Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Textile Journey Starting in Finland.

I arrived yesterday to Sammatti , a small town of 3000 people in the countryside of Finland for a short visit to Hanna and her family. Hanna and I spent time together twenty years ago in Fujino when we were young and life was simple. I gave my first silk reeling demonstration to her. 

The gentle spring in the mountains of Japan is over. The humid rainy season has started. It was time to get out of there.

Leaving Japan felt like an action movie where the main character suddenly finds himself on a plane with a cocktail or skiing down the alps in solitude or falling in silence after his parachute opens after a storm of gunfire and car chases. A maelstrom of chaos and then some sudden state of welcome peace and equilibrium. 

A chuckle and a sigh and a deep exhalation simultaneously occur. 

Two thousand silkworms cocooned the night before I left. My guests from Otis College left and the house got a thorough and fast cleaning. One thousand objects picked up and put back in the places they belong.

 Four adorable destructive kittens had to be played with and enjoyed before their precious kitteness fades before I leave for a month. Several mad trips to central Tokyo to secure travel documents for Russia. A few minutes stolen during the last few days to enjoy the garden and  a few minutes of regret I will miss most of dozens of lilies planted last autumn and about to bloom. 

Packing with uncertainty. A suitcase next to a backpack. If the Russian visa came through it would be mostly an urban trip of museums and restaurants and long strolls through the old cities.

 If the visa didn't  come through I would buy a bicycle and camping gear in Helsinki and spend five weeks biking up to Lapland in northern Finland.

The visa came through at the last minute.

Packed the suitcase and packed the backpack away.

In the meantime, I get to visit a few dear friends. Hanna and Henri and Ilkka. Unfortunately, my old buddy Aleksi couldn't get away from London to visit his home country and meet up. I remember warm kitchen evenings while it was minus 5 outside in Fujino listening to him tell me about the Finnish soul. (Every Finns dream is to live in a red house with white window trim in the countryside with a garden and a sauna.)

The sun doesn't set this time of year here. 

We walked by an old leaning red barnhouse that has been turned into a folk museum of sorts late last evening. I peaked in a window and saw an old Finnish loom in the corner.

I convinced Hanna to bring me back at noon in hopes of getting inside to get a closer look. A shy young groundskeeper took an ancient key and opened the door for us. Creak creak...time and culture slip.

The faded walls and worn floor and weathered wood furniture with the the smoke stained plaster oven/stove created the illusion of a digital photo/reality filter . The rooms were here were sized for me. (Genetically, I have some height genes from the neighbouring country. )
Living in Japan in the old farmhouse with its low ceilings and the Japanese use of space doesn't ergonomically work. It is like living in  a 25% reduced diorama. Not without attractiveness but bad on the back.

The details of the loom construction were different yet familiar and charming. A different sturdy delicacy than Japanese looms. Someone had warped the loom with a rug rag-weave using the same vintage of ripped cloth that the digital room filter had been adjusted to. Icy smoked tundra earth tones with dusty dried rose accents.


  1. What a beautiful old loom, sort of a chunky look and smooth tactile timber. It looks like maybe those narrow rugs on the floor were woven on it. Such peaceful looking interiors. Love your way with words as usual, and getting a glimpse into this very special journey. Thanks and can't wait for Russia. So glad you got the visa.
    Claudia Fisk

    1. Dear Claudia,

      That room was really special. It did feel like there was some sort of "Old Finland" filter on my eyes. Gentle and quiet and slow and deliberate. I had five weeks of adventure. I wrote and wrote. The textile related stories will hopefully make it to the blog. Hope all is good with you. Bryan

  2. i, too, saw a loom in situ, an old leclerc here in toronto where i'm visiting. seeing a loom while away from your own evokes all things weaverly. glad you made it to the north, the light, the cool and the taller for a bit. enjoy!

    1. Velma san, I saw more than a few working looms in homes while I was travelling. They never failed to make me smile and sit down and weave. Pictures to come. Bryan

  3. oh wow. Japanese silk cocoons and then Finland.

    I inherited my Finnish grandmother's rag rug loom, and am so pleased to see photos of a similar one. Enjoy your time in Finland. I was there in 2013.

  4. Hi Judy,
    I hope you are using it! It is hard not to like Finland. especially in the summer. I can see why young people want to get away for adventures when they are young but want to return later. It was interesting to see how men and women spoke to each other. They seemed to actually listen to the other. Unlike Japan. The sexes here speak two mutually incomprehensible languages most of the time. hmmmmm

  5. fantastic loom, held together with bits and pieces, oh, the stories it could tell. beautiful rug on the rocking chair, did you get a close-up picture?

  6. Hi Jean,
    I did. I did. I will post it in the next blog for you!

  7. oh joy!. i am going through a period of loom saudade as mine was taken apart.