Sunday, August 25, 2019

And Then There was This

So we've come to the end of Mom's second and last weaving space, and I was all ready to lament the end of her weaving life in a most sentimental way. Except I can't.

Mom rang Thursday, during the top of Seventh inning of the Summer National High School Baseball Tournament Final, (a family's obsession since before me,) to which I'd been listening on the internet because she took the TV, asking me yet again to add-this-check-that in move box. Gradually I broached the subject of staying creative and forward-looking in what I see as marginally-better-than-a-long-hospital-stay life. Yeah, nah, her condition is so that she's not in a idyllic, gated (?) mini garden of Eden retirement village, but a 24/7 care unit/room where she's discouraged from having even an electric kettle for danger of burning herself. (I don't know if it's my sister or the facility that said this.) Still, Yoko found a place near her place, (10 min drive, plus looking for parking, not far from brother, either,) famous for daily recreational activity, an annual exhibition of art/craft made by residents in a public venue, private concerts in a municipal hall, outings, etc. My sister has a few miracles under her belt, (she's the only Mitsuhashi whose deeds far outperform her words,) but this is big, without discounting her tireless, under-the-radar work, which she never mentions. (Yeah, I know my sentences are turning into runny gibberish, but I feel that way today.)  

Eighth inning, didn't even know which school was pitching, the metal bat hit the ball, the stadium erupted, and Mom contemplated, "Frame-weaving is the only thing left for me..." Say what? You never mentioned anything about saving weaving anything for you?

"Of course I asked you yesterday!" No, you only mentioned a bag of embroidery floss for Ms Y? See my notes here of our every conversation?

"Yes, I did... but it's OK, if you weren't listening to me, I'll just live out my days without means of expression. I don't want to get into I-said-you-heard... Besides..." No, she really said that.

Pandemonium in Kohshien Stadium; "Stop, mother! Just tell me what you need to frame-weave? Right... Right... Right... and how about the fish net needles? No, you sure? OK. I'm going to hang up and look for these. Sit Tight."

Game over, not sure which team won, but I got most of the stuff she mentioned, selected yarns based on colors, made note of what Mrs S has already taken, rang her to ask them back, (in a way, you do get used to these occasions,) report back.

"For heaven's sake, of course I need the fish net needles. And combs. But if you've given them away, I can't weave, or you'll have to buy them for me. And the yarns you choose will determine how good my work is going to be." Revise yarn selection; she said she didn't want rug wool, but I put in a few to balance values.

Saturday night I ring her to report Mr and Mrs S removing everything else; Mrs S will use some, she'll contact weavers to give others away. "But how can I weave without books?" HAVE YOU MET EVEN MET ME? Of course I threw in a couple of books!

Yoko texts me: "Don't work so hard."

The whine is new, but the intention old. We siblings laugh it off now. I'm just glad, as was Mrs S when she handed back to me the fish net needles, combs/beaters, and a couple of other things, Mom's thinking of weaving again.

"Why did you save so much yarn? What, you want me to weave to death?" I kid you not.
This was about half to a third of Mrs S's haul. See the upright part of the loom bench? Try as we may, we couldn't dismantle the bench because the vertical pieces were firmly lodged into their holes; Mom brought it in tact from the old house because Yoko had not marked the parts as she did meticulously the looms. Mr S loaded everything in their tiny hatchback, but could not find a way to fit the bench, so he smiled at his wife, a woman a little taller than me but about 35-40kg, (trust me, they are not rare in Japan;) "You're going to have to carry this home." Mrs S laughed, "It's not that heavy. See you at home." Mr S drove off with an empty passenger seat; Mrs S trotted off to her house ten minutes uphill.

Gotta love a new weaver friend with a solid marriage, yeah?

For the first two and a half weeks, I tried to stay on NZ time and start working somewhere between 4.30 and 6am and hit the sack early-ish. I must have been exhausted because I just couldn't find my gumption this morning and I've paced from room to room, (having gotten rid of much, I can now do this,) and thought about what I want to weave in the near future, and now it's almost 2PM. Ironic because today has been the least humid and most pleasant since I've returned. What remains are many, many trips to the building's trash area; the separation of items is minute and somewhat mysterious, but oh-so-much easier than living in an independent house.

And culling stuff I want to "inherit" and packing/sending them off, in a way, the toughest job. 

Still not sure which school won, but either way, if memory serves, it was the school's first time winning nationals. Well done, everybody. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

So Here We Are

I'm in very hot and humid Yokohama, though not as bad as in 2013 nor Australia most summers, but summer in Japan, avoid if humanly possible. Some places are getting torrential rain and flooding; we get only sun or lid-like cloud, visible/tangible humidity, and tentatively dry laundry. But then other places have gotten 40C, so I shouldn't complain.

Mom fell once too often and went into care at the start of the month. I waited a week until the dust settled and came here to help clean out the apartment, especially the weaving stuff, of which she still has oh, so, much. But both her students took one loom each with a few equipment and yarns, (an RH and an 8-shaft, so between then they can cover all techniques they learned,) and one weaver/travel friend, who happens to live down the road, has offered to take everything left over so she can keep some and give away the rest. Bless her. She's a year younger than me, and we had a rip-roaring talk about turning 60 and the "sudden" physical restrictions re. weaving; we had both thought we were the only ones!

So here are some pics of my mom's current weaving "shop".
My mother had a habit of breaking up sets and groups so it took me three days to gather together same/like stuff, including balls from one set of yarns in something like four places. 
It's a wonder how Japanese manage to fit stuff in such small places AND work in it. My body was not built of this!
When Mom moved from the house to this apartment five and a half years ago, Mom started dismantling the floor room rapidly; my sister, not a weaver, took countless photos and meticulously marked the pieces, so I don't have to worry about that.
I'm looking in from the veranda; it is the size of a tiny single bedroom.

Not sure if I'll have time for another post while in Japan, but I hope you're having a survivable season, wherever you are. (I was making steady progress in the garden in Nelson, and am now missing my favorite kind of a long, cold spell!)

Weave well.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Needlepoint II

March 4. Although I plan to proceed as randomly as last year, I have a couple of guidelines which I can't articulate until I work a little more.
March 5. Basic units this time are larger than in last year's sample. Not sure if I like it, or if this will continue. The top middle pale square isn't showing up. :-D
March 6. Now there are two pale squares you can't see until I work around them. I'm wondering if I will like this project with far more yellows, compared to the first project in which I used more ivories, taupes, and such.
March 7. Now you can see some of the pale bits.
March 8 & 10.
March 11. I don't turn this to look from all directions as much as I did last year's, which creates a top vs bottom kind of thinking in my head. Lots of fine bits at the top, less fine, "color plane" bits towards the bottom. Not good, but can remedy at this point. I reference the first project a lot and love the limp old-fabric feel of it. And now I've got all ten yellows in.
March 12 & 13. I noticed lately I am putting together yarns close in value, which doesn't bring out the best of the interesting shapes I've managed. Wondering whether to continue this, change direction, or not worry and play it by ear.
March 14 & 15 & 18. Earlier on, I took the first project to bed to look for areas of interest; they were mostly shapes or color combos. These days I take this to bed and it's the last thing I see before I fall asleep. It's lovely to observe how ideas pop up at the last thing at night or first thing in the morning, and how I manage to remember them. (Or, I can't remember what I forgot? More often I remember I had a good idea but can't remember what it was.) It helps also that I twist and turn this in all directions in bed and look at the details while I put this on the floor and look at the big picture during the day. One idea is a paint-splatter pattern; I had thought to experiment with paint first to get more accurate shapes, but I was too lazy. I might change my mind and undo these, but for now they stay.  And then Christchurch happened.
March 27.
April 9. I've been immersed in pension paperwork and haven't paid much attention to pretty much anything.
April 10. It takes a while to relearn the characteristics of each color after not working on this for a while.
April 16. Notre Dame burned.
April 17. Already feeling irrepressibly hopeful about Notre Dame, but not about a whole lot else.
April 26. I've been including more of the beige/taupes because the top left corner looks too yellow. But the piece looks so different under natural vs artificial lights. For now I'm calling this "slowly but fun-ly".
April 30. My life this year has been far more sucky than nice/hopeful/uplifting. Am I 1/3 done? It's a slow process but feels slightly quicker than last year.
May 8. I'm still undecided about the ivory splatter pattern, which causes me to not rotate the piece as much as I did last year's, which makes the overall look have more definite orientation. How do I remedy this? Add more splatter to make it go more or less all the way diagonally. Still unsure, intend to add a few more. Then while taking this pic, I see a nasty, smirking cat, and then to realize it's been lurking for a month now. If only you know how much I like cats. (I don't. It's hereditary.)
May 9. Though I like the patchwork-like square and rectangular shapes, I'd like a little more pointy volcanoes for better balance.
May 19. I like the curvy shapes popping up. Last year's project was to mimic collage, so I allowed a lot of straight lines and right angles; this year I've aimed to mix some freehand drawing/painting elements and it appears they are finally emerging.
May 21.The details and sections lose significance when the whole is finished; elements melt into the whole, but also stand out differently from when I'm making them. Because I've managed to work all stitches in the same direction so far, the canvas is hopelessly warped, which makes me think about stitching really big ones.
May 22. Needlepoint and knitting prove I, too, can do "incremental"; I do so enjoy these winter evenings. I wished I could draw this way, but there is still the big mental block, the effort required. I always thought of needlepoint as shapes but last night I started contemplating lines. I have not turned this one around enough as I worked and sometimes the views from the sides surprise/puzzle me.
June 28. I hadn't worked on this for a while, but spent the day yesterday getting back to it. Balancing the different shapes has become the main focus. I will be running out of a few colors soon.
July 1. Balancing/distribution of shapes is now top priority.
July 7. I'm starting to get a little bored and possibly disengaged.
July 10. It pays to stick with it; last couple of nights, nice curves/shapes appeared almost automatically. Phew.
July 11. I am at that stage where I can't wait to finish this, at the same time feeling a smidgen sad about finishing. I also see where this project failed in comparison to last year's, mostly due to my not looking at this from all different angles from the start/constantly.
July 16. I'm now holding my breath, trying hard to finish this, then the pension application, (the last of the backup document arrived today), and hoping and praying I can retread the cotton warp without too much delay and keep weeding; I want to get back to my relative-normal.
July 18. As I wrote yesterday, I've a few things I need to be working on urgently, plus a couple of "always" items, and some knitting I've been dying to start, (and hope to finish?) during this chilly period, but life has been temporarily suspended for this. I have overdone the new-to-me fan shape, but that's what happens when I make things up as I go; the lesson here is, mixing varied shapes/styles require vigilant planning in the distribution/placement department. This actually looks better upside-down; I'll show you when it's finished. I apparently had a bad day mid-July; I've had to take out three shapes I stitched that one night.
July 20. Finished; this is after hot-cold-hot-cold-hot weaver wash, and repeated steam press. This is the orientation I've been showing you all along. This year I cut off as much of the tape as I could to avoid glue spreading, which left me with really a small margin.
This is the orientation I like. Because I turned the piece around and looked at it from all direction, I didn't have a favorite in last year's piece. If I am to make a piece with a specific purpose, however, I don't know which is the better way to work.

Thoughts: 
1) Stitching in uniform direction warps the piece; I may build in changes in direction in the next experiment just for fun.
2) Last year I wanted to emulate collage shapes; this year I wanted to add some drawing/painting effects and I've managed a wider variety of shapes and effect, and I like the pale splatter, although I was completely unsure of it earlier. I had imagined shapes different from its surrounds would stand out, but it appears curves and fluid shapes stand out more than angular/regular shapes? This is worth exploring further.
3) The more variety in shapes/styles, the more distribution/placement planning is needed, whether it is to create harmony, or to contrast interesting/busy bits vs. boring/simpler bits.
4) Last year I had six yellows/oranges, (five in practice; the sixth was disruptive,) and six beige/browns; this year I had ten yellows/oranges and four three beige/browns, plus a place for last year's disruptive member, and proportionately far more skeins of the yellows. This year's is intensely yellow as a result, last year's washed out in comparison, but this year's was harder to work as I had to constantly compare the colors and a few day's rest required relearning some fine differences all over.
 
5) I kept referring to last year's sample for various reasons, among them to see if I stitched vertically vs horizontally the difference will wash out in the finishing. I had concluded it had, so in the last week I mixed directions to edit shapes, (i.e. in same colors,) or to create more interesting shapes. At least after one wash, the different appearances did not disappear, so I have unattractive bumps where I edited shapes. As regards the bumps in areas with trickier shapes, though, I find them attractive. Now the question is whether to stick to uniform directions to make each color area smooth, or use basketweave stick, which incidentally makes the reverse side layered/complicated/messy?/interesting.
6) I used dish detergent to wash this year's, while last year I had to wash four times including the third in white spirits to remove the tape glue which had spread all over the piece. Surprisingly I may have washed out more colors this year. Most obvious was with this taupy gray; the left is form last year, the right from this year; the original skein had a slightly yellower/browner appearance much like the left. I was taught this particular dish detergent was the standard for Kiwis washing unwashed/homespun yarns, so I wanted to give it a go, thinking more about the texture of wool rather than dyes. It's harsh on dyes. Because of the repeated washing, last year's piece has a better drape and behaves like a thick wool fabric which I love; this year's still maintains canvas stiffness. 

7) The last empty canvas I have is roughly this year's and last year's put together. I could of course cut it to make two more of these sizes. A big piece to hang inside the front door in the winter will be at least six times the size of these sample. 
8) Last year's piece took less than three months; this year 4.5, including some long breaks. While I enjoyed this year's experiment just as much, this time was easier in that I could put myself in autodrive once I sat down and picked up the canvas, and the mindless/meditative aspect of making things up as I go was beneficial but also natural.
9) While I have no plans to use this sample, either, I am considering giving this another wash and/or more vinegar baths. I'm trying not to think of next year's plan, but I have a few yellow skeins left. 

Good times.

Friday, July 19, 2019

/Insert Title/

I finished the needlepoint piece yesterday. I can't take pics today because it's been raining cats, dogs and monkeys. Suffice it to say, it's rough compared to last year's, disappointing, but more adventurous, which we're supposed to be with these experimentation, n'est-ce pas?
Also, Ben's beanie is finally under way. Last night I had five false starts; I hope this is about the right circumference. I could learn how to do this correctly from the start, but heck, if many false starts work... :-D (It's a nice saturated blue-green; a tad greener than the sweater.)    

Last year I played around with weaving Syrie for RAW, but of course I was nowhere near even starting it. When I didn't hear about this exhibition April/May this year, (the show was in June last year,) I was disappointed, wondering if it was unsuccessful, but it's on a little later, and in a better time of the year for art shows.

On re/reading the specs: "RAW aims to showcase works:
  • created by people who have no formal or traditional art training
  • that express individuality and inventiveness
  • that are ‘RAW’ – uncooked by cultural and artistic influences"
First point, check; second point, check. But the third; I happen to think one lives in a "culture" regardless of the environment, even if one grows up in a vacuum; that to me, whether the person knows it or not, is a culture of sort? Then there's my case: Japan, convent school, family configuration, Minnesota, New Zealand, everything I've ever read/researched/seen/touched, what else? I realize I'm supposed to pick influence I like and discard others, except they are not separate components, just, oh, colors that make up the picture that is me, and it's hard to separate/purge/keep some... I have no idea what I'm going to do, but I'd love to take part. I regret I didn't go see the show last year, but I decided to think that is a good thing; I'll be unencumbered by influences. This is due early September.

I'm also taking part in a semi-secret project for a local art charity; suffice it to say I have to put it on a 12"x12" canvas. I've pulled out my six framed Go Figure pieces; I enjoyed making them, I still like them, and maybe an idea or three will emerge from gazing at them. This is due in, oh gee, 2.5 weeks.

I rethreaded some more of the cotton warp on Wednesday, about 2/17 of the width; I've done 8/17 in all. I can't wait to weave the hellebore pieces, and the rethreading itself is not bad but the sitting on the tiny, folding "fishing" chair is hard on the old bod. Maybe I can get another 2/17 done today.

I also want to zoom right ahead and move onto the commission blanket before it gets warmer/hot; an added incentive is a new commission, a toddler blanket, which can be worked on the same warp. The warp colors have been decided in my head, but the threading needs to be versatile, one for an elegant couch blanket for a grownup and another drag blanket for a baby, gender not yet known, whose parents are from an exotic land. I ordered six colors for the latter weft, so the commission money is already spent, but this is going to be a new experience for me. More later when I start working on them.   

I weeded about one-third of my hellebore patch recently, and they are coming into bloom already, but we've had a lot of rain and some wind due to rapid temp changes, things haven't worked out well, until yesterday afternoon when it was perfectly chilly, cloudy, still, just the way I like. But I was determined to finish the needlepoint, so that's what I did. Ah, nothing like being sensible.

Speaking of rain, remember the unknown person who emailed me for coffee? Well, I couldn't meet her on the first appointed time because I got overheated in a meeting that Wednesday, and I was half an hour late in letting her know I wasn't coming. My bad. We had a second date last Friday, and I decided to take a different bus line, so I looked for the but stop, which took me nearly 45 minutes to get to, (I knew this and was prepared,) arrived 15 minutes early. The bus came a couple of minutes late, and drove right passed me in bucketing rain! I rang the bus company, rather desperate, the rain was coming down even harder, and there is little recourse in Nelson in these situations, so they sent a young ops manager to drive me to the cafe. Which was nice; I planned to ring a cab and take the receipt to the bus office to demand a refund.

I arrived at the cafe between 10-15 minutes late, drenched, a black Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in my sister's soccer Mom puffy coat. I should have asked the two ladies already seated if either was she, but I didn't because I was a wet and embarrassed, figuring if she must have some idea what I look like. Neither approached me, I texted her twice, and waited for 45 minutes, all to no avail, and haven't heard since. It was a little disappointing because it's always exciting to meet another maker, massage each other's right hemisphere and talk making, but I tried the best I could. So it was nice to get the comission two days later. The weaving goddess taketh; the weaving goddess giveth.

I'll post process pics of the needlepoint as soon as I get descent pics, (not to mention, I know, '18 Japan pics...)

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Gumption, Old Age, Parental Influence, or a Long Blather

When the tutor asked before the class started why we wanted to write memoirs/what we wanted to get out of the class, my answer, as you might have guessed, was "therapy". And I was going to write a post about this public/private-self thing I started to explore but can't remember now because it I didn't write it down right away, and if I forgot where I was going, it must not have been that important even to me. But this post is not entirely unrelated, to the therapy part. And though I haven't typed up the last three old stories I intend to keep, I'm not worried. My priorities are elsewhere. And I'm doing the right thing here.

I've been looking for a mid-to-long-term project with paper/canvas and paint, and though I gaze at Pinterest with that in mind, I'm still not sure what to make. I play around with paint, collage, and paper often enough, hoping that'll help me see, or even become parts I can use later, but so far, nothing. And I still can't stop thinking about "a project". I've lived with this for so long I'm almost comforted by not knowing, but it may come, suddenly or organically, or I may have to delve deeper in experimentation, or abandon it altogether, but I'm not fussed. I know this is the right approach for now.

You know I used to envy those who traveled, but the last few years it's been people with resolve/gumption/stamina to complete what they set out to do, specifically folks who finish (art) projects/series, submit to exhibitions, apply for/win/complete internships, or maintain a healthy stock of woven pieces to sell. I have the desire, (though if I'm not careful even that's been fading,) sometimes enough to look up details, and start thinking about tasks, schedule, cost, but "reasons I can't" take over before I know it. Not fear, but a grayer can't-be-bothered-ness, a mental/emotional lethargy. That is, if I don't forget whatever it was I was looking into just minutes ago. 

I try to stay engaged with making-related skills important to me. In the first instance it is to keep the inertia going so I need less energy to restart. I try to survey where I am, where and when I want to go, what to do when to get to there, and prioritize. I try to practice different skills, although inevitably I do more of what I like or feel good about and not the difficult ones. I'm lucky I don't mind practicing; I hated it as a kid and only ever wanted to play in recitals or big games without the daily grunt, but no longer. Goodness, I often enjoy sampling more than the real deal, and it doesn't matter if what I'm making now doesn't become something. I feel the "living in the moment" thing vividly yet unconsciously when I'm engaged in making/practicing. This is opposite to my previous, default, goal-oriented mindset, but I feel less grandiose and more honest. At the right time, Big Projects are thrilling and exciting, and there's nothing wrong with them, of course, but I feel rather... grown up about not everything I do having to be a Big Project.      

* * * * *

I wrote before that for decades Mom said she wanted to learn more about colors; how maybe a year it dawned on me this was only one item on her un/sub-conscious to-talk-about-with-Meg list, and at least in the last decade she had no intention for action and how I finally told her I was tired of talking unless we/she were going to do something. It may sound mean, but this kind of repetition is soul-destroying for solution-oriented listeners like me.

Of late her talking point is a variation of, "Where do you get your motivation?", "How do you come up with it?", "Where did you learn to think like that?", etc, regarding design. These may sound interesting and worthy of discussion, and I gladly engage every week, but again, she's not serious about leaning/studying. I don't mind Mom forgetting two if I tell her three ways; I don't mind Mom dissing me when an experiment didn't work as long as she tries. But in her hands, or mouth rather, these important-to-me topics are reduced to small talk, for which I never had the patience. She in fact told me when I was 13 to politely walk away from small talks because I became visibly irritated; she didn't know how to teach me that.    

In her weaving, Mom relied on other people; she had/has multiple teachers, and often wove to recipes. She seldom/never sampled, and everything she made turned into something, except when instructed to sample new structures. Lately, I make up drafts and put on warps when I'm home so she can select wefts and weave. She doesn't see the point non-project activities.

Mom forever criticized Dad, to us, for being a talker, by which she meant he was all ideas and no action. And I was/am like him, so I took it as a criticism of me. Dad was a Chemistry prof, so he did a lot of thinking, although in the labs he did a lot of doing/instructing, and I was lucky to witness it more than any other in the family. He also read more than Mom, was innately opinionated, so he opined, although in fairness, he was never as sedate as Mom made him out to be. Mom pushed us to action; Dad instructed us with logic.

One of the funniest times was a few years before I got married. Dad took the family ice-skating to a resort near Mt Fuji. Except for Mom, we're no skaters, but it'd been a while since the family went anywhere together, so at first we indulged him but soon started to have real fun. After a while Dad, not a good skater, got tired so he returned his skates, borrowed a pair of oversized rubber boots, took up prime position at the side of the rink, and began shouting instructions/theory at us. Oh, he knew the theory alright, and he could see how the angle of our blades needed correction and couldn't understand why we simply didn't do as he said.

You'd think we'd be embarrassed, but instead the rest of us burst out laughing because this was the perfect snapshot of our family. Dad instructing us from the sideline in borrowed boots, full of book knowledge; us trying hard to "dance to his beat". The memory is all the more precious because we all had different interpretations on Dad's personality, but this was one of the few instances when we agreed spontaneously, and in a good way.

As I grew older, I increasingly admired Mom's doer quality, of taking up new challenges whatever, whenever, always looking forward. When she was in her 70's, I sincerely hoped to inherit this attitude and Ben and I still remember that conversation.

As I write, I see the reason why I can't quit weaving, or being a weaver, (besides the stash) is because this is the one instance of the conflicting Momness and Dadness in me working in harmony: I like a fresh challenge, the newness of projects, the looking forward to future pieces, but I'm also like to study, prepare, experiment and practice to make something better than the last one, or do it better than the last time. Which is probably why I enjoy every process of weaving most days. (Now if I had Dad's physical dexterity, I could have been a mind-blowingly awesome weaver, but I'm still waiting on that.) For someone whose syllabus never mentioned "feeling comfortable in one's own skin," I say, this is huge.  

What I'm trying to say is, my irritation with Mom these days is multiplied by the fact she was the one who admonished us for talking but not doing. I feel obliged to listen like a good daughter when I know we're going nowhere; I'm supposed to "kikinagasu", (listen and let it flow downstream,) but I missed the lesson on that.

I too am old now, struggling to keep the pace I used to just a few years ago. I'm oh-so-aware of how much she influenced my views, how she hoped I'd be more like her, (to the detriment, I now see, to my relationship with Dad in some ways.) I know the weird shadows her words/problems cast on me without my noticing the last few years; that symbiosis. It's all the more alarming because I never had the kind of parent/child relationship you see in novels and films with either parent, but at least I understood Dad.

Now I'm so aware I'm running out of time to fix whatever.

* * * * *

"Saki-ori" (tear-weaving) is rag weaving in Japanese. Dad used to call Mom an expert "Kuchi-saki-ori" weaver; "kuchi-saki" means "front of your mouth" or words not accompanied by emotions or action. I now see how painful it must have been for Dad, when they were alone in the big house, for Mom to go on about her weaving plans about which Dad may have had only vague ideas and perhaps no interest. He, too, was a solution-oriented listener, and though always ready to help if asked, the endless talk must have been tiresome.

But then he yelled at politicians on the telly until he turned red, so maybe they were a good match after all. 

And I can write these things because Mom doesn't read my blog.

* * * * *

You know we live in a cold house; I told you we've had a cold spell. I went into town on Wednesday for a lunchtime writer's meeting, which itself was nice, meeting new people, etc, except by then I had decided to shelve all writing so I was a real imposter. Anyway he two hours I had to kill before the meeting, I spent in Ben's work library, and the meeting itself was in a lovely pub. I don't know if they were heated excessively or to "normal" indoor temps, but I became light-headed and felt sick, I had to spend the rest of the day in bed. So, although I am feeling the cold a little more than I used to, and I blame old age, I still don't like hot, either.

61 is such a fussy age.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

That's Three!!!

Nearly two months since the last post? I had thought it's been half as long. I've been un/productive, un/motivated, and un/inspired, so, start with a list? 

1) I withdrew everything from The Suter and Broomfileds in mid/late April. The pieces had been out and about long enough I was too embarrassed to go to either place. I had panned to put them online but haven't gotten around to taking new pics. Descriptions can stay the same, or not, but that niggly thing called pricing gets in the way. Vinegar bath, pressing, new tags and making calico bags, on the other hand, were lovely, finished within a week of the pieces coming home.

2) I have not rethreaded the cotton warp nor woven, primarily due to that 2006 fall "injuries" coming back big time; a few places on both legs have throbbed and kept me awake off and on since fall; it got so bad I went to see Doc Karl, who after a long consultation prescribed me a vid exercise. I fell, hurt myself, my muscles have been compensating in unnatural ways ever since, (which is what I told four health professionals in '14/'15 when it first came back,) so we'll see how it goes. I may have overdone this the first week, and/or it's this rather longish cold spell in Nelson, I've not been cured miraculously. I've been holding my breath for when I can sit down once again on the tiny folding "fishing" chair thing between the shafts and the back beam to rethread the cotton warp and weave the hellebore draft.

Having said that, the cold weather is great. I've had far fewer days, (well, almost none,) where I've felt completely blah, and I haven't needed a nap in a month and a half, so albeit it partially/temporarily broken, the old bod keeps going. 
3) Looking for some weaving mojo, I made a peach/pink warp. Fine but worsted wool, not merino; I have loads of this yarn in about five colors because these were the skinniest wool I could find around here in the '90s. Nice, grown-up colors, but not soft texture. The plan is to combine with very fine merino possibly for fabrics to sew.

4) Not being able to sell is always a downer, as well as not having the kind of maker/gallery relationship I had with Jay Farnsworth at the old Red or Andrea Chandler at the Suter. I have to grow up and stand on my own, which I seem to have done better before I became so matey with the galleries. "I'm too old for this," doesn't cut it.

I remind myself the alternative is an office job, but I've been too old to hire for the last 15-20 years, so there's that. I also reprimand myself for taking Ben's income for granted and spending way beyond my means, but even that is falling on my own deaf ears. I have to tighten my bootstraps and change my big girl pants to a fresher, starched, just-pressed pair. And stop buying books.

5) I signed up for and went to a four-week memoir-writing course, and went to the first three sessions. I briefly enjoyed writing again, and the prospect of reconnecting with my writing friends. (I thought the last time I went to Joan's writing retreat was in 2009 but it could have been, shivers, 2008!) And as much as I like reading memoirs, knowing my life hasn't been as interesting or eventful as I'd like to read about bothered me because weekly we were asked why we want to write a memoir and what we hoped to achieve though our "books". The question remained, am I content to retell mundane stuff in a funny way, and the answer was/is yes, and I couldn't think of clever answers so I kept repeating myself every week. 

Then there is the reason I was willing to give up writing in preference to weaving all those years ago: the prospect of never ending (for me) editing, where all my stories inevitably whittle down to a couple of sentences after taking out all the "unnecessary" bits, with nothing to show for a whole week's work. In contrast, you know, if I make a warp I have a warp whether I like it or not, and I can put it on the loom. If I have a warp on the loom, I can thread/sley, whether that is a good project or not, and, gee, when a warp is threaded and ready to go, the very least I could do is sample to my heart's content. Or revise plan. There is not this natural progression in writing that propels me to the next stage. I find that... dispiriting.

So, nah, didn't happen this time. But it was nice to read Joan's "So You Want to Write" and "Writing your Family History", and going through all the bits and pieces I wrote over the 24 years I've known her, throwing out about half, (yes, ceremoniously burning in the wood burner,) and typing in the other half onto this computer. That's something.

6) In the approximately six weeks I concentrated on writing, I kept fantasizing working with paper and paper projects; prints, doodling, Letter Journals, etc. I've joined a couple of swaps, resumed drawing faces, and spent endless hours gazing at Pinterest.
Meanwhile I noticed a complete change in my approach, to writing and with paper projects. As a kid, I used to be better at big pictures and the grand plan, but couldn't produce the details/parts. So for e.g. in writing a memoir, I might have a structure of a book in mind, with approximate number of chapters, their order, importance/length/balance by subject/period, what to say in the preface, the cover, etc. Nowadays I want to write the wee stories, let them pile up, and if a structure emerges organically, great, if not, keep writing. Same with the thing I do with paper that is not writing; doodle, paint, print, cut, fold, paste, whatever; make the parts and build something, a book, a collection, a bigger piece, or just keep making the parts. And I am more concerned with method/technique/material and worth/interest of the individual parts than the cohesion of the whole.  

The incremental (?) processes of weaving could have something to do with this change in focus/preference, but you know, I don't feel compelled to find out; I enjoy the making.
6) Needlepoint project came back into focus after I crossed the halfway point of my pension-related work and the abrupt end to the writing course. I am keen to finish it ASAP because I want to work on at least two knitting projects before the end of the winter. I've also gone outside to weed a bit; all this week I've wanted to go outside but it has been a particularly cold and therefore wet, (a couple of winters ago I fell twice in two days, the second day I fell on our concrete steps on the side of our house and hit my head against the metal railing,) so I worked on finish up projects inside. I've also been reading more printed books.

7) Oh, the three in today's title. One fellow student in the writing class approached me to say she had one from my India series, the predominantly green one at the bottom. She knew the story, about Dad passing; living with Mom for four months, weaving, reminiscing and fighting in the sweltering heat;  making the warp with Mom's cashmere while listening to her stories of her travels to India and looking/handling at all the textiles she brought back. And the knots, and how Santa Fe didn't want them but I sold all four in quick succession at the Suter. I told her how technically I should never have put cashmere though the ordeal, but it was adrenaline that pushed me to completion. Then Esther wrote to me out of the blue how she's been wearing hers all week. (Toldya, it's been cold for Nelson!)

This morning I woke up to an email that came via my website from someone whose name perhaps I should recognize, saying she has two of mine from the Suter and she'd like to buy me coffee! That's three in two-weeks-plus. So, enough feeling sorry for myself; it is time to get back on that loom bench. As soon as this old body agrees to cooperate again. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Perfection, LOL

Monday was the last day of the 10-day public holiday in Japan; there are many public holidays crammed in the short period between April 29 and May 5 every year, but with the abdication/crowning I hear the government recommended it be semi-mandatory this year.

I'm terribly annoyed seeing the pageantry in Western-style clothing. Even we Japanese don't get to see the traditional garb often; they are, or are similar to, the court fashion during the time of Tale of Gengi, and probably long before and after. Male hairs and their brides got married in them in the 1990's but who knows what will happen to succession, marriages, or what they'll wear in future.

* * * * *
We asked Richard to knit Ben a sweater, and it's come up a real winner. I'm supposed to wash/finish/size it, but a) I don't know how to do it properly and must consult Youtube, and b) Ben's been wearing it whenever he's home and not sleeping, so I'll leave it as is for a while. One of the things we wanted from the start was for Richard to pick the buttons, after seeing fo his knit cushion covers and his talent for picking out striking buttons.

Once again, we were bedazzled by his choice. These are locally handmade recycled teak, roughly 23mm in diameter and 6mm thick, and they stand out without fighting the rest of the sweater, let alone steal all the attention. As Rosie pointed out, "they makes the sweater a statement piece." (I think that's what she said; I heard "statement" and my imagination ran away.)

We knew If I chose, I would have gone for the least visible, thinnest, possibly smaller, and something in darker in value, so as to make the knit part stand out. Ben would have done better, but I might have talked him out of it, or we might have compromised with, say, something made of bones or horns, striking but ordinary. I know these choices emanate from one's taste/preference in the first instance, but there's more to achieving a nuanced/sophisticated look, not the simplistic harmony/disappearance I tend to go for. How do I develop this kind of eye?

* * * * *

Richard's partner is Rosie, the bookbinder, and I talk a lot about making, (although she has been far more prolific than I in recent years, in spite of her many commitments and a far bigger garden.) One of the things she brought up was the precise, (she used another word, four letters, starts with "a" and ends with 'l",) nature of her craft, desirability of perfection, and the attractiveness of imperfection. I was reminded of when I was younger and more ambitious, when I aimed to weave technically perfectly, and we laughed. Pleasingly, or perfectly, imperfect isn't easily achieved, we didn't think, so do how we investigate that? Then we laughed, again. And sighed.

* * * * *

I've been looking at collages online because I want to up my game. Early Surrealists did some nicely understated stuff, and there is always Nick Bantock for visual joyride. I've always imagined good drawing skills would help to make beautiful collages, but I'm not making efforts to improve my drawing, so I'm looking at composition, proportion and reduced color palette. The problem is, I'm too in awe of work I like to be able to study them, and too many different styles at that, among them many, many simpler, not-layered look. I can't decide if that's what I want.
 
Told'ya I'm not making an effort. These weree great fun, though; I'm making myself a tiny bunting of Bardies next.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

On Memoirs, Synchronicity Overload, Meaning of Labels, and Re-collecting

I wrote this Wednesday morning, so the radio thing happened on Tuesday. I sat on it because I felt there was too much depression talk when I wasn't depressed, and glad I did. That's almost all out.

* * * * *

I check who is interviewed on Fresh Air every morning and yesterday it was another memoir writer. Too much synchronicity get cloying, and I had never heard of David or Erin Carr, but it appeared promising so I listened to Erin first, then David's 2008 interview about his memoir, (and lo, there is the Minneapolis connection,) and another 2011 David interview. That's a bit of synchronicity overload, but it was a good intermission between Ali Smith Rounds 1 and 2.

Erin Carr mentioned a family expression that went something like, "Addiction explains everything but solves nothing," which resonated with my view of depression. There's a fine line between using an ailment as an excuse, (what I call "/insert-ailment/ defining a person",) and explaining/examining it. I don't mind labeling myself as a sometimes-depressed person, because it has/does open up opportunity for discourse, and because it's like eyeglasses with which I have to keep checking myself from time to time, but it doesn't exonerate me from trying the best.

David Carr, on the other hand, was the first person I heard say out loud the creepiness of holy communion, although he remained Catholic. This used to freak me before First Communion. Then there is that ickier thing where every nun is married to Jesus and they wear wedding rings. Cannibalism and Polygamy in one go. Yeah...

* * * * *

I've been wondering what to get Mom for Mother's Day and I came up with a good idea. Since I've been enjoying young adult novels so much, why not a few of these? She's joined an English Book Club at least twice because she knew all the members for decades, but didn't last long because she had to look up the dictionary too often and lost the plot, or the books had sex in them. :-D Young Adult books I read don't have sex, but they are usually "historical", (i.e. with reference to real people/events Mom may not be familiar with,) and often has magic, which isn't her thing.

She'd love Beverly Clearly books: real, current, and everyday characters and occurrences. But those, I could probably find online and have them sent to her, as well as books by one of my all time favorite authors, Erich Kästner, in Japanese. Who knows, she may even be able to talk to my niece, who is apparently turning into an avid reader. That was my thinking in the morning.

I went hunting for perhaps Ramona-like lead character in the afternoon, with not too many words she'd have to look up, something perhaps she could sit down after dinner and finish in a week, and I found two. When I went to pay for them, what do I find in front of the till but a Kästner! And they all have lovely dull yellow covers!!
(You caught me; I got one more, NZ author Maurice Gee's book he wrote for her then-young-teen daughter when they lived in town, but that doesn't have a yellow cover, so I "censored". :-D)

I'm planning to read all these without, I hope, damaging the spine, and scribble meanings of difficult words and/or make a card with a list of characters so she doesn't get mixed up.  Mom's not a reader, (she's a jock!) but I think she'll get a kick out of finishing books in English without needing a dictionary. Or she'll tell me to stop sending them.

All this talk about Kästner and Clearly reminded me something I'd not thought of for nearly 40 years. There was a time I planned to become a young adult writer, long before the concept/label became popular. I had in mind a target audience who were sentient beings with all the answers to the world but not all the questions, and sensible not to turn into an adult yet. I had to give up this goal when I realized I was too old to remember what it was like to be that way. I was heading towards 25 or 26, starting to see both sides of issues, and suddenly didn't have all the answers, but oh, so many questions. 

I can't believe I'd forgotten about this. I wonder what else I don't remember.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

On Memoirs, Coincidences, Voices, and Scribbling on Cards

Lest you imagine me stomping around in my crumpled bathrobe, mumbling loudly with steam coming out of my ears, (which in a way I've done most of my life, but in another, not as much as last night's post suggests. I don't wear bathrobes, and I'm more a feotal-position-with-permanent-frown kind,) I've been rethreading while listening to new-to-me author Ali Smith.  

On Monday, I had intended to show up at the memoir class emotionally/mentally au naturale, but you know me, I like to prepare. (If only that was the case when I was a student!) I started listening to the audiobook of Mary Kerr's "The Art of Memoir", which I got when the book came out but never finished. I was reminded why: I can't relate to her life; I haven't read most books she mentions; I don't like her language in what is supposed to be an instructional text, not fiction where a bit of swearing add texture. So I thought I'd reread Stephen King's "On Writing" (of any genre), Philip Roth's "Patrimony" and the father portion of Richard Ford's "Between Them". Interesting they are all old white dudes, (which is why I picked up Kerr in the first place but wasn't crazy about two of her memoirs, either,) and I'll never touch King's fiction, don't like Ford's and only some of Roth's, but the two memoirs are lovely homage to their late fathers. Not that I want to write about my Dad, mind, but Roth's, in particular, was written as his father was dying and three years after mine passed, and perhaps I could have used it earlier but still so good. Buy these in books printed on paper, if you are interested, or borrow, nothing electronic. 

Came Tuesday around Insomnia O'clock I saw a Volume FB post praising Ali Smith's "Spring". I had heard of Smith, of course, but I usually shy away from authors modified by "new", "young" and "next", so I'd never read her. But at 4AM in a cold house, what is one to do? I clicked on one link, then another, then another, and ended up with an audiobook of her "Artful", "narrated by a character who is haunted - literally - by a former lover, the writer of a series of lectures about art and literature." In the sample audio, the protagonist drag her ex's just-arrived chair on wooden floor with carpet bunched up under it. Plus this one is read by her, (but not the newer novels,) and because I like Scottish accents, (she doesn't have a very strong one,) this was it.

I learned from the articles that morning, reading Smith requires ill-read readers like myself stopping and googling like a local/slow-train ride; there are plenty of books/authors she alludes to that I haven't read or read when I was in school, and then there are the the artworks. For now I'm content having her read to me while I rethread, and I will listen to her as many times it takes to get through the whole warp.

Listening to her, my mind wandered to Tóibín, whose voice and work is my hypnoses. I love his Irish stories read by him the best, but anything by him read in an Irish accent, or him talking about anything, makes me stop/scribble/wind back and think about writing. There are some lovely vids and podcasts online. (Ford gives wonderful presentations, also; a laugh a minute stuff with substance.)

Anyhoo, I started writing random notes on cards. Notebook pages are linear and scream out order, while mind maps are too messy, so cards I can rearrange. And I write in pencils because I make many mistakes, (my types are not unique to keyboards,) and I like the thought of my words being smudged and eventually disappearing. (Or I can recycle for another project later.) I'm even pleased my handwriting can be illegible. Except when I have to read it.

Yesterday morning I wrote on seven; five are recurring items, and what a relief to have two new thoughts. Because I so need new thoughts/feelings/discoveries.
Dishes, then rethreading.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Angry Old Hag's Stream/Scream of Consciousness

I got so sick of being unenthusiastic/unmotivated, wondering if I need my "head read" again, so as a potentially instant remedy, I joined a Letter Journal swap. The theme is "travel journal" and mine is by a gender-and-age-unknown traveler who may have been reincarnated a few times, who has an uncanny ability to know notable figures or witness historical events in the most mundane ways.
This is the first page I did, and the last page of the book. This swap is 4-person-once-each so ideally the original owner finishes two spreads, or two pages and one spread, at the start. I'm so used to 2-person- and 4-person-multiple rounds, so this looks plain/thin but dit's a start. I overdid LJ in 2017 for a reason, and did only a few last year, but I want to get back into it in a low-keyed way. I've since joined a book-themes swap, but these, and another that started a while ago, will be it until I finish at least one swap.

* * * * * 

I've been taking a break from Vincent bios and reading a lot of Young Adult novels Stella suggests, ("The Traitor and the Thief", by Gareth Ford; "Enchantée", by Gita Trelease; and the latest, "A Skinful of Shadows", by Frances Hardinge;) and in between, a couple of Bard bios. 
I've also been trying to draw him; anything to get my brain working better. I've found a few portraits I'd never seen, and am sticking to left-hand blind drawings. I don't enjoy the drawing but they grown on me. 

* * * * *

After much cogitation, I signed up for a memoir writing course; four Thursday morning during June, held at Volume, I don't know the teacher but I trust Stella and Thomas. I'm not interested in writing a memoir, but I figured my love of the genre will sustain me for four weeks. It will be good therapy.

I'm hoping it will be a swift kick on my cognitive behind because I'm a bit worried about my head. I told you I never had good memory, plus my forgetting pronouns has gotten so bad some days conversations with other humans turns into guessing games; how good are my hints, and how well can they read my mind. That on top of impatience; not suffering fools, even though nowadays I am the fool; inability to keep up with changes and technology; brashness, which I see as as clarity; paranoia/distrust I'm not understood correctly; control freakery; oh, and repeating myself. 

I also worry about the weird symbioses with my mom I develooped over the last decade. It started with my unconsciously developing her health complaints de jour, but lately it's whatever I observe and worry about the most: inability to complete tasks before starting another; selfishness borne out of physical/cognitive limitations...

I'm still working through my bureaucratic stuff, which only appear to multiply every time I turn around; this is driving me mad. I can see other humans are finding me difficult to deal with, so I stay away from other humans except Ben and a few friends. Self-loathing is insidious, tiresome, and unproductive. And not pretty. Yuck. 

* * * * *

I fell in the rain 2006, because of which I couldn't stand up one Sunday in 2014. Even before that I'd been on a look out for comfortable chairs and we replaced the couch in 2012, the kitchen chairs in 2015, and a couple of years ago I even bought this low/ugly/cheap beach chair for inside, but nothing allows me to sit comfortably. Being short with short legs don't help in a tall people's country, but I'm very short even in Japan.

Last New Year's Eve, we bit the bullet and purchased two rocking recliners which arrived last week, but in different configuration to what we ordered. We shopped at what we think is the most prestigious shop in Nelson because the chairs were good value/quality for the price. But negotiating a fix has been excessively difficult, and is on-going. I had a bad feeling when they insisted we pay in full before delivery, which was contrary to what we were told at the time of purchase, but hey, it's the fancy shop, what could go wrong, right?  

Whoever is at fault, (and in this case I insist it is they, 100%,) when so many people find me difficult, I've got to have a hard look at myself. Eh. 

* * * * *

I've known six counselors/psychologists over as many years while coming to terms with depression; the first, we liked each other so much I felt she was too sympathetic; three I met once and knew they were wrong for me; one I met through a government scheme but the scheme and the office are gone; and one I could have worked with but she moved to Christchurch to live with her elderly mother. I have no go-to person, but these sessions are too expensive for what I (don't) get back from the sessions, and anything I learned about depression is through reading, and a website fronted by Kiwi rugby legend John Kirwan. This time it's not exactly depression but maybe another visit to Doc Karl first.

In addition to forgetting, etc., etc., I'm angry so often or feel utterly put-upon. I'm reminded of Dad in his last days; his anger was boiling just under his skin but I didn't know if he knew what angered him so. He fought hard to hide it; it must have been exhausting. Thank goodness I have Ben and his ever-so-even temper. He's hopping mad about the chairs, too, but he doesn't get as worked up. We just had our 29th on Sunday.

And just in case, I added St. John's Wart and B Complex to my daily Ginkgo.

* * * * *

We're spending beyond our combined means of late, and then on Wednesday before Easter, I cracked a tooth. Eventually I'm going to need a crown, which costs me roughly one return trip to Japan. I haven't been able to sell pieces, but I think I better make new stuff regardless, so today I finally started rethreading the orange cotton piece in a modified version of the hellebore design.

* * * * *

The emperor abdicated today; tomorrow we get a new one and a new era starts. No, really, in Japan we have a name for each emperor's reign; up to day, 2019 was Year 31 of Emperor Heisei; starting tomorrow it's Year 1 of Emperor Reiwa. That we have an "emperor" in the 21st century alone is ridiculous, and expensive, but I don't think I'll take on that problem this evening.

The new era is going to trip me up as I continue the pension-related work.