bloom time

May 28, 2015
Peonies & False Indigo

Peonies & False Indigo

Springtime gifts from friends – given to inspire – “Grow some peonies! More blue for you garden [the cutting came with some seedlings]!”

Student work:  Arashi in reds, fuchsia…

Colors certainly bloomed in last week’s workshop. They were defined and described through various shibori techniques – pretty free form.

One morning's inspiration - student work

Student work:  One morning’s inspiration for all of us

My students put their hearts into it. It may not have been restful (achy backs, tired feet…), but there was exploration, engagement and enthusiasm. I think we all came away with some answers but also questions. That may be the point.

thriving, so far

thriving, so far

At home, my indigo bed is thriving. We pruned to let in more sunlight and hope this will make things even better. It isn’t an ideal space. As per usual, it’s always experimentation.

I’m looking forward to June – time for personal explorations and watching my gardens grow.

bloomin’ colors

May 14, 2015

The afternoon at the NC Japan Center has been in the works for some time.


Finally, on Saturday, it came into fruition and what fun! It was for the kids, but parents were in tow. Both kids & parents seemed fully engaged – couldn’t ask for more.


The adults watched the sky. Clouds hovered and threatened, but rain didn’t move in until I was leaving. It was a delightful day, needless to say.

a vase full and more

a vase full and more

Then, Mothers Day and so many flowers…what a treat. I spent some of my time planting them.


This coming week, Shibori in Bloomin’ Colors is on the horizon (Pullen Arts Center), so Roy G. Biv comes to mind.

things hatching

May 8, 2015

They’ve finally hatched!

more than 2 actually

more than 2 actually

Mom didn’t appreciate the photographer messin’ with her kids. I received what sounded like threats.

back phlox bed & indigo

back phlox bed & indigo

The garden keeps expanding. It’s so easy to work in. The phlox has powdery mildew at the moment. I hope I can remedy that soon.

poppy detail

poppy detail

The sun and mild spring temps have been perfect for some explorations – no humidity or mosquitoes.  The activity itself is refreshment, practice and generally bending the mind to work in colors other than ‘that’ exotic blue.

some of those primary colors

some of those primary colors

It feels like play and that’s probably what it is.  A workshop dealing with the same is upcoming at Pullen Arts Center in just few weeks.


May 1, 2015

The photos don’t do these pieces justice – the nature of things. However that is, these below and many more, reflect simplicity and sophistication.

bold, strong patterns

bold, strong patterns

It wasn’t completely about the indigo, but about technique and the engineering behind pattern making – what could be done by hand with the aid of a tool.

amazing consistency ....

amazing consistency ….

I never cease to be amazed at the invention that takes place. There is without a doubt always a new approach.

These were just a very small sample of class results that took place at the museum last weekend.  You’ll find more images here. Needless to say, this is one very content sensei.

in the dirt

April 23, 2015

Lots of scratching in the dirt, digging deep holes, transplanting and planting seeds.

raised beds! finally!

raised beds! finally!

This is just a beginning.

Polygonum tinctorium seedlings

Polygonum tinctorium seedlings

They’ve grown a wee bit since the last entry.

"scum" on the vat's surface

“scum” on the vat’s surface

Keeping my eye on the vat, always as it hasn’t had much activity lately.  The days are warming up though and there’s promise.

potential for blue

April 16, 2015

I won’t mention it (rehtaew eht). I know I’m always talking about it, but I’m so dependent on what “it” does. It can’t be helped.

Woad flower

Woad flower

One of the many blossoms opening this week – woad. It grew from seed (Milkweed seed).   I thought it would never take off last year.  Yet, here is one result after this winter’s ice and snow. This is the best of the bunch, so it looks like chances are good for an abundant seed harvest (I hope).

I see lots of potential here.

I see lots of potential here.

It’s past the time for harvesting the leaves – should have done that last year. My plants were so small. It’s a biennial, giving good leaves one year (for the dye), flowers and seeds the next. I’m learning.

first indigo sprouts of the season

first indigo sprouts of the season

On the other hand, new indigo sprouts – just this week. They’ll need to mature a bit before transplanting into a new bed.

Consider this entry a little sprout – sometimes it’s difficult to articulate the words, in a sensible manner, for all of the life that goes around.  This is a little something, but one of the many that makes the day, the week or the season…well worth the living.

Outdoors – it’s the season

April 9, 2015

It’s probably a good thing I document the days in some fashion. Otherwise, I might forget and think I did nothing.

cotton tunics deeply dipped in that only blue

cotton tunics deeply dipped in that only blue

Actually, the days have been full, with dye work, dipping between the raindrops. Fortunately, it has been more sun than drops, until today. It could be next week before this order is complete.

the fat woad that will oon give me an abundance of seeds

the fat woad that will soon give an abundance of seeds

Dye work leads me into my yard, where I seek out new blooms, sprouts and other related discoveries. The weeds are in abundance, the rabbits are already showing interest in some of my new plants and the familiar nest is back on the same shelf in the garage. So far, no inhabitants, but the nest may still be in progress.

on a shelf in my garage among bottles & boxes of dye supplies - made of pine needles, crape myrtle seeds & old leaves - the birds "fussed" at me the other day while I worked at the vat.  Was I intruding?

on a shelf in my garage among bottles & boxes of dye supplies – made of pine needles, crape myrtle seeds & old leaves – the birds “fussed” at me the other day while I worked at the vat. Was I intruding?

I’m raking leaves and old pine needles, weeding, planning beds, starting seeds and adding a few new perennials for added color and  attracting butterflies – just getting started.

Mixed in is continued planning and preparations for upcoming workshops this spring and summer. Then, there are personal explorations, some are serendipitous, responding to the seasons,  and then others are more involved – questions to be resolved, a theme or story…and this is the season.

aspects of the floral

April 2, 2015

I’m sure Art in Bloom has had an influence and I’m sure there will be more responses to it. Aspects of the floral were already on my mind though, as I’ve been keeping an eye on those first spring blooms in the garden.

So, it’s just a natural response to the season.

Along that line, I’m exploring some vintage patterns with similar imagery – something I’ve been wanting to do for some time.

These small “samplers” are on old linen napkins that have come to me over the last few years, including some from my mother. They’re disintegrating and stained, but I couldn’t throw them out.

This one is obviously “boro”, quite worn. The shibori and dyeing of it are just a first step. I also wanted to work this one up quickly while my own “sakura” were in bloom.

This bit of heaven is now slowly disappearing – delicately falling and being carried in the breeze. New green leaves are emerging.

花見・Hana mi/Flower viewing

March 25, 2015
closing in on Art in Bloom

closing in on Art in Bloom

The NC Museum of Art opened its doors to 花見・Hana mi/Flower Viewing with Art in Bloom last weekend. It was a grand welcome to spring. Read Dana Watson’s description and photos of the event. You’ll see what I mean.

inspired by Aaron Douglas' Harriett Tubman

inspired by Aaron Douglas’ Harriett Tubman

I spent a part of two days walking through the exhibit. It brought a fresh perspective to the collection, seeing pieces I hadn’t seen or remembered from previous visits. More explorations are in order, I suspect.

Lenten Roses

Lenten Roses

Another place for flower viewing was the NC Governor’s Mansion. I visited there with my sister and friends. The gardens there are just getting started, but their raised beds were an inspiration.

raised beds - Governor's mansion

raised beds – Governor’s mansion

It warmed up just enough this week, making it possible to put some small napkin or hankie sized pieces on the line. These are still in process and look forward to seeing the results.


linen napkins in indigo

There should be some reflection of the season in them.

生きている・It lives

March 19, 2015

Ai wa ikiteiru.
Indigo lives./Indigo is living.

That idea is expressed in so many places, Japanese, in books on websites…. It derives from the fact that there is living bacteria in the vat. So, the vat could be approached or seen as a living being. If it’s living, it also has a spirit, hence, the need for respect, care and maybe a little awe.

where conversations take place

where conversations take place

Why did I write that? It keeps appearing in my readings. Though, the feeling is there when I’m working with it. I can feel the life and its expression. It was very much that way as I struggled to pull color with it this week. Was it sad or just cold? Had I neglected it or was it hungry? We do have our “moments” and all I can surmise is that we’re in seasonal transition and that must have an affect.

Still, enough color was managed for beginning sample work for upcoming spring and summer workshops. I feel the need to walk through what my students will be making, especially my younger ones. So, that process has begun.



Working with those basic techniques, practicing – it never gets old, and there are always questions about the vat, technique and imagery.

The Workshop pages are also in development as more information is updated. Also, as I’ve created a new site, Oriba Shibori, my old site, Susan Fennell Studio will no longer be in service in a few weeks. I’ve already changed out most of my links.

The new season is nearly here and it’s also full of life – so much to be anticipated.

Argentine sage

Argentine sage – first signs – also a deep blue flower.


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