Friday, March 25, 2016


I felt so energetic while in Japan and immediately after I came home, so I assumed that will go on for a while. Well, not long enough; I had a kind of a blah week, maybe two; not crashing after the trip, but just blah.

I amazed myself how smoothly I could pick up where I left off in either place immediately; the Japan part was understandable as I was on a mission with a tight schedule and had started thinking/planning before I left, but to describe this last home coming "smooth-landing" is way too dramatic. Ben and I were right back where we left off as if I was away for an afternoon while he was at work; as if I can travel between my two worlds on an hour's train ride. This is new to me. It'd be nice if it took that little time/money to go back and forth, though; my body/mind hate the long flights more than my wallet.

I was also distracted by a pleasant novel my sister lent me; nothing earth-shattering, but fatally readable. I've also been more in an input mode than output, so I've been strolling the Internet looking for interesting things to read/watch/listen, finding, again, nothing earth-shattering but enjoyable.

(Oh, did you just hear the screeching seagulls? I like them. Not nice as far as bird songs go, but one of the best reminders I live a cushy life by the sea.)

I've also been looking for a small project, things I can do little bits of every day culminating in something I'd enjoy looking back on, but not being a finisher nor "a little bit every day" type, I decided not to think up anything new but to try to resurrect some I'm still fond of enough not to have thrown out. I've been thinking of about a dozen of these I worked on a good deal, and another half a dozen I for which I collected materials, mostly collage, in attractive museum shop bags, but haven't had the gumption to look at any and pick one. I'll show you if/when I start, or better yet finish. But I'm trying not to get over-enthused to declare something I'll regret, like, "I'll finish one project a month for the rest of the year!"

The garden is horrible. We've had many cool, overcast days in between bright, hot days, but I can't be bothered going out yet, and I've got to combat a pretty bad white fly epidemic too boot; weekly garlic spray may have suppressed them, temporarily but for months, but I have to move on to "chemicals" this year. Doesn't help that I now know 400 hours of hard labor ain't gonna do much good Chez Moi, but that's my problem.
On to weaving. I avoided weaving the piece on the loom because I found it unattractive, but you know, in order to get on to the next piece I had to finish this, and it doesn't look bad off the loom. It has more cool colors than I remembered, and I can think of a good Japanese adjective to describe how it looks to me, but it's one of those that just doesn't translate; it's like a combination of cool/pretty/detached without cruel/snobby. And of course I know it's going to have a fabulous texture.
I played with the treadling some more, (the first piece was the top treadling with a couple of interruptions,) planning to mix it up in the second piece, but even after culling, printout big enough so I can read the treadling ended up seven pages on A4 sheets, and the ones I saved looked similar to each other.
So far on the second piece I've used the third, (not counting the one you can see just a tiny bit of,) from the bottom, but I hope to insert other treadling in places.
Weft colors include blues I didn't sample, but I wanted to use only 26/2 100% cashmere so color choices were reduced. So far it's going in a regimented blue-to-pink, blue-to-pink order but the number of picks vary. To compensate for even more cool colors than the first piece, I plan to make the two pink areas larger than the others, and to insert other colors, perhaps 20/2 100%.
For now my plan is to weave the fourth or fifth draft from the bottom in these 20/2 colors, but we'll see how it goes.

The seven treading variations starting with second-from-the-top are all simple back and forth (pointed) treadling in different numbers and I enjoyed how the paler left half changes; this might come in handy some day.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Couple More from Mrs T's Phone

 Four of the five exhibitors: me, of course, Mrs E, Mom, and Mrs T.
Family: Mom; Sister-in-law, seated, who came at the end of another extremely busy day; Older Fav Cousin in white, after spending practically the whole day with us; they just met but got on like house on fire. Sister spent a few hours on Install Day, brother came on Day 3.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Back to Me

I've got a few more thoughts that emerged from the last trip to Japan; I'll write about them if they come out of the periphery of my thoughts but not if they want to stay there. Suffice to say I was busy, was frustrated with rampant Japanese consumerism, disregard for the environment/planet, and blind adoration for "convenience"; Japanese language's requirement for so much empty conversations; all reflecting my affinity to the simple life we made in New Zealand; loved the food and good sake but there are too few good eateries near Mom's place; nephews/niece growing up on course but siblings aren't ageing as fast as me; and Mom could use more help in her everyday life.

I've been working on that two-color warp on four shafts, wondering how important it is for me to know exactly how a piece is going to turn out before I weave, i.e. what good planning is, vs. how spontaneity/randomness increase the joy of making when it works well, and how that joy shows up in the finished product or my perception of it. And the makers' ego against modern day Aestheticism.
Take the latest sample piece, in which I tried rather many colors in many different treadling, not clarifying borders with marker wefts. (The colors are less white, but never mind.)
Compare that to the first piece I'm weaving where I decided on one treadling alternating with its inverted version, and a rough color scheme, (four greens,) in amongst which I'm inserting few chosen colors based on a vague principles.

I find the second boring, so much so I inserted a narrow strip of orange in the front with a different, short treadling; Ben likes the orderly Japanese look. What I like in the sample are mix of gradual and sudden change of hues/values, the complexity subtle change in values create. I like the variety of similar but different treadling. I think I even like that the changes of colors don't coincide with the change of treadling and vice versa. But I think the best thing is that the sample has so many colors and the color/treadling size vary. Random, in other words. Which is where I may go in the second piece, though I don't know if I'll mix different-sized yarns in the weft; certainly not the different fiber contents, which will reduce my choices. And no bouclés because they obscure the pattern too much. At least that's the non-plan for now.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Mom's Exhibition: Busy Three Days, Debrief/Afterthoughts

In tree short days, we handed out a little over 100 takeaway catalogues, and from memory around 60 signed the guest book. Mom and I reckon we welcomed around 90 friends, friends of friends, and family of exhibitors, and perhaps a couple of dozen cashmere shop shoppers. (The shop held a big sale during the week also, so some of our visitors went home with lovely mementos.)

Mom was in attendance almost the entire time; I was there perhaps half the time; Mrs T and Mrs E when rostered. I tried to take pictures when I remembered, but hardly enough; at times the tiny venue was as crowded as a commuter train and I had to step out, at others we were engaged in reminiscing with folks from our past, from time to time we had to explain weaving techniques.
Dad's early graduate looking dapper at 71 and a weaver from Mom's neighboring building, a friend of my brother's mother-in-law, whom we met that morning.
As soon as they received invites, Mom's friends started calling to find out when she'd be at the venue. Her second and longest-term teacher in the hat and scarf, who lives minutes away from the venue, did not ring so we worried about her health. It turned out she conspired with four or five of Mom's former study mates and popped up "en masse" on Day One. Mom was even more surprised when her husband stopped by later that day.
Weavers can relate: teacher explaining how to weave transparencies with regards to beating.
The achingly elegant mother-in-law of my sister's, wearing a piece I wove some years ago, with many pastel colors. It's a dreadfully difficult piece to color-coordinate with garments, but of course she had an elegant gray jacket with flecks of pink and from memory pale blue. Her two poised nieces came earlier in the day, although what I'll remember a long time is that brought me treats from Okano Eizen, a specialty Japanese treat place near my offices in IBM days, where sometimes I took orders from colleagues and stood in the long queue. I think they knew.
Two of three of Mom's high school friends who travel together once a month. (She just came home from an overnight trip to see Mt Fuji yesterday.) Another was busy seeing her grandchild get married. It's incomprehensible to me that they met over 70 years ago, that's Mom pre-Dad.

Members of Mom's English class, former neighbors, (one of whom said she'd seen the New Zealand moss piece in a previous exhibition,) former classmates under Mom's first weaving teacher, (and serious weavers among them, I'm told,) sister, brother, sister-in-law, one of my fav cousins, (who spent practically the whole day hanging with me,) and a former work colleague, and a few patient husbands were among those I couldn't shoot.

The exhibition, in the first instance, was cute; it was small, exhibited pieces were not large for the most part and friendly, none "challenging" or out there. The A6-sized takeaway catalogue was, you've got to admit, very cute. It was also a familiar exhibition in that the exhibited pieces were unpretentious and handmade, many well-used. The exhibition did not have the clinical, minimalist, "professional" look, but something of a peek into someone's treasure chest.

On closer look, however, if you were a textile/weaving aficionado, one could see the depth brought on by the variety of techniques and material, and by the different preferences of multiple makers. Mom's samples/notes/drafts were exhibited to showcase her knowledge and experience in the first place, but came in handy to explain/describe.

Mom had so much fun because she only had to stay in one place and friends and family from all areas and eras of her life came to see her; she likened it to having her own funeral except she got to talk to folks.  

Mrs T and Mrs E saw their "humble" works in a different light in an exhibition, which was another goal of mine. Though they'll continue to weave for their loved ones and themselves, it's nice to imagine they'll carry something of this new perspective as they plan and work in future.

We savored the significance of the first two and the near-last visitors being from Dad's past: one of Dad's first graduates; the wife of a PhD comrades, (because Mr PhD was busy volunteering planting trees in Borneo;) and the wife of the student with whom Dad and the family had the longest association with, (Senior, Masters, PhD, then Dad's assistant for a few years,) because Mr Long Association still works a few days a week.

Dad enthusiastically supported both our ventures into weaving, (and a few others of Mom's,) and unstintingly gave us financial support. After retirement, he turned Mom's cones and skeins into precisely equal-weight balls so Mom could make warps multiple ends at a time. Towards the end of his life after he went blind in one eye, he liked works that contained red, which he could see better, instead of "New Zealand green" (approximately forest green,) he loved previously. And he tolerated us making numerous things for him, both nice and experimental.

We were delighted Mom's exhibition turned into an homage to Dad, to feel he's still very relevant in our current lives. If you believe people who passed on live on as long as we remember them, Dad had a heck of a busy month and must be relieved to be back in quiet retirement.

Hard to believe the exhibition came down two weeks ago; it means I've been home a week, too. I've been working on the four-shaft, contemplating randomness on the loom, but that's for later.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mom's Exhibition: Installing/Hanging/Curating

After the recon, I knew where to put the three focus pieces: Mom's was going to be at the "start" of the exhibition, on the "front" wall; Mrs T's knotted piece was going to be near the center when looking in to the gallery through the large glass windows, with allowance for the window frame in the middle; Mrs E's bag was going to hang in the center of the view as visitors walked into the store and turned left to the gallery space.

I put together works that looked good around each focus piece, other pieces for filling spaces, and a bag of Mom's small samples and notes. Mom and I decided we'd rather fill the small gallery "as much as possible", just short of "too much". Artists Statements would be spread around the gallery to prevent "crowd" build up. I walked through the gallery in my head over and over for a few days refining the plan, but the day before I wondered if I should have gone back to the gallery once more. Truth to tell, I didn't have the time, but still, I should have made the effort.   

The whole lot was loaded on Mrs T's car the afternoon before the exhibition; we met with Mrs T and Mrs E and the lot at the gallery in the morning. We also discovered to my great relief we could use push pins on walls.
Mom's transparent screen was returned to her, so we were able to put something interesting against the window. Her hand-dyed decorative panel was too dominant inside the gallery, so that, too, was placed to entice shoppers to come into the exhibition.
Folks kept not just touching but handling the pieces, some even trying them on, in spite of six discrete signs, later replaced by 10 not-so discrete ones. We exhibitors were were constantly returning and rearranging them.
See the small purse and the matching scarf at bottom right? Hard to believe they weren't designed to go together; the purse is by Mrs E, the scarf by Mrs T, woven years apart.
Next door there was a recycled kimono shop.
My sister came in the afternoon to keep Mom company and help me fine-tune the look. We finished much earlier than expected; Mrs T and Mrs E were able to go home a few hours earlier than estimated.
This was Mom on Day One looking a little drowsy from the aforementioned hay fever medication!

EDIT: We had several A4 posters outside around the stairs, which looked very nice, but I forgot to shoot them. Darn.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mom's Exhibition: Recon and Install Plans

For me, the focus of this exhibition was two-fold from the start: a retrospective of Mom's 25 years of weaving; and showcasing her two students' works over six years, (and our family's sincere thanks for their continuing friendship with Mom, because for the last two years they've taken either two trains or a train and a bus to journey to the high rise every fortnight.)

Mom's reason for the exhibition was to showcase different techniques under the heading of "weaving". Combining all three was a cinch as, goodness me, they and another past student tried their hands on many styles, end-products, fibers, and sizes. Visual coherence had to be created with color clusters. I chose three main focus pieces:
Mom's New Zealand moss-inspired tapestry;
Mrs T's yellow and green knotted piece, which I thought had the strongest visual impact in the first instance; and
Mrs E's rag-woven grocery-shopping bag, recycling her mother's (?) silk kimono. This bag is old and the original navy blue handles came apart, so she put on these new lighter ones, which I think work better. I had to hang this from Mom's living room light fixture with fishing lines to photograph, confirming my 10-year-old niece's believe I am the oddest adult she knows.
 The store/gallery is up a steep set of stairs.
 A large window gives a good view of the inside as we approach the store.
Mom described the walls as pure white, but they had a slight green tinge. She also said we can't touch the walls, so I was obsessed with how/where things could be hung.
The larger part on the street-side is a lovely, light cashmere garment shop.

Mom always described "the gallery" as a tiny, tiny space, and then rang just before I left to say, upon another visit, it was bigger than she thought. After a recon, we needed more pieces to show; we asked everybody to bring anything they made that they could get their hands on.

I threw out my notes on my last day in Japan, but from memory the space was about less than three meters wide by a little over four long.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mom's Exhibition: Preparing on Paper

I went home last month to help Mom hold her first weaving exhibition, showing selected pieces from her 25 years as a weaver, along with those by her two current students of six years, and one past student, and her first, me.

Much of my first three weeks there were spent photographing works, (the changeable weather and white walls of her apartment made that challenging;) putting together an invitation in the form of postcards for Mom and JPG for the two students, and poster which is an enlarged version; refining artists' statements and Mom's chronology; and making up tiny A6-size takeaway catalogue.

In her high-rise WiFi didn't well, so I could use the Internet only on a tiny desk behind the television where I could hook up physically, but the bigger problem was Ben suggesting I don't install a Japanese printer driver on my laptop, but move the data on a stick and print through Dad's laptop. Dad's Word, (possibly not a standard Microsoft Word, and a vintage 2010-ish version at that,) reformatted all my files so I had to make two versions of everything, and somewhere between my-laptop/Dad's/a-fairly-OK-HP-printer/cheap-recycled-ink distorted the color-editing so much a lot of time was spent on trying to remedy that in vein.

Artist's Statement is not a common practice in Japan, except in art school and possibly in still-alive foreign artists exhibitions, and the three housewives/mothers/grandmothers had some writing about themselves and their weaving, but when I arrived, the students' statements were in near-perfect form, (I thought they needed no editing, but they both added a few sentiments,) but Mom was still working on hers. And I had to whip up mine.
Every version went up on the wall visible to her as she sat at the dining table, so Mom and I were more tempted to tamper. One day we visited the gallery and I took a lot of recon pics so they went up as well as I started thinking about how/where/which piece to show.
You saw the invite to "Three (Plus Two) Handweavers' Exhibition"; this enlarged to A4 was the poster. Artists statements and Mom's chronology were printed on white paper slightly smaller than A4 and glued to cardboard. Then came the takeaway catalogue, a cute A6, which contained all the blurbs on the wall and some photos of woven pieces; they were printed on the best copy paper in the neighborhood store, cut by hand, and bound with linen threads. The hardest part was to punch holes on the folds; this didn't always happen, the one I brought home was the worst with none of the three holes sitting on the hole. LOL.
Initially Mom said we'd need 30 at most, so I made 50 just to be on the safe side; good thing, as we distributed 34 on Day 1. That evening I made 40 more, figuring the most we'd need would be fewer than 34*3; after Day 2 we had fewer than 30 left so I made a further 18. Don't ask me why that number, but we had around 15 left after Day 3 and all participants and a few visitors were able to take extras home. Same with the invites: at first Mom was thinking of sending out around 35, but she ended up sending over 60, which produced wonderful results.

It was a heck of a lot of work, but Mom wanted something folks could take away, and I think it was a cute and meaningful gift from her to all visitors.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Back in the Saddle

I got home on Friday, but slept through most of that day. Then worked through a few loads of laundry, hand-washed a bunch of wool garments, put things away, fringed and wet-finished a piece I wove on Mom's loom, wound a warp on the four-shaft, and even managed a tiny bit of house cleaning, with amazing and totally uncharacteristic gusto.

I wonder if it had to do with Mom's new hay fever medication; it was so strong we think it stayed in her system for a couple of days; she took it once and put it away. I took one in the hopes of being able to get some sleep on the plane and got an amazing three-or-so hours' sleep, while one sleeping pill usually lets me sleep for a maximum of an hour. The medication was similar to what I was prescribed in the mid-90's, the kind that if I'm hit by a truck, I wouldn't notice for a couple of days. Anyway, by Saturday 10AM, 36 hours after I took the pill, I felt completely rested and ready for work. Had I known how this would work, I would have taken a couple more for similarly somewhat-dire situations! I hear it's going to be a bad, bad hay fever season over there, and we have plenty of sufferers in the family, so I'm sure the remaining pills will be put to well-considered use. LOL.

Though I didn't take many pictures during my month in Japan, I have a few good stories to share, so I'll work on them in the next few days.
On one of the first days, I transferred a warp she put on a narrow loom to a wider one as the warp was wider than the first loom allowed. I was doing the best I could in a small space and Mom couldn't stop laughing because I looked like a trapped wild animal. I couldn't easily come out for a laughing break so I kept working, though I had to stop and laugh several ties. I hope I threaded it correctly; we couldn't find the draft afterwards!
This is the piece I finished weaving about four hours before I left Mom's house.
Don't ask me numbers because I can't remember, but this warp is long enough for two pieces, and though I have the lifting going in one direction only on the printed draft, I wove top-down and bottom-up so Mom could see she has options.
I made another warp, for one piece, in blue-green-yellow-green-blue-green-yellow in some kind of Fibonacci sequence. This is for one piece, and I suggested a very simple lifting. This she'll have to put on the loom herself.

Two table looms warped and threaded with multi-color cashmere for Mom to weave on right away; another waiting; I also learned how to warp frame looms with linen, so I dressed four; I'm pleased.

We cleaned her stash/loom rooms as completely as we could while some overflowed into the living room. Her stash room, the size of a small bedroom, acted as my bedroom during my stay, because her true spare bedroom is her loom room; we got our priorities right, Mom and I.
Halfway through Day 1, I realized we didn't get a 'before' shot.
At the height of Day 2. In the end I left only three of those pink and blue containers in the living room. My sister is at Mom's today bringing out the sofa bed into the living room and putting whatever else Mom wants back in the stash room in... the stash room. And reorganizing her kitchen, but that's another story.
We could 't believe we did this in two days, and not whole two days but more like a day and a little bit. Now everything is where it should be, yarns in their properly-labeled homes, equipment easy to find. The four-shaft counter-balance is taking a break; it has problems with screws being loose and the loom wobbly all around; unfortunately I didn't have time to have a serious look into it. The wider and narrower eight-shafts are "staggered" (?) so two can weave at once; one sitting with her back to us, the other in front of the shelves. A four-shaft table loom, a Japanese plain weave loom called a Flamingo, and two rigid heddles go into the stash room until called for duty, which will make the loom room roomier and better-functioning.
Back in Nelson, I put Doni's cashmere-mix in orange and peach, (a reddish beige) on the four-shaft. I'd love to weave more complicated patterns on the 16, but I know that'll be brutal for the warp, and I'll be mending broken warps more than I'll be weaving, so four shaft it is. I've been buoyed by the experiment I did with one of Davison's drafts, so I'll continue looking into making four-shafts look interesting.
But I'm even more interested in putting together really interesting color combinations, so some warp candidates have been lined up. Lavender would have been my first choice to go with the orange, but alas I haven't got much at all, so it's not among the candidates.