Japanese linguists studying Okinawan dialects which has maintained more from Japanese of the Tale of Gendi era, or Swedish scholars who came to Minnesota to study older versions of their language. Is older always more authentic?

7) Japan has, in spite of claiming a whole lot of things as "traditionally Japanese", an astonishing history of bringing in foreign concepts/technology/aesthetics and molding it to our liking. The indigenous population of Japan were Ainu, of whom a handful remain in Hokkaido; the rest of us, we don't exactly know where we came from; a mix of people by land from the Korean peninsula, by sea from around Taiwan and the Philippines, and even up north from Russia, is the going theory. Influences first came from China/Korea, India and Persia, (rice production and Buddhism being two biggies,) and then from the West after 1548, (Catholic Christianity and medicine are of note,) and a whole host of others since 1868. After WWII our education system and contents were dictated by the Allies, so that sped things up considerably. in all facets of life and from a young age. I'm astounded Confucianism stayed, but then we are secular in the main and religion as philosophy doesn't really stick, just the rituals. As a Japanese, am I careless in adopting/stealing? How does this relate to my feeling I never have an original thought?

8) I prefer inclusiveness, so when some NZ schools banned hot cross buns before Easter some years ago, my take was, keep the buns but celebrate other significant celebrations also and get them started early. I used to enjoy the annual Dewali party started by a few Indian families in Nelson, but when I read this year that Passover feast has become a thing among non-Jews as well, I wondered how Jewish people felt, how many people that one label covered; I felt sad for them without knowing why. How would Maori feel about making Matariki, their New Year, an all-of-New-Zealand celebration, how many do we ask, who do we believe?

9) I am also for authenticity, at least for the old stuff to remain alongside the new. Even when Bamiyan's Big Buddha was destroyed, even while museums in Bagdad and Cairo were ransacked, I thought treasures should remain close to their origins, should be actively and quickly repatriated, rather than stay in London, Berlin, Tokyo. Syria of late has shaken this belief: I was working at the Syrian embassy in Tokyo as a translator in '83/'84 when an NHK (Japanese public broadcaster, now government mouthpiece,) documentary team got the first ever permission as as a Western/international (?) team to show Palmyra, even from air with the help of their military. (They even covered the paved highway with sand for us so the approach by car looked more dramatic, er, "authentic".) Everybody was under Assad Senior then, so there's that, but goodness, I learned about the scale and condition of the sites and have intended to visit one day. And now I can't help wondering if someone had pillaged the city even in small parts...

10) What am I allowed to do? And should I change or maintain traditions/styles/aesthetics if I claimed to be inspired by something? How much?

I'd really like to hear from you. Ask me anything you want, tell me anything you like, but if you do, it'd be great if you can give us a little of your background. And let's not take personal/political offence, but feel free to express our honest thoughts. I really would appreciate hearing from you.

Friday, April 29, 2016


The cloth warp, after a reprieve, (more later,) was threaded in Dornick since there were already enough color interest in both the warp and the weft. To employ more interesting threading would probably not have added interest. Plus I opted for simple treadling for speed. (The colors are much more saturated, in dark pink with parts of deep reds and lighter pinks.)

It was harder to decide the sett. I sleyed the sample at 16PPI instead of 18PPI, the reason being 26/2 warps at 18EPI using 26/2 wefts in the past created tight enough cloth; combined with much thicker wefts I worried the wet finish would stiffen the cloth too much. Sampling showed 16EPI was comfortably cushy but compacted enough a good sewer could cut/sew without too much problem. After nearly a fortnight of indecision, I decided to go with my gut feeling and went ahead with 16EPI. I also wove with the end-feed shuttle, as it was the fastest while sampling, and didn't seem too heavy for the spaced-out cashmere warp.

I discovered the darkest cashmere on the far right, (seen at the far left in the picture because I shot the colors from the back of the loom,) stretched more than others, crating that horrible fan shape at the right selvedge. I tried all the tricks in my book but I couldn't fix it, so after about 170cm I cut off the cloth, and started another piece, hoping a little loosening/tugging of the warp and a lot of hoping would fix the problem. I also switched to the smaller boat shuttle as this allowed me to manipulate the weft, (yikes!) more easily. I also wove much slower and beat deliberately, but while weaving I had similar problems. I got about 150cm of the second piece.

When I took the second piece off the loom, I was shocked how visible the difference in the beat was. Before wet-finishing either, the first piece feels like a stiffish wool that could go either way, (but I know the sample is deliciously cushy,) but the second feels like, oh, colorful/uplifting South American rugs sure to last for years but uncomfortable as a garment. Meanwhile, the right selvedge on the first piece looks slightly wavy, while on the second scallopped but not enough to for me to get so bent out of shape, because these are fabric meant for sewing, and the selvedge not intended to be used as a feature. I'm going to leave these for a while before wet-finishing, hoping the temperature/air/moisture might by some miracle make the two pieces more like each other. (See the manga-esque stars in my eyes?)

I'm so into fabric-making now, though; I'll revisit this sooner than I had imagined.

The above reprieve was caused by an occasional problem I've had with my hands. I don't use gloves when I wash dishes, and though I'm not sure if this is the cause, occasionally but for years I had big pieces of skin, (the size of the nail on my pinkie?) peel off of my left thumb, and then sometimes my left index finger; I usually used general-purpose ointments, which resulted in lukewarm results.

In the last little while, it spread to most of my fingers, and where the skin peeled off, the next layer throbbed with heat-sensitivity. About six weeks ago it got so bad the throbbing kept me awake, so I applied and used up my manuka honey cream, and moved on to Australian papaya cream; both worked to stop the peeling and settle the sensitivity but I had to apply them all the time and or the throbbing came back in half a day. I spoke to a pharmacist who said if the manuka et al are working to stick with them a while longer, but if I were too bothered had other reasons to see a doctor, ask, and I'll most probably be prescribed steroids. Yikes.

A week later, I had a GP appointment; my regular GP was busy so I had to see a new doctor, who dismissed natural remedies instantly and didn't tell me what this was or what caused it, but who promptly prescribed a watery "scalp solution", to be applied twice daily. Instantly the steroid gave me a horrible taste in my mouth but I was in a hurry to get back to work so I grinned and bore it for two days, when I noticed the peeling had returned. So I quit that and returned to the papaya cream, and the peeling and throbbing have gone. I'm not sure if four or five doses of the steroid worked or the manuka/papaya were on their way to healing, but it went away suddenly as if I had imagined the whole thing.

I also bought a pair of kitchen gloves which I try to remember to use, and I let dishes pile and and wash only once a day. I'm also trying all the eco-focused dish detergents I can get my hands on, and I use hand creams more often than before, but so far so good.

While my hands were peeling and catching yarns, I had to stop weaving, stop making the gray warp halfway through, (my big project I should have been working on as soon as I got back from Japan,) but that's now the warp is made.

On my way home from the GP, I got some needlepoint yarn, and for the first time in 26 years I've started a wee project. I've been thinking needlepoint and embroidery recently, the freedom to design as I work. While I do both pre-designed and spontaneous embroidery, I never plan needlepoint designs. Shortly after I went to the US for high school I learned to needlepoint from a woman who designed and painted canvases for a craft shop, so from the get go, needlepoint was something I, too, made up.
Three navies, three yellows and this curious clay color, intended perhaps for one side of a bag. Because I usually use only the bottom-left to top-right stitch, whatever I make "leans" so just now it's pinned to the ironing board like Gulliver in Lilliput. It had been a while, however, since I last came home, got the material out of the bag, and got working right away. The continuous thinking of where I'm going next was lovely. This first piece, the design decided where I'll go too early, so I want to do more fluid pieces. The spontaneity doesn't compare with my kind of weaving, but needlepoint is done on a grid, and this is slower than working with paint and paper, and re-doable. All in all I found needlepoint a perfect kind of leisurely, drawn-out exercise in contemplating colors and shapes. And how it makes me think in different directions, on the loom and with paper. (The working on the canvas itself took longer than I imagined because of my declining eyesight. Multifoculs just don't work well, eh.)

The bottom horizontal stripe is in the same navy as the bottom layer of "hills"; since it'd been so long since the last time, I wanted to remember how needlepoint worked. From memory, I used to use three strands of softer two-ply wool, while these DMC yarns, the only ones I have access to now, are denser and slightly too fat for the size of the canvas holes. With the softer/airier wool, I remember manipulating the finished stitches to more or less blend enough not to distract from the design, but with these, I didn't even try.
Meanwhile these got neglected too log, so maybe needle point only as a reward after fringing/finishing? But it's nice to have something I can do on the couch on winter evenings.

We had our 26th anniversary yesterday; today is my sister's 21st and next month is my brother's 16th; strange how they sound slightly less dramatic than 25/20/15.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Re/Considering Cloth to Sew

So the red warp. Meant for fabric for Mom to be made into a piece of clothing. (I had in mind a simple vest with possibly a stand collar. )
The colors were supposed to be symmetrical with the lightest red in the center, having five sections of five stripes of 18 ends each;  25 inches wide at 18EPI. The far right section looks weird because I managed with what yarns I had left after emptying two new cones, and mixed a thicker merino, close enough to one of the reds. I thought Mom can get around, or make use of, the anomaly while the designing the garment.

It's a full-length warp so had I been more careful, it would have been more reasonable to make a shorter/wider warp according to plan. If I have warp left after the fabric, which is very likely, I'll have to edit before moving on to non-fabric.

Because it's intended as fabric for Mom, who is fussy about fibers she dons, it had to be cashmere in the warp, so I used 100% in 26/2. This yarn creates a meaty yet airy fabric at 18EPI with 26/2 or 20/2 in the weft, but being cashmere it doesn't full much. Mom-spun wool weft is much thicker than 26/2 or 20/2.

The last time I attempted fabric-to-sew was 2002, when "superwash" hadn't entered my weaving vocabulary. Back then wool having scales was a given in my environment so as long as I got the sett/pick, floats and the wet-finish right, there wasn't much else to think about. But in this brave, new, easy-to-wash world, I find myself having to step back and try to remember the things I took for granted. Let me think.

1) Cashmere doesn't full much, the extra merino will, so one selvedge may scallop.
2) The weft is much thicker than usual cf. the size of the warp and the sett; sample 18EPI, as well as 16/15 but probably no sparser to avoid weft-dominance.
3) Cashmere is brittle so too sparse a sett and the shuttle will hit/break the warp and/or fall through the gap. Try all shuttles.
4) The pick needs experimenting; I don't want a stiff cloth but sturdy enough for cutting. Pay attention to how the weft fulls.
5) Draft: make the most of the warp color scheme but keep warp float to max 3?
6) Wet-finish with caution; don't want cardboard.

What else?

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Yeah, Nah...

This is how Kiwi sports people used to start their interviews, unfailingly, as if everybody received media training from the same guy. Or girl. It's become the standard opener for Kiwis between 13 and 48, up to 58.

I had a slow week, followed by a very slow Easter break, (when we both read a lot and slept even more, even though we both silently aspired to garden some of the time.) The weather has been changeable and our old bodies can adjust only slowly. I understand everything Mom says about her being 85; we will never be as fit as we are today. Luckily, nothing is conspicuously wrong with either of us, except my weight, but the old bodies take forever to adjust/readjust, or just won't, and it is a gradual downward slope.

But then I had a productive few days and wove three pieces and made three warps in quick succession. Or, I unpicked heck of a lot, and still can't guesstimate how much yarn I've got. Or, I'm becoming even better at adapting to situations.
Two brown-ish cashmere warps were made from those little bits left on cones or wound into tiny balls to get rid of those cones. They are both short warps and although I'm not a brown, (nor green,) person, I like the look of both. These, I designed on my feet. The undyed is Mom-spun.
Because Mom currently has access to at least two people who can sew handwoven fabric into garments, I made a burgundy warp using Mom's cashmere to weave fabric using her handspun, (and possibly hand-dyed) wool for her. The cones looked new, so I just made up a color scheme and went my merry way until I ran out of not one but two colors suddenly, and another eventually. Luckily I had a very small cone of my best merino very similar to one of the reds, so I mixed that towards the end. I have no idea how the fabric will full, and the fabric is 80% the width of the plan, but I'm hoping it'll turn out almost-to-moderately OK to be cut and sewn by a capable person. (The colors are slightly darker and a little more saturated.)
And then weaving. I wove the second (left) and the third (right) pieces as planned, except the third pattern was impossible to see while weaving, showing me a glaring mistake about 80-120 picks later so I duly unpicked/rewove. The color scheme I planned for the this piece was supposed to give me roughly 178cm in length, but ended up short of 160cm so I added another repeat, finished it off, and started weaving up the warp-end fabric without cutting the piece off. Except... you know these things, don't you, no matter how you try to justify it. The first two pieces were around 180cm long and there were plenty of warp left. So, yes, the next morning I unpicked 200-odd picks of the fabric, and the plain weave at the start of the fabric, in between, and the end of the third piece, and added three more repeats. But it looks the most harmonious in the series. The second piece suffered because I forgot to wrap the cloth beam and the strings tying the apron to the stick on which the warps are tied with bubble wrap or at least a few thick sheets of paper as I normally do. Instead I had only one calendar page, so the irregular beating took on an apocalyptic uniqueness. (Of course I'm not posting the worst of it.) Much mending/giggling coming up.  
I also knew there was quite a lot of left, so instead of "using up" disparate wefts and make lots of tiny swatches, I started weaving as if I had enough for a fourth piece. This way, I could either get a nice fabric swatch or two, or make myself a neck tube, or get a proper piece. I looked at cashmere already on bobbins from the first three pieces, augmented/edited, and decided on "summer beach" colors, which morphed into "a riot of soft colors", but ended up more appropriately "post-storm beach debris". I got a full-length piece, but I'm ambivalent; as a consumer I like harmonious color schemes especially those close to each other on the color wheel; as a weaver I like them, and very saturated colors; and this piece is neither, as if I repeatedly and deliberately disrupted what could have been harmonious. Although... it looks less bad this morning.

All in all I worked against my initial intentions to try to make cool grown-up pieces with this warp. Ugh.

Never mind. What do I know about good taste. While I was away two of my favorite gray pieces were sold; "Celebration" (the second piece,) is the only one still waiting for its human and I was so sure that would leave the gallery first and by a long shot.
And then I have a couple of biggish pieces to go on the 16-shaft with more Mom-spun.

Friday, March 25, 2016


I felt so energetic while in Japan and immediately after I came home, so I assumed that will go on for a while. Well, not long enough; I had a kind of a blah week, maybe two; not crashing after the trip, but just blah.

I amazed myself how smoothly I could pick up where I left off in either place immediately; the Japan part was understandable as I was on a mission with a tight schedule and had started thinking/planning before I left, but to describe this last home coming "smooth-landing" is way too dramatic. Ben and I were right back where we left off as if I was away for an afternoon while he was at work; as if I can travel between my two worlds on an hour's train ride. This is new to me. It'd be nice if it took that little time/money to go back and forth, though; my body/mind hate the long flights more than my wallet.

I was also distracted by a pleasant novel my sister lent me; nothing earth-shattering, but fatally readable. I've also been more in an input mode than output, so I've been strolling the Internet looking for interesting things to read/watch/listen, finding, again, nothing earth-shattering but enjoyable.

(Oh, did you just hear the screeching seagulls? I like them. Not nice as far as bird songs go, but one of the best reminders I live a cushy life by the sea.)

I've also been looking for a small project, things I can do little bits of every day culminating in something I'd enjoy looking back on, but not being a finisher nor "a little bit every day" type, I decided not to think up anything new but to try to resurrect some I'm still fond of enough not to have thrown out. I've been thinking of about a dozen of these I worked on a good deal, and another half a dozen I for which I collected materials, mostly collage, in attractive museum shop bags, but haven't had the gumption to look at any and pick one. I'll show you if/when I start, or better yet finish. But I'm trying not to get over-enthused to declare something I'll regret, like, "I'll finish one project a month for the rest of the year!"

The garden is horrible. We've had many cool, overcast days in between bright, hot days, but I can't be bothered going out yet, and I've got to combat a pretty bad white fly epidemic too boot; weekly garlic spray may have suppressed them, temporarily but for months, but I have to move on to "chemicals" this year. Doesn't help that I now know 400 hours of hard labor ain't gonna do much good Chez Moi, but that's my problem.
On to weaving. I avoided weaving the piece on the loom because I found it unattractive, but you know, in order to get on to the next piece I had to finish this, and it doesn't look bad off the loom. It has more cool colors than I remembered, and I can think of a good Japanese adjective to describe how it looks to me, but it's one of those that just doesn't translate; it's like a combination of cool/pretty/detached without cruel/snobby. And of course I know it's going to have a fabulous texture.
I played with the treadling some more, (the first piece was the top treadling with a couple of interruptions,) planning to mix it up in the second piece, but even after culling, printout big enough so I can read the treadling ended up seven pages on A4 sheets, and the ones I saved looked similar to each other.
So far on the second piece I've used the third, (not counting the one you can see just a tiny bit of,) from the bottom, but I hope to insert other treadling in places.
Weft colors include blues I didn't sample, but I wanted to use only 26/2 100% cashmere so color choices were reduced. So far it's going in a regimented blue-to-pink, blue-to-pink order but the number of picks vary. To compensate for even more cool colors than the first piece, I plan to make the two pink areas larger than the others, and to insert other colors, perhaps 20/2 100%.
For now my plan is to weave the fourth or fifth draft from the bottom in these 20/2 colors, but we'll see how it goes.

The seven treading variations starting with second-from-the-top are all simple back and forth (pointed) treadling in different numbers and I enjoyed how the paler left half changes; this might come in handy some day.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Couple More from Mrs T's Phone

 Four of the five exhibitors: me, of course, Mrs E, Mom, and Mrs T.
Family: Mom; Sister-in-law, seated, who came at the end of another extremely busy day; Older Fav Cousin in white, after spending practically the whole day with us; they just met but got on like house on fire. Sister spent a few hours on Install Day, brother came on Day 3.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Back to Me

I've got a few more thoughts that emerged from the last trip to Japan; I'll write about them if they come out of the periphery of my thoughts but not if they want to stay there. Suffice to say I was busy, was frustrated with rampant Japanese consumerism, disregard for the environment/planet, and blind adoration for "convenience"; Japanese language's requirement for so much empty conversations; all reflecting my affinity to the simple life we made in New Zealand; loved the food and good sake but there are too few good eateries near Mom's place; nephews/niece growing up on course but siblings aren't ageing as fast as me; and Mom could use more help in her everyday life.

I've been working on that two-color warp on four shafts, wondering how important it is for me to know exactly how a piece is going to turn out before I weave, i.e. what good planning is, vs. how spontaneity/randomness increase the joy of making when it works well, and how that joy shows up in the finished product or my perception of it. And the makers' ego against modern day Aestheticism.
Take the latest sample piece, in which I tried rather many colors in many different treadling, not clarifying borders with marker wefts. (The colors are less white, but never mind.)
Compare that to the first piece I'm weaving where I decided on one treadling alternating with its inverted version, and a rough color scheme, (four greens,) in amongst which I'm inserting few chosen colors based on a vague principles.

I find the second boring, so much so I inserted a narrow strip of orange in the front with a different, short treadling; Ben likes the orderly Japanese look. What I like in the sample are mix of gradual and sudden change of hues/values, the complexity subtle change in values create. I like the variety of similar but different treadling. I think I even like that the changes of colors don't coincide with the change of treadling and vice versa. But I think the best thing is that the sample has so many colors and the color/treadling size vary. Random, in other words. Which is where I may go in the second piece, though I don't know if I'll mix different-sized yarns in the weft; certainly not the different fiber contents, which will reduce my choices. And no bouclés because they obscure the pattern too much. At least that's the non-plan for now.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Mom's Exhibition: Busy Three Days, Debrief/Afterthoughts

In tree short days, we handed out a little over 100 takeaway catalogues, and from memory around 60 signed the guest book. Mom and I reckon we welcomed around 90 friends, friends of friends, and family of exhibitors, and perhaps a couple of dozen cashmere shop shoppers. (The shop held a big sale during the week also, so some of our visitors went home with lovely mementos.)

Mom was in attendance almost the entire time; I was there perhaps half the time; Mrs T and Mrs E when rostered. I tried to take pictures when I remembered, but hardly enough; at times the tiny venue was as crowded as a commuter train and I had to step out, at others we were engaged in reminiscing with folks from our past, from time to time we had to explain weaving techniques.
Dad's early graduate looking dapper at 71 and a weaver from Mom's neighboring building, a friend of my brother's mother-in-law, whom we met that morning.
As soon as they received invites, Mom's friends started calling to find out when she'd be at the venue. Her second and longest-term teacher in the hat and scarf, who lives minutes away from the venue, did not ring so we worried about her health. It turned out she conspired with four or five of Mom's former study mates and popped up "en masse" on Day One. Mom was even more surprised when her husband stopped by later that day.
Weavers can relate: teacher explaining how to weave transparencies with regards to beating.
The achingly elegant mother-in-law of my sister's, wearing a piece I wove some years ago, with many pastel colors. It's a dreadfully difficult piece to color-coordinate with garments, but of course she had an elegant gray jacket with flecks of pink and from memory pale blue. Her two poised nieces came earlier in the day, although what I'll remember a long time is that brought me treats from Okano Eizen, a specialty Japanese treat place near my offices in IBM days, where sometimes I took orders from colleagues and stood in the long queue. I think they knew.
Two of three of Mom's high school friends who travel together once a month. (She just came home from an overnight trip to see Mt Fuji yesterday.) Another was busy seeing her grandchild get married. It's incomprehensible to me that they met over 70 years ago, that's Mom pre-Dad.

Members of Mom's English class, former neighbors, (one of whom said she'd seen the New Zealand moss piece in a previous exhibition,) former classmates under Mom's first weaving teacher, (and serious weavers among them, I'm told,) sister, brother, sister-in-law, one of my fav cousins, (who spent practically the whole day hanging with me,) and a former work colleague, and a few patient husbands were among those I couldn't shoot.

The exhibition, in the first instance, was cute; it was small, exhibited pieces were not large for the most part and friendly, none "challenging" or out there. The A6-sized takeaway catalogue was, you've got to admit, very cute. It was also a familiar exhibition in that the exhibited pieces were unpretentious and handmade, many well-used. The exhibition did not have the clinical, minimalist, "professional" look, but something of a peek into someone's treasure chest.

On closer look, however, if you were a textile/weaving aficionado, one could see the depth brought on by the variety of techniques and material, and by the different preferences of multiple makers. Mom's samples/notes/drafts were exhibited to showcase her knowledge and experience in the first place, but came in handy to explain/describe.

Mom had so much fun because she only had to stay in one place and friends and family from all areas and eras of her life came to see her; she likened it to having her own funeral except she got to talk to folks.  

Mrs T and Mrs E saw their "humble" works in a different light in an exhibition, which was another goal of mine. Though they'll continue to weave for their loved ones and themselves, it's nice to imagine they'll carry something of this new perspective as they plan and work in future.

We savored the significance of the first two and the near-last visitors being from Dad's past: one of Dad's first graduates; the wife of a PhD comrades, (because Mr PhD was busy volunteering planting trees in Borneo;) and the wife of the student with whom Dad and the family had the longest association with, (Senior, Masters, PhD, then Dad's assistant for a few years,) because Mr Long Association still works a few days a week.

Dad enthusiastically supported both our ventures into weaving, (and a few others of Mom's,) and unstintingly gave us financial support. After retirement, he turned Mom's cones and skeins into precisely equal-weight balls so Mom could make warps multiple ends at a time. Towards the end of his life after he went blind in one eye, he liked works that contained red, which he could see better, instead of "New Zealand green" (approximately forest green,) he loved previously. And he tolerated us making numerous things for him, both nice and experimental.

We were delighted Mom's exhibition turned into an homage to Dad, to feel he's still very relevant in our current lives. If you believe people who passed on live on as long as we remember them, Dad had a heck of a busy month and must be relieved to be back in quiet retirement.

Hard to believe the exhibition came down two weeks ago; it means I've been home a week, too. I've been working on the four-shaft, contemplating randomness on the loom, but that's for later.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mom's Exhibition: Installing/Hanging/Curating

After the recon, I knew where to put the three focus pieces: Mom's was going to be at the "start" of the exhibition, on the "front" wall; Mrs T's knotted piece was going to be near the center when looking in to the gallery through the large glass windows, with allowance for the window frame in the middle; Mrs E's bag was going to hang in the center of the view as visitors walked into the store and turned left to the gallery space.

I put together works that looked good around each focus piece, other pieces for filling spaces, and a bag of Mom's small samples and notes. Mom and I decided we'd rather fill the small gallery "as much as possible", just short of "too much". Artists Statements would be spread around the gallery to prevent "crowd" build up. I walked through the gallery in my head over and over for a few days refining the plan, but the day before I wondered if I should have gone back to the gallery once more. Truth to tell, I didn't have the time, but still, I should have made the effort.   

The whole lot was loaded on Mrs T's car the afternoon before the exhibition; we met with Mrs T and Mrs E and the lot at the gallery in the morning. We also discovered to my great relief we could use push pins on walls.
Mom's transparent screen was returned to her, so we were able to put something interesting against the window. Her hand-dyed decorative panel was too dominant inside the gallery, so that, too, was placed to entice shoppers to come into the exhibition.
Folks kept not just touching but handling the pieces, some even trying them on, in spite of six discrete signs, later replaced by 10 not-so discrete ones. We exhibitors were were constantly returning and rearranging them.
See the small purse and the matching scarf at bottom right? Hard to believe they weren't designed to go together; the purse is by Mrs E, the scarf by Mrs T, woven years apart.
Next door there was a recycled kimono shop.
My sister came in the afternoon to keep Mom company and help me fine-tune the look. We finished much earlier than expected; Mrs T and Mrs E were able to go home a few hours earlier than estimated.
This was Mom on Day One looking a little drowsy from the aforementioned hay fever medication!

EDIT: We had several A4 posters outside around the stairs, which looked very nice, but I forgot to shoot them. Darn.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mom's Exhibition: Recon and Install Plans

For me, the focus of this exhibition was two-fold from the start: a retrospective of Mom's 25 years of weaving; and showcasing her two students' works over six years, (and our family's sincere thanks for their continuing friendship with Mom, because for the last two years they've taken either two trains or a train and a bus to journey to the high rise every fortnight.)

Mom's reason for the exhibition was to showcase different techniques under the heading of "weaving". Combining all three was a cinch as, goodness me, they and another past student tried their hands on many styles, end-products, fibers, and sizes. Visual coherence had to be created with color clusters. I chose three main focus pieces:
Mom's New Zealand moss-inspired tapestry;
Mrs T's yellow and green knotted piece, which I thought had the strongest visual impact in the first instance; and
Mrs E's rag-woven grocery-shopping bag, recycling her mother's (?) silk kimono. This bag is old and the original navy blue handles came apart, so she put on these new lighter ones, which I think work better. I had to hang this from Mom's living room light fixture with fishing lines to photograph, confirming my 10-year-old niece's believe I am the oddest adult she knows.
 The store/gallery is up a steep set of stairs.
 A large window gives a good view of the inside as we approach the store.
Mom described the walls as pure white, but they had a slight green tinge. She also said we can't touch the walls, so I was obsessed with how/where things could be hung.
The larger part on the street-side is a lovely, light cashmere garment shop.

Mom always described "the gallery" as a tiny, tiny space, and then rang just before I left to say, upon another visit, it was bigger than she thought. After a recon, we needed more pieces to show; we asked everybody to bring anything they made that they could get their hands on.

I threw out my notes on my last day in Japan, but from memory the space was about less than three meters wide by a little over four long.