Saturday, 22 October 2011

Tsunamiland Workshops

I have been up volunteering several times in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures over the past six months. Shoveling tsunami gunk, sifting sand in yards, carrying debris, washing everything, making food and delivering it. It is getting colder up north and I am busy with carpentry work at the house preparing for the spring tour so I could only squeeze in one last trip up there. I got back home this morning. (To find that Snoopy had fallen down the concrete river embankments and was trapped all night in the heavy rain on a miniscule shrinking island in the middle of the river near my house. She was soaked, shocked and delirious. I fell in the river pulling her out.)

The people living in temporary emergency housing places have had their houses and spouses and children and big parts of their lives washed away. The shock has worn off and as the days grow colder and less sunshine, dreary reality sinks in. It took some effort to arrange in advance four indigo workshops at some temporary emergency housing places. It was worth it to see some very happy faces. In Spring after the tour is finished I will try to go back and hold some more. They need fresh ideas for their fundraising bazaars. Something clever with indigo? I have six months to think about it.

PS: Snoopy is now dried out and fed and sleeping soundly on my bed as if it all hadn't happened.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Chestnut Hull Dying

Autumn is here. The yuzu citrus on the trees are turning orange. Snoopy doesn't want to walk on her regular walking route this time of year because the road is littered with prickly chestnut hulls. She got pricked on her tender little paw bottoms years ago and won't forget that. (The damn monkeys scatter them all over the place.)
It is a shame not to follow the seasons. We picked up some hulls and squealed and yelped until they were boiled soft. Again we used old kimono lining with simple shibori.
I want the students to just get the process of mordants and boiling and what plant gets what color. Playing on this almost-free silk gives us the freedom to play without worrying about how to use the material. It is a shame when we get a beautiful color like this and we haven't dyed skeins of silk to weave. The moment of the season makes this process precious. There are still plenty of chesnuts around to re-do this one.

Woven Shibori

For all the weavers who want to try something new I recommend Catherine Ellis book, "Woven Shibori". She really has done a remarkable job researching and experimenting to the millionth degree the possibilities of 'weaving-in' the pull threads of shibori and the following surface dying .

Most of us Neanderthals have been painstakingly measuring and marking and stitching evenings away to get similar results. She shows us how to set our looms to get the stitching built in. It felt a little like seeing a "Ring-around-the-collar or 'Scrubbing Bubbles" or a 'Mr. Muscle your a good man to wake up to." ad for the first time. Too good to be true. But the results are in...and they work.