Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday Daydreaming: Trying New Ways of Photographing Textiles

I've been getting some advice from a friend on the Isle of Man, Jane, about interesting ways of photographing textiles.  She has interesting ideas, some way too adventurous and out of my comfort zone, but others I just never thought of;  I'm starting my experiments with the latter category.

These are not such examples; I was just looking at the world through my sample, and boy, doesn't the world look lovely, all in my fav colors! 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Japan Pics 6 of ...: The Wall in Question

I've been wanting to experiment some more with fine Summer & Winter and colors because of something Baby Brother and Sister In Law commissioned in May 2008 soon after they started building their house: they wanted a huge piece hanging on a two-story wall in their house as a main attraction, much like something they saw in a bed-and-breakfast in Wanaka in 2005.

When I visited them earlier this year, in their almost-one-year-old house, my sister mentioned how she loved seeing the different ways scarves are displayed in exhibitions.  I was relieved the piece can be more pliable than a regular wall hanging. Oh, and by the way, says my own baby brother, "We want Ben's photos on the main wall, so... "  Sister-in-law chimes in, "Because a wall piece would have required such a big piece, and so much work for you...."  Even though they even organized the hanging that withstands a bit of weight.  Frankly, I wasn't sure if my commission was off, or if I were to consider another position, but one "possibility" they offered was a wall, behind a door, that's usually left open!

After the initial shock, I decided I was going to impose myself on them anyway, and started looking around for interesting spots.  The one I've been thinking about is the top of the stairs, behind a small recess.  You can see this from the kitchen, the living room, and the upstairs family room.  And because of the recess, I'm planning to make a piece much like a wider, longer shawl, so Sister-in-Law can experiment and change the tying/hanging style.  I'm particularly interested in the light that comes in from the narrow window on the right. 

That's a commercial sized wine cooler Baby Brother bought on the Internet, from memory.  They are both wine connoisseurs; and yes, it's full! Their house looks bland in these photos, but in fact they have many interesting textiles and art piece she collected over the years that in fact it's quite colorful yet restful.

The entire wall to the left of The Wall is glass, the bottom part being folding doors leading to a deck, but everywhere else there long, narrow windows, which, during the winter nights gave cozy, lovely protected feel, but during the day, gave me claustrophobic shivers.  I had to take a walk to the nearby train station/shopping center once or twice.  Baby Brother and Sister In Law are in their late 30's and early 40's, both working long hours and they like to go out on weekends so I guess the house fits them well now.  They do have plans to build a more relaxing, open home when they start considering retirement.  And my Sister In Law being a sensible, cautious, intelligent type, I'm confident somehow they'll manage it.  If my brother doesn't keep buying more cars and commercial-size wine coolers on the Internet, that is.

Family, eh!  (And he's my favorite sibling!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Colors

Ever since I made the gold warp a couple of days ago I've had a purple warp dangling in front of my mind's eye, to be woven in the style of my P2P piece; I had to make it and get it out of my head. Pre-made warps often return to take chunks out of my mind's behind, but at least this one can go on to either of the table looms right away, in between weaving the purple piece on the big loom. I've also been contemplating analogous Summer & Winter, but that's for another post. (And what's with Amazon delaying my XRX Summer & Winter book delivery time and time again? It's been pushed back and I'm now scheduled to receive it between after Christmas and February! I inquired and got a sincere apology, but no explanation.)

Making a warp like this is takes time; with breaks, this took me around four and a half hours for 288 ends. But it is a right-brain, self-indulgent, another-worldly time.  I need to be vigilant in cutting and tying threads as often as my patience can stand, because I like the frequent color changes in the warp; I also find two beautiful colors looking ugly next to each other and then I have to swap.

Looking at the P2P piece, I imagined I had far more 2/20 cottons than these, but this is the lot. Seeing this has been a good reminder that weaving is really not about the colors of individual yarns, but color interaction on the cloth.  And I used about 3/4 of these.

In my mind's eye, I look like this while I work. Seriously; shorter, not as pretty, and almost always in my PJs or old clothes. But, yes.

Here are sections of my P2P piece I was looking at the other night, which prompted me to make a mostly-purple warp.
When I was weaving the P2P piece, from time to time when I wasn't struggling with the horrible tension, I felt I was getting closer to what The August One taught me. I made the warp spontaneously, (i.e. no plans but selecting colors and numbers on the spot; if you're new to my blog, you've no idea how uncharacteristic that is for me,) I threaded more or less randomly, I picked the pattern wefts spontaneously, (but not randomly, as I did observe the changes, the harmony, the contrasts,) but considered the effect of the tabby weft colors.  It was a most hedonistic experience in an unfamiliar way.

* * * * * 

Which leads to an interesting thing that happened yesterday. 

I have a sister who is seven years my junior; any which way you can compare us, we came out opposites, physically, emotionally, in our preferences and life experiences.  In fact for a long time she thought she was adopted because she was so different from our parents, our brother, or me.  For one thing she had such good teeth she went to the dentist for the first time when she was pregnant at 29, while the rest of us are goldmines for the industry.  Needless to say, we were never close. 

For the last 14 years she's been a stay-at-home mother, though for the last few Mom felt she should engage in either employment or hobby to make room for her boys to do some growing up on their own; I thought she was becoming a martyr, not helping but causing some of the behavioral problems her older boy had.  But then I don't have kids, so it's easy for me to criticize. 

She used to be a very interesting human being, athletic, funny in an understated way, which is unique in a family of four verbose others competing to be the funniest. She had tons of friends, and whatever she took up, tennis, any musical instrument into which one blows, knitting, Ikebana floral art, or French, she seemed to pick up quickly and become rather good painlessly. 

Earlier this year, she started to go to a pottery class.  She claims she's only imitating examples at this stage, but having a mother who often shopped interesting practical pieces, and a mother-in-law who invested a husband's fortune collecting art and art studio pieces, Sister knows more about ceramics than she realizes.  Yesterday, for the first time, we had an invigorating discussion about "making".  Of particular interest to both of us were the spontaneity allowed in pottery, (in contrast to weaving; she is our mother's daughter, after all, so she knows the mechanics of weaving,) vs. the predictability one can build into a weaving practice, (i.e. extensive sampling,) vs. the accidental nature of what happens in a kiln.  Fascinating stuff.  We also talked about were we get inspirations, and also of "deceptive" work; she knows a potter who creates very thin pieces that sounds like metal, and I talked about some of my "gold" cotton and pale blue/teal pieces reflecting light like metal.  For the first time in a long, long time, I can't wait to talk to her again. 

* * * * *

Speaking of colors, this is from the American NPR website, of tree barks.  I love these so much I wrote to them asking if I could print them out just so I can have them on my wall.  I don't want to steal, but perhaps they're not used to being asked, because I haven't heard back.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gold, Silver, Blue and Gold Again

Every time I think about Japanese textiles, I have a mental picture of me digging my grave in the middle of a sunny day, passers-by smiling, laughing or smirking. Every time, I think, OK, this is the last time I post something about  it. But it doesn't work. Even within my deep lapsed-Japanese-ness, I seem to be interested in knowing the "rules" of Japanese textiles, a bit, just so I don't break them, or can break them intentionally. 

With that in mind, I do believe one's life experiences, exposure, and a general cultural/ethnic/geographical background influences one's taste.  A little.  I don't think it dictates individual preference to the extent every member of prefer the same thing, but I wouldn't be surprised if there is an instinctive/intuitive/subconscious/unconscious/gut feeling for something looking "right" in certain contexts.  And like many things we grow up with, it can't be explained in words, but "you know it if you know it".  Kind of.

And with that in mind, Silver Ratio appears more appropriate for Ben's Happi to me.  I also associate Golden Ratio or Fibonacci with movement because it's a staple in Randy Darwall's workshop on weaving scarves with "dynamic proportions".  Besides, Ben tends to sit around and tune out in a Happi jacket, so I don't want anything dynamic.  The universal width of the stripes also gives the static feel.

So here is the warp.


It has five colors, not four, but the two darkest look so close.  The second darkest and the second lightest feel different to the other three; the dye is far more saturated and the yarn harder and skinnier.  All the writing, on the cone and on their website, indicates all five are of the same size, so I'm hoping and praying they'll wash flat.  Because if this ends up in a sheer-sucker style stripe, Ben probably won't go near it.

Colors shift, from left to right, A-B-C-D-E-D-C-B-A-B-C-D-E.  I thought of swapping them around a little bit to create an irregular shift, but the yarns that feel thinner and harder (B and D) were evenly distributed in this arrangement so I stuck with the plan.

I'm operating in a different mode with this project.  Usually when I use a yarn for the first time, I experiment with setts and wet finishing to my heart's content and choose the best hand.  Because I weave mostly scarves, shawls and kitchen towels, a wee bit of change in the width of the cloth as a result of reslaying doesn't bother me.  But this warp is going to be garment fabric, and I need between 28 and 30cm of width and I feel a tad reckless not sampling before deciding on some of the numbers. 

The formula recommended I use between 17 to 18EPI, but I made the warp with the intention to weave this at 21EPI, because I'm using denim cottons, and I want it to be on the slightly stiff side at the start. I'll sample with different warps, but what I have in mind is a strange cotton made of five strands of two-ply threads in natural with a little bit of navy.  If I twist them between my finger slightly, they come up to about the size of a 2/17 wool. I am hoping the combination of these warps, sett and weft will create a hard-wearing fabric, but I've left leeway with the pick and the weft, and the length of weft repeats will be considered after sampling as well. 


Ben wants my usual shiny-gold-warp cotton fabric in ornate Rococo (??) look for the facing and lining.  I am wondering if I need a new drafts with shorter weft repeats, and a design that is horizontally symmetrical so the two sides of the front match.   I've also contemplated using either of the recently acquired silks, but they are too thick, and I have one last semi-serious problem.

The warp yarns' dye came off as I handled the yarns, almost as much as my hand-dyed indigo yarns.  After the fabric comes off the loom, I might have to put it through a washing cycle using warm or even hot water.  So over the years, the yellow cotton fabric will be dyed blue, too, and may start to look a little sad.  So, no Swiss silks there. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Week that's Been

You may be wondering why I'm posting this on a Friday morning, because I should be in my drawing class?

Well, Ben's been home all week, and we've been gardening - or clearing, more like one small patch. On Tuesday and Wednesday we spent about 10 hours working on a small triangle rescuing small and not so small rose bushes from weeds, removing one blade and cutting off one dead branch at a time. It's been very time consuming; I thought a good day would enable us to finish this, but so far, 10 hours later, we still have a bit to go. And I've been enjoying Ben being home so much I took this week off. We'll be out the door in the next little while.

Jo, my friend from the drawing class but who is taking the term off, and I got to talking about the class yesterday, and I concluded that Ronette's drawing class, to me, is my weekly right-hemisphere massage. This is why I don't worry if my drawing skills don't improve. I get the most out of the weekly injection when I can get into the zone and let go of my controls and just let my legs and arms do their thing; that's my priority in the class. So some days, I don't enjoy the session particularly but I come home with OK drawings; some days I have a bunch of nonsense scribbles but still come home relaxed and even elated. Now I understand the discrepancy. For the most of this year, (roughly my third year in the workshop,) I haven't worried too much about sticking to Ronette's instructions nor what others may think of what/how do there, and this must mean I'm halfway in the zone by the time I arrive at the classroom.

I expect more talks with Jo next week when she's going to give me some lovely ground-cover plants - very sculptural looking wee thing, but i can't remember the name of it. She also thinks I am developing a style of my own; I wasn't aware of it and in fact flexibility and lack of commitment in how I draw was my strong point, so I must probe her more on this point.


This is something I did at the last session of last term; it was a long pose, so inevitably the model moves, which usually drives me nuts because I have to reorganize my entire drawing when that happens, but I came up with my own remedy. I was thinking of those flip-cartoon pages as I drew for 20 minutes. I enjoyed the drawing of it, because I was pleased with my problem-solution, but as far as drawings go, it's not one of my interesting ones.

So why did Ben and I not work in the garden yesterday? We had crazy spring gusts from all directions with some cold temperatures almost all day. In addition, my group, Marlborough Weavers, made the annual trip to come and visit Richmond Weavers just down the road from where I live. I believe these visits started three years ago when Marlborough visited Richmond in 2008; some members have known each other for eons and there are some new members; in this context, I'm still quite new. We don't have a formal workshop or meeting, but we have a detailed show-and-tell, sandwiched between morning tea and lunch. And the rest of the time, we mix and mingle and talk about the weaving, textiles, and travels that took place during the year.

Richmond weavers have small tables of stash reduction attempts; I knew this so I deliberately left my checkbook out of my backpack in the morning; the dirty yellow cone was hiding but "she" and I connected immediately, almost telepathically. These are reeled silk from a massive Swiss mill/yarn shop which closed a few years ago, and owner/Richmond weaver Julia Murbach acquired "a small portion" when she lived in Switzerland.

Julia told me the brighter yellow has a mind of its own; duly noted.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Conundrum! Quagmire!

A while ago I wrote about Japanese preference for Silver Ratio among other design-related preferences I read about. I remembered this last night, and wanted to use it; Ben said it's the square root of 2, so roughly 1.4, and I went off my merry way.

An hour and a half later, Ben apologized, saying it's in fact roughly 2.4, or 1+square-root-of-2. He was looking at English-language Wiki, where Silver Ratio is the latter, but Japanese Wiki cites both. No need to be able to read Japanese; I understood as much as you might, but the problem is, Ben couldn't find the distinction/definition for the two numbers.

It's not at all unheard of that Japanese translate Japanese terms and concepts into English, or other languages, using words which point to different terms and concepts in English, or other languages; we mean something different but use the words anyway. (I had an example in mind at 1AM this morning, but I can't remember now.) Or maybe there's more in math, but I cannot be bothered; I'm sticking with 1.4.

Why did I want to use this? I've been playing around with Ben's Happi jacket fabric. I bought some cotton cones, 3/12 according to their specs, in five denim colors; these were always going to be for Ben, and he's been asking for a Happi, so Happi it will be.

If you look at the two drafts below, which would you consider more Japanese-looking? Do they look different but neither more Japanese than the other?

Ben and I were amazed at our absolutely preference for the right, a sample of rectangles being elongated using 1.4 vertically, whereas the left sample used Fibonacci sequence, which is roughly the Golden Ratio. We swapped positions of the printed drafts, looked at smaller portions of each, or in different orientations and from different angles, but we chose the Silver Ratio every time.

Fascinating.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Title for a Post is a Left-Brain Activity with which I cannot be Bothered Right Now

Sunny Hemphill wrote on Facebook, "I think I try too hard. I think my desire to do great work becomes a overwhelming. My ideas seem too small, too ... me. I spend too much time seeking profundity rather than doing what I can. My challenge is to break out of the paralysis and be satisfied with my own muse rather than searching always for a better one." (Italic mine.)

It sounded so familiar, you know; the"it" piece, the big idea, the concept worked into textiles. And I was mildly surprised to find myself not there, and not having been there for a period. Though I never made a conscious decision, I've just been trying to do something relating to work every day. It was probably a natural progression, from my inability to live productively, to my mounting frustration, to a pragmatic resignation and a sober acceptance of something over nothing. Lame, yes, but that's been my life for a while; it is what it is.

And I haven't done much; only last week I needed to check when I abandoned my current warp, i.e. when I committed to doing Culturally Routed, and looked into the list of exhibitions I sent work to in the last few years; the last one was in a year ago when I took part in"Feel of Fibre". Lame.

I haven't kept weaving records for the last couple of years, even, but I can recall putting on four warps, five at the most, since the start of this year. Lame. Still, I've managed to do something most days, and that's a far cry from how I fared last year. So, not so lame. And somehow the concepts and the big ideas have fallen by the wayside, pushed back to the less urgent basket/drawer, or been put on the back burner in simmer, whatever other metaphors I can think of, they haven't burdened me nor interfered with my act of making. And that's got to be a good thing.

Some months ago, and I have no recollection of the context, I heard someone discuss someone's body of work, and I remember liking that concept: "body of work", cumulation of pieces, not going for Mona Lisa or Guernica with every warp, but practicing my techniques and designing consistently at the least, and making nice things to wear, and hopefully sell at best.

I try not to dwell on the point, but I think I've been shying away from left-brain thinking and been engaging in right-brain making for a while, which is a far indulgent and enjoyable experience. (Though I've made no progress in the design modules with Ali for too long, and paperwork, and updating of website, etc., have suffered. My hard-drive is in dire need of cleaning, too.)

So I've been enjoying weaving the current piece in which the main attraction is the movement of the areas of color. The warp is merino, the weft is merino/mohair mix; the yarns are by the same source and in the same variegated lilac/purple/dark green. On the loom, it is predominantly the weft color changes that is visible, but after wet-finishing, the warp colors will come into play slightly more. I am loving the simplicity of this piece. (I'll almost say "joy" except weaving with mohair-mix during the hey fever season isn't necessarily joyful, so I'll refrain myself.)

Having said that, I can't weave just now; this afternoon Shaft 16 is not lifting and I can't figure out why. I checked the usual physical points that present problems, and the usual software diagnosis; I need Ben to have a look, but I'm not looking forward to it because most problems with my loom's computer-control mechanism is sporadic and random and we both get flummoxed and frustrated at its... randomness.

* * * * *
About a month ago, I saw this book in Literarty, one of the secondhand book stores in town. I loved that this one was so loved, and remembered how badly I wanted all/any of Tricia Guild books a few years ago. I took some novels to Literarty on Friday and brought this home. Not only does the cover show the previous owner/s was/were maker/s, but there is "evidence" in the CSI sense the book was enjoyed; there were dried icing between some of the pages, as well as what I think is breakfast (coffee+eggs?) on the foreedge of the textblock (?? - the opposite of the spine). I'm enjoying browsing the pages as well as imagining others who have done so before me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Week That Was, Almost

I wound my dyed skeins, in some cases with tremendous difficulty, because I accidentally ran some of them through a complete washing cycle in the machine!


Anyhoo, from left to right:
Far left, top: Mom picked cotton when she visited Uzbekistan some years ago, and spun a relatively thick single yarn; I dyed this in the natural indigo during the workshop.

Far left, bottom: cone of unknown origin, possibly silk but maybe cotton or linen(??), which I had for ages; one skein dyed carefully in diluted synthetic indigo during the workshop. I'm thinking of burn-testing after the hey fever season is finished.

Second left Stack: more cone of unknown origin; skeins dyed during Indigo Duty day in laundry net, and then accidentally "washed" in the machine. I intended for this and the next silk to be dyed very unevenly, but the contrast is smaller than I had hoped.

Second right stack: Italian tussah silk, treated the same as above, tragically.

Far Right stack: thick-ish Japanese cotton, possibly mixed with something else; treated the same as the previous two, but this is still usable in a weft for a garment.

I'll have to sample, but I hesitate to weave anything to sell with these yarns because they have been damaged in the process, so they might become something or rather for Ben and myself. Mom's cotton, I hope to weave something she can use.

To the right of the skein is a scarf I found in my samples basket I hadn't seen in a few years; it's a miniature of Paua.

* * * * *

Esmae Emerson is safely installed in her Melbourne home, and she sent me some pictures of her Wellington Wada workshop experiments. Either she is very quick to pick up techniques, or the workshop was better organized. (Or, I'm terribly slow to turn theory into action, which is the most probable explanation.) Look at some of the dye projects she got out of the workshop!! Phtos are posted with Esmae's permission.

Machine- and hand-stitched

Large-scale Lahariya

* * * * *

Recycling the warp proved to be tedious beyond belief I had to force myself to work on it, but it took three afternoons over two weeks. At least twice I nearly passed out from the tedium, and I'm not joking; see my serious face? And it was as if this warp was holding my loom hostage and I really, really wanted to weave, so finally, on Tuesday, I finished halving the shawl width and doubling the length.

I wove some samples using drafts from Handweaving.net yesterday, but nothing stood out. I looked at the sample again this morning; looked at some past samples with the same variegated merino warp/variegated merino/mohair weft combination; looked at more drafts on Handweaving.net, and decided I wanted to make an uncomplicated but in places slightly lacy draft. With this yarn combination, the weft does not change sizes after wet-finishing, so a plain weave areas become slightly lacy, and the overall cloth translucent.

When using variegated wefts, I like it when the changes of color suits the width of the woven piece so color patches are created and they move like clouds. OK, so it's not going to be my IT piece, but it'll be a nice scarf.

I also found this sample. I know I dyed the warp yarns, I know I had these weft yarns at one point, so this is my sample, but I don't recall weaving it. Chances are, I chose the warp/weft color combination based on this little piece and wove small scarves. But I have been thinking I would love to weave something in wool with many many bright colors, and I wouldn't mind using all of these colors, and even more, all in one piece. How I've changed in using colors.

* * * * *

Tomorrow our last term of figure drawing starts. I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tidying Up

I've been in something of a tidying up mode now. I've put away all my indigo-related stuff. The last task has been to wind my dyed yarns into balls. I'll show them to you when I'm finished with the job, but this has been a totally why-do-I-do-this-to-myself exercise. More on this in a few days.

I finished reading "Freedom". Finally. It felt like a long novel, not because of the number of pages or words, but the first half was boring in the nothing-is-happening way, and the second half, especially the last 100 or so pages, felt rushed and undercooked. There were some insights on depression, descriptions from the not-depressed perspective I found... insightful, but which also made me more frustrated in how I'm wasting my life.

It's been a while since I also persevered with a novel where the entire cast of characters were so unlikable; (well, I have, two in fact, but these stories took place in Italy, so what can I say, I survived;) and this lot was fairly bad. I could not feel sympathy, empathy nor pity, and laster in the book they became more caricatures than characters. I also wonder if this is because parts of the three main characters are like me, i.e. they were described as depressed in different ways, and I didn't believed them, not all of the time.

So, why did I keep reading, you ask? Well, a lot of it took place in Minnesota, and at one point very early on, I felt like Franzen was writing his story in the way I very much imagine I speak, as if he told me this story and asked me to retell it, so I felt a connection to the voice I've never felt in any other novel before. (Alas, the feeling disappeared rather quickly.) And of course because "The Corrections" remains one of my favorite books, and I did enjoy "The Discomfort Zone" and Franzen is of my generation.

I weeded a small area we can see from our kitchen window; I estimated about 40 minutes for that area but it took four hours, and as if that wasn't bad enough, I was exhausted afterwards that I needed about four hours to recover that afternoon. Hey fever is in full swing, but the dust and the bugs bothered me more than I expected, more than my medication could help me, and at one point I was coughing like an old hag from a bad children's story.

I've got some ideas about weaving, and an updated To Do list with a few things I should have finished some months (if not years) ago. I had to go check something and was amazed that the last exhibition I participated was over 15 months ago. Either that or I can't even remember having participated in anything. It's really time to clean up my act and start living my lift.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Indigo Duty

I went to my second and last indigo duty this morning and dyed some stuff.

Yesterday, looking at books, Internet images and practices I'd done, pole-wrapping was still my favorite, so I examined the brown cotton shirt I dyed previously. What I liked about the way this shirt turned out is the soft shapes suggestive of autumn bellflower buds, instead of the sharp cool patterns more often associated with this technique. I remembered I didn't push the cloth as firmly as I thought I should, and instead of strings I used rubber bands.

I went searching in my closet and this was the only cotton-ish (20% polyester) shirt I had left, but I didn't think the strips would get in the way.
I wrapped it last night, careful to leave the bottom of the shirt, the collar and the cuffs free of patterns. I tried to make the creases even, but didn't push the cloth too tightly. Below are the backs of the two shirts.
What was interesting was while at the Polytech, after it had gone through one hand rinse and one machine-spinning cycle, it appeared to have only dark and pale areas, and the stripes were very visible. After I came home and hung it on the doorway, more nuances appeared minute by minute, and the stripes became less annoying.

I suspect that this shirt was pushed even more loosely than the brown one; I suspect it contained more air bubbles so I have more unseemly blotches. I also need a pole with much greater diameter if I am to continue dyeing shirts of this kind.

The funny thing is, when you're first learning and experimenting, anything you make tends to look great, though you may not admit it publicly; but once you've experienced the technique and try to replicate or improve on it the second time, they don't come out as planned. Or it is just me? I tried not to have any visions or intentions for dye projects, but I think the brown shirt has a nicer pattern, though it's hard to see in a photograph because the dye is so pale.

However, I have one area in this shirt on the shoulder that I really like!
Next is a machine-woven silk scarf Mom bought in a dye material shop in Japan. Before dyeing, it the woven pattern was very hard to see.
I started stitching on this one during the workshop, but I changed my mind yesterday. So I tried ple-wrapping but after four or five tries I felt needed a larger or longer pole to do the task properly. I also did not like the way the silk was going on the pole.

Remembering my favorite result from the workshop was an "unintended" design, I tried the same method. I got greedy and folded and refolded the piece half a dozen times, and then clamped different areas a dozen times, and the final result is this. I wanted large areas of totally saturated indigo color, but I am terribly disappointed with this piece.
Even though I folded the scarf in odd angles and divided the piece into odd numbered sections and every other way I could think of to make it irregular, the two Tiki-like faces came up surprisingly similar, and the three large designs appear almost centered, and there is nowhere nearly as many smaller pale areas I had hoped to see. While the large areas of blue are wonderful, the three skeletal images are spooky and so not in my taste. I prefer the brains. After a few weeks if I really don't like it, I might go dunk the whole thing in the vat again.

As regards dyeing with indigo, I am unclear the difference between rinsing to get rid of excess indigo vs rinsing to expose indigo to oxygen. Are they different? Can anyone explain this to me?

When the workshop was taking place, New Zealand had a cold spell, and we were dyeing twice a day, so there was a nice delicate bit of "flower" floating on top of the vat, (think old-fashioned suds-bubbles in the washing machine but in fabulous shiny indigo color). Today, when I first opened the vats, I was taken aback with the flowers covering the surfaces of both vats, but more to the point, even while I was dyeing, there seem to be more of it surfacing/gathering/popping-out-of-nowhere. Is that a good thing or a bad thing, does anyone know?

I dyed some yarns, too, but I was rather cavalier about drying/spinning them, and I'm not sure if I've ruined two batches of nice silk from my stash. You'll see them if/when I can use them in the weft.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Silence

The posts about September, particularly about the workshop, was exhausting to write, and yet I felt driven to report back, in all its disparate parts; it was another of my self-imposed responsibilities. I'm comfortable being the newbie in any workshop as I wrote here and here, and in that respect, I think I've come to be completely open to any eventualities. I thought was getting better at it.

My state of mind during that workshop, I hope, points to my having had different expectations for this workshop, albeit most probably unrelated to the outcome of my projects. Something around how I expected myself to behave? Alternatives are a bit scary to contemplate.

After I posted the post with shots of my projects, I felt a tremendous relief, of having met my obligations. And was ready to move on. The sky suddenly opened and I discovered sitting in a sunny warm Nelson summer afternoon. (Last weekend was the first spring/summer weather we had this season.)

But not for long. By Sunday evening I was once again wondering why I have this compulsion to spell out almost everything, (believe it or not, my posts were censored by my standards;) why I blog and what it's for, (therapy is definitely a big one;) and whether I should just zap everything on the Internet and forget I existed in this current incarnation. But I've gone around this circle many times before and knew I wouldn't arrive at any practicable solution. So that's why I spent most of yesterday ironing; I find ironing very mindless and yet I have to concentrate to do it right, so a good practical/escape task. And I had most of Ben's closet in my basket.

I buy books when I feel insecure or stupid, because the act of buying books gives me the illusion of having learned something. These are some of what I bought in September - I finished one, and have started on five, but am trying to concentrate on "Freedom" to deflect my attention from myself. The two books on brains, I bought in the hour before going to the Wada lecture; they are so not what I'd normally look at, I was very interested that I was interested in the subject. Earlier in the month, I had to abandon Rutherford's "New York"; I feel guilty not finishing a book I start, but I convinced myself my life is much too short for bad fiction.

I have indigo duty tomorrow, so I'm supposed to be preparing a couple of items to dye today.

Oh, I found another breathtakingly beautiful blog here, a la Doni's Deli, called Shipbuilder, courtesy of and a friend of Sampling's, and apparently a weaver!

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Little More of Yoshiko Wada

Never utter the word "bleach" in Yoshiko's presence. Ever.

For her, shibori is not only about dyeing, and certainly not about tie-dyeing, which is why she used the words "shape-resist" in the title of her first book. Maria in class tried pleating by pole-wrapping without involving colors. Yoshiko repeatedly reminded us of the different characteristics of cericin and fibroin of silk and the potential to sculpt textiles. Which naturally led to different shrinkage of different yarns, a subject familiar to us weavers.

I can't remember how exactly she phrased it, but she kept repeating something to the extent that "fiber is twist".

Even though it was a Boro workshop, those of us who tried shibori techniques had more (i.e. numerous) visually spectacular results, whereas those who stitched diligently, well, many pieces were overdyed and their efforts somewhat obscured. Which, in a perverse way, made me happy I am a weaver because without the weaver, there is no cloth to dye.

For now, I still love my multicolored cotton cones, but New Zealand wool (i.e. merino) and delving deeper into the chemistry of it excites me.

* * * * *

I wrote the series of posts about the workshop over several days, hopping from one post to another, reordering, reorganizing, and splitting longer posts, hoping to find between the lines or in the gap between the words some kind of an answer or resolution for myself. By Sunday morning I was starting to feel pretty desperate about finishing the lot, because part of me felt tardy in reporting back to you one way or another, and another part of me wanted that lovely convenient concept that allows us to proceed to the next phase: closure.

While still in bed Sunday morning, I picked up Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom" which I started the weekend before the workshop.

"... depression was a successful adaptation to ceaseless pain and hardship. Pessimism, feelings of worthlessness and lack of entitlement, inability to derive satisfaction from pleasure, a tormenting awareness of the world's general crappiness: ..."

I got out of bed thinking it's an astute observation, but it's not me.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

On a Totally Different Note...

My friend Conrad's post on Facebook prompted me to think about stuff in my life and to do something kind of lame but slightly challenging: I'm giving away 100 things within 100 days starting yesterday to charity, some of which will be handwoven pieces specifically woven for this purpose.

You could say I needed a diversion from my current conundrum, (no, not the identity issue, but the warped warp); you could say it's an easy way to unload some stuff and enjoy light-hearted making. Whatever it is, I'm doing it, and I'll tell you when I've done it here.

September Issues

A lot of what I learned, saw, thought, read and somehow remember in September should have been examined in more depth. A lot of the ideas were worthy of the scrutiny and reflection. I don't remember much, and I want to move on, but I hope some of it will come back to me in weeks or in years.

The issue that continues to stumps me is who I am, where my aesthetics and dogma come from, and how I see my personality and "default" behavior/penchant/reactions. I don't like the notion that this unknowing may go on for a while; it would be nice to come to understand where I'm at at certain significant junctions and be able to regroup myself. Alternatively, I can live with being too busy weaving and not having time to think about it.

I sought advice from those I trust in the days following the workshop, and received conflicting views. In the past few years I tended to choose paths opposite to what I would have chosen myself, to open new avenues, to try new things, to meet new people. Some have worked and some failed; when they failed, I could recall the foreboding I felt before I made my mind.

Whether taking the Wada workshop was good or bad, or right or wrong, for me will remain a mystery, if ever taking a workshop can be "wrong/bad" for me. One thing I was reminded is I have a fairly good grasp of what I like and instincts for what should or shouldn't do, and "trying new things" that goes against my instincts hasn't worked all that well. This is not to say I'm closing myself to serendipity, but I should feel OK about not choosing certain things.

Once again, from the left field, I was recommended The Highly Sensitive Person from a reliable source, and it should be in the post from a bookseller. I'm hoping this will also help me in selecting my paths in the next little while.

Sweet & Sour September, Part 7: Yoshiko Wada Workshop - My Pieces

Left, old cashmere scarf sample, warp in two grays, 2/2 twill, machine-stitched in "katana"; right, two end calico pieces, dyed in synthetic indigo. The very white spots in the calico were stitched by hand in addition to the machine-stitching; I can't see these spots on the cashmere sample, but it's a nice idea. Dyed in the darker synthetic indigo once. Yoshiko and I discussed variations on the theme with in-between blues because wool absorbs the dye readily.

Fine tussah silk (?), machine woven scarf with peony motifs, from Japan. I hand-stitched the contours of seven of the flowers, then tied four in ”kumokukuri" and capped three as with the first step of "tsujigahana". Dyed in a weak natural indigo twice. The stitching did not follow the exact outline of the flowers on purpose, but it would have looked more interesting had the stitching veered further off course. The pulling of the stitches were inexact, resulting in one flower showing the "Tasmania effect", while another extending the white area outward in a cone shape.

I should have done one where only the outline was left white the the inside dyed as well.

Fine silk handwoven scarf from Laos; folded irregularly and clamped with CD-roms. The original color was chocolate/tea blue brown; to create lots of in-between colors, (here, greens); dyed in the weaker of the synthetic indigo. I clamped approximately one quarter of the CDs tightly with two clamps, but and left the other sides open. This turned out to be my favorite piece from the workshop.

Dichotomy? A lot of the workshop was about Japanese-style planning, precision, and knowledge, of which I am proud and strive at, but I loved the unknowable, incalculable, the unplanned results more.

I never got around to working with my favorite method, pole-wrapping, but I think I know how to do this. I have one more piece I started in the workshop, which I'll dye during my Indigo Duty next week.

* * * * *

It astonishes me that I felt so alienated I didn't ask Yoshiko if she had her first book to sell, but that I relied on Deb to ask her, and when someone else took the last copy, I felt a bit numb, and mumbled something about Ben having access to the one in the Polytech library. So, no autographed copy!

I know some of you know the terminology of shibori much better than I, so I've listed only what I remember. If you're really stuck, let me know and I'll dig up the information.

* * * * *

After putting up with these many posts, I think you deserve a bonus. Here are two tips I picked up from Yoshiko:

* To cap and resist an area, as in my white peonies above, use plastic shopping bags rather than kitchen wraps.
* Indigo is alkali; rinse wools and silks in diluted vinegar water to neutralize and soften the fabric.

* * * * *

I discovered Colleen occasionally reads this blog and she asked me to write something about the workshop. On Day One I replied that it will be an extremely personal view, not exactly relating to the contents of the workshop, and she said that was fine. I hazard to guess she, nor you, ever expected to read the internal journey of one confused Japanese/American/Kiwi weaver who seeks the life of a pretend-savant. If you were disappointed by the lack of techniques, recipes or process photos, I'm sorry. If you were appalled, I remind you there are plenty of sane weaving blogs to enjoy. If you enjoyed the roller-coaster ride, I can't even promises there will be more of that to come.

All I can promise is that this is the last of the workshop-related posts for the time being. Onward and upward!

EDIT:  I originally used the term pretend-idiot-savant, even though I knew it was an outdated term, because that is exactly how I felt in the workshop.  But I support most changes of terminology if they peel away prejudices and discrimination, so I've taken it off somewhat belatedly.  Folks with Savantism and their loved ones have a hard enough time, they don't need an idiot to use an old and mean word. 

Sweet & Sour September, Part 6: Yoshiko Wada Workshop - Postscript

It may astound my classmates from Randy Darwall's workshop but I took less than a dozen pictures during the workshop.

This is my "new" friend Colleen bubble-bubble-toil-and-troubling.

This is Yoshiko showing me how to cap my flowers.


Here are pictures form Yoshiko's shibori workshop in Melbourne which took place a couple of weeks before mine, on Sampling's blog.

The day after the workshop, on Thursday, Yoshiko held a lecture at the School of Music introducing three Japanese designers. To me, it was somewhat of a diluted talk after the intensive three days, but I sat with Joan, (who drove up from Blenheim,) Esmae from Melbourne, Rosemary, (whom I met in Jill Alexander's workshop,) and behind Jo, (who attended the workshop with me). I saw a few other friends, and it was lovely to sit amongst textile women.

Maria, from the workshop and originally from Norway, brought up an interesting point after the lecture; that sustainable anything had to be examined not only from source and energy-footprint of the production, but at the end of its life; the discussion then turned to how, in that view, polyester was a good fiber. %$#@!!!

I stayed until Yoshiko and the troops left. She as rushed off, and again, I said nothing. Afterworlds I went to have coffee with Esmae and Joan, and later discussed with Joan some future projects I had in mind. I knew this was as good a closure to the workshop as I could have expected. But then as far as medicine goes, it doesn't get any better than Joan.

Friday morning I went to the last session of this term's drawing class. My head was exploding with ideas and plans and I wanted to take the last term off of drawing to concentrate. However, I had great energy in class, and the model, Gurli, seriously rocked that morning, I decided to stick with drawing. I already know that what I try and learn in my drawing feeds into my weaving. Hopefully energy flows in the other direction as well.

I met up with Rosie the Art Historian in the afternoon; I did my first indigo duty, (it looked great in the afternoon warmth) and then we had lunch in the Queens' Gardens and talked art. We later went to the Suter and stared at two drawings of women, one precise from late 19th century, and the other fluid and gestural in the mid-20 century way, and argued, mused, discussed, and contemplated them until closing time. She came over to my house Monday afternoon as well and we watched several DVDs and discussed artists' lives. And gardening.

I think perhaps I don't think enough about eco/sustainable/green/bio aspect of my weaving, beyond "I don't want harsh chemicals in my house." Jo introduced me to Treliske organic (??) merino during the workshop, and I bought a small cone to test. Let me just say, it's not cheap, either, but the communication with the company so far has been professional, and pleasant.

I usually rely on friends study and tell me what is good and what is bad for the environment, but with so much information and terminology thrown around, I know I should spend some time reading up at least about the fibers and dyes I use. Crikey, that's more time away from the loom.

I've been wanting to get stuck right into weaving, but feel exhausted, so I'm trying to get stuck ring into weaving, slowly.

Sweet & Sour September, Part 5: Yoshiko Wada Workshop - My Difficulties

*** Warning: Serious Self-Pitying Confusion and NOT a Lot of Dye Stuff ***

There were a lot of things I was unaware of, or not aware enough of, that made me uncomfortable.

I wasn't aware the degree to which the Japanese textile is in vogue now, presumably in the US, and what kind of prices they fetch. I did not have the social background to understand Yoshiko's frustration (??) with romanticiz-ation of Boro.

I was unaware the existence of Kiwis who followed Yoshiko around the world, in our very classroom, who were very familiar with her work. This alone made me feel uncomfortable, or irresponsible, but we had one in particular who knew everything about Japan, because she had been there. (Yes, I'm being facetious!) I was genuinely appalled and dismayed by her disregard to symbolism and cultural reference, offset by her excessive willingness to share. Good lord. I couldn't help wondering what she heard while Yoshiko's lectured.

And yet, I knew also that such primal, instinctual, sensual (as in "of the senses") interpretation unencumbered by the usual intellectual baggage could potentially give great boosts to her art-making. As no doubt I do with other people's treasures.

To say that I had an identity crisis before and during the workshop is an understatement. I'm convinced the stressed caused my not-hear-attack the previous week. I was unsure of who I was or where I picked up certain knowledge, (because to me, the sum of my knowledge and actions I take as a result constitutes me,) but I knew what labels could be attached to me, and to what degree I felt responsible or irresponsible in not knowing certain things, particularly about but not restricted to things Japanese.

I didn't know if Yoshiko is Japanese, or an American of Japanese descent, and how she expected me to behave. (Turns out, it didn't matter, as she takes everybody at face value.) Until Monday afternoon, I was all to aware I was clueless as to what we were expected to do in the workshop, and though I had project ideas of my own, I was clueless as to what degree Yoshiko would prescribe our course. And having attended a few Kiwi workshops, I'm now all too comfortable with the "come up with someone of your own" style, but what would Yoshiko think of me, not anyone else in class, but me, the American-sounding, Japanese-looking me in a workshop in New Zealand. (Turns out, it didn't matter what we did.)

"Labels" are hard to stay away from. The aforementioned omniscient one accused of someone else for not knowing something; the accused is a Kiwi of Japanese descent. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike being "labeled" Japanese, because I am that, but it entails a lot of responsibility I tried to shed by choosing to live outside that country. Being called a "Japanese weaver", (and while I live in New Zealand, I don't have a hope in hell being labeled a "Kiwi" anything, so this cross is mine to bear,) even if it means I'm ethnically Japanese and weaving is what I do, to me it comes with a huge vine-and-leaf patterned futon-sized ooburoshiki full of responsibilities.

That's the extent to which I can explain my identity crisis. I look one way, sound another, but have learned to do things yet a third way. I have an easy life, and some would say it's a history of running away from the right things to do. Most times I get away with being the different one, though I'm not that different inside, but once in a while life throws me Truth Balls so I confront my choices. What's unique-ish about my case is that nationality is usually not something a person has to confront over and over again; it's usually a given, but if you are a Japanese female, there is a lot you can choose to run away from, and un-become one. I'm sure there are other groups and categories that are just as puzzling if you're not in the thick of it.

(I see your light bulb go on; yes, my BA on James Joyce; we're getting somewhere...)

On the occasion of this workshop, though, I unexpectedly encountered another side of me which I was vaguely aware was develop ping, but hitherto never met face to face. And for want of a better work, it's the unassertive, overly sensitive side of me. And this is possibly what frustrated me the most.

*** Mental Health Issues Cropping Up about Now - No Offense Intended, by there May Be Some ***

I couldn't stand the noise in the classroom and felt jumpy with the commotions over every little interesting idea or reaction. I thought the joy and commendation expressed were much too over-the-top. I was annoyed by assertive people butting in and taking up Yoshiko's time and wrecking her train of thought; I was even more angry with passive-aggressive questioning and hogging of her time. I became aware of the two tiers in the class - the assertive lot who asserted, and the unassertive lot who went about doing their tasks quietly. Yoshiko did her best to pay individual attention, or perhaps this is her nature, but I understood she was never going to get around to giving me the rest of her instructions, which was interrupted half a day at a time.

I had to be innovative, and quick. So I concocted this Idiot Savant Weaver personna; I imagined a dark gray cloud surrounding me, with a light gray glow on the inside that was me. I pretended everybody had knowingly left me alone to stitch ever so slowly, they knowing whatever I touched eventually turned to gold.

It didn't help much. At one point the aforementioned Omniscient one told me to get my hands out of the dye pot because I had been dyeing "the longest" and others needed the chance; the fact was, we had been there for the same duration, trying the same "katana" technique, which Yoshiko emphasized over and over needed opening up of the folds and dyeing throughly to get maximum contrast of white and blue.

Less intentional but as aggressive was a work-table-mate standing, with shoes on, on my projects-in-progress and dyed items, hanging her wet pieces on the clothes line above me, instead of clearing her area and hanging them above it, not to mention she was hogging well over half the table, while I and another shared the rest of the less-than-half.

Oh, the paranoia! It was a regular Animal Kingdom and the only thing that save me was Sir Richard Attenborough calmly narrating to me the ability of the strong to sniff out the prey. I felt powerless, and disappointed, but I didn't die.

It was a foreign experience, but I was aware that it wasn't new, this different side of me; I had picked up reflections of this person in the periphery of my mirror for the last couple of years.

*** Back to Relative Normalcy - You May Sigh a Collective Sigh of Relief ***

One of the issues that exposed Yoshiko's passion, and one with which I strongly agree, is the decline of New Zealand wool industry. In the past decade, the "bottom line" brigade successfully moved New Zealand wool "industry" off shore, leaving the country as "a mere third world country exporting raw material", as Yoshiko so aptly described. She feels passionate that some of us, artists/crafters and academics, need to collaborate with the wool "industry", from farmers, the Wool Board, to the mills and fashion houses, to keep as much of the work in New Zealand as possible. The discussion may have come about from the fact Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin was excluding the weaving component from their textile program and our classmate Christine Keller therefore lost her job. I understood there is to be no weaving components in any of the tertiary institution in New Zealand from next year.

One of the best things out of the workshop for me was a new/renewed friendship with the Nelson coordinator Colleen Plank. She's always been a member of our loose textile group alongside Rose, Ronette, Rosie and Ali, but like Ali, I never got to know her as well as the three R's. I knew she used to be a weaver; I knew she now works with felts; I knew she had hilarious stories of her two successful sons; and that she worked at the Polytech for some years. I discovered she went to the Polytech weaving school; I got to see some samples she wove; and look forward to more time with her.

I volunteered to be on of the Indigo stirers while Colleen was away; indigo vat is a living thing and it needs to be stired approximately every other night, and three Nelsonians promised to keep the vat going, in return we were allowed to dye if we wanted to.

The problem was, the making of and caring of the Indigo dye vat was never explained to us in the workshop, at least not in an organized way I had hoped. For the workshop, the vats were prepared by Colleen and Deb, the Wellington coordinator, and were opened when ready to dye. We watched them stir from time to time, but many of us weren't exactly sure how to care for it. We were told the recipe is in one of Yoshiko's books. I talked to Colleen and Deb and look at my notes, and extracted the minimum information I thought we needed and shared with the other two. When I showed up for my first stirring duty, I discovered to my dismay Colleen had left us all kind of other packets, of dye and chemicals and whatever. I just hope it stays alive until Colleen gets back.

The workshop finished in like a bad party, people putting things away, loading their cars, and disappearing one by one. No official thank yous, no ceremony. I was left hanging around the periphery of the classroom. I also overheard that Colleen was having a pot luck dinner and was inviting a select few; the nosy, inquisitive side of me hung around just long enough to be invited, so I can make it my choice to not go. I didn't have the guts to approach Yoshiko and thank her personally.

Chances are, the pot luck was something Colleen thought up at the last minute so out-of-towners could be looked after. Chances are, she didn't mean to create an First and Second tier by selectively inviting people, because she is so not like that. But then, you know me, I hate any groups or gathering where only a few is invited, so I was determined not go to.

I had to wait for Ben to finish work, which gave me enough to time to mull over things and overturn my conviction and make except and go to the pot luck. Bottom line, I wanted my money's worth, the exact same reason that got me out of the car for three mornings when I felt like a tight ball of steel wire, while Ben repeated, "well, it's really up to you." We went to the supermarket, Ben made me a dip I could bring, and he drove me to Colleen's house, but he, being a genuinely shy person, chose not to stay.

We had a lovely dinner, around seven of us, but I don't remember what we talked about besides a brief discussion on the New Zealand wool industry's fate. Once again time came to leave, and I couldn't say thanks or good bye to Yoshiko, and I was left hanging around until Ben came to pick me up.

Sweet & Sour September, Part 4: Yoshiko Wada Workshop - Recap

*** Warning: Much Self-Pitying (OK, some) and Confusion (Much) and NOT a Lot of Dye Stuff ***

Where do I begin, to tell you about my experiences in this workshop. In retrospect, I might have lived in a quasi-panic-attack for the entire duration. I have only impressions and feelings and hazy mind-pictures to recall, as if I wasn't really there. And I found dichotomy everywhere.

Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada ran a Boro workshop in Nelson from September 20 to 22, 2010. She is a petite, elegant woman who appears and speaks exactly as she did in some of the video clips discussing Boro. For someone who teaches dyeing, she was immaculately dressed in interesting textiles, and from time to time we all were very distracted by what she wore.

Yoshiko is an overwhelmingly-lovely person, someone who finds joy, discovery, and praises for others easily. But inside there is also a fireball who works tirelessly to convey the correct information, to preserve what she sees worthy, and to promote the vanguards in fashion and textiles, and not just things Japanese.

The first morning, I walked into the classroom almost late, as usual, and soon afterwards Yoshiko approached me to introduce herself, and to tell me she saw some of my pieces at the Suter the previous weekend. Needless to say, I was completely floored by her kindness, but I think she had something nice to say to everybody, and every student took away from the workshop something personal, a moment or a few words, that each of us will treasure for a long time. Which is amazing considering how busy we all were, and how chaotically the workshop progressed.

Our Boro workshop started with a brief discussion on the history and definition of Japanese Boro; that it is not only stitching but includes mending and repurposing; but that in our own making, it doesn't have to have anything to do with Japanese or Indigo, but everything to do with the history of each piece of cloth, and sometimes, the maker. So, my understanding of how Yoshiko uses the word "boro" is more a philosophy/mindset rather than a style, specific to material, technique, or even aesthetics.

Something I found conflicting (??) was this: Yoshiko emphasized the original boro quilts having been textiles of necessity, of make do, as many quilts used to be. There was never much aesthetic intention in the making-process. I think she even spelled that these makers were not "artists". Almost in the same breath she insisted "beauty" was an integral part of (art/craft) objects.

I wasn't sure if she meant the lack of intention by the makers in the making of boro made them (automatically) beautiful; if she used the word "beauty" to point to a specific, visual characteristic; or the aesthetics of these unintended quilts coincided with a type of critical... umm... criteria; or something else entirely. Since I've always held the same ideal about beauty in (art) objects, I found to my surprise greater difficulty in understanding someone with whom I was in agreement!

She briefly discussed Yanagi and Mingei (folk craft), but not Tanaka, some background to Yanagi, Hamada and co's battle on behalf of craft art, and her experience of art education in Kyoto in hte '60's, (all fine, no craft). If interested, any of Yanagi's books, but "The Unknown Craftsman" in particular, may be a good place to start, as may writings on the subject by Bernard Leach, but I haven't read anything by Leach yet, so don't hold me responsible.

What fascinated me, however, was the Japanese word "asa"; though it means linen now, for a long time it pointed to bast fiber, such as hemp, remy, nettle, linden, wisteria and mulberry. This was a eye-opener, since all my adult life, I saw tags pointing to exhibits or captions under photos with this very word, even though the fiber seldom looked like linen, and, strangest of all, I have never seen mass planting of flaxes in the Japanese country side, (though there may be some, you never know!)

Then there was some discussion on natural dyes, most of which went over my head because of my lack of dye experience, but I resolved to read a bit about the chemistry of fibers and dyes, at least what I use. Names to Google are Michel Garcia of Lauris, France, for natural dyes, and Joy Boutrup from the Chemistry side.

From Monday afternoon to Wednesday night, we were allowed to work on whatever projects we preferred. Some started Boro piecing-and-stitching, while others concentrated on shibori techniques. If you so wished, Yoshiko was available for individual consultation.

The best part of the workshop for me was when she discussed Boro projects with students individually. It was quite a simple process: Yoshiko asked the story/history of individual items, she might have commented on them, she might have asked what the student intended to with them, Yoshiko might have had some ideas. And I could see that in this subtle toing and froing that the student was formulating a concept of her own and translating it/them into a visual and examining the techniques and additional material she might use to realize the picture.

It was such a loving and encouraging environment I hesitate to call it brain-storming, more like coaxing and hand-holding. Because I had thought I had to do something with boro, I followed Yoshiko and listened to her conversations, and it took me a while to realize she was helping students work concepts into their stitch work. And it was so easily done, apparently, by both parties. And I wasn't worried that clearly this process entailed a whole lot of intentions, as opposed to the original boro quilts.

When my tern came, she looked at what I had brought: Ben's old pair of jeans, a torn flannel fitted sheet I loved, some calico pieces, some of Jill Alexander's offcuts, and some of my woven samples and swatches. Yoshiko might have picked up that I found any of these, or the thought of boro, none too interesting, and she suggested I concentrate on some shibori techniques I can use on handwoven scarves. And she named some techniques she wanted me to try, and chose pieces that would be appropriate for the purpose.

This is also where things got chaotic and stayed there. Yoshiko would be speaking to a student, think of something that may be of interest to others, and would address the whole class, lilting "Excuse me, excuse me." And before she finished one subject, she would see something someone else was working on, and start another lecture on the second subject. And so on, and so on. I cannot stitch and listen or look at the same time, I was ever afraid of missing a vital information or a fabulous inspiration, so at an early stage I began to mentally follow Yoshiko around the rooms and listened to her as best I could, whether she was addressing individuals or the group, and put my projects on the back burner.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fashion

My mom and I have been giving Japanese Indigo-dyed or shibori-sculpted textiles and Chiyogami-made little things to non-Japanese friends since the early 60's; they have been received variously as cheap Japanese junk, Asian curiosities, and precious gifts, depending on the thinking and the fashion of the day.

I don't have objections to Japanese textiles, particularly Indigo-related antiques, being in vogue at the moment, nor to some of you expressing passion for them. But you do understand if I don't share the love? I mean, they've always been around forever, these items, and I like some, not so much others. I feel dubious about the psychology and nature of "fashion" in general, and this one in particular, and am finding it excruciatingly difficult to put forth what I got out of Yoshiko Wada's workshop without appearing a big fat ingrate.

Not that I'll shy away from the challenge...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Glutton for Punishment

A short reprieve from recalling my somewhat tumultuous September; this is what I've been doing.

I took off approximately one shawl length of wide purple-variegated merino warp in 2007 when I was invited to take part in "Culturally Routed" and had to get started right away. I wanted to weave something with a luxurious feel, so I decided to put this back on last week. Luckily I saved the cross. But after looking at it for a couple of days I thought it might be too short to get a proper shawl.

So I've been halving the width, taking each pair of warp, tying one end to the warp beam and threading the other in a straight draw. It's tedious beyond belief, but feels great, and I am hoping I will be ready to weave in a couple of days.

Come to think of it, I've the rest of the Big Ribbon warp saved in the interrupted warp drawer; from memory there is about eight meters left on that one.

Sweet & Sour September, Part 3: This, That, and the Other

Most of September felt like I was attempting and failing one thing after another.

After Auckland, I worked hard to weave textured white swatches to experiment with in the upcoming Yoshiko Wada workshop. I had prepared a familiar warp of 110/2 wool, the yarn I've used many time including a 24 meter warp from the same cones on my big loom. For some reason, the warp kept breaking, sometimes three and four at once in a narrow 144 end warp. At once point I even unwound and rewound the warp, but it didn't improve the situation.

The wool felt nice in chain, while winding, and even on the loom. The only explanation I could reach was it spent a few years on the cone on my shelf, and during that time it "aged", making it susceptible to breakage when lifted on the big loom. It appeared ends on Shafts 15 and 16 broke most often. I had prepared three white warp chains, intending to use different textures, fiber contents, and sizes in the weft in about a dozen different drafts, but one day I felt so fed up I took the warp off the loom and decided all three can go into the compost heap.

Another day, I tried to sort the material I would bring to the Wada workshop; this preparation took me a whole day, as the list included quite a disparate lot of stuff. I made up a few smallish skeins of yarns to dip as well. The actual preparation, of stuffing things into bags and boxes, seemed to calm my underlying anxiety about this workshop. I still didn't want to stitch boro, but I was prepared to do anything the workshop brought on.

The week before the workshop, I had a small "heart attack" incident; "incident" because it turned out to be not a heart attack, but a dynamite case of upset stomach. I woke up in the middle of the night with loud palpitations and pressure on my chest, and I regretted not having gone to see my doctor in June when I had a similar experience. After a couple of hours at the clinic, I was "discharged" and prescribed Gaviscon. Still, it must have been a pretty upset upset stomach because it took 48 hours for Gaviscon to work.

The next day, Esmae Emerson of Melbourne came to visit; (her mum lives half an hour away from here.) It was the first time we met, and my house was a mess (as usual) with weaving and design stuff strewn all over, but we had a lovely, lovely time talking about weaving, designs, yarns, and the acceptance of weaving as "art". She brought me a lovely bouquet of yellow and orange spring flowers, among them were two fancy Dianthus filling my room with sweet smells.

The subject of business cards/swing tags has been on my mind again, not because I'm thinking about marketing, but I've been in the process of shifting pieces among the three galleries in Nelson, and withdrawing some pieces. I was fed up looking at my tags. I love the idea of having a home-made feel to the tags, but fading home-printer-printed tags are not a good look at all.

Shirley Treasure of Australia sent me a picture of her tags; she wrote: "I have scanned both back & front of my swing tags & my matching business card. They are much fancier and glossy in the flesh but you can get the idea."

I love her tags, and played around with the idea of making my stuff a bit fancier, too, I think I'm keeping it simple and sticking to my old yellow logo and Monotype Corsiva, and get a local printer to produce them. Among other things, I'm not looking to rebrand, but just to make myself look less tacky. I like what I set up years ago, even though it was intended as a temporary solution at the time. You could say it's grown on me, and I've come to identify the logo/tags as representation of myself. The home-made feel will come from my handwriting the name of the piece, the story behind it, and the fiber contents, on each tag. At least that's the plan for now.

Otherwise, I worked in the garden, slowly, but conscientiously.

Sweet & Sour September, Part 2: Auckland Part 2

Finn and I talked quite a bit about the paisley motif, and how Japan is a tiny island nation at the end of Silk Road.

The next morning, I wanted to see something more of paisley, and may read its history. I went to the Special Collections section of the Auckland Library where staff member Kate remembered me from two years ago. This time she brought out the 1856 edition of Owen Jones's "The Grammar of Ornament", a huge tome, with individually printed color plates. I think the book is typical of its time, the author expressing strong subjective opinions; he reveres Greek; doesn't have respect for the Rome. He also focused on what I call the "oak leaf" motif but couldn't find any reference to paisley, but nevertheless sat with the book for six and a half hours reading the development of the leaf motif from Egypt to Renaissance, when I realized the library was closing in an hour and I whipped though the rest of the volume taking pictures.

Again, I can't post my photos because of an agreement I signed with the Library, but here are some images from the book; Kate told me an edition of this book came out "recently" and I bought it from England after I came home; this edition is tiny, and the details in the pictures almost not-discernible, but I am going to enjoy reading the outrageous texts.

Once again I did the bookshop rounds; I couldn't believe the spectacular sale prices at the art book specialist, Parsons, including relatively newly published New Zealand books. I was drooling, but I knew I had quite a few recent acquisitions waiting for me at home, so for the first time in several trips, I came walked away from the shop, after a couple of hours of oohing and ahhhing.

The last day in Auckland, Wednesday, Ben and I took a short cruise on a yacht in Auckland Harbor.

New Zealand is supposed to be a great sailing nation; most of our friends are artists and don't have boats, and those who do have never invited us, so after 16 years we bit the bullet and took a cruisey touristy cruise, (as opposed to the hard-working America's Cup cruise,) for experience. It was rainy, gray and not pretty, but the water was calm and we had great fun.

After the cruise, we picked up our luggage and got on the shuttle to the airport; it was the most dangerous car ride in the longest time, driven by the most reckless and clueless driver we've ever had in New Zealand, dropping people off in the wrong order at the wrong parts of the airport. He spoke with a thick Dutch accent, and most of us were quite unsure of what he was saying. We were cutting it the closest, but luckily our flight was delayed, so we made it on time. An interesting end to an otherwise lovely trip.