Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Small Countdown

I'm in a small panic. I knew the idea I had was time-consuming, but I did not realize how much, even though I'm using Really Fat yarns. Gee... And my foot/ankle I twisted last New Year's Eve has been acting up, even though I did not fall/twist/sprain/hurt it. Why now?????

I have two classes tomorrow, one on Zen meditation while sitting on a chair, (as opposed to on the floor, which makes a heck of a difference to moi,) and another on gesture drawing, which I discovered is called "croquis"; all my life I thought it was yet another drawing material. So, yay for finally looking it up in the dictionary. However, I won't be home until later in the afternoon tomorrow.

If you already have a small something to show, do please email me the link to your post, or send me the photos, so that I may be able start setting up today.

To those of you who contacted me, sorry I didn't get in touch regarding the exhibition name. I was preoccupied with Mom's fight against bureaucracy, but lucky us, she has submitted all the pieces of paper to all relevant public offices as of Friday and now awaits to hear from a couple of places regarding her pension.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Wellllll... Yeah......

In my head the hues were more subtle, the gray, cashmere side the "right" side, and most devastatingly, the movement in the weave structure was supposed to show up. The piece in real life is a tad less "white" than in these pics.
This is the silk side, which I made, in the end, the right side. You can tell where I had tension problems, (yellow, right of center,) due to lazy winding. In real life, the gray weft looks spotty, and the overall piece not straight/true. The cloudy parts of the interlacement look muddled, not sharp. I would love to try this draft on my 16-shaft with my cottons woven under very high tension some time.

It looks amazingly better in the pic than in person, trust me.
Here's a better view of what was supposed to happen.
I wasn't sure how long I wanted the fringes to be, so I made them long and washed, and looking at the balance, cut them in half.
I'm half hitting myself on the head as this is, for me, the cost of not sampling. Yikes.

Moving on...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Week that Was

I've been diligently weaving Ms H's first piece while combating humidity.We've been averaging 70-80% humidity and near-30C. Not only do I drink bottomless glasses of water, but tire easily and yarns and fiber stick to me as I work. I'm not sure if I'm stretching the warp too much while adjusting the tension.

With roughly 150cm woven, I discovered I don't have as much warp left as I should. I can weave 180cm so at least I'll get a proper piece, but a couple of other warps I made for Mom have come out short, too. I can blame the humidity, but it's me, not used to Mom's warping board: hers has much shorter pegs (?) and the spaces between pegs are too narrow for my fat hands.

Never mind.

* * * * *

My dad's ashes, in the pale green urn, were entombed yesterday. The monk, (who in the old days would have been similar to a parish priest, but since we don't live near the temple, are not religious, and are not fans of the temple, the guy's not popular chez Dad,) told us something like this: Dad was a person, then he died, then he was cremated, and I'm not sure what happened next, but 49 days after death, (so, technically, Monday,) he became a Buddha. Gee.

We know shockingly little of our family, but the monk told us our family have been buried in his/our temple for 400 years, and he's the 25th monk, his son being the 26th.

The mind boggles.

* * * * *

I've been thinking I should make the most of my time in Japan, a big part being going to interesting exhibitions, but also to go to lectures and workshops. So on my way home yesterday, I signed up for three one-day art workshops, one one-day Zen-meditation session, (where we get to sit on chairs, not on the floors,) and a lecture on the contents of this exhibition, coming to Yokohama in a couple of weeks.

Which also reminded me, for the very first time, that somewhere in Tokyo exists one of Vincent's Sunflower paintings, and sure enough, the insurance company that bought it in the 80's started an art museum in their building, and most exhibitions are free. They start an exhibition on Surrealism a couple of days after Pushkin.

* * * * *

But first the commission. And then I'm tying on a warp to make use of the threading. Then I'm going to work on a Santa Fe/Lahariya project. And, I'm still thinking I could do something for the Small Piece Exhibition, though with a revised plan. Fingers crossed; touch wood. 

If you're taking part in the exhibition, please email me by Sunday night. Email me, not comment on this or the guideline post. We need to think of a name for our do, and I'd like to get your opinion; I'd also like to know roughly the number of pieces I could expect. Thanks.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Commission: Ms H, 1

The commission piece I've been working on is one of two for Ms H, who was my Mom's high school friend in the beginning. That makes them friends for nigh on seventy years! She quoted Mom an extremely generous price, which allowed me to think "big" and "cashmere" at the same time.

What appeared to be a restriction at first, (the best available loom being an 8-shaft Ashford table loom 60cm wide,) quickly turned into a blessing, pushing me to use more imagination and a bit of legwork. The result is a composite of the simplest options examined. So, yay, me.  

I wanted this piece to look "irregular" yet be easy to weave. It was always going to have one weft and silly-simple lifting. The overall look was to be straight lines rather than curves, and the colors, after listening to Mom about the colors Ms H wears, gray with a bit of interest.

I tried pointed threading with uneven legs, if you get my drift, and did the same with the lifting; I tried erratic movements of the points; and I tried changing warp colors irregularly to offset the color boarders from the threading boarders, and yet my best effort lacked oomph.

Friday morning I woke up, as I often do, with that familiar "Doh!" feeling. (Really? Really? Is it spelled "D'oh"???) Move the threading a bit more visibly! So it's been smooth sailing since with a regular threading, regular color changes, and regular lifting, without the rigid symmetrical look.
The warp is, obviously, not a black and white stripe but in a gentle gradation of AA-AB-BB-BC- and so forth and back to AA twice. Above shows where the color scheme changes. The green stood out a bit too much for my liking, but the gray weft has tamed it as I had hoped.

I planned and started weaving the piece at 15EPI, but the weft appeared too dark, and I kept dropping the shuttle through the yarn. This morning I rethreaded at 18EPI, which made the weaving easier, the balance of the weft and warp better, and I think the narrower, sturdier fabric suits Ms H better.

The lifting took about an hour to learn, but it is a regular twill so it's not only easy to weave, but also to unpick, LOL. I love it, though, when the head stops thinking, "1-5-8, 1-2-6,..." etc, and the eyes and the hands start to move automatically.

The loom is a tad touchy, but it shouldn't be too difficult from now.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mom, Andy and Me

Mom's weaving a short 1:3, 2:2 and 3:1 twill sample I prepared, which will be a reference piece for when she designs 8-shaft/2-block designs. Andy Williams entertained us from the laptop. I was nearly done threading but we were interrupted by the arrival of...
the niece. Mom jumped at the chance to have a bit of dirty fun digging up potatoes with her even before she came into the house, so she only got to see the warp I prepared. Brother said they might come earlier next Sunday so she can start weaving. Whenever is fine, dear. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Proper Leisurely Lunch

Mom and I met with Eiko Travaglini of Tuesday Weavers for lunch today, "lunch" being a symbolic term for sushi/Japanese sweets/endless cups of cold tea/talking/laughing just short of seven hours. Among other things, Eiko earlier on dedicated her life to the art of Japanese calligraphy. She's also tried a few crafts before she arrived at weaving a year ago, when a light bulb went on telling her all other crafts were precursors to her weaving. Ah, great minds think alike. I laughed so hard my face started to hurt about halfway through the day.

And that's about all Mom and I did today. We've both come home with lots of interesting new ideas to be tried out on our looms.

And, Eiko, thank you for making Mom's first proper leisurely lunch in a long while so special. She'd forgotten such a thing had existed.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rainy Wednesday

But it appears the tropical storm has/is turning into a lame low pressure system. Today I made three postcards...
Mom's life, in parts at least, is getting back on track...
And for your LOL pleasure... (Taken by Ben in May in Chinatown; I should have had my hair done up!)
And..... I may be 80% done with my commission piece draft.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This, That and the Other but Not It

Wee niece wanted to weave another piece, very much inspired by Grandma's red cushions. I had her write the colors she likes so I can mix/match from Mom's cotton stash. Niece included just about all the colors a little girl could be expected to know except black, so I had to ask her to mark her fav two or three.
I made this wee warp. I deliberately made the boarders of some colors irregular and mixed. And I couldn't help having a wee play, but didn't do a great job of it. But at least I got to weave a bit.
Meanwhile Mom wants to weave more of the wavy networked twills, so we picked some sampling yarns. This time I'll give her hints, but she'll create her own drafts.
I've been painfully aware our Small Piece Exhibition is upon us. I had given up on making something myself, but I hate hosting something and not taking part, so here's a possibility.

This was a gift to Dad from one of his students after he'd come home from his Honeymoon in Okinawa in the days when those islands still felt very far away and exotic. Our family loved this piece and it has lived in different parts of the house over the decades, but the colors have faded and the white background, despite Mom's stain-removing efforts, has stained. Mom dug it up today. She was looking for material for her rag weaving, and suggested I might give that a go. With this.

I've never done rag weaving, and I hesitate to cut into this wee family treasure, but if I can think of a way to give the piece a second life, why not?
The It. I ordered and received my commission yarns. That's about the extent of my own work. I've got a very early stage of the draft, but not a whole heck of a lot else.
And remember, a year ago, I didn't have enough gray yarn of any of my choices so I had to mix and match quite a bit? Guess what I saw on my first day back this trip?

Golly gee.

I mean, I should have asked!
Otherwise, life goes on. Today we had to do some work on Dad's pension. Bureaucracy. Enough said.

* * * * *

We're supposed to have lunch with Eiko on Thursday. About then a tropical storm may be landing. We'll see.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Japanese Living

Or, "Oh, What a Difference a Day Makes"?
This picture cracks me up because it looks like millions I've seen of the "you wouldn't believe how the Japanese live (in small spaces)" genre.  My parents' house is no mansion, but it's by no measure tiny. Before I got married and left Dad and Mom didn't accumulate stuff so the house had plenty of space even while accommodating five, but things sure changed since, with my parents' travel mementos and Mom being too busy/lazy (her words) for her kind of clean-up-toss-out sessions, and that's discounting all the fabric and knitting yarns she always had, plus her spinning and weaving stuff which also started the year I left.

Mom finished weaving her piece yesterday morning so immediately we moved the wider Ashford-8-shaft-with-legs (and bench) into my wee room, moved her stash into her workshop, and did a bit of reorganizing our weaving situations. I no longer have any excuses for not, errrr, weaving.

Except a cousin I hadn't seen in over 40 years came to visit in the afternoon,and we talked and talked and talked. She's five years my senior and, like my sister, is the gentle, subtle kind. She didn't have an easy early life, and seemed to almost want to blend into the background any time my rambunctious extended family on Mom's side gathered. But she was always there, and she's probably kept in touch with Mom the most diligently. In the 40 years I hadn't seen her, she went to art school, married, had a long career in marketing in the food industry, raised one son, and now has two grandkids. She's also dabbled in crafts including weaving, (she has a Glimakra because in the first instance she fell in love with the loom as an object while an aspiring interior designer, LOL!) and has throughly studied the region discovering good restaurants, cake shops, even where to buy tea leaves of various kinds. (Very quickly she recommended us nine places of interest near our or my sister's place.)

And she's the one who made a giant breakthrough with Mom's psyche. She brought us lovely packed lunch, (o-bento) and some yummy cakes, and muscat-grape-scented tea leaves. And grandkids' pictures. It was all normal fun and reminiscence while my cousin was here, but over the course of the evening Mom started to feel her gentle kindness seep into her system, (via the matching of the special cakes and the tea,) and rekindle Mom's sense of taking great pleasure in small lovelinesses. Mom, for most of her life, was a greedy collector of small lovelinesses and people's goodnesses and precious moments, and this all came back to her, not in a tidal wave, but in a gentle, quiet way just like my cousin.

How wonderful, and how perfect that it was this cousin who brought her such joy!! I've been telling Mom, yes, telling her in as succinct words as I could muster, that she was never a nay-sayer by nature, and my sister has been waiting for Mom to pick up her pace to return to normal, but neither of us had gotten through until this cousin, knowingly or unknowingly, approached Mom. Too boot, she doesn't live that far away, drives, is retired, and her hubby is working overseas at the moment. And her son lives near my sister. So Mom has plenty of reasons to soak up more of her loveliness. A perfect un-storm!!

I'm a bossy person by nature and have been bossing Mom around, partly because she's been at a loss, in part, since Dad's death and someone had to keep her moving forward and more importantly get some of the practical things out of the way. And so far it's not been a bad combo, but as she recovers, I really have to back off some, which may prove to be, you know, a bit difficult.

This afternoon four guys from Dad's postgrad days are coming. We used to think Dad had too few friends outside work, but not the case. At all. And the number of visitors, the things they tell Mom, and the letters we have been receiving gives us a lot bigger and much warmer picture of Dad than a scary dad.

Yay, Dad!! (Wished I knew a fraction of this before you exited the stage.) 

* * * * *

I've been approached by Eiko Travaglini to meet up while she's in Japan. Eiko-san is a Tuesday Weaver, seen in the second-row, left pic, (is that the right way to describe which pic??) second from the right in the black top. So a plan emerged and we, including Mom if she feels like it, are going to have lunch near Yokohama station next week. We get to meet another weaver!

Yay, eh!!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Fabric Details

As promised, some details of the fabrics hung in my wee workspace. Mom is horrified I'm posting pics of the room in "that" state!
Re the last fabric, I said black dots and lines, but I stand corrected; they are all dots! The yellow and black in the last pic is inaccurate; the yellow is lighter and both colors are much more saturated, giving the fabric a more severe, graphic-art-like look.

My sister came yesterday and didn't have to rush off as she does often. The three of us laughed until I fell off the chair, but she still got one big task associated with the business end of a Japanese funeral done, and gave Mom some invaluable advice. Her father-in-law passed away last August, so she's one step ahead of us and has given us great insights/foresights throughout the whole process saving us so much trouble and loss of time and energy. And money. And she went back to her ceramics class this month.

A cousin I haven't seen for over... 40 years is coming this afternoon, and this should be another nostalgic day.

All this has been great, but I'm feeling severely frustrated, mostly with myself, for not getting any work done. Mom is finishing her piece as I type, but we have to rearrange the workspaces and she has yet another set of guests tomorrow, so it may be tomorrow night before I can get going. Grrrr... I'm so frustrated I haven't slept well! At least now that I have a realistic schedule I hope I can move on with fine-tuning some drafts and finalizing the first two wefts. Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I can share Mom's weaving space or the big tatami-mat room, but this tiny room is mine exclusively for the duration of my stay, (except for the big wardrobe and some of Mom's yarns and fabrics that live here permanently,) and this is where I contemplate in the mornings. In the afternoons it gets so hot I have to go downstairs, and this has been a cool week! When mom vacates a loom, though, I'll have to think of ways to survive the heat and weave. 
Ben and I happened upon a small fair of Nagano Pref products and before we knew it, before I was aware of what I was doing, I was feeling some hand-dyed silks. These threads were the last lot from a weaver before she passed away, apparently, and apparently I got a good deal from the weaver's friend who was at the fair. 
From right, the pink/red/yellow/green fabric is a silk swatch, one of many Mom bought at Lahariya, India, some years ago. We love the liveliness of it, and I'm wondering if I can produce the mood with Mom's cashmeres. Of course cashmere doesn't have the sheen, but one can only hope.

The white-ish cloth is a cover Mom insists on putting over the silks and the cashmere warps. I don't like the idea because if they are going to fade, I'd like them to fade while in my hands so I know what I'm working with before I sell the finished pieces, but Mom has different ideas.

The somewhat shocking-looking cotton fabric is a hand-dyed piece I am thinking of turning into a sun dress. It has amazing details and such a cheerful, summery look.  
The gray hoodie and blue-yellow linen shirt are some of my new acquisition for the summer, but also a color combo I'm keen on for a commission piece.

The yellow and blue sheer-suckers are also sun dress candidates; the yellow piece has black dots and lines giving a graphic-design-like look; the blue one is a cheerful floral.   
And here's my wee office, with a couple of weaving books, my trusty cashmere samples folder, some yarns and equipment Ben brought over for me, art supplies, etc. The equipment in the middle with a red "veil" is a Japanese spinning wheel. (Mom likes to cover things with fabric, of which she has lots.) The white box at lower left is my temporary fabric box, and it's chock full. The big white box covered in embroidered fabric in the foreground is Mom's big fabric case. Above the bunting I made during my last visit is something I have in all my work space, a picture of my Dad, who always encouraged me in my endeavors.  

So, as usual, no time to waste.


I was home for 40 days between March 20 and May 7. Dad died on May 5. When I got home in the evening of May 8, he was frozen and already in his coffin. (In Japan, we don't embalm unless there is great damage to the body but conceal dry ice in the coffin until cremation, usually around Day Three-Five.) On May 10, according to Dad's wishes, immediate family (sans Ben; he couldn't get away until the weekend,) gathered and Dad was cremated.  Ben arrived on May 12, on the Seventh Day, and went home last Sunday.

There've been a few other occasions when the whole gang gathered, which has been wonderful for Mom. The next event is either Father's Day at the house, or his burial on June 20. After cremation, his ashes, (not powdery like I've seen in Western films, but a collection of dusty, fragile bone fragments,) with the throat bone shaped like sitting Buddha placed just under the lid of a simple urn, goes into the family grave around 49 days after death, and that's the end of modern mourning in urban Japan. There are the 100th Day, the first Obon, (the spirits coming home for a visit in mid-August,) anniversaries including the important First, Third, (can't remember all the significant numbers in between,) up to the 100th, plus all the Obons. And likely other significant occasions I can't remember, but we rely on my sister for these.

Mom is fine, surprisingly unsentimental, but I can't blame her considering the work she put in to "keep Dad alive" (her words) for the last few years. I did object, however, to her rushing me with my grief and had to put my foot down a couple of days after I came home.

My brother and I pretty much finished the business end of Dad's death in the last week, like banks, pension, etc. A short letter Dad wrote in March was sent out to his friends and acquaintances and Mom is receiving calls, letters and visitors, and I'm starting to see a little bit of my Dad's character other than as a strict and temperamental parent. I feel frustrated Mom hasn't been crazy about Dad's letter and his choice of casual proceedings, and feel fed up when she feels embarrassed about them. This letter is so Dad, and those who knew him well, especially those who have known him since student days, agree with me/ There have been a couple of occasions where I've had to speak on Dad's behalf so as not to let things get out of hand, or to spend time and energy on protocol that don't mean much, but to whom, Dad and me?

I'm also discovering Dad and I shared a lot of, (or I inherited a lot of his,) values and outlook on life, and that Mom is a far more conventional and conservative. When Dad was alive, we spent all our time on caring for him and getting things done that Mom and I never fought and even conspired against Dad, but now I realize Dad's presence may have concealed/protected me from Mom's conservatism. I've also surprised how Ben and I have adopted the Kiwi pragmatism; we have grown much lighter on our feet, which is a good thing.

This trip we disagree on so much and have been getting on each others' nerves. I can't believe the amount of time, energy and money Japanese folks, (i.e. just Mom, or her age group?) spend on protocol for the benefit of "others". Mom thinks I'm severely lacking in common sense and sensitivity so her insult of choice has settled on, "that's the way things are done around here." She's also insists on doing things not to embarrass Dad, i.e. befitting of his social standing. Dad became the vice chancellor of a small university the same month I got married and left home, and even though I lived only an hour away, Ben and I worked long hours and I guess I didn't visit often enough so that I was totally unaware of the huge financial/status/attitude changes that took place in this household. I am the one who grew up thinking toy stores were just for looking at toys, not even touching them, because I was born while Dad was in grad school. Ben and I paid for our wedding and invited our parents, which Mom thought was a bit strange at the time but I never imagined there was any other way.

Anyway, Dad's been out of public life for 15 years; he's been an old man with bad health looking forward to the next occasion he was to see his grandkids.

To try to alleviate friction with Mom, I drew up a simple roaster of housework last night, and things went smoothly for an evening, but already this morning we disagreed. Two housewives living in the same house is not easy, one who's been "serving" others for nearly 60 years vs. one who's had total control over her time for nearly 15. And each knowing she's right. The roaster was meant to give each other breathing space, i.e. to do the job without being rushed, but Mom wants me to do it when she wants things done, and I want her to do things how I do them. I need to back off, because when whatever I'm trying to do here is done, I go home to my cushy life and she has to live her new life. All I can hope for is that she'll take hint from my life and know laundry doesn't have to be done every day, it's not a crime to cook a few portions and freeze, and that one can wait until one finishes weaving to vacuum, not do it before and after.

My life here hasn't been just work. I bought a tiny notebook I carry and draw in. Just simple, quick drawings, but because I use public transport, it's fun to steal quick ones of strangers, especially when they are fast asleep. I hastily made three warps before I left, and I have access to Mom's yarns so I hope to weave some and perhaps post them to galleries. Mom chants every day that I should get back to work, but she must vacate one loom before I can, so I wait patiently. Just after I got back, we had hot and humid days and I rushed to buy a few very thin T-shirts, and also a couple of books on simple summer clothes. A few nights ago we dug into Mom's fabric stash, so a few short-and-wide cotton dresses are forthcoming as well.

After seeing Ben off on Sunday I went to see a Tatsumura Textiles exhibition. A cousin who came to visit after I got home told me about this taking place in Tokyo but by then that one was closed. To our great surprise it moved down to Yokohama so I had a chance to view some insanely intricate work but also to study their techniques. What I'm hoping to see later this week, though, will blow your mind.

Thank you for your emails, letters, and cards of sympathy. It still feels strange to think Dad is dead as it's as though he's just temporary away. There are lots of things he knew that we turned to him for without thinking; Mom throwing dye-, chemistry-, history- and geography-related questions and not trying to remember much of the answers, me ringing him up with the strangest chemistry questions in times of household accidents from New Zealand. I'm still at that stage of regrets, for not having been kinder to him; of not having made the effort to talk to him; of, let's face it, taking Mom's side all too often. I think he was lonely in his last years, locked in a body that wouldn't work and not getting the respect he craved. And though the rest of us felt he was loosing it because he didn't use it, we weren't in his body so it wasn't for us to judge. At least physically he is in a better place, so I take solace from that.