Thursday, 12 October 2017

Japanese Book Binding at the Japanese Textiles Workshop

Today the members of the first Ten-Day Japanese Indigo Book Binding Workshop left the well-fed comfort of the farmhouse and made their way back into Tokyo. There was some indigo vat separation anxiety. Momo and Julie and Whiteboots will be missed by all.

Debra managed to get a whole bevy of semi-unmanageable  book binding cats to Japan and the village and the indigo vats and the work table on the third floor. They were all over the ladders and in all those nooks and crannies of the house. Yamazaki Yo sensei was very patient with the felines. Focusing on getting the tasks done he was like a soldier book maker/teacher. Many thanks to him.

The house is quiet once again the day was spent reflecting on the workshop.  As usual there was too much to do in too short a time. The course will run again next year and a small notebook was filled today on ideas for improvements. Sharper scissors and taller tables.....

With a good collection of antique indigo textiles, stencils, indigo vats, indigo fields and every book on Japanese textiles in this filled-to-the-rafters-with-textile-tools old silk-farming house it is easy to create some present and past context for the regular indigo workshop content. It is exciting and inspiring to have all the textile artifacts surrounding us.

There are old Edo period hand-bound books and Edo period Ukio-e prints etc around the house. But there has to be more. More Japanese paper and book binding backdrop is necessary. Next year the students will have to have more contact with old paper and books, ink and brushes.

There has to be a talk about Buson and Ryokan.

What did the Japanese fill their exquisite book binding culture with? Not blank pages....

So many more things to show and talk about. It was most of the participants first foray into indigo and textiles. We covered a lot of material. It was a challenge to splice in a second workshops worth of material. Indigo dyeing and Japanese book binding and Japanese book box making.

For authenticity's sake we drove to a local paper maker and made paper from mulberry fibres.

The participants received the regular pre-workshop homework box with stitching projects and persimmon tannin paper stencil cutting several months in advance. The stencils were cut to use on a piece of linen. That linen is dyed in indigo and then backed with paper to be applied to the stiff paper board that forms the box.

Here is Josephine using rice paste to resist the indigo on the linen.
After a few days of hard work she competed the box that holds the hand-bound paper books. She drew wonderful tiger motifs from Tibetan rugs.

Marie used some wonderful nautical motifs.

Tara free cut her patterns so they were refreshingly clean and balanced.

Debra planned out her design to go with her mid-century modern interior of her house.

Maria went feminine floral.

Prema had a bold pattern that was tamed slightly with a sophisticated subdued lining colour.

Rachelle's overall pattern was well balanced between the blue and the white.

Beatrice was all bold subtlety and French charm.

Glenda and packed you boxes and didn't let me photograph them...Grrrrr

We visited a book binding paper shop in Tokyo. Wow. All those numbered drawers filled with book binding paper.

We harvested some flowering indigo together in a short break from the book binding and indigo dyeing.

Like last year, the last harvest is used to make indigo sediment.

Ishi san's indigo harvest is composting perfectly already. The smell was pretty shocking.

How is it possible to teach/host a ten-day workshop and make it resonate deeply with the participants?  
How is it possible to teach the techniques while giving insights into the culture that was the source off the craft masterpieces in ten short days?

The heat of the summer is gone. It is rainy and misty.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Creature of Habit...head hung in shame...

For twenty four years I have grown indigo. I've spent hundreds and hundreds of hours plucking the indigo leaves off of freshly harvested indigo or crunching it off the sun dried stems. I've begged friends to help and paid helpers to pluck and pluck and pluck.... It wasn't all wasted time. The smell is sublime. It had become a yearly ritual. The resulting quality of the indigo paste was something to be proud of.

No stems.

Maybe it is the moon in Taurus ....

But....Ishii san and I used a rice stem cutter this year. One hundred hours of work done in one hour........

There will be a few stems in the composted indigo next spring. (Nothing to worry about.)

The stems shoot farther and the fans wind separate the stems form the leaves. So easy.

Somehow I figured silkworms were not worth farming unless I really suffered. Years ago, I managed to almost kill myself with exhaustion raising tens of thousands a year. Things became saner with 3000 silkworms at a time for the past few years.  That would produce one kilogram of silk per year.

More than enough.

 I haven't finished spinning last years silk and it seemed ridiculous to produce more. 500 silkworms seemed a little embarrassing at first but it made sense. There was time to work on some carpentry projects around the house.

The rituals and the excitement continue. The early morning mulberry cutting is still heavenly. I can carry it home on my back instead of filling the truck. There is still the satisfaction of creating something beautiful that starts with eggs and ends with natural dyed silk thread on the loom.

Perhaps the middle road has been found.

While I was in Australia Hiro's sister came from Brazil for a few months to spend time at the farm. She quickly discovered the charm of indigo. Hiro helped her out at the vat and made some beautiful work himself.

We had a birthday party for Ogata san the other day. 99 years young.

The carpentry work went well. Slate tiling, wall building and plastering. A one week project morphed into a month long headache. All was finished to welcome the first autumn workshop last week.

We had an excellent group of accomplished and talented women here at the vats and the campfire.
Safe travels Shakti, Molly, Cleme, Scarlett, Jen, Jessica, Melissa and Kara.

Whiteboots misses you all.

Aboriginal Possum Skin Cloaks & India Flint's Exhibition.

There is a permanent exhibition of Aboriginal art at the museum in Melbourne. It is hard to describe the effect of the art had on the viewers breathing. It was deep and sad.

There was a possum skin cloak under glass. It was patched together from 80 something possums. On the suede side of the cloak the maker had incised patterns. They were local mountains and rocks... a very personal topographical record.

According to Wikipedia: Possum-skin cloaks were a form of clothing worn by Aboriginal people in the south-east of Australia – present-day Victoria and New South Wales.
The cloaks were made from numerous possum pelts sewn together with kangaroo sinew, and often decorated with significant incisions on the inside such as clan insignias. They were rubbed with ochre and fat to both decorate and protect them.
As well as being a significant means of keeping warm in this often chilly part of Australia, there was much importance around the making of the cloaks and their wearing. They were handed down through generations as heirlooms. As with most Australian Aboriginal belongings, there were many uses for the one thing – the cloaks were also used as blankets, mattresses and to wrap babies.

The beautiful photographs of people wearing their cloaks was hypnotic. My mind reeled. Textiles always have so much information in them as artifacts. These were so direct and personal.

I was lucky to visit an exhibition of India Flint's recent work a decent drive outside of Adelaide. I have always respected her work as an artist, writer and a teacher.  Another very personal topographical record. Something deep and sad. (But uplifting....being in the presence of good art.)

(Please click image to read clearly.)