Thursday, 29 August 2013

Indigo Knits

I have been working with my 1950's sock knitter for almost a year now. I took off the heel function and have been knitting tubes. Cashmere, wool, cotton, silk and linen. Looking for something that felt right. Not just texture wise but something I would want to work with. (Jean, I should have listened to you from the start. Linen is magic. Indigo dyed linen is sublime.)

The machine knits two thin linen threads and a cotton thread beautifully. 70% linen and 30% cotton. I take the tubes and stencil dye on them. I will be having an exhibition in Vancouver in October. It has been a long time since I spent time near the ocean.Waves and more waves.  Some of them are Edo period (mid 1800's). They are easy to find at antique markets and can be re-lacquered and netted and used. I drew and cut out some others, seaweed and drooping branches over the water. After dyeing the tubes in indigo ten and sometimes twenty times in indigo, the paste is removed and I re-stencil a different pattern on the linen. Then the tubes are dyed seven times in persimmon tannin. Placed in the sun every morning to absorb the UV rays and turn a crisp brown. The second pasting is removed and the tubes are cut up and sewn  back up on my old industrial overlocker.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Pleated Shibori

I found that the stitching/pleating and binding techniques work as a good introduction to shibori. There are dozens of these pleated Japanese shape-resist techniques and many more variations on each of them.

There is a razors edge you have to balance on when you walk down the old shibori path. It is easy to lose your footing and fall down and get tangled in the hippie growing on the downside. You can trip and skin both knees with the quickies and getting temporarily blinded by tradition for tradition sake. Depression can set in and you lose your way with dogmatic adherence to dorky motifs. And god forbid you get messed up with rubber bands and pre-stitched shibori kits.

If you are a designer and want to incorporate some shibori into clothing or interior design products this family of techniques has advantages. You can get relatively consistent results. It is beautiful. It walks down the razor's path safely.

The measuring and pleating are done in order to make the accordion shape. It can be done at intervals of five millimetres  to five centimetres. Once the accordion is made it can be bound to itself or a flexible cord or restitched with endless possibilities of pattern. Tension can be played with to create many patterns behind patterns.

I measured out one centimetre and then two centimetre intervals and had Ogata san stitch this one up.  It had to be spray dampened while organising the pleats to keep them in place. We are binding all these pleated types on three ply (we ply it) rice straw ropes we get from the local hardware shop. This one was dyed ten times in the indigo, taken off the straw rope and bound with the opposite side up and dipped another ten times. Remember to wrap the straw rope with kitchen wrap or the straw will stain the cloth an unpleasant yellow.

5 centimetre interval and a pattern stitched in. Luisa...perfect.

Both sides of the pleated cloth were bound with straw rope.

Luisa's beautiful pleated piece.

One more look at Henri's piece:

And Mini's clean masterpiece that is often around my neck:

A lot of pleating going on around the house these days. There are a few about to be dyed in the next few days. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Soy Milk and Soot Under Dyeing for Indigo and Black Black Dye

You can get a more sublime steel blue colour with indigo if you under dye with soot. It has been done for centuries in Japan.

Noguchi san, the katazome master living a few stations from me, paste resists both sides of his yukata material and then brushes on a sizing of soot and soy milk. The finished kimono has a more sophisticated blue colour than just a plain indigo dip. He also dyes the happi coats for festivals and festival banners using this dyeing technique.

We have been playing with soy milk soot dye and getting excited about the possibilities at home but I wasn't sure of how to get the pure black colour. Today, Julie, Karin, Luisa, Liza, Serge and I made the pilgrimage to Noguchi sans magical time-slipped studio and had the master show us how he makes the blackest black for the kanji lettering on festival coats. It was a dream-like experience as always.

He soaked the soy beans in water the night before. For the initial sizing of the black, the soy beans were lightly smushed in the serated-sided mortar with a wood pestal. A cup of water was added to the mash and again lightly stirred.

Some of the mash is put in a cloth bag and squeezed. The liquid was the consistency of a thin milk. In this milk he submerged a small bag of soot and squeezed and squished that around until he had a very muddy dishwater colour. This was then painted on the parts we wanted to dye black.

When this dried we painted on a more concentrated version of the soot/soya mixture and left it to dry. And then repeated this a few times until we had the black we wanted.

We brought along some white antique linen and had Noguchi san's son Kazu paint some kanji on for us. Kazu is the seventh generation stencil dyer. He had a son early this year. I hope he will be the eighth generation.

The future eighth generation katazome master?

When the ink had dried on the cloth we outlined it with rice paste and let it dry while we had lunch.

Dyed with indigo. We were there to learn the technique today. The masterpieces will follow shortly. 

Beautiful fermenting indigo. Smelled sweet and heavenly today. We arrived back home and found our own private corners to process a day full of experiences and thoughts. To all of you have visited Noguchi san's studio with me over many many years...your spirits were all there watching with us today. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

First Try Shibori Techniques Don't Always Work Perfectly

Julie was excited that her two-centimeter and one-centimeter interval pleated shibori projects turned out so beautifully that she wanted to try a 5 millimeter version. I agreed and she spent several days stitching and pleating and meticulously binding the cloth. She had brought a gorgeous large antique linen sheet from France. We ripped it into eight sections and decided to do eight different pleating techniques. Afterwards she will sew it back together for a bed cover.

When it came time to open the indigo dyed piece we were relieved to see that it looked amazing. But after washing, it lost the nuances and ended up looking rather plain. One problem was that the cloth did not allow the indigo to bleed in from behind. There were no light blue ghost like lines between the strong lines. The weave and thickness of the thread were just tight and thick enough to prevent the indigo coming through. The overall binding was tight enough to not allow enough oxygen into the folds to bind the indigo that did seep through.   The folds were bound tight enough so that the indigo was not able to be oxidized and therefore bind to the cloth. The nuances washed out as their 'indigo feet' were not firmly dug into the cloth. Grrrrrrr.
Julie was not deterred for a second.  She re-dyed a second pattern on top. It turned out good. Shibori misses can be salvaged.

Julie is a butoh dancer. She can see the essence of indigo and cloth.  Period. It is wonderful to have her here studying. I can understand and appreciate her approach to work. She is making such deep and beautiful and meaningful pieces from the very start.  The techniques are important. But the 'Dylan' is more important. The Hijikata and Ono mentalities are necessary to get beneath the surface of the the green and go up for a breath of blue. Thank you Julie for being here. I learn from the students. The designers and the artists. It is so interesting to watch the different approaches to indigo and weaving. It takes time for each individual to get traction and propel themselves foreword. I have to stand back and watch for a while before I can be useful. The days are hot and peaceful and productive. 

Anneke left yesterday. We all miss you. The Geiger is sulking. Hugs to you. It is lonely without you here. Five months will fly and we can meet again. No lotus, but maybe some snow.
b   xxoo