the ever present personality at play

happy new year's eve!

i spent the day rereading a favorite book of mine, robin mckinley's sunshine. then after a bit of green tea and delicious pound cake i did some cleaning to welcome in the new year. i try not to be superstitious, but some of it has creeped into my thinking sphere (thanks to my irish mother), so among other things, the urge to do some cleaning on the last day of the year becomes overwhelming.

before it became too dark, several rows of weaving were put in, a kasuri flower, and some zigzags on the sampler currently occupying my loom. i find such peaceful and happy moments in my studio; i question why i do not spend all of my time in it when i am elsewhere.

tonight was a delightfully filled dash around the internet, uncovering new places and discovering delicious things. ann wood, and her rugged owls, magical ships, and enchanting space occupied some time, along with visiting some of the blogs in my bookmarks. it fills me with different parts delight, envy, and inspiration whenever i discover the creative workings of others, and add them to people whose work i admire. ah, the human state of being, we are such tiring creatures.

well, with the new year, a turning of the page of life as it were, i will hopefully strive to become a person whom i admire. i will take that leap, and live up to my name by squeezing myself into the textile artist world; if it will have me is an entirely different concern. my optimistically pessimistic personality shows itself, i think.


fond memories found in art

as the lighting was sunny today, i took some photos of the newly rearranged gallery walls.

two masked monkies i painted my great aunts years ago, along with a whimsical jellyfish painting by jennifer davis, and alice in wonderland puppets i bought at an estate sale in my college days, make up the bigger part of the wall. it's more colorful than the previous arrangement (i'm seeing a favorite colors scheme here).

the smaller wall is a little more subdued, the print of the doggies lining up hung in my great aunts bathroom; but as they have both passed on now, it is in my collection. my great aunts had the greatest stuff, usually lovely or funny, or a little bit dirty. i remember a charm i received from them when i was younger, it was a little silver boy peeing (like those found in water fountains), along with a little brass wishing well. they also had this hilda calendar which they would sneak out and show me, usually paired with a wink and a chuckle, every now and then. i hope i can be as kooky when i'm in my 90's. gads, i miss them.


finally finished

from time to time i've had thoughts of this painting i worked on last year; never feeling that it was finished. but i figured something would come to me eventually and when that time came i could hang it knowing it was done.

over the weekend i acquired four new pictures, three of which i decided to hang in my art gallery (a.k.a. bathroom-hey, good lighting and white walls). this required rearranging of the other pieces, and suddenly a space opened up which was in need of some art. so, i hung this octopus painting temporarily as a space filler. then today as i was gazing at it i finally saw what it needed: a funky umbrella.

out came the paper collage drawer and a print was chosen, cut, and glued to the painting. a good coating of satin glazing liquid after all was dry to even out the surface and protect the paper, and i can finally sign it and call it done.


blue velvet

i created a second cushion pin the other day, with embellishments of swarovski crystals; because a touch of sparkly goes so well with the softness and dappled light of velvet. the other side of the pin is of humble natural linen, which is my queen of all fibers.
during the day, i have begun work on my weaving project, tying off areas that are not to be dyed, and mordanting the fiber. today i will dye the fibers, and hopefully i will be ready to start weaving sometime next week. first, though, i have to finish the sample piece which is on my loom now.
isn't this little guy adorable? he's definitely up to something mischievous, though. very likely a sprite in disguise. he once belonged to my great aunts, but he's mine now, as they are both gone. you could say, "further up and further in".


organized chaos

i like organization, it makes creating things easier; i can focus on what i'm doing and not worry about where things are or if i have materials elsewhere. several years ago i bought several of these glass and metal tins and like to keep my buttons and beads in them. here's todays mess; i was working on another brooch, i'll post photos soon. one good thing about keeping things orderly? it makes cleaning it all up go really fast.


an enchantment of words

i realized that i haven't posted anything about books lately; you would never know i was an avid reader. here's a little rundown of my current reading pile:

always a favorite, author patricia a. mckillip's latest piece, the bards of bone plain, was a little hard for me to get into at first. it was a lovely story, with interesting loops and connections to figure out, memorable characters, and wonderfully heavy on the vivid descriptions; and yet, i feel that it reminded me of another of her pieces, od magic, and when the last page was turned, couldn't quite add it to my favorites list. perhaps, i need to re-read it later, mull it over a bit.

i've two other books i picked up at the library, chuck palahniuk's tell-all, and an interesting looking book which delves into the pearl industry, tears of mermaids by stephen g. bloom. hopefully they will be enjoyable reads, but one never knows with palahniuk; i enjoyed reading snuff, but none of his other works captured my attention.


sweet as sweet can be

i was feeling like today should be a baking day. it's grey, and chilly, thus a perfect day to have the oven on. so, i made a batch of vanilla cupcakes using a 1-2-3-4 cake recipe with matcha buttercream frosting. delicious, and sweet; and now i have a stomach-ache like you wouldn't believe. ah, the joys of overindulgence.
this is why i enjoy buying baked goods; all you need to do is buy one, satisfy a craving, and not get a sugar spike and crash by trying to eat all dozen or so of what you've made. or maybe i need to learn how to share, bring some to work, or have more friends who live close by. but, i do enjoy baking, and eating yummy things. and i do try to cut the recipe in half when the recipe would allow.


pins and other things

while i was in kyoto, i stopped in at mina perhonen on several occasions to obsess over and then purchase little baggies of remnant fabric from the designers workshop. the quality, colors, and designs are utterly fantastic; i'm just sorry i didn't buy a higher quantity, and don't have access to the store anymore.

one of the things i did with the pieces was make an inspiration book. i made the cover from a shopping bag, the pages from a stiff fabric, and embroidered the butterfly logo on the first and last page, i used yellow thread to sew in the pages, which matches the yellow ties. it's nice to have access to such a wonderful source of inspiration.

luckily, i had some duplicate pieces so i added them to my small stockpile of scraps. yesterday i felt like sewing a puffy pin to take advantage of the materials texture. i can think of it as an evolution on the white small puffs i've done in the past. the weather has gotten chilly here, and all i can think about is fluffy beds, warm fibers, and fuzzy textures.


happenings of the strange

i awoke quite early this morning, rather unexpectedly, as it is not my usual way; i prefer to be awoken when the sun shines brightly into my face. what met my eyes was something eerie, though pretty; the paper shades which cover my windows was aglow in a magnificent pink light. i took a photo of it, and watched it fade into a pink-lavender shade, then into the crisp blue of a cool morning as the sun ascended into the sky.


the last of sweet things

well, i've eaten the last of my malebranche matcha cookies today. i decided to make an occasion of it, and made some fresh sencha extra green tea (a blend of my gift of sencha from the ladies of the cafeteria from when i was in kyoto, and matcha tea from ippodo). i paired the cookie with a frosted rice cracker, served up on my grandmothers' noritake china.
i like the play between the lines of the cracker and those of the tea pot, as well as the white and green balancing. i've had two cups of green tea everyday lately, usually between breakfast and lunch; it sets me up to go out and work in the studio.

although matcha is my favorite flavor in baked goods and icecream, genmaicha tea has quickly become my favorite drinking tea, and mixing it with matcha to make it extra green is quite delicious!


space to work in

ah, photos. what would the internet be without them. everything in the studio is coming along nicely now, so i thought i would introduce you to my new/old "dyeing laboratory and weaving studio":

the dye laboratory and tea brewing station.

skein winder, gokoh, and kasuri shifter.

ze loom, with the new addition of jazz bands to prevent floating harness syndrome.

my workstation, complete with idea/inspiration board.

now that smell (japanese incense courtesy of lisn), sight, and touch (sheepskin bench cover) are taken care of all this space lacks is sound. i was hoping to get the vers 2x for my ipod, but they're not manufacturing them again until spring. phooey. so i'm on the hunt to find one, and haven't had any success thus far, as they didn't produce any this year.

gifts to exchange

at the last fiber guild meeting, we did a little handmade gift exchange. as i didn't have anything on hand, i needed to create something. and, as so often the case, i waited till the last minute to do so. so, the evening before, i got out the sewing needles, buttons, and small scraps of cloth, and decided to make a cloud pin with a raindrop embellishment. i kept things simple, and took an idea which i had worked on in japan; to line up the button holes with the holes on the pin backs i use, and to sandwich the button between two bits of cloth which can be trimmed to whatever shape one likes.

when gift wrapping, i like to repurpose, as it makes things more interesting that way. so the paper i wrapped with was packing material used to cushion glass, and the bow was made from candy foil.

the button sandwich pin needs more development, but the clean lines you can achieve is quite nice, and the simplicity lends itself to minimal embellishment. i quite like the look of the aerated paper as well, and luckily, i need to order another beaker, so, yay, more wrapping material!


tearjerkers and other thoughts

i don't particularly care for war movies; most glorify something that is ugly, or take a comedic standpoint where there is little humor to be found. but, as with anything, there are exceptions; captain corelli's mandolin, and miracle at st. anna.
i'm not sure why, perhaps it's the story that's underneath the backdrop of war that draws me, or the humanity of the characters, flawed and all. or maybe it's that they make me cry, or that they tell about the good things that survive the devastation of war.

one of the things i liked about these two films is that these movies show a more realistic view of war, that it's not glorious, or something which is clean-cut (these are the good guys and these the bad), that it's ugly, and seething with nonsensical violence, that it destroys thoughtlessly, that not everyone is decent and capable of humanity, regardless of which side they're on.

this genre may not be on the top of my preferred viewing list, but it's good to creep outside of one's comfort zone every now and then, what you find may stick with you and inspire.



a desktop still life: maeve's painting, covered tea vessel, wooden bento, pigment set, tree seeds, and an omiyage.



as it is gift-giving time, i can unveil the little presents i bought at the kamigamo handmade market. there were so many kaitei charms at each booth, it was difficult to choose just four. they're all just too kawaii.
one of the things i'm incorporating into my daily life is japanese incense; it smells lovely unburned, exotic while burning, and lingers for several days in a pleasant way. i hope it will freshen up the air in my studio as well. further updates on that front soon.

i knew of kumihimo before i went to japan, but it was still a charming surprise to come across it and find that i liked the fresh colors and modern aesthetic.

it's like baking, just mix the ingredients

i've been home for a couple of days now, and quite busy. between laundry, cleaning, eating, and sleeping, i've managed to work on setting up my studio and taking notes on what i need in order to get started.

the first things are definitely dyestuff, a source of heat, and lots of experimentation. i want to create more kasuri weaving, and before my dedication and creative juices have time to wan. i would also like to start drinking green tea on a regular basis, so i'm thinking of having a tea station in my studio (i've got heat, water, and space).

the new toys i picked up in japan fit into the space beautifully and so does my loom. it will be nice to have a space i can go to that's dedicated to dyeing and weaving. i'm thinking of calling it my "dye lab and weaving studio". ohh, nice. or maybe there's space for "laboratory" a la dexter's lab; thus, "dye laboratory slash weaving studio". now we're getting somewhere.


ooh, shopping!

i've compiled a list of some really neat shopping and eating places while in kyoto. it's the non-touristy, things kyoto really does well type of shopping.

shijo-dori area:
mina perhonen; beautiful! check out the 4th floor for remnants
basement level of takashimaya; pan
6th floor of takashimiya; wooden bento
basement level of daimaru; tea sweets, honey
basement level of fujii-daimaru; organic produce
nomura-tailor; floors 1-3; fabric, pinbacks, sewing notions
lisn; really modern and incredible natural japanese incense

itoh kumihimoten; just gorgeous silk kumihimo
sou-sou; really awesome tabi shoes
gallery kei; amazing unique textiles from japan's past, ramie, banana fiber, shifu
ippodo; matcha tea, ocha tea, tea tasting and brewing demonstration
kamiji kakimoto; washi store

kyoto station:
malebranche; delicious matcha and white chocolate cookies, matcha icecream

kitayama station:
la droguerie; buttons, ribbon, liberty tana lawn, sequins
kamigamo handmade market; 4th sunday of the month

shijo-dori to oike-dori, btwn karasuma-dori and kawaramachi-dori:
lin-net; linen fabric, linen clothes, linen bias tape, linen thread
avril; love habu textiles? you'll like avril.
kyoto design house; fabulous locally made things
ippudo; yummy fresh ramen, i ate here four times
konnamonjya; tofu doughnuts


cats and ravens, but no fox

as this was my last day in kyoto, i did some new things and revisited some old favorites. needless to say, enjoying matcha soft serve at malebranche in kyoto station, slurping my favorite bowl of ramen at ippudo, and listening to the lovely incense at lisn were the old favorites.

as for the new; i walked amongst the torii gates at fushimi inari-taisha, found where all the cats of kyoto hang out, and browsed a used book store i pass whenever i ride the bus to kokusaikaikan station.

inari was incredible; amongst the forest and hills were paths of torii gates, lined up like dominoes, their orange red hue a striking contrast to the cool greens and mellow browns of the landscape. every now and then a stone shrine dotted the path, some in groups and some solitary, most accompanied by fox guardians and miniature torii gates.

while following the path, i came across a single meowing cat, gave it a pet and continued on amongst the raven cries. then several minutes later another tabby cat walked solitarily by, not really craving attention (perhaps it was on a mission?). as i continued onwards i came to a fork in the path and turned right, happening upon several more kitties basking in the dappled sun coming through the trees. i make note of this, as one of the things i noticed in kyoto is a particular scarcity of cats. this can mean one of two things; cats are well taken care of and are not abandoned to roam feral in the streets, or they are, but not anywhere i've gone. i can't imagine that they aren't popular pets here in japan.

today was a particularly blustery day, and though it did not rain, and the sun was out, i stayed cold for the better part of it. i admired many coats and cloaks in fuji-daimeru, and wished that i might acquire one; but that would be foolish, as it isn't really needed in mood swing savannah.


a trip to uji

this morning i was quite excited to go to uji, the green tea capital of japan. somehow i thought it was in the country, surrounded by fields of tea, and quaint, with little shops and quit streets, and that the moment i stepped off the train i would be overwhelmed by the smell of green tea in the air.
i don't know what i was thinking or where i got this image from, for reality is strikingly different. while riding on the train there i never really felt like i left the city, and though i saw some small fields of tea growing between the houses it was rather underwhelming, and once there the only thing i smelled in the air was car exhaust.

this isn't to say that some parts of uji that i saw weren't beautiful; for i found that walking along one side of the river was peaceful and rather pretty, and while facing away from the city and into the surrounding hills the view was very picturesque.

the matcha sweets i ate while in uji were either delicious or so-so, and so too was the tea i drank. so, overall, i'm at a loss as to what i think of uji. but one thing is certain, the matcha that comes from this area is the best tasting stuff i know of.



did you know that a single stick of incense could smell so delightfully heady, sweet, fruity, musky, intense, light, and dark all at once? if that one stick was of the finest kyara agarwood, then yes. while at lisn today, i just wanted to keep smelling it, in its unburnt form. if they bottled up that smell and sold it as perfume i would definitely be in the queue to buy it. or if i had to choose one scent to smell in the moment before i passed on, that would be it (well, maybe; now that i'm thinking such macabre thoughts the smell of rich, dark, hot chocolate would be nice too).

well, i thought i would post photos of interesting things i saw today.

this building reminded me of a ship, or some massive gate from a sci-fi movie. it's kind of ominous, as if that stone is waiting to drop at the merest signal.

things in miniature; miniature pond, miniature torii gate.

and, of course, my personal favorite and mecca to the japanese textile craft, gallery kei. bashou fiber, ramie, shifu, linden, kuzu, banana tree, pineapple fiber, all the lovely fibers japanese people have spun and woven for centuries. kawasaki kei has created such an amazing space filled with precious cloths from times past; each an artform in and of itself, each an incredible undertaking by unknown hands, all lovingly displayed and collected by her. one day i wish to create with such skill these things that women have always done.


scents and sushi

japanese incense is really quite lovely to smell. not at all like the type which comes to mind when you say incense; the ones that are often found in hippie and crystal shops. those give me migraines. no, the finest japanese incense is much more subtle, and elegant, and made from natural sources such as clove, sandalwood, agarwood, and cinnamon.

today, there was a school festival and they brought in the president of shoyeido, the manufacturer of some of japan's finest quality incense. he discussed incense, and then we were able to create our own scents using sandalwood, patchouli, cinnamon, clove, sweet pine, andcamphor. there were two bases which we could use to make a sweet or a spicy overtone. i made one which is sweet and light in scent, and the other which is stronger and invigorating. it was such fun! some of the students and teachers wore kimono and they were all very pretty.

for dinner i had my first experience with a revolving sushi restaurant. it was so mesmerizing watching to see what sushi would come around next. the place was very busy, so the sushi was delicious and fresh. there was a plastic display sign outside which was very cute!