尺八・Shakuhachi – a textile story

October 16, 2014

In July, I wrote about creating a piece based on the kanji 尺八shakuhachi. My patron has a brother who (to my understanding) repairs, makes and also plays the instrument. The piece was for him.



Before the ‘assignment’ could be considered though, researching the kanji was in order. What did it/they look like and how complicated would they be? Could it be rendered in shibori? I was suprised to find that they were quite straightforward – only a few strokes. 尺 (shaku) – refers to a unit of measure – 4 strokes, and 八 (hachi)–means 8, but more relevant in this context is that it is the 3rd in the Iroha syllabary organization – only two (strokes).





After transferring the drawn characters onto linen, the next consideration was the approach for stitching – in what direction would I work? I decided that moving in the same directions as one would when writing would be most logical. The first “stroke” was on the left, so I stitched from top to bottom. The second “stroke” was left to right with a “stop” or turn to move down (all one stroke) – and so on.

Shaku-det1A HachiDet1A

My concern was that the strokes would convey some sense of the brush and the characteristics of those strokes. The beginnings and endings needed to have ‘proper’ weight.  Another aspect was simply composition which included the space between the characters – enough space to breathe, yet seen together as a word.  It has to be read.

Once stitching was completed and all thread drawn up tightly, the piece was immersed in a natural indigo vat. It was “dipped” and given oxidation time many times over until it arrived at a satisfying depth of hue.  And then,  those other “tidying up” details – rinsing (maybe washing), pressing, the han (name stamp), press again, casings…done.

displayed with Shakuhachi as the display hangers

with Shakuhachi as the display hangers & weight

musician and 尺八

musician and 尺八

Finally, this month, it was delivered to its new home.  One isn’t always privy to what happens with pieces after they move on to their new life. Sometimes a story is told, but rarely does one see it. This was one of those rare and surprising gifts.

Celebrating the season: 秋・Aki (Autumn)

October 15, 2014

Aki-pstcrd1I’m sure I’ve mentioned this at least in passing several times in the recent past and “pointed” the way to my “Upcoming Workshops” page, but maybe it really needs to be posted.  At any rate, the classes begin next Tuesday evening.  If there are any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

magic in the moonlight

October 9, 2014

Indeed the sky certainly has been full of something this week. The eclipse wasn’t visible from my vantage point unfortunately,but I did rise early to see if I could catch a glimpse. The space station skimmed by a couple of times during the week. The moon continued in its growth toward fullness. What a week for things celestial.

10-8moonB ISSgrphc1

While last night’s moon was full, it was not 十五夜・Jugoya or 満月・mangetsu – which take place earlier in August and September. Still, why not pause and do a little viewing? The sky was clear, the air still lingering of summer but with a hint of what’s to come…in North Carolina, it works.

Mangetsu1A 3570B

While the days are still warm but not nearly as humid, I’m taking full advantage of the situation – simply enjoying the autumn light and some time to explore.

pampas grass, rabbit ears & indigo

October 2, 2014

Last weekend I spent a day with art students at Meredith College. They filled an old familiar dye studio and worked with various tools for shibori: needle & thread, string, small clamps and boards and plastic pipes. Then they dipped their pieces in the indigo vats and strung them on a line. It was a most refreshing and satisfying day – had a grand time.

at the vats



It’s also the season of viewing that certain nighttime orb – Clouds have obscured its view lately, but it was a golden-orange last night. It didn’t need to be full to make a statement.



Tsuki mi udon

Tsuki mi udon

Some of the symbols of the season are pampas grass, rabbits, the moon and other things autumnal. Gourds, dragonflies and autumn leaves…whatever makes the statement.

Pampass grasses

Pampas grasses at Meredith

This imagery is one thing being considered in my upcoming class at Pullen Arts Center. Describing this kind of imagery through nui shibori (stitched shibori) is the focus. Details are on my “Workshops” page. There are still a few openings…



In the meantime, I am breathing deep and contemplating the moon glow.

** a little “vocab”:

月・つき・tsuki = moon, tsuki mi = moon viewing, tsuki mi udon – moon viewing noodles (note the egg).


September 25, 2014

It’s more than obvious by now that the exhibit is now open. I’ve mentioned it on more than one occasion. Suffice it to say, that finally, on viewing, all of us in the group are quite pleased and happy to see how the folks at Meredith displayed our work.

All My Relations by Cheryl Harrison

All My Relations by Cheryl Harrison

It has been a while since I’ve had a chance to view Cheryl’s work. It was good to see it and it affirmed its strength and her skill.

What Remains by Peggy Clover

What Remains by Peggy Clover

There’s much more than meets the eye with so many of these pieces. They tell stories, life stories. It’s heart work, so they are not always what they seem. In viewing them again, in this context, it’s all I can do.

Connections (the exhibit)

September 12, 2014

I would be remiss if I didn’t post this:


We are less than a week away and I’ve been mentioning this, but a post devoted to it was needed.  The above image is linked to the site for more information.  You can also find the same on my “Events” page.  We (Threads group) are thrilled to pieces about this, also honored and deeply touched as it also celebrates Cheryl Harrison who was a part of our group.  Hope you can join us!


September 11, 2014

In spite of the heat, humidity and rain, autumn is revealing itself and I’m thinking ahead to that season – just thinking. I don’t want to rush anything as there is so much to savor in this between time.

ripening kaki1

For one, the “kaki” are ripening, coming into color, softening to eat and sometimes they drop on the ground before they can be picked. I’ve been looking forward to this time and finally…the fruit is mildly sweet, so far.

polewrapped earlyresults1

Between the summer workshops, there has also been “paced” progress on a wedding gift for a good friend of my son. He and his bride requested table linens, The stitching is complete and finally the dyeing aspect has begun.  I’m pleased  and also surprised with these early results.  There’s always a new aspect to this craft.


This ストール (sutōru), stole (above) will soon be making its way to West Jefferson – a fund raiser I believe. It’s an ample sized Crepe de Chine wrap or shawl that has been needing completion for some time. Yesterday, the sun came out just long enough for it to dry.

 Preparations are also in progress for a workshop at Pullen Arts Center.  The theme centers on autumn and a selection of traditional Japanese motifs. It begins in October and runs through a part of November (see “Upcoming Workshops” page).

My portion in next week’s exhibit at Meredith College has been delivered. The opening reception is next Thursday – details are on this blog’s Events page. As a member of Threads, I welcome you.  We are looking forward to it.

late summer haze

September 4, 2014

As my writings seem to be settling into a  Thursday to Thursday pattern, the week begins on Friday. Rather than a week ending, it’s a beginning. This week began with the opening reception of Matsuri/祭り at the NC Japan Center, where Yoshiko Sumikawa’s gentle but joyful watercolors illustrate aspects of the diverse matsuri (festivals) that take place in Japan throughout the seasons.



Typically, though, they are summertime high energy events full of color, music, dancing, food and fireworks. They’re also a reflection of tradition – something I am always attracted to.


low hanging “kaki’ – tempting the deer?

The rest of the week? It feels like we’re in the dog days and I’ve been looking at what is surviving in these days of high heat and humidity.

the Argentine Sage is abundant

the Argentine Sage is abundant

The delivery date for the upcoming Threads exhibit (see the Events page) is coming soon, so focus has continued to be on the stitch.

it goes where & how it wants

the thread goes where & how it wants

Still enjoying it and the textures it creates.



Some threaded guidelines are disappearing as I complete the above. It’s nearly complete – a few more rows – perhaps today. I look forward to seeing it in the gallery.


August 28, 2014

In my last entry, I mentioned an upcoming group exhibition. More information is included on my “Events” page. The opening reception is on September the 18th and of course, the public is welcome (and I am looking forward to this).

As a result, most of my time over the last week has been spent completing a few last pieces and preparing all of them for set up in the gallery. I’m continuing stitch work on two pieces, one is the ensō which I mentioned earlier, and another is a much smaller quilted piece.


It contains the kanji 寿(Kotobuki) with shibori wrapped around the character strokes and its form is slowly emerging.  I’m enjoying the work – one stitch at a time.


But, yesterday I changed the week’s work routine to dye a few scarves.  The weather was almost autumnal (except for the mosquitoes), low humidity and a breeze, good for drying things. There are always questions about fibers, how they respond to the dye, the techniques, how they read, and then again the dye and its response. The results are always unexpected and give me new things to consider.  It’s never backtracking, simply  practice.


And they are back!


Home again

August 21, 2014

Last week I breathed North Carolina mountain air, wore a sweater at night to ward off the chill and watched large moths and fireflies (or were they fairies?) flit about in the early evening from the second floor porch of the inn where I was staying.

I was in West Jefferson and visiting the Florence Thomas Art School where we (Janine LeBlanc & I) taught two workshops. One was three full days of explorations in shibori and “dipping” in the indigo dye vat. The second was a 3 hour introductory session on Saturday.

Both experiences were rewarding and needless to say, a delight. We enjoyed their new location on main street, in Ray’s Hardware. The front display windows were a fun venue for showing off student dye pieces. We did our best to attract the passersby.

We also stayed at the Meadowsweet Gardens Inn, a bed and breakfast with gardens to capture the imagination – certainly mine. I kept thinking of Beatrix Potter while walking through vine covered arches and exploring the perennials. Breakfasts were also a huge plus (fresh biscuits and zucchini bread…), sustaining for the day ahead.


As I’d been missing the butterflies in my home garden, it was reassuring to see an abundance of them exploring Debbie’s Phlox. On my return home, I did see a swallowtail sail through my front yard.


With the completion of these last two workshops, summer teaching is complete. I’m looking forward to an exhibit coming up next month with my Threads group at Meredith College.  A workshop at Pullen Arts Center begins in October as well.


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