Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Motohiko Katano Shibori Postcards

At the Japanese Folkcraft Museum you can buy four books of postcards featuring the work of the shibori /indigo master Motohiko Katano.

Motohiko Katano (1889-1975), a painter turned dyer, created a body of sublime shibori work using indigo and other natural dyes. Guided by Soetsu Yanagi and Kanjiro Kawai, leaders of the mingei (“folk craft”) movement, Katano recognized the beauty of the humble yet high spirited art of Arimatsu-Narumi shibori and, from 1957 to his death, set out to revive these traditions. Many of his techniques were inspired by shibori craft traditions from the area where he lived, in Nagoya. One such process, now popularly called “katano shibori,” produces a repeating pattern across the width of the cloth in variegated colors, white lines, and areas resembling soft airbrushed tinting. His work leaves an indelible mark on contemporary shibori art, and his legacy is being continued by his daughter, Kaori Katano. 

Motohiko Katano: Motohiko Katano.

They are often out on the work table/ dining table for us to figure out how he made them. Truus and Mini and Ogata san and I have worked on this one recently. Truus went back to the Netherlands and I didn't get a picture of her beautiful piece.

After it is stitched and pulled it is bound to a flexible rope core and the white parts are resisted with kite string and cloth and saran wrap. Mini is exhausted after all the prep work. She hit the indigo vat the second the last place was wrapped and tied.  Mini-like clean lines and a clean melody appeared when it was opened.

It is interesting to see his ingenuity and precision in trying to copy these works. As the techniques are picked up over years my students can tweak them and find their own shape-resist voice.  I don't push the students to do something never done before. Copy and refine the master works and your own will come in time.

Ogata sans was a tad bolder.

This is another technique Ogata san and I worked on recently. (Amanda mastered it last year.) A simple paper cut out stencil was repeated with the aobana ink and then stitched up, pulled and dyed in the indigo ten times. On Lithuanian linen.

Yet another two techniques from these cards:

I suggest anyone interested in Shibori find these and work away. They are the best resource material I have ever seen on shibori. Why look at the textbook stuff? Look at the Leonardo stuff.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Cherry Blossom Workshop

I hold ten-day workshops at the farmhouse in spring and autumn. I've done it seven times now. It is such an intense time having a group of eight in your house and life for those days.  Each time is different. The chemistry of the people is different. I enjoy it and am lucky to be doing what I want to  do in life. So many special moments with special people.

It doesn't feel like work. It is a pleasure to have guests at the house. Lena, Anna, Sue, Emily, Kim, Anita, Marcela and Kate.... We had perfect weather. I didn't take many pictures but looking through the ones sent to me I can't help but notice a lot of smiling faces. Beautiful harmony amongst you all. Thank you for the effort it took to travel from all ends of the planet. From Brazil and Sweden, Australia, Canada, the Himalayas and the UK.

Here are a few pictures to remember our time together.


Sunday, 20 April 2014

New Studio, Kitchen and Bath...

Hibernation held me deep in it's warm arms through January.  Sleeping in every morning and going to bed early.  (Recovering from a long and fun year.) In late January it was time to turn 50.  A few days after that was over, I got up one morning  and shook the grog from my head. There was enough work to do preparing for visitors in March and the spring workshops starting in April. More than enough work to do. In fact.... way too much work.

Ignoring the realities of limited hours in a day, three construction projects erupted at one time.

The old clay storehouse that sits beside the house had a load of rotten tatamis stacked behind it and all kinds of old wood and junk that was stacked neatly but with no real future. Yucky place. Ignored for twenty years.

A few months later...

It took only a few hours to clear it all away.  I sat with a sketchbook and drafting paper for a few days to figure out what could be done in that dead space.

The indigo vats sit as guardians at the front door. They have been there twenty years.  I've been solitarily scrubbing  indigo off the stones and concrete and walls and glass late at night after all the dyeing fun is over and everyone is asleep or gone home.  And cleaning up the kitchen after a mad day dyeing in there. It was time to put it all together in one easy-to-clean area.

 That old 70s ramshackle kitchen was likeable. Patched together from all sorts of odds and ends. But the counter was too low. The whole room was beyond ramshackle and fast approaching falling apart. With the help of the towns two best carpenters (Sadly, these old time carpenters are disappearing.) it was rebuilt. I had some very old zelkova pillars from a torn down farmhouse I took to the local sawmill and cut and planed and then put together some drawers.  I re-used the countertop and sink, used local wood to have shelves made.  The carpenters are perfectionists and it was tough to be on the ball with all the drafting. They were critical of how heavy the drawers and windows I made are. (Not to mention my pathetic attempt at glass tiling in the kitchen.)  But they were always helpful with advice and curious to all the design quirks insisted on. Japanese tend to leave everything to experts and not get involved with building except to choose the wallpaper etc. Keeping them happy with coffee and cake while refusing to make decisions until the last minute and changing horses in midstream a few times I managed to get my way.  I gave Eros Nakazato an old milk can and asks him to make a hood for the range. As always, he went overboard. Coolest fan hood on the planet.  Thank you Eros.

New dyeing area outside.  It needs to be used a few times before moving on to the completion phase. It takes time to get a feel for how it can be used.

Another bath was needed for when guests are over. One is not enough. The old one is off the kitchen and there isn't much privacy. Just a place to get clean. Not to cleanse.

This becomes the bathtub.

The two-person bath waiting to be put together in the room when the tiles are finished.

If you have ever been to a Japanese hot spring you know that the Japanese have perfected the art of having a bath. Wooden bathtubs in a steamy, dimly lit wooden room with a stone floor......heaven.  It is ambiguous where the outdoors and the indoors meet. In the old days, baths were wooden and heated by a contraption that required firewood. You were left open on a few sides to nature. Rain or sweltering heat or snow and sometimes the gentlest spring breezes, the thought of the hot water waiting, took away the other discomforts of the time it took to prepare the bath undress and wash outside the tub before getting in. The smell of smoke, the sky and trees surrounding you washed away more than grime.

I wanted one at the house for myself and friends and guests. It is almost finished. I made the tub from Sawara Cypress at the local small sawmill. (The owner lets me use the planers and saws as I am endlessly buying wood from him.) As soon as the tiles are on the wall and the stone laid on the floor we can all soak away our stiff backs after a day at the indigo vats. Conspicuous consumption...a little embarrassing.  (The bath will help to get over the discomfort of it all.)

(The landscaping will wait until December.)

There were a lot of very beautiful textiles made at the house the past few months as well. Pictures to come.
A new kitchen,  a new studio and a new bath and record breaking snowstorms. What was I thinking?
It is almost all finished. The first workshop was a success. Spring has arrived. Life is good.