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.

in a blink

March 12, 2015

In a blink of an eye it feels like spring has arrived. Daffodils are in bloom and my bluebells won’t be far behind. The warm temperatures and sun have made it possible to complete a dye job that has lingered since last month.

enjoying their shape & color

enjoying their shape & color

Daphne survived the ice and cold temps.

Daphne survived the ice and cold temps.

I enjoy each one that comes along, but it seems there was more variation in the fibers in this particular order. There was a tunic in an airy silk/cotton blend, another feather light silk tunic (with ruffles and ties), and a soft rayon top. They took the dye beautifully and had no trouble achieving the depth of blue that was requested. There were more and they were just as delicious.

silk tunic

silk tunic

Each piece had an unexpected richness, it seems. It simply continues to reaffirm the wonder of the dye, its color and the challenges it presents.

over dyed embroidery on a cotton blouse

over dyed embroidery on a cotton blouse

It was a pleasure to finally mail the box of goods off to my customer this morning. I suppose it marks the end of winter work. Now, on to spring. It calls.

There are workshops afoot, continued planning and preparation for the upcoming seasons. There is much to look forward to. I find though, that those spaces between events are equally important – one needs time for stillness, quiet, making it possible for exploration, invention…or maybe just dipping.

fixed on the weather

March 5, 2015

I admit, I’m fixed on the weather – the temps and whatever else it brings. It has a large affect on how my days go, particularly when dyeing is involved. That’s the situation today.



It’s been over a week though, since my foray to Florida to join some of my far-flung siblings and cousins for an auspicious family event. My mother turned 90, so we celebrated – had a grand time.

The ice was heavy on tree limbs

The ice was heavy on tree limbs

On my return though, I was greeted with another snow/ice storm which took out our power for most of a day. We’ve had worse, but it was still a reminder that we are not well prepared for these things in our area.

snow on sweetgum tree

snow on Sweetgum tree

Still I don’t like to miss the opportunity of catching nature when it brings us to a stand-still.

yesterday, in the 70s

yesterday, in the 70s

Yesterday, though, an abrupt change, a spike to 75 °, a chance to catch up on some work.  But today….rain with a good chance of sleet and ice. Nature and the weather….

By the way, my workshops page has been updated – that April workshop at the museum…well, ready for your consideration. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask.


Did we inspire…?

February 18, 2015

To pick up from my last entry…did we inspire her or what just happened? In truth, we know and we received our authentic taste of the season.

Gethin has discovered a new landscape.

Gethin has discovered a new landscape. He asked to go out & play in it many times during the day.

Everything was ice covered yesterday bringing our world to a stand-still. It also brought quiet, discovery and inspiration.

雪花 (yukibana) - snowflower came to mind, or maybe ice flower.

雪花 (yukibana) – snowflower comes to mind, or maybe ice flower.

seeking “sekka”

February 12, 2015

Sometimes, you have to create your own if Mother Nature isn’t going to accommodate.  Last Saturday and Sunday, certain adventurous women made that work. Their wintery explorations went far beyond what I could have imagined – they were full of the amazing.


Asanoha – hemp leaf pattern in “itajime”


understated perfection

I cannot thank my wonderful students enough for attending, participating and engaging with “the stuff.” It was delightful in so many ways.


a small class, but more room for play

Pullen Arts Center also provided a comfortable, wide open space and other aspects of a studio needed for a dye studio – huge steel sinks and a space for clotheslines. My gratitude to them also for hosting my workshops.

While on the topic, my next workshop will be April 25th and 26th at the NC Museum of Art. More specifics will be upcoming. Currently, information is in the museum’s Preview magazine, it will be available online in the near future.

I suppose the question might be, did we inspire “that” goddess? It remains to be seen, I suppose. I keep seeing hints that winter isn’t quite over for us in the Triangle.  Regardless, 雪花 (yukibana) happened here.

winter’s inspiration

January 29, 2015

Winter isn’t over by a long shot here but I am questioning the weather predictions via my persimmon seeds this last fall. The Farmer’s Almanac said our snowiest periods would be in mid to late January. We haven’t been “snowy” as yet, and I’m wondering – typical for this area.

last January around this time we looked like this.

last January around this time we looked like this.

Still, we are in the cold season and that’s the inspiration for my upcoming winter workshop at Pullen Arts Center.


Will we inspire Mother Nature?

some considerations

January 23, 2015

Back to it after some gloomy, damp winter weather and a bit of a respite. This week, for a few days, the weather turned spring like with welcome sunshine and milder temperatures. The idea of not dipping seemed like a missed opportunity. The vats had a bit of “revamping” with sunbeams to boot.

January dipping

January dipping

Truth be told, I’m preparing for an early February workshop celebrating wintery motifs – an emphasis on sekka/snowflakes and itajime/board clamping. More information can be found here but don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions.



This month I’ve needed a break, a breather. I’ve taken that point of view as I was “ordered” to do so after giving myself a mild concussion a few weeks back. It has seemed prudent to take things at a more measured pace. However, I’ve returned to old habits – too easy to do. Generally, it’s made me aware that some things need to change.


a crop from a larger photo – early days in Kagoshima. I love the dress and am impressed that she’s wearing a hat!

Another thing occupying my thoughts and activities is a project centering on my mother who celebrates her 90th year in roughly a month. It has involved looking at old photos of her and what surfaces, on one level, is her sense of style. That aspect has carried through her long life.  She always presents herself well.

Over the holidays I read Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible and enjoyed it thoroughly. Between the two, I’ve had many thoughts about my own clothing influences as well as simply considering my mother’s style in the context of her times and the culture in which she immersed herself. Sometimes I wonder “Who was she? What was she thinking?” The stories that come to mind…!

Wishing you the best

December 31, 2014

Shin nen omedetogozaimasu!
Happy New Year!

Mangetsu - the full moon

Mangetsu – the full moon

Wishing all of my readers, friends, family, and the many in my community, the very best in the upcoming year.  I’m grateful to each of you for making this past year a rich, full-life and memorable experience.  Thank you so much.


December 19, 2014

I know, I’m off “schedule” but hey, who’s looking? We’ll blame it on the season, the sky, the temps or whatever works. Routine is not this week. With the approach of holidays or special events, even if it’s quiet, things are still different. That difference or space between, in the sense of stopping to begin again, resting or simply pausing is what I’m looking for.


detail of the gift

There was some small interaction with cloth this last week though – I need it.  It wasn’t what I consider my usual ‘work’ – but a gift. So, the vat was also not neglected and we had some small conversations which we need to continue in the new year.


Kathy’s brie which fed my critique group – there’s message there, somewhere…

Another source of nourishing refreshment – not just literally. The food was delicious, but so was the conversation, laughter and that strong sense of community – my critique group – that has continued to grow over the many years we’ve been together. Sustenance.


a small suggestion of the kimono, obi and other items – a delight.

An old friend gifted me a collection of  ‘treasure’ from Japan. I’ve been looking at the pieces more closely today and sharing their beauty with some friends. One day they’ll move to a different home as they need to be shared, enjoyed and learned from.


autumnal motifs on a favorite silk kimono

Oriba Shibori is finally in place as it should have been long ago. I’ve long had this in mind but some things, even fairly simple ideas, sometimes, take time.

Getting close to that pause…very close.


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