Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Another Mini Exhibition

The Weavers are back again. Today, even Mom. She has 10cm to go on her leftover red cushion covers.   
A gentle, narrow wool scarf by Mrs Y.
Knotted wall-hanging by Mrs T.
Plain Weave wooly scarf of many colors by Mrs T.
Crispe cotton piece by Mrs. T; it was very nicely woven with just one lifting mistake. Sorry, I was taken by the colors I didn't notice I had that one mistake in the middle of the pic.
Everybody's fav from 2012: Mrs E's deliciously plump wool scarf. I couldn't capture it in my attempts to photograph these, but the variegated weft created not stripes but lovely areas of colors all over the piece.   
Unlike during my last visit, everybody is keen to learn more structures and weave patterns. While two-shafts sit quietly in the closet, all the shaft looms are in high demand. So, only the Rigid Heddle left for me, again, this trip. But this time Mom keeps me busy making up drafts and coming up with warp color plans, so perhaps there is no time left for weaving.

My To Do list has five weaving-related items at the moment.

Day 24/39

Dad's been good. He has good days and bad, and cold days and rainy days are bad. Today happens to be both. But on good days we laugh recalling the antics of family, friends and his past students, (he was a Chemistry professor,) until I fall off the chair and we're all crying in pain. I'm not sure how many more months/years we'll have these chances, but we don't worry about that too much; we're lucky we know funny or silly people, (mostly ourselves,) who do things we can laugh about decades later.

When I get mad at Dad, I try to remember the good things about him and our relationship. Without a doubt at the top of this list is how he's always been financially generous with our education and interests. Mom's most recent loom acquisition is case in point. Mom and I had a LOL moment when one day last week Dad came home from his rare solo outings irate, because I haven't been spending enough of his money since I've been back!!

Mom is better, cheerful and has gotten over a bad cold she had a few weeks before I came home. She has been weaving consistently, but does get tired, and her forgetfulness is a bit shocking. She is aware of this, and, like me, keeps making notes and tiny reminders but sometimes can't remember where we put them. Once again I'm reminded that aging is a gradual and steady loss of abilities we take for granted, and as she reminds me, we are at our youngest today.

I'm starting to get used to my parents' ways a bit; strange how I have to relearn their likes and dislikes every visit. At times I get a bit tired of their stubbornness and unreasonableness, but I know they like to do things their ways so I try not to challenge them. Too much. And then go back and do things my way when they are not looking. Sometimes.

* * * * *

On Sunday, I went to an exhibition of Japanese wooden chairs, in a museum I had never heard of, Yokosuka Art Museum.

From the road in front of the museum, we could see all the way to the Port of Yokohama and beyond to the right, and Chiba Prefecture's industrial area facing Bay of Tokyo. It was a rare warm, sunny day and there were quite a few folks out enjoying the view and a long walk by the sea, hopping into the museum, in some cases, only to check out the museum shop and perhaps have a cup of coffee in the Italian restaurant within.

The chair exhibition was wonderful, displaying hand- and factory-made wooden chairs of the last 150 or so years. It was lovely to learn that in some institutions, chairs made in the early 1900's were still in use. I loved the hand-crafted, somewhat ornate ones from the 1910's. Sorry, no pictures allowed.

What surprised me more was the quality of the paintings in their possession, and how much I enjoyed them. Again, the early 1900's were my favorite, and I never imagined Japanese artists painted wall-sized oils in such vivid colors back then. What a treat.

* * * * *

In Japan, department stores put on interesting art exhibitions and wonderful trade expos. At the tiny, and not so up-market department store we frequent, there was a wee craft show last week and Mom and I met lovely boxwood workers, Mr and Mrs Andoh.
In Japan, boxwood is usually used for making one thing: combs. But in Oita, Kyushu, a tradition of boxwood carving thrived for generations; now there are only a handful of crafts people left, making traditional items such as netsuke, but the Andohs have included accessories and more modern pieces in their product mix, and have managed to expand and thrive. Mr Andoh is the third generation in his family involved in boxwood carving. (He's also a mountain rescue volunteer.)

Mrs Andoh kindly took time to explain to us the special characteristics of boxwood which I can't recall, but the Andohs experimented beyond the traditional use/techniques and developed in particular what is called the "transparent" look where the shapes are left but gaps taken out, as in the first cherry blossom necklace seen here.
This was my favorite, a large peony brooch.

Boxwood darkens with use and age. As pieces gets handed down, they will darken with a slightly reddish brown. Lovely! And it's always a wonderful thing to be able to spend time with other makers.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Day 17/39

I've been busy, not completely with housework as our 2011 visit, but with some cooking, grocery shopping, and quite a lot of weaving-related activities. Dad is, well, difficult, indifferent, and sporadic slips into alarming senior moments, but as we head for early spring, longer sunlight hours and warmer temperature help his psyche. I don't know how Mom does it, though her dad was also difficult, so we laugh at her very low expectations of men.  LOL.

It's been cold but not that bad for me. We finally had snow on Tuesday but it didn't stick around. Further northwest, in Niigata, Aomori Prefecture, they've had record snow of well over five meters, resulting in railroad workers having to manually shovel so the snow-plow trains can get out and get to work.
It started as heavy rain, than became vertical slush.
A few hours later, it was real snow.
This is Mom's wee veggie patch seen from upstairs. There was a wee bit more the next morning but by 10AM Wednesday, it was gone.

Mom got her second 8-shaft Ashford table loom on Monday and has been busily working on her first, "Leftover Red Wool" project. All yarns used in this project are thrums and other leftovers from past projects, and not only has this been a fast, inexpensive, risk-free project, but also a nostalgic one, every thread reminding her of the pieces she made, people she gifted them to, and in many cases, the two looms she's given away in preference for smaller, lighter ones. She's making two cushion covers.  Mom also has two more projects planned, one a pink and blue cotton scarf with rectangular lace windows for herself, and a cashmere scarf for Mrs Suzuki, one of the women who helps her with housework.
Before I got home, Mom complained she had a hard time thinking about weaving except when her students come fortnightly. (Although all she needed was a loom to weave on.) Coincidentally Ben noticed a whole heap of photo paper specifically for a tiny photo-only printer during with a half-used ink cartridge during our last visit. So I came ready to make a bunch of photo buntings in her stash/work room, her walk-in closet, (which used to be one of us kids' bedroom,) and her loo. I've done the first and the last space, but not her closet. So far I shot images of textiles around her stash/work room, and of her favorite pieces of clothing, and she and her students have been pleasantly surprised how different they look from a different perspective. (Thank you, Kathryn, for the idea.)
Mom had one class session two days after I came home. I helped two students thread.
Here are Mrs Endoh and Mrs Yamaguchi; hay fever season started with gusto this week.
Mom showing Mrs Tahara how to select warp ends from cross sticks for threading. Previously Mom did the threading for them, but Mrs Tahara is ready to do it herself. 

I've spoken to Mom and her students a little about different ways of looking at twill, of using eight shafts to create two or three blocks, and of using the entire width of a piece as one repeat of, you got it, twill threading, i.e. undulating and networked, but haven't made any tutorial handouts. Mom's classes are so casual it felt foreign to hand out pieces of paper. I may still get around to writing something for the Japanese blog, but we'll see. I've also consulted Mom on many possible projects using what cashmere she has; we cleaned and reorganized her equipment, books and magazines, and her notes; and we reorganized her silk chest. We have a big chest of drawers of her sample pieces to go. As for her wools and cottons, I suggested she continue to go through them with her students a few times a year so they can put dibs or keep them in mind for future projects. They have such fun doing it anyway.

I've been trying to draw, but it's usually at the end of the day when we're watching the telly. Dad sits very still so he's easy to draw, but Mom keeps working until she goes to bed so I don't have any of her yet. I brought my tiny book on Italian but haven't touched it since I got it out of my pack. I've been having fun at art supply and stationary shops, though not so much in bookshops. Cost of living in Japan started to go down about the time Ben and I left Japan, (1994) and every time I came home I went crazy shopping in these places, but inflation since the earthquake two years ago has gone insane, and I notice that most markedly in book prices. As well, things have gotten smaller; for e.g. I found stationary/letter papers as small as a business card, with matching envelopes, as well as twice that size. These things were always available, but at times I feel hard pressed to find anything of "normal" sizes. This goes from toys to cars to food, and I, at 145cm, feel like a giant sometimes.

Oh, Heather, Jane and Julie are keeping me company, too.I'm sorry we haven't been anywhere interesting.
I haven't been to any exhibition yet; there seem to be not a whole lot I'm interested in, but there is one wooden chair exhibition in Kamakura, Yokosuka, and I'm still keen to go see the model looms at the Ag University. And Mom and I are planning a trip to one yarn store of, according to her, not very exciting wools. LOL. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hi from Yokohama

I arrived here on Monday night and had a thrilling Tuesday stocking up on food with Mom as we were expecting to possibly be snowed in Wednesday. (Did I mention we live on top of a very steep hill?) Alas, came Wed and we had a bit of rain and that was it. How disappointing! But I'm told by multiple sources we have snow forecast for next Wed also.

I dreaded coming home in a way because the last time we were home in Nov/Dec 2011 was in retrospect exactly when Mom and Dad were having to adjust to a new, down-graded or lower-keyed (depending on your point of view,) lifestyle. If you could call it that. Mom and I were doing housework and serving/caring for Dad and his new potassium-free diet from 7AM to 9PM every day without 20 minutes rest for a cup of tea, and I was expecting to do just that again. However, it's hasn't been as hectic at all. Mom is more used to Dad's diet, Dad is healthier, and both of them are now used to tax-assisted helpers coming and going almost every weekday. The arrival of the cold season is the worst or both of them, which is usually sometime late Nov/early Dec, so I think I am more useful then. By now it's much colder but everything is set up for winter.

That Dad is healthier means he's also "back in control" of Mom's and my lives, which creates a lot of tension; he's bullies Mom to no end, so it's a good thing both are hard of hearing and forgetful. It didn't take long for Dad to start picking on me this morning, Day 4, but if lightens the load on Mom for the next six weeks, so be it. I feel sad for him for never having developed an interest outside work; reading the newspaper, watching the telly and picking on Mom are about the only things he has to fill in his days. Mom, Sister and I tried for about 40 years to introduce him to various musical instruments, art and craft, sports, special interest books, but nothing ever worked. And now that he's on a special diet, he can't even enjoy normal meals, so his is a very constricted way to spend the last few years of life. And though it is of his own making, Mom and I keep trying to get him interested in something, which from his perspective, is a lot of unnecessary noise. Still, I'm going to propose one more project that involves grandchildren and see if he finds it interesting. 

Watching and talking to Mom, though, I'm reminded once again that the body will never be healthier than it is now, so if I want to loose weight, if I want to get fitter, I really have no time to waste. Even with regular use, and Mom was far fitter than me all of her life, the body and mind only deteriorates in time.

But fear not. We're having a lot more time for weaving talk this trip. Tuesday night I showed her some samples I brought from last year and discussed, among other things, weaving in blocks and network threading, but now I have to write a simple but illustrated tutorial, in Japanese, so Mom can remember and if need be explain to her students. She also showed me recently purchased yarns; I'd seen them in our weekly Skype sessions but it's lovely to be able to feel them. And though there are only a rigid heddle or a similar two-shaft loom available now, (her students are using all the four-and-more-shafts looms,) I'm wondering if I can come up with a project. After the tutorials.

Now for pics.
Mom's stash/weaving/class room, and my temporary office until next Wed when the student return. On the work table are my laptop, blank paper for doodling/drafting the tutorials, some of Mom's textiles I want to photograph, and two bags of yarns I'm having a hard time choosing from. Elsewhere in the room, if you know where to look, you'll see three looms setup for students, a warping board with one of the students' next warp, and an RH with my little niece's first project. I'm listening to my brother's old Sheryl Crow CD on his huge boom sitting on Dad's ancient desk. Awwww, home.  
Niece turned seven yesterday. After she learned that Big Nephew tried his hands at the craft, she wanted to try also, but after this far Mom is not sure the project is "finished". If so, I hope to make a wee purse with her cloth.
Department store bonito flakes (for stock and gazillion other purposes) section of Mom's fav supermarket.
Soy sauce section.
Mom's fav fishmonger; we place an order with the woman wearing an apron; if need be, she then give instructions to the guy inside the window, just to the right of the big poster, and he cleans the fish to order. She did a splendid deep-fried horse mackerel on my request Tuesday night. My miso-and-vinegar flavored mackerel was well-received last night.
Upstairs the March 3 Doll Day "Hanging Hina" decoration is up as in 2010.  The individual pieces this year are bigger, though, and the space looks crowded and messy. But more Japanese folks, including men, are stopping by to have a closer look and even taking pictures. Nice.
These pieces are made by students in a hobby craft class nearby. So it finally makes sense that they are taken down long before March 3; the pieces must go home to their proper place in time for the Girls' Day celebration. 

OK, lunch, then tutorial. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013


I'm going to the tiny Nelson airport in eight hours and getting on not a jet plane but propeller in nine, although tomorrow is only the third day of Ben's five day weekend. Pooh pooh. I packed lightly, too; well, light for me. About 1/3 of the suitcase is a bulky but lightweight present for Mom, another 1/3 a serious winter coat I'll need to put on the minute the case comes off the carousel, and minimum change of clothes, but 1kg of chocolate, some honey and herbal tea bags, and a whole lot of colorful cotton samples. No art supply, as I found a whopper of an art supply shop right by Yokohama Station that I didn't know about, and there is a nice small one in the same building as mom's favorite fish monger closer to home. Oh, city living! 
We also went to see Stella's Bliss exhibition this afternoon. It was great to see here there and talk to her about her monkeys and her jewelry, especially the hearing-aid-shaped pieces I've only seen photos of before.

I wanted to weave off my purple piece as Ben overhauls my looms for me while I'm away, but instead I weeded the veggie patch and put in some seeds I hope will come up while I'm away, among them spring onions which we use a lot.

I'll arrive at Japan on late Monday and it's supposed to snow on Wednesday. Bliss. Next time I post it'll be from my parents' home.