Sunday, August 21, 2016

Note to Self: Variety of Depression

The gray singles warp is finally off the loom; top three are going to have an old-fashioned feel but soft because of the Possum/Merino/Silk wefts. The undyed merino/mohair warp, for Baby Blankets #5 and #6, have been wound but I haven't been able to make two interesting drafts with family resemblance yet distinct, on the same threading. Soon. These are going to be extra slow to weave not only because of the width, (same as the gray,) but also the 28/2 wefts, nearly half the size of what I wanted.
I started a whim-y needlepoint project with three blues, the palest having a hint of yellow, plus ecru. If I were making a warp, I might have mixed yellows, a pale orange, grays, or even a lavender, or all these, to make it more 'interesting" but this thing is just for me and I wanted as close to monochromatic as poss. The problem is, I started from the top, then decided to fold it in half and make a small bag, and I wanted a lot of dark blue at the bottom. I should have made the two blues under the white thicker, so there's been some reediting/removing, standing back, staring and pacing. That's the unrushed luxury of not-planned projects.

* * * * *

This last m-t-m depression was indeed mild but in a strange turn getting back to normal was harder. Maybe I wasn't as desperate enough; I was unsure for the last while whether I was still sick or lazy. Once out of the tunnel, though, life looks so clear and there is that grip on my own life I hadn't felt for months.

Last Sunday Ben helped me in the garden for a couple of hours, which got me back on track; though I'm way behind schedule, (when am I ever not?) and though hay fever started at 9.50 this morning, let's say the place is looking tidier today than it did a week ago and more plants got out of pots and into the ground.

For my own record, here's how this last version was different from all previous:

* Usually I have such hard time falling and staying asleep, but this time this was not a problem. Overall I got plenty of uninterrupted sleep at night, but often I could not stay awake during the day and had long naps as well.

* My appetite was as erratic as any other time. Some days I only had one meal, or just fruits, but I still gained weight, and haven't lost it.

* Indecision was just as bad as in the past, but I didn't worry about postponing as I knew it was a matter of time before I could make decisions.

* I never did the South Pacific Greeting this time, raising both eyebrows simultaneously and opening my eyes; usually this is the tell-tale sign to myself. I was no more bothered by bright lights than usual, but loud voices/noises were still painful.

* I've picked up many ways to distract myself since 2003, they delayed my picking up the latest episode, but I'd like to think it's also how I kept it mild.

* Because it happened at the same time as my hip problems, (it started with a cold/hips/m-t-m!!) I build in a simple exercise routine into my day. Though it wasn't followed every day, getting to move was not a problem, (unusual,) but after I finished, some days I stayed motionless in one posture for long periods, (normal when depressed, impossible when not.) Since I've gotten better, I often forget about exercises and get on with "the day".

* I could do two or three things most days, rather an none or one; most days I cleaned the kitchen/cooked dinner, read and wove. Laundry has never been a problem, nor ironing in recent years; the house at time got messy but on better days I managed tidying/vacuuming. So no new corner niche stacked with things "I'll take care of when I can think better."

* On days I couldn't weave, I could think of future projects and make plans. This surprised me. I would have loved to have made warps as I find this most invigorating, but since there are so many made already, I made only three.

* I could read. Not in depth, but I could concentrate long enough to read a few articles or long books in short spurts. And I comprehended/retained as much information as I normally do. (Which isn't much but I'd need some kind of a brain transplant to solve that one.)

* Because I've made my life so much smaller to concentrate on weaving, I didn't have to cancel/avoid to many people/social gatherings. For me, this is a good thing, trust me. Although there are a few people I should get in touch with pronto. I'm learning more about introverts, and a few years ago I would never have considered myself one, but I have some insight into where my anxieties come from.

* Long periods of (mild) anxiety can lead to depression. It was especially true in '03, '09 and this year; I don't known how to avoid them, as they are usually extrinsic, (this year, so many changes in the neighborhood since Nov/Dec, and serial breaking down of things in our house, and Ben's continued dental issues,) but there must be a fancy-named therapy that could help. (A few years ago when I did an online NZ self-help thing, the one JK fronts, I was recommended to look into something besides CBT but I can't remember what it was. Must ring them again.)

* * * * *

So here we are. My life is back to being quite cushy; the most dire problem this Sunday is appears to be no TV coverage of Brazil v Germany, (only the goal kicks, blah,) and the marathon, the one thing I look forward to four years. I hope your life is as lighthearted.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Weaverly Perspective

I forgot I drafted this two weeks ago. I need one more sitting to finish this warp.

* * * * *
It looked simple enough on the screen.
I started weaving the last piece of the would-have-been baby blanket warp. The weft is skinnier than the same yarn in different colors, I noticed it while winding the pirns, but that should have only flattened the pattern. When I started weaving, I couldn't see the patter, not even when I got off the bench and looked from different angles and under different lights.

When I finally could, the leafy shapes looked blockier, more square. And I saw a military (??) cemetery with identical markers for miles over rolling hills, the kind we see on films and TV with cannons and flags. Strange. If it had more colors, I might have seen rows of English beach sheds (??).

Both the single wool and possum/merino/silk will full, so I'm looking forward to wet-finishing this and two previous pieces, pale green and green and red. But these sure take a long time to weave. I think part of it is because I'm tiring of twill; I will never NOT weave these, I like them in general, the next blanket will be twill, but I think I need to get excited about getting to know another weave structure.

* * * * *

I've been thinking more about stitched double weave, not studying but exploring the kind of look I want to weave. Stitched double weave, as far as I can tell, are woven for two reasons: for design, mainly to introduce new colors; or structural, to either hold two layers together, or to envelop stuffing between layers. Or both. I was initially thinking of the design/color aspect, but that can be done in other ways, e.g. supplementary warp, careful (beyond my skill) dyeing, etc, as well. Which makes the experimentation less urgent. Except a two-layer scarf/shawl would be warmer than a single. I'm not stopping the research, but am looking for some kind of a goal/purpose/reason.

* * * * *

As regards the pick-up technique/book mentioned in the previous post, I have an idea I can't stop thinking about, but I don't know how practicable it is. I get the book in a week or two when Pat returns from the US, but I don't know if the idea is even pertinent to what the book covers. I'm plotting to weave a set of large-ish cloth/pictures with a theme.

The problem is, I think of weaving in terms of cloth, i.e. regular repetition of motifs making up a long rectangle. Making something with visual oomph, though, requires thinking not of columns and rows of cutesy motifs but the cloth/picture as a whole. For now I'm not planning on embellishing, especially of attaching/leaving hangy, sticky-outy bits, but making a picture inside or on top of a cloth/structure. The problem is, whatever I try to visualize, a starting point or something nearer an end product, all I see are flat cloth with perhaps a bit erratic color changes, and not too different from the usual.

This is going to take time.

* * * * *

Did you see Kaz's new toys? At first I thought, oh, yeah, the freestyle Saori thing, i.e. not for me. Then I wondered if the flexible reed would help bring a new kind of aesthetic to my cloth/pictures with a theme. Well, not just yet; the reeds are expensive, and I haven't done enough thinking. Heck, I haven't even started.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Weaverly Stuff

I forgot to tell you Mom's good news: Mom's second weaving teacher Mrs T so enjoyed Mom's exhibition she came out of a decade of retirement and resumed lessons in May. Or June. Or April? On odd week Wednesdays Mom teaches at home, and on even week Wednesdays she gets advice on her own projects from Mrs T. Mom's enthusiastic as ever, bursting with ideas. What's better, from the old house to Mrs T's house took nearly two hours on two train lines; now it's three or four stations on one.

I was bi+ching and moaning to Dianne about how hard it's getting to buy good NZ merino at an affordable price. That's all I got on the subject; it's hard, and we've no solutions as yet.

I'd been in consultation with a client about a toddler blanket for eight months because I couldn't find good pale/mid grays around 16/2. I can find plenty of charcoals, but we wanted a mid- and pale grays, or light gray with undyed/white. I dug into my stash, where there were a few good grays but not enough of any for a blanket. Although Japan does a variety of inviting grays, they were out of our budget. I checked NZ sources but found nothing I liked except one I used to use, now twice the price.

So we talked some more and decided to look into finer yarns, (i.e. thinner/less cushy than the others blankets; it's the same grandma and this is toddler blanket #5!) and/or mixed with other fibers, but not mohair, and not textured yarns. I made a merino/mohair warp, (shhhhh, don't tell her yet; I know this particular yarn works like shiny merino that doesn't full as much,) intending to use charcoal Possum/Merino/Silk in the weft.
I checked around one last time, widening, (or thinning,) the scope of my search and found a perfect mill-end (?) pale-to-mid gray marled 28/2 merino of the softest kind. I must now elongate the design as the skinny weft flattens the motif, but this is going to be a lovely piece very much to my taste, and I believe to hers. (The undyed is whiter in real life.)
I also made a two-taupe New Zealand Crossbred warp as an alternative, unsure if I had enough for a blanket. This yarn is coarse unless woven with very cushion-y weft, and would have worked well with the charcoal P/M/S. Turned out I didn't have enough, but I remembered every time I weave double-width, (i.e. her blankets,) I want to try two layers with stitching, so I'm making a slate-and-black warp of the same yarn to play with stitching. Although... Who knows when I'll get my head around two-layers-with-stitching drafting. (The picture is straight, but the warping board leans on the wall.)

While gazing at stitching drafts way after Insomnia O'clock, I found an article on cutting (?) eyelashes on combination single/double-layered cloth. (Schlein, Alice, "Raising Eyelashes", The Best of Weaver's: The Magic of Double Weave, Interweave, pp.95-97.) You know I'm no good with words explaining weaving, but it appears once the cloth is woven we cut the double-layered part to create eyelashes. The example had diamond shapes surrounded by continuous bands of eyelashes. I would have thought cutting around the diamonds would have given us a bunch of little diamonds with frayed edges, but no, magically the cloth remains in tact. Well, blow me away!

Don't ask me why but while flummoxed by the eyelashes, I wondered what shadow weave in complementary colors would be like, with one yarn being much thinner than the other like a real shadow. This one is easy, but I have almost 30 ready-made warps now so I'll wait a wee bit before I whip up a few of these.

I was intrigued by a picture of the piece on the cover of Nov/Dec 2015 Handwoven I saw on Facebook, so I promptly bought a digital issue. It's a plain-weave-based pickup using a variegated weft, and the author mentioned Technique of Freeform Design by Nancy M. Searles, a book I'd never heard of. So I Googled, and what do I find but Kaz writing it about it two years ago. She thought I'd enjoy the book so I bought it and now am waiting. It's been a while since I bought weaving mags/books so this is exciting.

This all happened not in since I last posted by slowly over the winter. I'm enjoying the current inability to focus but not feeling guilty jumping from one idea to another and not worrying about discarding. It's been over a month since I got on meds and that's definitely working this last week, so every morning I've faced the conundrum of giving up my sloth life and generating output. Reading all morning in front of the fire has been hard to give up, especially on cold or rainy mornings. I've been reading.
Albeit slowly, stash-busting is happening. Although sometimes it's a bit forced, my cone tower is growing taller.
And because this post has been devoid of colors, here's my wee beetroot forest in the kitchen. It's about the only "gardening" I've done in, oh, six or so weeks but the colors are so cheerful.

Happy slow days.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Even Boldrick Had a Plan

It's been a... tedious winter; I think that's the adjective that fits best. Gardening helps depression but tires me out and aggravates joint pains; many days I can't concentrate or settle down, but some days mindless menial jobs are OK. I've been living by ear, as it were, but it's been a mild one this time around so I'm not that despondent.

I haven't gardened for four or five weeks. (I stopped initially because we had ten days of much-awaited serious rain within any 24-hour period, after which I noticed my hips didn't hurt!) I've woven a little. Watched a lot of docos online. And I read a lot of short stuff on so many subjects. Today's title was a comment on Facebook on a Brexit articles. :-D

The gray warp was meant to be a double-width baby blanket, but at 18EPI per layer, the singles were too sticky. Being already 71cm wide on the loom, (slightly too wide to weave comfortably/confidently,) I couldn't resley, so I gingerly wove the top layer, cut it off, and wound back the bottom layer, to get wide-ish ordinary pieces. It's still slow, sticking weaving, but I can't believe I used to weave 74-76cm wide as a default.
Olive green possum/merino/silk weft. It's a dark, overcast day today but under halogen lights the colors look pretty accurate on my screen. Off the loom but not washed.
Coarser gray variegated wool in the weft, this is a warp-end fabric, possibly for yet another bag. But sampling shows it's soft enough for either the front or back bodice of a rugged vest. Off the loom but not washed.
A Christmassy piece currently on the loom. Donno why this particular one is so slow going.

The bigger problem has been sourcing good light-to-mid-gray wool at a reasonable price. And I don't skimp on quality so I'm not looking for cheap stuff, but some of the prices are now well out of my reach.  I've looked in New Zealand and Japan, but they were too fine/ridiculously expensive/charcoal not light-mid/old-fashioned coarse. In fact I've started dreading sourcing good affordable wool of any kind some time ago, even in small amounts to help stash reduction. I need to research again, preferably NZ wool, but lucky I've got so much stash, eh.

It dawned on me very recently that one reason I don't feel excited about my weaving could be twill: because unless I set out to use another structure, I default to straight-forward twill. This is so automatic the connection didn't even occur to me until I was blessed with the kind of empty-headed-ness that comes with depression. So I've been auditioning other structures, picking up books, gazing at pictures and drafts, and putting them down. That I can't concentrate and read anything in depth in this case doesn't bother me at this stage. I tend to live with weave structures for a while so I can take time cultivating a good relationship. Although for me, for the purposes of the sort of things I make, it is hard to beat twill. I think.

No structure stands out for now, for 16 shafts in particular, but I was fascinated to see many variations of four-shaft drafts using tie-up of 1-3. 2-4, 1-2 and 3-4. I hope I can find them again.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Reworking/Reconsidering the Cards

Yesterday afternoon I worked further on some of Saturday's cards, and started new ones, so I'd have enough to choose 10-ish to send to Jade as promised. I was overthinking the project's meaning and wasn't enjoying the making as much as I usually do collaging on Saturday; in other words I was out of practice. On Sunday, though, I slipped into the familiar mode. I had a recurring footage of opening doors, finding paths, finding allies and laughing along the way. I did aim to make less girly ones. (Note the light house? LOL. I had another of the back of a man on a tractor at dusk but it was too big and I didn't want to cut it. A few of these are too big, but I'll send them anyway.) And the folded format complemented the opening-of-doors and made me feel rather clever.

Like weaving, although I did nothing else all day, I'm incredibly slow, but 12 hours later I felt happier overall with the results.
I must prefer simpler work, and ruined a few, again, overworking them. (The one with two figures on Sydney's map at lower right suffered an excruciating slow death all afternoon. It was the best when I started.) Some have wonderful outsides with incomprehensible insides, and I left two untouched. I trust whoever is making the care packages will choose/discard as appropriate so I'm not worried nor overly embarrassed. And I position my effort as not small, encouraging "art" but gift cards, and if a recipient sees one and think, "WTF" or have a wee laugh and crumples it and throws it away, I don't mind.

Like the old Japanese/Chinese(?) proverb says, charity is not for the recipient; the gift was from Jade to me for the opportunity to get back into collage and to see it from a different perspective. I work best if I mindlessly start putting things together to make something visually pleasing to me, and if meaning/message/theme emerges, that's just bonus.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

For Your Consideration

On Wednesday, Jade the Art Therapist called for tiny art on Facebook; she would forward them to a Sydney charity, Little Packs of Love, who would included them with "toiletries and other items for the homeless, women in domestic violence shelters and long term hospital patients." Any technique or message, (or no message) were allowed, as long as each piece fit in the hand.

I thought it was a lovely idea and looked forward to uplifting pictures on her work FB page. Then this afternoon, I suddenly started making some; they're only smaller version of mental health postcards, right? A good reentry into paper play? But it turned into a uniquely difficult experience.

First, the size: I have a hard time fitting things into postcards and these were half that. Secondly, blokes need them, too, and I don't have pictures of trucks or power tools and I didn't think beer would be appropriate in case an unlucky recipient was battling addiction as well. (Stereotyping much?) This led to further questions: how do I address such a broad audience; what images are inappropriate/offensive, (luxury, alcohol or happy/romantic couples pics: bad; friends laughing together: good;) how can I disguise my middle-class-New-Age indulgence as something kinder? (I can't;) and who am I to presume I can guess the many recipients' taste? And so on and so forth. I'm usually all for political correctness, but today it had me stunned. Better take out beer-scented soap wrapper and diamond-encrusted Lalique just to be on the safe side, but goodness did they have to be so bland and humorless??

I was thinking of how much I used to enjoy making my postcards, then saw I was not making small self-contained "art" but tiny gift cards. Oooppps. And gift cards lack visual focus and some even have spaces. And these need to get to Australia by the end of the month, so must be posted early next week so no time to contemplate. And I got glue blob in the center of a picture, and rubbed it and made it all gooey and black. And when is too much too much, and should I go minimalist? Yikes.
I even had to rethink the Thank You; I meant it as a "Thank you for being you" kind of sentiment, but Ben understandably didn't get it. Too out there in this context. But it has a nice picture of an avocado on the back. Really. Note I have two bloke cards.
Beer-scented soap wrapper and diamond-encrusted Lalique: these weren't working anyway but efforts to disguise made them worse. 

I have 10 passable gift cards, (OK, a couple of good ones,) two fails, and no "small encouraging artworks" as requested. I don't know if I'll send them to Jade, restart, or burn them ceremoniously in the wood burner and curl up in bed with a book. Regardless, it was a good, reflective Saturday.

* * * * *

I've been doing a heck of a lot of gardening, a lot of threading, some reading, and a wee bit of spinning, but I'll tell you about them another day.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


After wet-finishing, Mom's two pieces of fabric weren't as different in softness as when they came off the loom, but different enough we have to rely on the knowledge and skills of her friend who will help Mom design something, and sew it for her. I still like to see a vest with stand collar is nice, but they could up up with a mindblowing geometric something. Who knows.

I wove another fabric using a merino bouclé in the weft, thinking it would absorb the different elasticity of the warp yarns. (Both above and below, the red looks to pale and pink; they are saturated deep blue red, deeper than the top pic.) It did; every time I advanced the warp there was a skinny wedge-shaped gap on the right, but after the piece rested off the loom for a couple of days, they were almost invisible; after wet finish, the difference appears to have been absorbed.
I had thought another bouclé or otherwise uneven textured yarn in many colors would be best, and had chosen the middle yarn in variegated blues/purples/orange I saved for a special project. But after I finished the bouclé, I wove an inch of plain weave as I do with all my fabrics, and goodness, I liked the look of untextured cloth. So, even though I knew it probably wasn't the best decision, I started the last piece using possum/merino/silk mix in darkish burgundy with charcoal flecks. (Probably less blue than the above pic.) The special yarn looks better with cooler colors in the warp, I think, that doesn't bring out the orange so much, as seen in this warp-end swatch.
* * * * *

I've been feeling boring; not bored, but boring. My mind is dull, I'm boring, and my pieces are boring.

I find stash-busting projects I design around yarns uncomfortable, mostly because I'm not used to yarns as a starting point and can't seem to shift to the whole cloth smoothly. I find making interesting designs on four challenging, mainly because I have this prejudice four-shaft projects should be quick and easy. And these expose my technical weaknesses and this is so aggravating/discouraging; without good technique, I can't fathom weaving those simple but sublime pieces. Some of the latest show I'm getting technically suckier and I wonder what I'm lacking: mental prowess, dedication, concentration, or if it's aging, mental or physical.

I envy the ease, with paper or needlepoint, I could start on/move between project; I don't have to work serially but can revisit/revise. The best I can do with weaving is to have multiple looms dressed at all times, but it's not the same.

My life has been work-friendly where I have been free to engage in multiple long-term or in-depth projects, but I can't seem to settle on topics/subjects and instead spend a lot of time on casual reading, mostly online. As if my heart isn't really in it, although I so want it to be. I'm mildly but constantly tired. I wonder if I'm mildly depressed, but because I've learned how to distract myself I've managed to float above it, without it completely going away. Whatever, it's been frustrating and not productive in a proactive way; I've managed to weave on good days, for a while, but somehow frequently enough.

I also feel this weird almost symbiotic relationship with Mom, where we talk, then I unconsciously adopt her characteristics/complaints. I've noticed this once before after some weeks in Japan, but this time it's been overwhelming. I know this is not me because symptoms like a) not being able to concentrate/dig deep, or b) not sampling enough before selecting wefts and then discovering they were so wrong and I knew it if I thought about it, are so not me but totally her. It's as if her characteristics/complaints have taken over me.

I remember, a decade ago, every project was a big deal and I went through the design process, reinventing the wheel for each. That was my default way and it still feels "right". Then Ali suggested I not reinvent the wheel for every piece, so I started to look into series/variations; usually one warp/three pieces came out of a project/idea.

I must have also started thinking about "production", as in making pieces quickly to sell. In doing so my relationship with each piece became diluted, while my focus unintendedly shifted to simplifying/systematizing, (making easier,) the making; which I guess implies there is a "standard" and every piece is reviewed with a checklist. I was always unattached to my finished pieces, I couldn't wait for them to walk out the door, but now I feel uninvolved in the making.

I've been thinking of a standard size or three for online shop pieces so I have standard packaging; developing a pattern or three for cute bags to make with warp-end swatches; and as ever, the visual cohesion. I know some of this make sense, and they may save cost, but yikes, that's exactly what I hate and have been screaming about, the bottom-line/accountant-led society of the last 30 years, right? Moreover, do people want Scarf#2 from a set of six when buying directly from a weaver? Do you know what I mean?

I think series are still good; it provides a chance to stay with the project and see it from different angles or delve in different ways. I think focus on unique characteristics of yarns is good if I could stop see them as locking me in a certain way of designing. I have many interesting ideas and concepts, although I've noticed I'm not as partial to some but feel they are equally interesting, and I can't decide if this is a good or bad because it's not me. I can't decide if I get more excited about successful color combinations or drafts. And there is no one idea, material, or mental picture jumping up and down for attention. Luckily I'm not too tired or old, yet, to quit; I still have the desire to get back into the game.

I've been itching to work on a gray project deserving of some contemplation. I hope I get my brain juice back next week.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Dad died three years ago tonight. He was 85.5. It's not true the loss of a parent gets easier; it got worse for me because I don't remember much about our tenuous relationship, (and how that perturbed/irritated the rest of the family,) how strict he was, but only the funny, happy stuff, and how I should have been a kinder daughter, especially in the six or seven weeks I was home weeks prior to his passing.

Mom is now 85.5, and is having a hard time sticking to weaving projects, because her concentration wanes and her body aches, but has no problem socializing. In fact, she hasn't got enough friends to socialize with, because, I swear, given the choice, she'd be out lunching eight days a week. My extremely active Mom started to slow down dramatically at around 80; Dad probably a few years younger. Provided I stay as active and healthy as my parents, (yeah, about that... ) I can count on weaving for another 8003 days, to my 80th birthday, although I st'd still like to die at my loom in my 90's just after I finally finish weaving a most fabulous piece of cloth.

Dad's mind was as sharp as anything until the moment he told Mom he's going, (he did!) but the body started limiting his activities perhaps a decade ago, (he didn't say much unless it was serious,) and began seriously failing at 84. It had a good run, though, because it went through tuberculosis and one lung collapsing before 30, and yet played baseball with 20-year-olds until shortly after 50. Dad was a heavy smoker and drank a bit, but Mom's insistence on healthy food since the early 1970's and is living in a house on top of a very steep hill helped. (Except when my sister had a few awkward pubertal months when she kept falling, sometimes daily.) So well-done, Dad's Body!

Dad was a thinker, although outside of his work, he was mostly an armchair thinker/student/critic, which is why I tend to remember him in terms of his ideas/opinions/intentions, his voice, not necessarily requiring his physical body. Although he thought he was one fine-looking man, and told us every chance he had.

Mom, on the other hand, is a jock. Although she's complained about her minor health woes as long as I can remember, I see her as an energetic blur, always trying to get through housework as quickly as possible so she can plunge into her hobbies, of which there were many: hiking, tennis, exercise class; English; interminable phone conversations with her friends while we were young and now lunches and trips; and a myriad of fiber crafts. She read as little as possible before she could jump straight into the doing, and has certainly woven a much wider range of items/techniques using any natural fiber she could get her hands on. Though she's always had terrible memory, she can recite instructions to a technique, and many other things she is interested in, decades after she learned them. So Mom, for me, is her body, which figuratively leaned slightly forward because of excess energy and her forward-looking nature. Aging has been harder for her, and she hasn't stopped complaining.

Of the three off-springs, I'm most like Dad in temperament, in hoping logic can solve all problems, in sitting around and thinking a lot. I probably read/study the most, I was the best student of our lukewarm, restless bunch, but I could be wrong because the other two don't boast. But I've noticed a change, I'm doing more like Mom, these last few years, since I decided no amount of thinking about great weaving was going to get me anywhere and I needed the practice, which hopefully would lead to a "body of work", which would show me some options/directions/hints, and I'll have fulfilled Randy Darwall's suggestion of 9.5 years ago: be my own apprentice.

Having passed 58 a month ago, I have 698 days left for the big stash reduction attempt. (See, observe the language. It's now an "attempt", like a "challenge", not a "plan".) Although I've been making steady progress for a little over a year, doing well when I don't bother with the garden, there is so much yarn, and I'm dreading having to revise my goals from "everything except the cottons on cones and cashmeres," to "all wool and anything else I can manage," because I know it isn't gonna cut it. Yet everything I saved are nice, so for now, keep on keeping on is all I can do.

The focus on stash reduction frustrating me. Because I have the yarns in front of me, there's not enough pre-weaving mulling or indecisiveness, which I've come to think of as my design process. Productive, but careless, uninvolved. Nothing prevents me from indulging, but for example some of Mom's wools and silks are so interesting themselves, I fear my preference for fussy patterns may ruin the yarns. And I realize there is that further step where I can design to show the yarns in the best light, I haven't reached that point.  

The rest of the family is gathering at a pub with great fish dishes this evening. Dad's going to have to split his time tonight.
This was my parents with a few of Dad's alumni at the parents' 55th wedding anniversary party, 2010. Between 30 and 50 of them get together every few years, the last partying being a year ago today. The "gakusei" (university students) are now between 50-ish and 75-ish.

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.