Thursday, 25 June 2015

White Shadow / Shirokage Shibori

Muriel drops by Japan a few times a year to do research on Japanese textiles. She drops by and stays a few days now and then to use the indigo, drop off some Swiss cheese and chocolate.  I get to see her meticulous shibori work and progress.

White shadow shibori is one of the difficult shape resist techniques. It is tough to get the balance of the shapes and sizes right so the indigo does not bleed in from behind and ruin the perfect white background. She got it perfect on her last masterpiece.

First the pattern was drawn on the cotton and then painstakingly stitched and stitched. (Muriel has done some haute couture embroidery in France and knows what slow progress is all about.)

She used a q-tip to push through all the white parts to the backside. It is then tightly bound to a pipe/pole to resist the back and let only the raised ridges dye.

It is easy to see how long the oxidation of the indigo takes on the first dip as the green is so visible. By the tenth dip you can't see the green turn to blue and have to estimate how long it takes. 

Taken off the pipe the back was white! 

The moment when it comes to open it up.

Washed and dried. Perfect results.

Here are a few more pieces from Muriel this year.

She is searching out indigo in remote corners of Japan and ran across this indigo hottie. He was surprised to see her beautiful work. (Hurray Gaijin!) 

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Mokume Shibori Magnolia Leaf Motif

Ogata san is still stitching like wildfire at 97 and three quarters. We work on projects together. This time we went for a walk and found a few beautiful magnolia trees on the dog walk path.

The magnolia leaves were drawn on with a brush and aobana (disappearing orchid ink).

Then lines were drawn at three and a half centimetre intervals up the length of the cloth and stitched from selvage to selvage jumping over the outline of the leaves. 

Ogata san took over for homework and stitched three more rows across between each row. It took a hundred or so hours to sew up the whole thing.

We pulled all the threads through and then wet it, pulled them tighter and tied them off in pairs. 

We then dyed it 12 times in strong indigo and opened it up. It was surprising to see some of the nuances of the brush strokes were still visible in the shibori.  Someone should convince Ogata san to sashiko stitch the whole piece to a back.... and give it to her indigo teacher for his birthday....or Christmas...or Boys Day...whatever...

On the same day we started this project we simply gathered some maple leaves and stencil pasted over them through a special net I rigged together.  The results were quick. The crepe texture of the cloth added visual interest to a pretty mundane technique.

And yes...that is not Momo but the famous shiba ken "Maru". He visited the house yesterday for filming a new program.  He was surprised to see that I had one of his books. Thank you Melody and Sana for that present last summer.  I never dreamed I would actually meet Maru.  Momo was flirting like crazy with him. Poor Geiger....

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Cocoons and Workshop

                      It is cool. The five week rainy season is weighing heavily on our spirits.

Ten days after the silkworms finished spinning the cocoons I removed them from the frames and took off the outside fuzz. The next step is to boil them in a straw ash solution to make silk floss and then spin the floss, dye it and then weave it.

Caroline the amazing French knit designer attended my spring ten-day Introduction to Japanese Indigo Workshop. She was so kind to write about her experience. She writes both in French and English.

Please take a look at her knit designs. I shake my head in disbelief at her work. You would keep it for years. It lacks...throw-away-ability.... I just heard that fashion is the second most polluting industry on earth next to the oil industry. Shouldn't we buy clothing we keep for twenty years?

These are the links to her blog about the indigo workshop. You can easily click around to see her work. Practise your French.

Number one
Number two
Number three

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Apartment Blocks for Silkworms

People have been clever throughout the history of silk farming making the tools needed from what is close at hand. The silkworms eat mulberry for a month and on the last day they start looking for a place to make a cocoon. (They make the cocoon to protect themselves from being eaten and to keep warm while they transform into butterflies/moths.)

In nature they would just find somewhere on the branch to make the cocoon.

When I am doing a lot of silkworms I use these folding cardboard apartments. They were developed in Japan in the 1960s. They are very practical. They save space and the silkworms are more or less forced to make uniformed sized cocoons.

The silkworms spit silk as they walk around before finding the real estate they prefer and climbing in and making a cocoon. The frames get all dirty with old silk. Instead of using a wire brush to individually clean each compartment it is easier to make an even charcoal fire and add a few pieces of wood for flame and singe off the old silk. It is a little tricky to get the heat and flame just right so that the cardboard doesn't catch fire.

                            Old silk form last year stuck on the mabushi.
Passing the mabushi over the flames to burn off the old silk.

Setting up the mabushi with Dani.

Silkworms making cocoons today in the mabushi hanging upstairs.

Alternatives to the cardboard apartments. I made this one out of rice straw and bamboo. 

A Basket used in Laos for the same purpose.

Good old cut up toilet paper rolls serve the same function.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Freshest Mulberry and The Freshest Guests.

The weather has been cooler than usual and the silkworms are slightly behind schedule. They are plump and stuffing themselves during the day but as the temperature drops at night they are quiet and just nibbling the mulberry. I figure there are three more days before they decide to make cocoons. 

The early blue mornings gathering mulberry in the field are hypnotic. Years of mulberry morning memories overlap and blend together. To have it cut while the dew is still on the leaves and the sun's tongue has not retreated is best. Best best best. 

The well-swept-hearth is the freshly leaved shelves and the sound of the silkworms eating like light rain. 

The gene pool is very interesting this year.

It is all about leaves this time of spring.
Tea harvest finished for another year.

Except for the sound of the worms eating the house is proper quiet. The last spring ten-day-workshop members have gone. Thank you Hilary, Jill, Sumi, Caroline, Faridah, Korrina, Jane, Janna and Frank the second.  Thank you for sharing your good will and talent and wisdom. Precious days at the indigo vats and dinner tables. Time flies. Thank you for taking a little bit of my heart and leaving me a bit of yours. Thank you. Bryan