Thursday, July 25, 2013

Une esquisse

Another new word I learned in class: a practice, a plan, a dry run, of art work; this time I sensed its meaning, but I wondered if the word pointed to a particular style of preparation. In Japan, music is taught using Italian and German phrases/words, learn to sing a lot of Scottish songs and art and fashion is taught in French.

Let's see, today is... Thursday. What have I been up to?

Last Saturday, I went to a concert in which my lovely sister-in-law played the violin. I don't like the sound of violin and I was reluctant to go in the morning, but listening to it live, sitting near the stage, changed my perception. I really loved some of the music, and I got to observe the expressions on the players. Lovely.

Mom and I also went to a tiny trade fair where we got to see some lovely Indian textiles from all regions and of all styles. Mom made friends with the young Indian fellow who is married to a Japanese and lives in Kyoto, and she was excited about his merchandises, (too expensive for us to buy, of course,) but I couldn't wait to get away because I didn't want my experience at the concert to be diluted. (The man talked a mile a second and tried so hard to sell.) 

On Sunday, I went to the second session of Cubism painting. This is my teacher, Mr Kanamori's website. His classes are great fun, and he's such a personable man, but I had an easier time coming to terms with this multiple perspectives thing the first time around. I now have to do a painting in two or three sessions; I'm not worried I won't be able to complete it, but the perspectives puzzled me more this time.

I wanted to work on a self-portrait, but I didn't tell him that, so he suggested a still life; it being the day after my sister-in-law's concert, I wanted to work on the violin set, (and the wine was from Marlborough, down the road from Nelson,)
but I didn't tell him that, either, so he picked... this one.
He said the interest would be the box and its contents. Yikes, too many things. I've been reading up about Cubism online, and looking mostly at Braque's and Juan Gris' paintings and collages, and I like them much more than I expected, but I haven't been able to connect the "looking" to "doing/working". So, more to do there.

I've been weaving the navy warp; I finished "Buttons" and will finish "Mame/Pea Shibori" today if Mom vacates a table like she said she will; it's 2PM and she's still writing out her shopping list in her PJs, so not likely. Maybe tomorrow.

On Tuesday I went to a local high school baseball game; it turned out one of the schools is one near my house, and the other, one of my nephew's. The previous day they tied up to the 15th inning so they had a rematch; it was a great game but my "local" school lost. I like baseball, but I think I adore Japanese high school-style cheering. I wanted to go to a small stadium so it didn't matter which schools played, and I wanted to sit on the grass; it started out as a terribly hot, sunny and humid day so I sat in under the roof instead; good thing, too, as twice we were interrupted by rain, the second time for nearly half an hour under torrential rain and thunder. Lovely.
Then I went to Pushkin French Paintings exhibition; I couldn't be bothered by three-quarter of the 60-plus paintings, but, boy, did I love the section where painting became interesting and personal: Impressionism, Cubism, Fauvism, and a few others.

As I've said  before, I disliked Vincent, (and Rothko and Mondrian,) with a passion most of my life; now I can't stop reading about Vincent, and Rothko. Tuesday was the first time I stood in front of his painting and I was memorized; I stood, without thinking or analyzing, for a very long time, just looking. There were two lovely Gogan, some nice Cezanne and Renoir, a Lautrec, et al, but Vincent was the best. By a country mile. (Go down about half way here, and click on the thumbnails of some of the paintings.)

I was in the Pushkin exhibition until 15 minutes before closing, and ran through their permanent collections, by which I was pleasantly impressed, again, (among others, several Magritte,) and I intend to revisit. I am going to see another of Vincent's paintings in Tokyo, I hope, on Saturday.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I was going to go to the big baseball stadium to cheer for my real "local" high school but the day's games were canceled due to rain. They are playing in about an hour today, but I decided not to go because, as much as I hope these guys win, (we can see the school from my house; it's the whitest part of the snow pic in this post; we grew up listening to them practice since 1970,) the game is at the big stadium and I had so much fun on Tuesday in a small one I don't want to dilute my experience of that game. And I want to get some things done.

Among other things I started to sort my parents' digital photos, as that's one of two remaining tasks I must do before I go home. I spent about ten hours deleting duplicates and triplicates and ones where nearly 20 copies existed in Dad's computer. (Some automated process, but mostly manually, one by one.) Dad was nearly blind his last years so I see clearly how he intended to sort the photos but wasn't able, so I can forgive him to a certain degree, but nearly 20 copies of over 1000 pics of the grandkids? Well!!

I'm in the living room set up to do some relaxing collage while listening to the baseball game on the telly. 

Friday, July 19, 2013


So much went wrong with the construction of this bag you only get to see wee pics. The fringes go down straight, not in a curve - I'm not that sophisticated!

It's just a tad too small to carry A4/Letter-sized books or paper. The handles are spread too far apart the bag doesn't open properly. The lining is wrinkled. I had to hand sew the handles because the "tapestry" is too thick for Mom's sewing machine. My so-called tapestry technique is too loose it doesn't stand repeated handling.

Nevertheless, this is the very first time I ever wove something with a finished product other than a rectangle in mind. So, good on me to try something new, and semi-usable. And a much bigger bonus than my "small piece".

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Thank you for your thoughts and reflections on the state of my... predicament. (State of predicament?) I appreciate them; they give me seeds for thinking. I'm half resigned I will know when the right time would have been for me to go home only in retrospect; the other half, I have to have faith my being here for now is better for Mom and the rest of the family than my not being here. Having said that, I've been cranky as I am struggling with this heat, whereas Mom says her body is starting to get used to it. (Not to mention she prefers temperatures about 5-8C above what feels good to me.)

There've been some issue arising from Dad never having drawn a Will, only verbally telling us Mom gets everything if he went first. The instruction is fine by us, it was always going to be thus, but we have to legally forfeit our shares, (forms, government offices, etc,) and since I don't usually live in Japan but am here now, I have to fill a few extra forms and go to a few extra government offices. Apparently, if I were in New Zealand now, I'd only have to go to the embassy or consulate, register my signature, and then sign whatever papers my brother gives me. But surely, folks come home when their parents pass?

So, even though I'm not helping Mom with the big stuff, but only with everyday housework, I have to be here a bit longer while Little Brother the Family Lawyer finds out what needs doing. 

Work Done and Plans

I finished my bag fabric, and want to use this sideways, but after a week I still can't decide which way up. There is also the wee problem of the draw-in being 1cm more at the end than the beginning, and I need a reasonably cool day to size this as the last thing I want is mildew before it morphs into a bag. I found a cute fabric to recycle as lining, and got the handles today; I wanted ones a bit longer so I can hang the bag on my shoulder, but these will do; proportionately these look better.
 Possibility 1
 Possibility 2
Mom wanted me to hurry and make the bag, but I've really gotten used to working and playing carefully. I still recall reading Connie Rose's this post when I was blown away with the idea of observing one's work and rethinking if needed. 

I've been inundated by simple, graphic, Japanese motifs. These motifs are everywhere all year around, but are more visible in the summer with the resurgence of Japanese towels ("tenugui"), which are thin, plain-weave cottons the width of a kimono fabric, (approx 30cm) and, oh, somewhere around 45-60cm long, but also in gazillion permutations.

I wasn't thinking of them specifically when I worked on simple-to-weave-on-table-loom drafts, but I see the connection. I'm moving the motifs rather than placing them on a grid.

This is one I'm about to finish weaving; I see cute, colorful plastic buttons.
Mom and I happened upon a short doco on how the simple indigo polka dots, called "mame/pea shibori", towels are dyed in Arimatsu, and must have wanted something similar.
The drafts look similar, but "Buttons" has been woven with thick, loosely-plied 100% cashmere weft, whereas for "Tenugui" I'll use thiner, tightly-plied white cashmere/silk mix, so the outcome will be two not-exactly-too-similar pieces, fingers crossed. 

Up next I have a white warp. Yes, white! (The warps I brought are for two scarves each, as I expected to have difficulty winding longer on the Ashford table looms.) To me this resembles square snowflakes, or the kind we made folding and cutting origami as kids. I'm using the same white cashmere/silk in the weft against fluffy white cashmere warp.
I need another draft for this warp now, with the same threading. 

Friday, July 12, 2013


So, my mind has been willing, and my body sometimes. I've reorganized my rooms so I can work with paper easily and not have to put things away at night in my sleeping area, (i.e. shoved the futon to the side,) and most of my weaving/sawing/dye-plan area in the smaller . (Not many weaving blogs will include pics of a badly-made futon, so this could be a World's First? The lump is not a Weiner dog, but a leg pillow Mom made for Dad that's been most comfortable.)
I had so much warp left from the Small Pieces Exhibition piece, I'm making a bag fabric. But then I already told you that. My niece is making steady progress on hers, but her draw-in became so great she asked me to weave a few colors to bring back the width to somewhat-normal. But the kid is patient, and amazingly easy-going when she concentrates on a project; quite different from how she behaves with family/relatives socially. I'm glad, because I only knew the quite-intolerable side of her.

I've been using postcard-sized collages as a form of therapy, a time for mindful concentration. I don't worry about themes or colors or outcomes, but just do it to quiet my mind. But the more I collage, the greater my preference for simpler, less-cluttered, should I say the "Japanesy" look. And yet I love receiving complex, layered work from Connie Rose. So, is this going to be another of my "I love it that way when others do it well, but I prefer to do mine this way" thing? I'm going to try making the more layered look a bit more.

I noticed I've grown more open to experimentation and making "ugly" work recently; I owe it to trying things on paper where the "damage" is less threatening than on the loom. On the other hand, I look at my collages, and non-work weaving, more often and slowly, and don't rush them for the sake of finishing; this I owe to Ronette's drawing class and my work-weaving.

The large violet silk is among gazillions Mom brought back from Laharya; this one she hates with a passion and we tried to tone it down by de-dyinig but not to her satisfaction so I'm thinking of putting in shibori stitching and dipping it into watered-down dark blue several times.

And then there is the "cubism" thing to practice. No time to waste; no time to worry about the heat. And no time to pick on Mom.

One last thing I thought of is, I am in Japan now, in the summer for the first time in 19 years! I am insane not to potter around collecting colors and images. So I shall use my tiny camera more conscientiously as it is always in my bag when I go out.

* * * * *

If you'd like a therapy-collage postcard, please email me with your address as I'm running out of folks I can bother. They have nothing to do with weaving, but the material is 100% Japanese-sourced, most from free brochures and adverts, some from newspapers and product packaging.

Hot / Well

It's been so hot this is probably going to be the new hottest summer in Japanese weather history; the previous record was 2010. Between last Friday and yesterday, I anticipated, counter to all information, it can't get worse, and I only need to motivate myself to work, but I've been wrong. Today we are expecting the fifth or sixth day in a row of "extreme heat", somewhere around the 35C line. The grape-growing parts of Yamanashi Pref not too far from Mt Fuji has had over 39C two or three days in a row.

I've been drinking endless glasses of barley tea, (a refreshing Japanese summer drink, I think they drink this in Korea, too, and they kindly gave us a glass sometime in the last 2000 years?) Even our tap water is lukewarm even in the dead of night.

For the last two days I've turned on the air conditioner on so I can keep my room just below 30C, but today I've turned it low enough so I don't sweat if I more or less stay still, to get a wee reprieve physically and regain composure.

* * * * *

That's as far as I got yesterday, in something like five goes. Whereas previously the mind was willing but not the body, yesterday Mom and I both had it and we couldn't function, so we vegetated.

I couldn't sleep well either so I woke up grumpy this morning but Mom, bless her, woke up refreshed and energized, and it seems to me that today is the first day she is well, in her old way, since Dad died; not sarcastic, not forced, just matter-of-fact. (Though she'd most definitely tell you I'm so grumpy and bossy all the time she's been well before but I refuse to recognize it. Which is true, too. Hee hee.)

Anyway, she's well, in the way she's usually been, and that forced me to be, in a short few minutes, well again.

One of Dad's past students and his wife came for a visit yesterday, and another rang in the evening to ask if he could come; Mom declined, for the first time, saying it's too hot for her to receive visitors. This morning she declared, "Dad's been gone for over two months; it's time his business stopped butting into my business!"

I know her, and my, mood will continue to go up and down, but this is most definitely a good change. So, yay, Mom.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Hard to believe it's been only a week and a day since I posted the Small Pieces Exhibition because I've been busy, including long stretches where I sit in the heat and contemplate turning on the air conditioning, and resisting for the most part.

On that Monday I went to a Zen Meditation while Sitting on a Chair workshop, (great!; made sense why my paternal grandfather was so into Zen; all answers come not from a man or a book but by contemplation); a figure/life drawing workshop, (for grownups; the model announces duration and poses; we do however we want; and the teacher went around discussing issues and suggesting ways to achieve personal goals. Mine was to include the entire figure onto the sheet, and though I still couldn't, I loved talking to him; hope to go once more in August.)

On Tuesday I went to a drawing/painting class, (we could use pastel or watercolor,) to draw faces in the style of Klee. We learned techniques, including tracing; though the teacher said there were no "right"answers and we were to express ourselves through colors, he was clearly after certain outcome.

On Wednesday I went to see the Cluny Tapestries, (saturated, interesting but dwarfed under a 8-meter ceiling and black walls; the tops of the pieces were wrapped in strange, wrinkled black cloths, (hiding the mechanism??; they were hung a tad too low, and as always, there were too too many visitors); I think the key to my happy viewing is not to research so much about the artwork I'm going to see. I found this exhibition in the same museum much more interesting, but of course my favs never make it into postcards nor the website, so I can't show you his amazing, and big, photos. The best show was this one, by one Mr Dai Fujihara, who is an Issey Miyake designer; he went around the world collecting colors by mixing paint in situ and painting small strips of paper, then collaborated with industrial, scientific, craft specialists and kids to produce experimental end products. I was so thrilled I signed up for the curator's floor talk at the end of the month.

On Thursday I blobbed out and ate a lot of popcicles.

On Friday I started to weave off my faux tapestry warp. I have somewhere between 50cm and a meter of warp left, and Mom's been talking about weaving cloth to turn into a bag so I decided to do the same. At first I was just going to weave it in plain weave but it being on a RH and seeing bigger gaps between threads than desirable, I decided to keep with techniques I've seen on tapestry weaving books and vids, but not really study them, so I'm winging the not-straight-forward bits, but the cloth is stiff and good for the purpose.

I wove some more on Saturday.

On Sunday I went to a workshop where we collaged a 3D object (a manual coffee grinder) à la cubism. In fact I was the only student doing the one-day workshop whereas others are enrolled in an on-going twice-monthly workshop and they worked on their paintings. Even though the Klee class aimed for something similar, I liked this teacher as he explained the theory as well as some of the techniques that I ended up signing up for the twice-monthly workshop going on until mid-September. I told him I'm not sure if I can come more than three more times, i.e. end of August, but he said I should be able to do one still object in that time.

The whole time I attended Ronette's drawing class I seemed to have concentrated on elegant/eloquent lines and to try to show the 3D-ness of a body, but for a while I'll be trying to do something totally different, of presenting multiple view points on a sheet of paper and I'm very excited about this class. Later, my brother brought my niece so we sat facing each other with a pile of weft options and wove in relative quiet for some time.

Yesterday I went to a lecture on this exhibition by their chief curator. At first I wasn't too terribly excited about the artwork included, but it is in Yokohama so I changed my mind. It was supposed to happen in April 2011 but was delayed because of the earthquake in the first instance and then because of fear of nuclear fallout. All but one have never been shown in Japan, and the exhibition focused on portraits and paintings with people as subjects, so it'll be a good one. If we could just beat the traffic; the curator said to come first thing in the morning or just before closing.

After I came home I reorganized my sleeping area so I can work on my weaving in the tiny room and do work on paper in the bigger room; I've shoved my futon up against the futon closet to give myself space. I've been finding solace in collaging mostly in the tiny postcard size; it's been amazingly good therapy, and my faux tapestry was an effort to do something similar on a loom. Now that I've signed up for the Cubism-ish workshop, I'd like to practice some of the things the teacher taught me. And I have a couple of rods from which some fabric hang; I'm still going to sew and dye.

And I am going home to Nelson in early/mid September. 

Missing Ben, Missing Dad, Fighting Mom

It's been hot and humid. This is why I like coming home in the winter; cold can slow me down but some heat stops me from doing much at all. And we're told we can expect temperatures in the 40C's this season. I thought those were reserved for Arabia and Australia, no? Still we appreciate Yokohama has escaped the rain, thunder and cold/heat that's been descending elsewhere. First summer here in 19 years. Yeah... Nelson has most definitely not had the extreme weathers of the last couple of decades in comparison.

I miss Ben. A lot. And every day I wonder what the heck I'm doing here, but more on that later.

Mom's been better, in that she's come out of the daze a couple of weeks ago when Dad's bones went under the grave and she finished her part of the pension-related work. She doesn't sit at the table waiting for food to appear when she's hungry any more, and when rostered, she even cooks. Or assembles. For a couple of weeks she was active, sociable and, well, normal; she told some people in terribly indirect language what I think I can translate as her missing Dad. But then another Mom emerged; this one is negative, cynical, intrusive; everything is everybody else's fault, and, yeah, she's been hard to live with. Up to now that was Dad's and my speciality.

I noticed this about Mom during the Feb/Mar visit and told her this is not her, and she has got to regain her positive and proactive self, but the way she's at it, I don't know if this temporary or if this is now her default mode. Since she had good listeners in my sister and brother, I tried to motivate her, but we fought so much I gradually desisted, and now thanks to this heat I don't have the energy for my well-intentioned pep talk. For which Mom is thankful, no doubt. Sometimes her negativity is so that I felt physical pressure on my shoulders and neck; sometimes I know I'll do better in Nelson for both of our emotional health. It's hard to talk about this with her; we both feel our best efforts are under attack, and that I'm violating her territory, and she hasn't got the guts to tell me to leave, (after one time,) nor I to abandon her. And after I go home this next time, I honestly won't be able to afford another trip for a while even if one of us changes our minds.

And then there is always this thing where Mom says anything to family as long as she thinks it's true. I probably do the same to her.

In practical terms, I gradually gave up helping Mom in tidying the house. She wanted to get rid of practically everything right away and we fought so much but now I leave it to Mom and her twice-weekly helper, but grab anything of Dad's I want to keep or think my siblings may want. And throw away she does!! I try to stick to our roster and cook and clean the kitchen; try not to mind if she does laundry on my days, and clean the areas I mainly use, (so, the stairs and upstairs.) And do little every day in the bathrooms. And I try not to do much when she's rostered to do something. 

It's like learning to live harmoniously with a new roommate; learning to live with Ben was so much easier; living with Ben is so, so, so easy I do have a renewed appreciation for him. My honey is such a Honey!

And I appreciate the heat; we have little head space left to fight. Or talk, some days.

I miss Dad. For a while all the regrets for things I didn't/wouldn't do for/to/with him was becoming overwhelming. Mom revised her opinion of him, and blamed a lot on my immaturity; I went under a revised my view of him, and blamed myself. But then I learned that our, (three kids') view of Dad was much influenced, (tainted,) by what Mom told us, as recently as last March, and I'm sad for Dad for having gotten such a bad rap in his own home, and that perhaps where he could most be himself was with his students, not with his family.

I feel sad that Mom hones in on my immaturity and tells me to, "get over" things. On the third day after I got here, she forbade me to grieve in front of her because it was offensive when her life had been turned upside down; then she listed practical and financial difficulties. Or I should go back to Nelson and cry with Ben. I feel the most intense regret thinking about dad making jokes about Mom being just as hard, (as him,)to live with, because not only did I not show support for him, but I totally didn't buy it. None of us three did. And knowing all of us were "on Mom's side" most of the time, I even wonder if "home" was a happy place for him.

Thank goodness for the heat, I don't think too much complicated thoughts; I just miss Dad when we're eating something yummy or find something funny on the telly. But we're glad he went when he did because we would not have known how to care for him in, yes, I'll say it again, this heat.

So that's my side of the story. But just part of the story.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Small Pieces Exhibition

Untitled, a faux tapestry
Cotton, 31.5cm x 13cm
Tapestry technique loosely employed on a rigid heddle loom
Meg Nakagawa, Yokohama, Japan

26cm x 21.5cm
Esmae Emerson, Nelson, New Zealand

Woven Ring
Esmae Emerson, Nelson, New Zealand

Peg Cherre, New York, USA

Thank you for visiting.