Friday, 30 January 2015

Ogata San is Well. The Fukushima Pups are Well.

Ogata san, being a typical Leo just laughed her famous guffaw when I told her yesterday that I had received a flood of get-well-fan-mail. She is back at home (after being hospitalised with pneumonia and then influenza) surrounded by her loving and adoring family and looks like her normal witty, hard working and charming self.

97 and indestructible.

One of my Fukushima refugee doggies, like Ogata san, has quite a history behind her. Momo was a little princess dog at a large rice farming house only a few kilometres from the melted-down reactor. She was in her yard with her husband on that fatal day. The ground shook and then everyone in the house escaped. They thought they would return to their house but it was impossible. The dogs were left in the yard and the owners came and dumped in a pile of dog food every few weeks for them. Momo had puppies in this horrible situation. A wild boar was coming to snack on the dog food and Momo's husband tried to protect the puppies and was gored and killed in front of Momo. The owners of the house and  Momo realised  they couldn't move back to their home because of the radiation and it was dangerous for Momo to stay. (Momo means 'peach' in Japanese.) They were all put up for adoption. 

Her poor pups were a mess. Bad skin disease.

And Momo herself was something out of a Dostoevsky novel the day she was rescued. 

Before and after.

Geiger (he had no name) was a bit of a wreck as well. He and Momo kind of love it when I tell everyone that they met on the crest of the tsunami and were washed ashore together. Their destinies entangled. They made the several week long hike down to my place and slept outside the door a few days until I accepted them in. She sometimes reminds him that he was a homeless dog from the wrong side of the tracks while she was a bit of a rice princess. 

It is snowing today. Hiro quit smoking. The dogs are all happy. Everyone is healthy.

......and Momo's miserable, scabby, radiated, traumatised puppies?????

They have good healthy fur now and good healthy homes too. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Indigo Buddhist Project Stirring.

I've monkeyed around with stencil dyed Buddhist images and indigo for many years. Always hesitating to be using images appropriated from the lofty heights of Buddhism.

Emily is thinking of ways to have the monks at her partner's temple in Bhutan use indigo and Buddhist iconographic images. The idea of helping the monks in Bhutan was a key to unlock some energy kept on a small burner, well out of sight.  With these thoughts exciting us we took the lid off the indigo and started dyeing for 2015.

Years ago, I cut this stencil of a somewhat lightly muscled bearded Buddha and used the indigo material I dyed as lining for a small bag that was used to hold a toothbrush, toothpaste, condoms etc. (More or less a one-night-stand bag.) He was out of sight but his presence was there in morning peeking out.  (I hope I don't get in any trouble with this.....)

The red paste washes off and the colour of the material is left. 

The wheels are turning and I would love nothing more than to spend a few months working on this project. 

(ps. Trouble for the religious iconography not the one night stands.)

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Teaching Japanese Textiles in Japan.

Today was regular Tuesday textile class at my house. Trying to simplify life and get rid of some possessions I handed out a few boxes of silk thread I will never weave up in this life a few weeks back. Takeshima san took some different madder dyed pinks and red silk I reeled and dyed years ago and set up that unbelievable rickety old loom I gave her years ago and wove up this gorgeous red silk obi (kimono belt) material. All this old stuff being used. Tidying up life and creating at the same time.

Please click on the  photos to see the full version.

Our much loved 97 year old Ogata san is in the hospital. She used her daughter's cell phone yesterday to call me from her bed. "I'm OK. Don't worry. "

We were worried. Pneumonia and then catching influenza in the hospital. Jeeeeesh.

She has been coming to class for eight years now. She brings some vegetables from her garden and cooks lunch for us without fail every week. She climbs up the back mountain to get whatever extras she needs. Mushrooms, persimmons, shiso or ginger....  She started studying indigo at 89 at this ramshackle old house with this scruffy Canadian and his guests. She weighs 35 kilograms. (Snoopy weighed that much before I halved her with a strict two-year diet.)

I have about eight more or less regular students who come to the house and work on their individual projects. A few are just working on shibori or katazome. Some are reeling cocoons or making floss and spinning it into thread. A few are weaving and well on their way to be better weavers than I am. We occasionally boil up some natural dyes from roots and barks and dye the silk. We look at a lot of Japanese textile books for ideas and inspiration and knowledge. We try new things occasionally like eco-dyeing.

Yamaguchi san bought a loom and weaves at home. She comes on Tuesdays to dye and wrap warps. My god is she weaving beautiful stuff.

Our lives are interconnected now. The students met here at the house and now are part of each  others lives outside the class.  They tolerate how busy I am with other projects....ripping out a kitchen, workshops with foreigners. The seasons go by, the years go by.

Kamei san worked with madder dyed silk last year. Daughters worked with their mothers and grandmothers in Japan for many years to slowly pick up the hundreds of steps it takes to get a kimono from silkworms. It is not easy to get the lengthly processes across on Tuesdays (sometimes Fridays and Saturdays). By the time one weaving project is finished the initial steps are distant. The students help each other like neighbours and family members did in past times.

                                       The warping wheel upstairs feeling useful again.

Kamei san and Ogata san threading string heddles.

                                                                    On the loom.

It is not easy when everyone is working on a different project at one time. I learned indigo and silk farming and weaving over many years from several people. There was not much structure. I had to fill in the blanks myself until I ran across something that worked or someone or something that made something unknown clear. Not just techniques. I can never forget those precious times with the old farm families learning to grow mulberry, reel silk, warp looms, weave kimono. I was so lucky. The learning was organic. Like how kids can learn.

I went to look at a few textile related schools. Freaking nightmares.  Not relaxed atmospheres and spaces where students can explore and be creative. People learn different ways. Some need step by step instruction while others just take off from the start.  Do onto others.....I hope my house and approach works for my Tuesday students like it did for me.  I can see them taking off now. The runway was longer for some but the plane is up and banking and taking in the textile scenery now.

                                     Fedora san reeling cocoons in the kitchen on Saturday.

Yamaguchi san threading a warping reed today. Beautiful silk she dyed with loquat bark last week.

Takeshima san is getting the hang of my very old kimono warping wheel today. Indigo dyed warp.

The house is alive. Many more beautiful things to come this year. Just a blog of thanks to my students here in Japan. 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

I am Jizo. / 私は地蔵です。

This little guy lives just outside the front door in the garden. (He is as well photographed as Momo and Geiger and the indigo vat.) We actually didn't see much of him most of the year as fallen indigo seeds took and he was hidden until harvest and the cold winter winds found him shivering. Ogata san noticed he was looking tad shabby. (and not that chic.) She appeared a few days before New Years and stripped him of his 2014 clothes. He was left shivering for a week or so while she made him some new garments. 

 Knit hats are 2014. He has a stitched hat this year. Thank you Ogata san.

not my script...I cut and pasted.... 

O-Jizo-Sama as he is often respectfully called, is one of the most 
venerated Bosatsu in all of Japan. He is usually depicted as a monk,
wearing robes with a shaven head. He often holds a staff called a
shakujo. This is used to both scare away living creatures so he doesn’t
hurt them accidentally, and to awaken us from our dream-like world of
illusion. On many images and statues, he holds a wish-granting jewel
that he shares with Kanzeon Bosatsu and Vishnu in the Hindu tradition.

You can find O-Jizo-san in cemeteries,
gardens, on road-sides and of course temples all over Japan. He is the
protector of travelers, children and all beings trapped in hell.

The story goes, that the souls of children who die before their
parents, are not capable of crossing the fabled Sanzu River (similar to
the Styx river in Greek mythology) in the afterlife. This is because
they have not had the time to accumulate enough good deeds (karma) and
they have made their parents suffer. It is believed that Jizo saves
these souls from the punishment of having to pile stones eternally on
the bank of the river. O-Jizo-sama, is thus widely recognize as the
saint patron of dead children, especially still-born and aborted

You often encounter Ojizo-sama in graveyards and it is not unusual
to see the idol adorned with a red bib and a red baby hat. The reason
for this, is parents put it there to either thank him for saving a
child from illness or to ask him to protect a child in the after-life.
Thus each time you see a Jizo statue, adorned with these clothes, you
witness the pain of a parent. Sometimes, you’ll see small piles of
stones next to the statues and those are connected to building stupas
for the granting of merit. Doing so, the parents hope to earn enough
merit for their child so that it can cross the river as fast as
possible and thus, end suffering.

The hikers walking up the village often leave cans and bottles of sake or tea and the occasional soft drink for the White Horse Kannon Bosatsu at the bottom of  the driveway. The Buddha also has a healthy sense of humour. (You can almost hear the timeless giggles when there is can of Coke sitting in front of him.)