Thursday, 17 March 2016

Slow But Busy Time In A Japanese Farmhouse in the Mountains Waiting For You This Summer.

Spring Workshops at my farmhouse that focus on indigo and how it was used in Japan and how to sew and dye Japanese jackets are going to start two weeks from now. April and May are going to be busy. I have been finalizing a single mid-summer workshop and there  has been some cancellations and postponements. If you are interested in coming to Japan and staying here at the farmhouse and being spoiled with food and indigo, drop me a line with a little self-introduction to: and I will get back to you.

Unfortunately, the autumn workshops are now full.

Travelling in Japan is easy. It is safe and the Japanese are very helpful. I will help you with suggestions of where to go etc.  The yen is not as low as it was last year but still low. Japan has had deflation for 25 years straight and it's image as an expensive destination is old.

The workshop is ten days long. It starts on a Monday.  I drive into Tokyo and meet you up in the lobby of the Century Hotel conveniently located near Shinjuku station south exit. You stay right here in the farmhouse on the third floor. The rooms are fresh and cozy. We work on projects from morning until bedtime.   I have 25 things I am desperate to show you and only 17 of them actually get done. There is a lot of time at the indigo vats and a few day trips. I really pack it in. I'm a man with a textile mission. The workshops get very good reviews and people come back again and sometimes again and again. I have a few spaces left. I've had mum and daughters come together and even son and mum and dad come together. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxing.

Drop me a line and ask questions about availability for this summer. I am putting together the program for 2017 right now. I have dates set and can pencil you in and get back to you later in the year to reconfirm anyone interested in Japan in 2017.


Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Making Sukumo / Composting Indigo Leaves

Three straw bags bursting full of indigo leaves have fermented in straw bags under wheat straw and oak leaves for two months now. I'm back from Sri Lanka and back to work. It was time to mix up the fermenting leaves and make sure they haven't rotted but composted just the right amount.

We dug them out from their cozy home in the fermentation box and combined them together into one straw mat. The fermentation was not even. There were dry areas and wet areas. We hand shredded and remixed all the 80% composted blue ammonia strength indigo muck and packed it tightly into a new straw mat for the final week of fermentation. Looks like it will be another good 20kg of fermented sukumo Japanese indigo. It will be fermented again in the indigo vats this summer and be used to dye.  (Yes, that is Kate Marshall from Australia visiting for a few days! Great timing Kate!)

We are packing it in tightly and quickly to get it back in the fermentation box. A single fly laying eggs in it and we will get small maggots. Yuck. 

And finally some heavy grindstones placed on top to keep the oxygen out and the compost compressed.

It was warm enough for Ogata san to do some indigo dyeing. She has been stitching and working on this piece for a month or so.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Indigo in Sri Lanka

 Some indigo and linen tossed into the Sri Lanka bound suitcase did come to life.

Except for a tsunami scare a few nights back..... life is tough.

We were sitting by the water, dinner on the table, wine being poured when the head butler came and whispered, "There has been an earthquake off Sumatra and there is a tsunami warning."

Appetite killer.

Over 30 000 people died right here in the 2004 tsunami.

Just two weeks ago I translated a 'Tsunami Evacuation Study' for a local professor in Fujino.

A group of 18 Spanish are staying in two of the villas and I've been watching them enjoy their extended family vacation.

They were lounging and laughing and drinking by the pool just after sunset as the temperature had dropped from unbearable to breathable.

" Aghhhhh excuse me....could you please check the news because there is a tsunami warning..."

Party killer.

The men were furry macho, concerned and charming and asked questions....the woman had the kids in line in less than two seconds. "Where, how, when do we go?"

The women win in the "Let's-get-the-hell-out-of-here-a tsunami-is-coming" category.

What can you do? Inform and explain where the high ground is. Make sure everyone knows. Let the hotel staff know they don't  have to wait. Your jobs are not worth!!!! We waited twenty minutes for the manager to come and open the safe so we could get our money and passports.  Then headed inland and upland.


The tsunami warning was lifted in 30 minutes later. Intense time packing up, trying not to panic ( I volunteered six times in Tohoku cleaning up tsunami debris. I know what these things do.)  I was worrying about all the people who were not preparing to leave although they had the same information as I did.

It is very hot. This can be helped with a few snorkelling spells on coral reef a thirty meter swim from the beach. And then a few laps in the infinity pool. I need to work off the food. My friend owns a boutique hotel here on the beach on south coast of Sri Lanka. The menu is being tinkered with and someone has to taste all the new options.....

A potential new pastry chef desperately wanting a job here trying to impress us with his dessert skills.....

Am I in heaven?

I helped design and put together an indigo studio. The Sri Lankans are really good with beautifully polished concrete. The area and the vat was red bricked out and then sealed and concrete finished. Very beautiful work.

We sat together and stitched and stitched and wrapped linens for a few scorching afternoons praying for the clouds to break and water the gardens. Only a few drops of rain until this afternoon when a deluge broke. The palms and monkeys and iguanas took deep wet breaths and sighed.

Anna says she hasn't figured out the metaphysics of why a group of people on a veranda stitching at sunset is so peaceful and satisfying. She mused...."People spend money and time on meditation to calm themselves down....and you end up with not much to show for it. At least with this stitching and indigo dyeing you end  with a beautiful shawl. "

Spirituality and materialism.

There are a bunch of Russian friends here and we were dunking (and drunking) a lot around the brand new indigo vat.

A cool beer after the first day of dyeing. Admiring the fresh catch of blue.

There were a few decent local textiles. These two saris that will become curtains upstairs and this bed throw. Next time around we will explore more.

It was Hiro's turn to shine with tropical style flower arrangements around the villas.

The monkeys had a proper rampage on this flower arrangement by the pool.