Thursday, 26 April 2012

Thank You Indigo Sisters

This was the first Japanese Textile Study Tour. How can I really thank Mrya, Janine, Nat, Cynthia, Blandina, Judi, Jean and Lis? They signed up without knowing me except through Nat and my blog.  They flew in from all corners of the planet with suitcases full of gifts they lavished on my friends and myself. Long expensive flights and a long journey to get to this nowhere village. I tried my best to make their journey worth it. I and felt bad that the weather wouldn't cooperate and kept Mt Fuji hidden. Here we are actually standing on the lower slopes. Unfortunately we barely even caught a glimpse of its snow capped peak.
Thank you ladies for being such great sports. I kept the pace a little too fast. Sorry.
I hope our paths cross again some day.


Katazome Master Visit

 I first visited Noguchi san's time slip katazome studio seventeen years ago. He is the seventh generation stencil dyer here and his son Kaz  become the eighth a few years back.  Our entourage arrived and Noguchi san was happy to have me do all the explaining. He shies away from any limelight and has called me before to help when a group of non-Japanese somehow found his Japanese Hobbit-like Indigoshire heaven.

Judy said she, "lost it" while watching him at work. I am not quite sure of what she meant but can imagine how she was overwhelmed by both the tradition itself and the magical atmosphere of his studio and his indigo dyed yukata.

 "Stand still I can't get a picture of you that isn't blurred....."(Sorry there was just too much to explain.)

Noguchi san ferments his indigo differently than anyone else I have ever met or read about. He keeps several vats in a thick fermentation state and scoops out the fresh pigment and bacteria laden liquid and pours it into the main dying vats in a separate room.


There is a tremendous amount of information to take in on a visit to this studio. It is not laid out in a tidy classroom like format. The family lives with and in and amongst the studio. The processes include sizing and ironing the yukata material, keeping indigo fermentation vats alive, stretching the material on the long maple boards, preparing the pastes, handling of the stencils, drying racks in the sun, soya milk production to size and over dye with soot, washing the rolls of cotton, pressing them again and finishing them up to sell. All of these processes and their accompanying tools and space jumbled in together. I was so impressed with our tour members for taking so much in. It took me years to get an idea of what is involved and how he manages it.

In the pasting studio his son gave a demonstration on how he applies the paste. I arranged for Noguchi san to let us all have chance to paste a piece of our own. The tour members enjoyed this thoroughly.

The red pigment is added to make the paste more visible when lining up the stencils for a continuous pattern.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Rocket Lamp and Shibori Prep.

OK. I took a few detours on the house renovations. There was an old milk can hiding in the rafters. Rusted and cobwebbed. There had been a small barn next to the stream in the early 70's. There had been a fad to keep milk cows. Poor things. It turns your stomach to think of the miserable cold impoverished conditions these animals were kept in. The dirty old milk container the only artifact left. Hardly a testimony to the hell these poor cows went through tied up in a pen in a small shack where the sun only hit a few months of the year. (At best only three hours day on top of that.)
I wire brush burnished off the rust and cut the milk can in half. Then heating it up and melting on beeswax to prevent it from rusting again. I sketched out some udders and asked my local glass blower to give it a try.  Her first examples were a wicked veined Los Vegas pink. Too realistic.

Do you know what a tequila sunrise is?
Try for something like that.

I rigged up the glass udders and said a quick prayer for the old cow that had suffered from a fad and human idiocy. Made me feel better.

Shibori by udder light.
Early this morning the highway to Takao was empty and the valley was a cool silver blue as we drove. We said our goodbyes and it was suddenly silent as I drove back to Fujino to an empty house (except Snoopy) and more silence. The Textile tour preparations had taken up a solid eight month stretch of life.

Ten days flew by. We packed in a surprising amount of activities, some planned and some spontaneous. I'll write about them over the next month.

On the first day we arrived at the house and unpacked. Saito san and Junko prepared a sushi party for us.

After we hit the indigo vats.  I had a new stainless steel vat installed and we filled it with water, christened it with some sake and then added the indigo and then dyed some cotton thread. Kurihara san came the next day to pick up the thread and brought it back to us yesterday in a gorgeous knit.

Blandina holding out freshly dyed cotton thread.
The finished indigo knit fabric.
The view from the top of the village with mountain cherry blossoms out. 

Jean holding some freshly pulled natural madder/ akane.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Life Sign

The plum blossoms are out. They are almost two months late as the winter has been exceptionally cold. Looks as if the plums and the cherry blossoms will be back to back. We have had hurricane-force winds the past few days which seem never to abate.
Life is very good and very busy. Preparing for the tour members coming is eating into my blog time. I have a list of blogs and a stack of photos waiting to be put out but they will have to wait a little longer. I decided at the last minute that a second bathroom would be a good idea. The timing to put it in was a little awkward...wind storms and no walls at the north end of the house. Living in a wind tunnel for the time being.
The house has come along and I am humbled and so grateful to Yamaguchi sans, Kamei san, En san, Yoshi, Umemoto san and Marna and Shuji and many others for endlessly helping out and being cheerful. You are all making my heart ache with your kindness and generosity. The house might end up as a palace and then we can really enjoy it together.
I was honored to have the Ghibli folks over again the other day. Takahata san says he will bring the crew over to stay when the house is finished and the tour is over.