I'm getting along with my goal to sew my own clothes. They are both made of some organic cotton sweat shirt fabric, stitched and dyed in my new indigo vat.
When I opened the stitches I spontaneously thought of tatoos. Shibori as a shirt tatoo - I like that.
And more roses from the garden. Mme Louise Odier is about done for now. She tends to bloom a second time later. But the Veilchenblau, Raubritter, Albertine, Alexandre Girault and my dearest Paul's Himalayan Musk are in full bloom now. O I love May and June.
Paul's Himalayan Musk
Paul's Himalayan Musk in a different stage of blooming
Roses are my weakness. I love the old English Roses and I stuffed too many into my little garden. Especially since a lot of them are ramblers. Never a good idea. But in May and June I simply love them.
I'm not really into flowers or flower arrangements. My roses live a life on their own, I just occasionally trim them so that they don't overtake my garden or the neighbour's. Funny thing is when I was in Japan, part of our workshop was doing Ikebana. Everything is connected in Japanese art. As is flower arrangement. I felt a bit weird but in the end it was fun. Moving out of my comfort zone ;o)
"my" Ikebana arrangement
The little tits and the sparrows are almost grown now. Only a few days ago their parents were still feeding them on my balcony but now they are all on their own here dining.
Since we all arrived on different days, most of us met in the lobby of a hotel in Tokyo. Which was more or less on the other side of town. Underestimating the Japanese inability to speak English and overestimating my own sense of direction, I wandered around more or less in circles on my search for Tokyo Station. It was easier the day before when I arrived and just took the most direct route to the hostel. 45 minutes later (I did even then see interesting parts of Tokyo‘s banking quarter which were not supposed to be on my direct route) I arrived there and that was it. But the next day I felt adventurous and thought I could just walk to Shinjuku Station next to which we were supposed to meet. And it would have been possible only I lost my way so many times on the way to Tokyo Station that what took me 45 minutes the day before took me more than 1.5 hours the next day. And yes, I have Google maps and I had a physical map as well. Google maps shows only Kanji (the Chinese-Japanese characters) and doesn‘t seem to be quite sure about directions either when it comes to navigation and my physical map only showed Romanji (our letter system). Yes, Tokyo has his main streets labeled with both writing systems. But I got lost in the maze of small backstreets with no Romanji street signs. A very, very nice policeman (with less than basic English) put me back on my track and then I just took a taxi (whose driver didn’t speak English either) to Shinjuku Station and arrived just in time after an odyssey of almost 3 hours.
wikipedia commons pic of shinjuku station yamamoto line - I was too confused to take any pictures
Like with so many big cities it seems almost unbelievable how rural it can become only a few kilometers outside the wider city boundaries. And Fujino is rural.
this is how bamboo sprouts - I was constantly amazed at this wonder
Wonderfully so with those lush green steep hills, bamboo forests, tea terraces and the scattered farm houses.Walking up the steep hill to Bryan’s house you are greeted by two large indigo vats in ceramic pots that are standing right and left to his main entrance. We would use these vats every day over the course of the next 10 days.
The first thing Bryan did was to get us introduced into the chemistry of the indigo vats, how to judge the vat’s health, feed it with what it might need and how to use it.
Since not all of us had experience in dyeing with indigo out first exercise was over dyeing several skeins of cotton yarn. Indigo has the wonderful property of making everything look much nicer. Even weird beige colours and ghastly turquoises. Bryan owns an old industrial knitting machine with which he produces long tubes of knitted fabric. And those over dyed yarns were meant for this knitting machine. At the end of the workshop each of us got her piece of knitted fabric. It might just be enough to a sleeveless t-shirt, I’m still pondering. (Which will take me a while like always.)
knitted fabric from our first cotton skeins. Slightly striped with darker, lighter and mottled indigo skeins
With the over dyeing of the skeins, Bryan established a kind of base line for his students. From where he could move on. With out next task we moved to the large and wide field of shibori.I had some experience with basic shibori stitching in the past. During Glennis’ workshops I folded those mandalas and stitched the dragon fly. More or less successful.
folded triangles stitched and dyed
At Bryan’s I was introduced to the high ART of Shibori. The many variations, the time and effort one can invest in one piece and the nice little tricks in dyeing it. I didn’t put that much time into Shibori though because of all the many other textile techniques I was offered.
96 year old Ogata san visitig us, making Udon noodles and dyeing shibori in between
Ogata san in front of her shibori pieces
one of Mini's shibori pieces which took her the better part of two weeks to prepare
Especially Katazome.Katazome is the Japanese craft of stencelling a resist on fabric. Something I really wanted to learn now for quite a while. We have a similar technique in Germany called Blaudruck. But unlike Katazome this is done by printing the resist with wood block prints onto the fabric before dyeing it with indigo (in our case it was mostly done with woad and naturally we wouldn’t use rice paste but some wheat flour paste but that’s just local flavour). Because of the wood blocks local patterns usually are much smaller and live mostly from the repeat.
one of my katazome pieces
a vintage stencil
Katagami are larger and the patterns can be much more elaborate depending on the provenance. Kaki Shibugami, the special stencil paper is made from paper glued together by fermented unripe persimmon juice high in tannin content and then smoked over a wood fire for several days. It is almost impossible to get outside of Japan (and if only to exhorbitant prices) and since unripe not sweet kaki are not available at my place (or anywhere near) I will have to find another method to produce something similar useful.
my little shifuku pouch
you can see the silk netting that is glued to one side to protect the stencils from falling apart
Right now I’m thinking of walnut or oak tannin or simply boiled lineseed oil as it is used as base coat in paintings. If all fails I will have to resort to plastic stencil paper. Not my favourite but better than buying the original stuff from Japan (or someplace else). Again, something I have to ponder about.After shibori we got out our homework. He had send us some shibugami to cut our own stencils at home.
And now he showed us how to make the resist paste (although we ended up using ready to use resist paste everything else would have ended in very complicated logistics with 9 people), how to prepare the stencils and the fabric and how to apply the paste onto the stencil and the fabric. And he brought us to a katazome master whose workshop we could visit and use for some smaller stencil experiments. Especially his fermentation indigo vats were very interesting.
Mini's katazome. Resisted, dried, dyed, resisted again, dried, dyed and I lost count if there werde more stages involved
a katazome piece consisting only of tiny dots
the above after dyeing
From Katazome we moved on to Kumihimo and Weaving. (Not that we didn't still do all the other things as well. Bryan's workshop is more like a textile bootcamp with little sleep and more craft possibilities than you can imagine. At one point I was so overwhelmed by all the possibilities I just stood a little dazed in the hall doing nothing until my head cleared. At least food and entertainment is really nice.)
Right from the start I was hooked on kumihimo. So much that I ordered my own Marudai (the stand you use for braiding) over the internet at home. Luckily for me I already have the bobbins. A craft shop closed several years ago and sold them for a bargain. And I like them for fixing broken warp threads. The Marudai, made by a local wood turner from local wood, arrived on wednesday and it is so beautiful. And in use already.
Our little bits of weaving (about half a yard each) were done on a very old traditional Japanese loom. She was called – very endearingly – The Beast by all of us outsized gaijin women. And she had tended to bitch around a bit eating warp threads by the dozen if you were not careful. But we succeeded in weaving our piece without any long term damages.
And I was introduced to another bit of weaving. One of us was so nice to show Bryan how to warp and thread his 4 shaft loom. As I understood it the loom was a rather new acquisition and he and her were not quite on good terms yet. Luckily I had the chance to take more than a peek and learn so much for my own 4 shaft darling. Thank you for the opportunity.
And all the while we dyed on, learned to sew little pouches called shifiku, visited the Folkart Museum in Tokyo, learned how to behave in an Onsen (my first time) and learned how much all parts of Japanese culture are interlaced into each other.
Japan was a rather isolated country for more than a millenium. Just imagine a country whose basic garment design didn’t change for 1300 years. (Look at how people clothed themselves in the 6th century Europe and then in the 10th or the 11th, the 12th or during rokkoko, baroque, regency ….?) And now imagine those 1300 years only wearing one kind of clothing. A more or less practical one and one on whose fabric amount taxes were paid. A basic piece of clothing that had only the chance to subtle changes. Much like the whole society. Imagine a country with a continuing line of crafts and craftspeople, without the suppression of the church, without cultural setbacks and lost inventions, lost knowledge and without permanent waves of mass migration from one end of the continent to the other, without constant invading forces that brought their own culture with them and without next to none external influences. And you get a culture which had so much time to get so intricately interlaced that from subtle non-verbal communication to flower arrangements to tea ceremonies from pottery to fabrics everything is connected. This realisation hit me at one point. How close knit the Japanese culture (at least up to WW2) was. How little was left to accident and choice. And how different it was to ours. European culture is basically the antithesis to Japanese culture.
Even in early days celtic rulers (I’m talking about him, 500 BC) in what today is Southern Germany were buried with Greek pottery and amber from the Baltic Sea. Trade later reached as far as China (Silk Road) and all over the world. There were so many different oppressing, suppressing and encouraging influences over the millennia. And how impossible it is to compare both cultures. (And I am talking only about Japanese and the European hotpot, ignoring the fact that there are so many other cultures out there either almost or actually extinct or still existing, ignoring whole continents of culture and societies just for the sake of literary flow.)
I am completely fascinated and feel like I am on the first steps of a new road. Embarking on a journey, one that might lead me nowhere or to a lot of interesting places. Who knows.
momo (back) and geiger (front) in the entrance hall
still a bit dizzy from travelling back in time. Left Tokyo on Friday at noon, reached Moskow at 5 pm - after 10 hours flight, a short break of barely 3 hours while in transit. And finally reached my destination Frankfurt at 9 pm after another 3.5 hours flight. Travelling westward is confusing and though my body doesn't seem to suffer from jet lag, my mind is still not in synch with local time - or place.
Japan was fascinating and Tokyo was confusing. I am not a big city person. I've been to London, Rome and Paris but all those cities are simply big and old and populated but not a really BIG city like Tokyo (or as I suspect New York).
There are typical big city glas buildings
confusing street scenes (remember, I'm a small town girl)
btw this cute little suitcase and the bag were my whole luggage for the travel. I was so proud of me and it worked: 8.7 kg carry-on for 2 weeks - yeah. On my way home it was 11.7 kg and I went for check-in (instead of distributing the overweight in my shoulder bag)
gingko trees lining the streets
and along the sidewalk as well
manhole covers look different
and cute cats warn you in front of railway crossings (which was in Fujino not in Tokyo)
The workshop was a real experience, I gained so much new knowledge, learned so many new things, I still have to let it sit in my mind and mull it over.
Bryan is a wonderful teacher. With a magpie mind not unlike my own I was able to dive into a huge pool of knowledge. We dyed at the indigo vat, stitched and folded shibori pieces, braided kumihimo cords, wove on a Japanese loom, stencilled katazome, visited a katazome master in his workshop and were able to use his vats, learned a practical lesson about Ikebana, partook in a tea ceremony, walked through the Folkart Museum in Tokyo, warmed up in an onsen (hot bath), ate so many wonderful meals at Bryan's house and about, worked voluntarily through the night and went quiet at the campfire in Bryan's yard. We learned about silk worm raising, how to reel silk and how to make silk threads interesting and we dyed with madder and gardenia. I met wild monkeys and learned how bamboo grows. And we bought some things from local artesans and vintage.
a typical feast at Bryan's house
I was lucky that the group consisted of so many wonderful textile enthusiasts from all over the world. We helped each other and we all learned a lot from each other.
the countryside around Bryan's house
And I found the most beautiful kimono/coat in a vintage textile shop
a vintage travel kimono - how fitting
I had to make it my own with my one of my shibori pieces and some sashiko stitching. Every coat needs at least one pocket. Kimono or not ;o)
barefoot traveller - as always
I just came home in time for my mother's 88th birthday, so a more detailed text will have to wait but I will tell you more, rest assured. And I have to try a new vat. Since I was hooked on Kumihimo at once, I ordered a Marudai while still in Japan. I hope it will arrive within the next days. This kind of braiding is so relaxing and I want to make some braids from linen yarn.
The Japanese loom was endearingly called The Beast.
She is a wonderful little old loom and warms up to people only tentatively. But she still works.
See you later friends with more pictures and stories. Still overwhelmed and confused ....