Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Another Unknown Shibori

Ted came by from California and we had another short but sweet visit. Looking at a lot of those old Motohiko Katano shibori cards we noticed that quite a few had grey tones. He had used soot and soy milk to form a polymer and adhere the grey. The soot mixture seeps deeper into the folds of the shibori resulting in a grey halo between the blue and the white. The folding was not hard to figure out. Ted quickly got the extra middle fold. The size of the resists needs just a little tweaking to get the overall rhythm perfect. The grey bleed was sublime. Ted, we need a few weeks to simply focus on these grey bleeds. You come teach me.

Ann left today. She has been here for a few months. Quietly working on shibori and zeroing in on the really beautiful fine ones.  She quickly put our research to use and came up with this…

You can see the difference of the patterns on the back and front and how the indigo bleeds through to the other side.

The next step will be sit and stare at this for a few hours and mentally collapse the folds in a new way that comes  out of our own head. The centres of the squares can be played with. The depth of the stitches and the tightness of the pull and tie and the amount of manipulation in the indigo can make it more meaningful. The fabric can be different and perhaps another dye can be bled in. It then won't be just a copy of his work. This was the great thing about Katano as a shibori craftsman. He took a technique and sort of exploded it like John Coltrane did with, 'My Favorite Things.'

This reminds me of Cyndi doing Carey in front of Joni Mitchell. She respects the song and honours it so tenderly. That wasn't the time to explode it. She brings tears to my eyes every time I watch this.

I suppose this is something to think about when approaching shibori. You have a precious tradition that should be preserved but you can easily see the work produced in Arimatsu is God awful. Much of the innovation has production time and sale price written between each miserable stitch and resist. How do you respect it, find the essence then transpose the key into something you can sing with?

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Process Unknown Shibori

In a few old shibori books there is the inviting phrase, 'Process unknown' written under  photographs of  pieces of Jacqueline Kennedy indigo. (Mysterious and completely unaccessible.) Liza and I tried to demystify one of those pieces a few years back. We managed to get close but the enthusiasm waned after a few failures. Ann and I picked up the thread a week back and tried to unravel the techniques of  a few old Motohiko Katano indigo dyed pieces found on postcards.

We struggled to get our linear brains to warp and see the thing three dimensionally and figure out the stitching and pulling sequences. Like an obvious but tricky chord progression, there were a few, "you gotta be kidding, he wouldn't have gone to that much trouble" moments.

Here are three related, 'process unknown' shibori techniques by Katano Motohiko. I am sure someone has figured out how he did them but the techniques are not in any of the shibori bibles I have run into.

The one on the left was challenge number one.

The first thing was to get out brains to flip right and see the collapsing principals. Bright coloured markers helped. Then a more refined gridding out.

The front stitched in white.

The back stitched in black.

The black and white threads pulled and tied.

The first piece was dyed without much manipulation under the surface of the indigo.

And the second piece dyed more carefully with opening action both under the surface of the indigo and  while oxidizing. 

Pretty amazing. More to come.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Tenue de Nimes Article

A shop in Amsterdam is selling some of the stuff I made on the sock knitter and dyed with indigo and persimmon last summer. To promote me they asked me ten questions for the stores 5th anniversary printed magazine edition. I sort of mashed together the notes from the Maiwa speech. I never have written anything that personal on here before. I am Aquarius...we sort of forget that pasts exist.
Here goes lazy blogging with a link to something unedited. http://issuu.com/nimes/docs/journal_no09_issuu#embed

Friday, 15 November 2013

Japanese Indigo Vat In Vancouver

Monday, 11 November 2013

Exhibition at Diana Sanderson's Silk Weaving Studio in Vancouver.

I went to Vancouver for a month to have a small exhibition of some recent work at my friend Diana's gallery.

 Busy with carpentry work and workshops and teaching, there is never the time for creative work like the good old days. Having the exhibition made me focus on a practical use for the knits from the old knitting machines. The thread is linen paper thread knit on the sock knitter and then stencilled dyed with indigo and persimmon dye. They were well received and it always feels good to have people truly interested in what you make. 

I collected hundreds of old Japanese tenugui towels and painstakingly dyed them every sunny summer morning in the persimmon tannin. I sewed them together to remotely resemble old Buddhist Kessas. A friend made the boxes for each individual piece. They are humorous and funky. I hope Gale and friends  wear them for years, and leave them over the back of a chair for you guests to enjoy on chilly evenings by a campfire.

I've never been interested in showing my work outside the house. Any exhibition I've had somehow just happened for some other reason. Always someone else's idea and I end up thinking...'What am I doing this for?" I guess it is for amusements sake. 

Watching customers come into the gallery and listening to their conversations is interesting. Of course you can hear some truly idiotic comments and sort of fantasize about a trap door that would drop them directly into the ocean below.  The comments that make you fear for the future of humanity and cringe at the contracted consciousness of a strutting mean-eyed mother giving shopping advice to her daughter, "In a few years you can start to buy handmade scarves but you should always  think of them as an investment in your future."

But for the most part, I met warm and wonderful clear-eyed expansive people with heart-melting smiles and kind comments. I came back from Vancouver with a fuzzy warm feeling for all the people I met at the exhibition and workshops and around the city. I had time to strike up conversations everywhere I went. Sadly, I rarely have time in Japan to do that. 

It was great to meet up with dear old friends. Elizabeth and I lived under the same roof and studied painting together 20 years ago in Japan. To sit for a few hours with beer and catch up on all that life has thrown at us and we've enjoyed. Magical. Thank you all for dropping by the exhibition.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Ikebana Class for Autumn Workshop

Today Hiro taught the autumn workshop students ikebana upstairs.  I was hanging around watching how each person approached the work. Earlier in the day I had primed everyone with a few books on the subject.  I was almost moved to tears a few times watching how everyone concentrated so earnestly and almost childlike at a new world on the table in front of them.
An autumn walk to the local mountain udon shop was dreamlike. We were each in our own world and at the same time enjoying our time together. A few hours later everyone gave Japanese flower arranging a try. I could almost hear the newly configured gears slip into place with trepidation oiled with good faith.

William, Justin, Lauren, Dani, Makoto, Jen, Ann, Kathy and Hiro at the noodle shop for lunch. So fresh, talented and so beautiful..... thank you for being here.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Visiting Old Friends.

I hadn't really had a day off since the tsunami two and a half years ago. It had been non-stop work on the house and the new studio and workshops. It was heaven to go to Canada and have time walk and collect my thoughts as well as give my brain and body a break. The Maiwa workshops were a pleasure to teach.

Unfortunately, the flight back u-turned over the Pacific ocean and returned to Vancouver due to technical problems. After changing planes and flying back over to Japan....what seemed like three hundred hours in a stuffy plane, I got a bad airplane cold. Grrrrrr. Dreaded antibiotics seem to have made short work of it. I have guests arriving in a few days and I am looking forward to jumping into that with clear sinuses.

I met Jean and we had a blast in Victoria. As I snooped around her treasure-filled house I found a particular treasure made by a mutual blog friend. Velma.....what beautiful work. It looked sublime in the west coast sunrise.

Jean and I drank beer, hung around the kitchen table, smiled and looked around her weaving studio, walked around old graveyards, (Those always clear my head and work wonders for setting priorities.) went for the best Greek food ever. Of course she had to floor that Toyota to get me on the ferry to Saltspring Island because we didn't keep an eye on the clock but gabbed and gabbed and looked at all her great books.  Hope to see you in 2015 Jean.


Saturday, 5 October 2013

Maiwa lecture

I am in Vancover. The first time I've spent any time here in 25 years.


Monday, 2 September 2013

Cocoon Day with Karin

Karin's approach to indigo is different from mine. She is a note taker. A careful planner.   Occasionally frustrated by the fickleness of indigo and the huge downpour of cultural and technical information her Scorpio intelligence boxed it all up for future reference. With one eyebrow raised and a warm slow smile interspersed with a wince and thoughtfully pursed lips, she surveyed a months worth of work as she packed up in preparation for her trip to Kyoto yesterday.

Indigo and it's friends shibori and stencil dyeing to take time. Time.... to deeply understand the history and potentials and limitations of indigo itself and the Japanese techniques that developed with indigo over a long history.
I have no doubt that her Scorpio spirit will have it all mastered in a few years. I can see that indigo and the peripherals are her calling.

Today we looked at silk. She had never seen a cocoon before.

I showed her several techniques of how to reel and make different silk threads and options for expanding those methods to make even more varieties.

She already had some very good shibori techniques in her repertoire. 

I believe that this work is the genten from which many more will spring. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Indigo Knits

I have been working with my 1950's sock knitter for almost a year now. I took off the heel function and have been knitting tubes. Cashmere, wool, cotton, silk and linen. Looking for something that felt right. Not just texture wise but something I would want to work with. (Jean, I should have listened to you from the start. Linen is magic. Indigo dyed linen is sublime.)

The machine knits two thin linen threads and a cotton thread beautifully. 70% linen and 30% cotton. I take the tubes and stencil dye on them. I will be having an exhibition in Vancouver in October. It has been a long time since I spent time near the ocean.Waves and more waves.  Some of them are Edo period (mid 1800's). They are easy to find at antique markets and can be re-lacquered and netted and used. I drew and cut out some others, seaweed and drooping branches over the water. After dyeing the tubes in indigo ten and sometimes twenty times in indigo, the paste is removed and I re-stencil a different pattern on the linen. Then the tubes are dyed seven times in persimmon tannin. Placed in the sun every morning to absorb the UV rays and turn a crisp brown. The second pasting is removed and the tubes are cut up and sewn  back up on my old industrial overlocker.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Pleated Shibori

I found that the stitching/pleating and binding techniques work as a good introduction to shibori. There are dozens of these pleated Japanese shape-resist techniques and many more variations on each of them.

There is a razors edge you have to balance on when you walk down the old shibori path. It is easy to lose your footing and fall down and get tangled in the hippie growing on the downside. You can trip and skin both knees with the quickies and getting temporarily blinded by tradition for tradition sake. Depression can set in and you lose your way with dogmatic adherence to dorky motifs. And god forbid you get messed up with rubber bands and pre-stitched shibori kits.

If you are a designer and want to incorporate some shibori into clothing or interior design products this family of techniques has advantages. You can get relatively consistent results. It is beautiful. It walks down the razor's path safely.

The measuring and pleating are done in order to make the accordion shape. It can be done at intervals of five millimetres  to five centimetres. Once the accordion is made it can be bound to itself or a flexible cord or restitched with endless possibilities of pattern. Tension can be played with to create many patterns behind patterns.

I measured out one centimetre and then two centimetre intervals and had Ogata san stitch this one up.  It had to be spray dampened while organising the pleats to keep them in place. We are binding all these pleated types on three ply (we ply it) rice straw ropes we get from the local hardware shop. This one was dyed ten times in the indigo, taken off the straw rope and bound with the opposite side up and dipped another ten times. Remember to wrap the straw rope with kitchen wrap or the straw will stain the cloth an unpleasant yellow.

5 centimetre interval and a pattern stitched in. Luisa...perfect.

Both sides of the pleated cloth were bound with straw rope.

Luisa's beautiful pleated piece.

One more look at Henri's piece:

And Mini's clean masterpiece that is often around my neck:

A lot of pleating going on around the house these days. There are a few about to be dyed in the next few days. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Soy Milk and Soot Under Dyeing for Indigo and Black Black Dye

You can get a more sublime steel blue colour with indigo if you under dye with soot. It has been done for centuries in Japan.

Noguchi san, the katazome master living a few stations from me, paste resists both sides of his yukata material and then brushes on a sizing of soot and soy milk. The finished kimono has a more sophisticated blue colour than just a plain indigo dip. He also dyes the happi coats for festivals and festival banners using this dyeing technique.

We have been playing with soy milk soot dye and getting excited about the possibilities at home but I wasn't sure of how to get the pure black colour. Today, Julie, Karin, Luisa, Liza, Serge and I made the pilgrimage to Noguchi sans magical time-slipped studio and had the master show us how he makes the blackest black for the kanji lettering on festival coats. It was a dream-like experience as always.

He soaked the soy beans in water the night before. For the initial sizing of the black, the soy beans were lightly smushed in the serated-sided mortar with a wood pestal. A cup of water was added to the mash and again lightly stirred.

Some of the mash is put in a cloth bag and squeezed. The liquid was the consistency of a thin milk. In this milk he submerged a small bag of soot and squeezed and squished that around until he had a very muddy dishwater colour. This was then painted on the parts we wanted to dye black.

When this dried we painted on a more concentrated version of the soot/soya mixture and left it to dry. And then repeated this a few times until we had the black we wanted.

We brought along some white antique linen and had Noguchi san's son Kazu paint some kanji on for us. Kazu is the seventh generation stencil dyer. He had a son early this year. I hope he will be the eighth generation.

The future eighth generation katazome master?

When the ink had dried on the cloth we outlined it with rice paste and let it dry while we had lunch.

Dyed with indigo. We were there to learn the technique today. The masterpieces will follow shortly. 

Beautiful fermenting indigo. Smelled sweet and heavenly today. We arrived back home and found our own private corners to process a day full of experiences and thoughts. To all of you have visited Noguchi san's studio with me over many many years...your spirits were all there watching with us today.