Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

March 3rd

March 3, 2017
Hinamatsuri Dolls

雛祭り Hinamatsuri Dolls

Today is Hinamatsuri, Girls’ Day, Girls’ Festival or Dolls Festival in Japan.  I remember being intrigued with the tall displays of the imperial court when I was a girl.  Some were so elaborate and elegant – yes, I would have loved a collection of my own!

The kanji 「雛・ひな」hina defines as “chick, duckling, squab [fledgling bird] and doll”。「祭り・まつり」Matsuri means “ritual, offer prayers, celebrate, deify, enshrine and worship”.  The origins of this festival trace back to hina-nagashi in the Heian Period.  So there’s more to this than just celebrating girls and dolls – also a little spiritualism and “magic” (perhaps).

The photo is ancient – from my dad’s collection, something “generic” so I’m not sure that he even took it. He must have used it though, to talk about Japanese culture in our trips “back” to the US.  At any rate, it gives me pause to look back and there’s always something new to learn in the process.

March 1st: blustery.

March 1st: blustery.

The month began with those “March winds” – it was blustery and I’ve had some custom work on the line this week. It was uncharacteristically warm – in the 80s – not at all March-like.

The real reason for this entry? I changed the times for the opening for “Filaments”, the upcoming exhibit mentioned in my last blog. I’ve also updated it on the Events page – 6-8 p. instead of 5-7 p.  Hope to see you there!


bluer than blue?

November 19, 2015

As in any other medium, there seems no limit to the imagery one can create in working in shibori.  That’s one of the things I love about it.  The challenge lies in its engineering aspects. The image below is student work, but it wasn’t child’s play, it was work.

I was fortunate to witness some of the aspects of the making of this piece – and yes, part of it may have been play – certainly experimental. It was a dip at a time, letting it oxidize, assessing it and repeating the process until the dye was deep enough or that it covered the desired areas. I love the playful aspects of the piece. It also takes me to a long ago place, a certain lake and some memorable sailing.

From time to time, especially when I’m in the middle of a workshop, often, a particular proverb comes to mind. I encountered it my early years of teaching as well as explorations in indigo. It has become a favorite:

「あおは あいより でて あい より あお し」
Ao wa ai yori dete ai yori ao shi.

The translation has to do with blue being stronger/better/beyond the blue in the indigo plant (at least it’s a reference to an original color source) or something of that ilk. At any rate, it refers to the student being better than the teacher – quite often the case and certainly in my experience many times. So, I wonder if this has more to do with becoming better – growing past the teacher, which is what is wanted in the end. That may be the message in the proverb and to the teacher as well.


July 23, 2015

It’s (蒸し暑い・むしあつい)mushiatsui – steamy hot or lets say, muggy. It’s been like that the last few days. Today, though is a thunderstorm type day. It’s keeping me away from the vats and clothesline. I’m also adjusting to not teaching and trying to refocus on past projects. It takes a while.

catching a breeze

catching a breeze

In the meantime, I’m “feeding” the vat with activity, just to keep the spirits happy.

 old embroidered silk scarf

old embroidered silk scarf

Anything will do, as long as there’s cloth in the dye.

playing with pattern

playing with a summer pattern

I’m also keeping an eye on my small indigo plots – not the lush garden I’d dreamed of. The first harvest will be small.


maybe more sunshine with the second growing

It may be too much shade, or the heat (dubious)…I’m puzzled. At least there are some results, not displeasing, but definitely wanting. Next year, a different spot.


She passed through yesterday late afternoon, and again after a downpour this morning.

Other plants, despite nurturing are still struggling and failing due to mildew and similar things. Yet, others are thriving and attracting bees and hummingbirds. I’m holding hope for butterflies, but they have been skimpy in my garden.

PS.  Having said that, later in the early evening, a yellow and black swallowtail sailed by on its way to a neighbor’s garden just across the street.

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.

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.

sunny with thunder

June 13, 2014

Actually, it finally manifests in a soaking storm. Even though, it has been possible to put a few things in the vat and on the line. Today was not the case though.

As my son is home for a brief visit, we headed to the museum to see Estampas de la raza /Prints for the People. This was my second visit and could be back for more as there is so much to be considered from a cultural and historical perspective, just for starters.

My son mentioned Artemio Rodriguez, so I paid attention to his work this time around and later looked through a book containing nothing but his prints – strong and thought provoking.  We also viewed Raúl Colón’s enchanting illustrations which also presented some of the same ideas, similar perspectives, but a different approach.

linen in indigo

linen in indigo

Through the week, though, the focus has been on dyeing the above piece of linen that will serve as a canvas for a piece I think of as an “ensō.”  The dominant motif is circular.  It’s of Gunma silk that has had the sericin removed. At this point it needs to be stretched over the linen.

detail view - not so deep, but it's a reflective dyestuff

detail view – not so deep, but it’s a reflective dyestuff

Reaching that depth of hue has really been the “chase” this week. The above photo shows it much lighter than it really is. Still, the process may be continuing into next week.

手で・te de ・by hand

手で・te de ・by hand

May’s first event, Herbfest, sparked an older idea I return to from time to time – exploring aspects of my “other” language.

Coming up next week, I’ll be spending an evening with Twisted Threads presenting a discussion and encounter with indigo (and shibori).  Then over the weekend, time will be spent in a studio at the NC Museum of Art presenting a 2 day workshop on the same topic.

the 寿・kotobuki piece

May 29, 2014

Last week was a kind of week off, at least from making. Some time went into the yard and garden .

Argentine Sage

Argentine Sage

This one attracts the hummgingbirds and I think it goes without saying why it grows in my garden.

Earlier, I showed a piece in progress and deliberated over whether it should be dyed in my home studio or in class. Since it was a reference to the Fukusa in the Gregg’s current exhibit, it simply made sense to dye it in class.

Fukusa (Gregg)

Fukusa (Gregg)



Shown above is the fukusa and my reference to it – in its current state. Currently, I’m considering the next step in its development. As one can see, I used mokume to shape the kanji 「寿」・kotobuki・long life, as opposed to using the kanoko pattern (realistically an impossibility). It didn’t turn out as expected, but it can be read and that may be adequate for this context and the next.

It took exactly one week from start to this point (Sunday to Sunday). That included drawing an image template and transferring it to the cloth, stitching (the mokume pattern) which took most of the week, and finally dyeing it on the second day of the workshop. For the present, it will “cure” until it’s ready for completion.

So, as the narrator of my current ドラマ (dorama) says 「ごきげんよう!  Gokigenyō!」Go well (in good spirits)! Adieu!

in the making for Herbfest

April 24, 2014

There are so many different ways to express the concept of handcrafts or the handmade in Japanese. In trying to find the most appealing and easy (to the western ear) to say (and remember?) while staying in context was a bit of a challenge. I still can’t be sure that 手技・shugi, the “umbrella” name I chose for Dana’s and my small business venture at Herbfest is the appropriate one, but it does convey the meaning well enough.

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手技・しゅぎ・Shugi defines as craft or the handcrafts as the kanji 手・て・te means ‘hand’ and 技・ぎ/わざ・gi/waza refers to skill, art or technique. I thought using “日本の。。。/Japanese” in the title would only be redundant (and also long), but some might wonder. I’ve been thinking that some kind of signage might be appropriate. I’m still giving that some thought.


Dana Watson (From My Wandering Mind & Tanabata Wishes) is bringing her Temari (literally hand balls), intricately patterned, thread wrapped balls. You can ask Dana about their history and the stories involved in the making of each one.


I plan to keep my palette limited for this fest (indigo & white). I’ll bring scarves and other sundries in shibori. I’m looking forward to it and hope for a classic North Carolina spring day.


花の宴・Hana no En

April 18, 2014

A phrase that keeps coming to mind, from my usual resource (for haiku and similar), is 「春高楼の花の宴」・はるこうろうの はなの えん・haru kourou no hana no en. In researching its meaning, reference to a song appeared repeatedly and finally found that it is the first line to Kōjō no Tsuki – “Moon over the Ruined Castle”. It seems to allude to Cherry blossom viewing parties (in the castle tower?) and the abundance or “feast of flowers” – something like that.


blooms at the NC Japan Center


In any event, the phrase hana no en (feast of flowers) seems appropriate to our current season and nature’s abundant response to this past winter. That sense spilled over onto the last weekend’s events – Slow Art Day and the current exhibit at the NC Japan Center.


Wild North Carolina Wisteria

Junko Yamada - Harie

Junko Yamada – Harie

Slow Art Day must have taken everyone outdoors (the weather was superb!) as numbers of visitors to the Gregg was “meager”, but still the quality of the visits and experience made it worth the effort and time – engaging conversations and good food! Later I moved on to the Japan Center and Junko Yamada’s Harie.

Her collages are a unique approach to working with paper (extremely meticulous). She lends a deeply personal perspective as she explores hidden treasures in what seem to be “old Japan” as well as speaking of home, the environment and the ephemeral.

Summer Garden

Summer Garden

My personal favorite was her latest, Summer Garden. It feels so familiar.

the spell

April 3, 2014
Sakura & Bee/桜と蜂

Sakura & Bee/桜と蜂

Mother Nature cast her spell this week. I think the show has peaked for this blossom, but I’ve relished every moment. I’ve been under the tree everyday, looking at it from different vantage points and taking pictures. I do this every year.

Mid-afternoons, the bumblebees do their work, so the tree has been thick with their humming and activity. It’s 花見 (hana mi/flower viewing) for all of us.

celebrating small

celebrating small

The moment within the season needed marking in some small way and I also needed to make a stitch sample – testing the cloth and my stitches.

Pattern work


The sun finally came out, warming things up, making it possible to work outdoors – some dye work, some yard work. I’m thinking of possibilities not just in the cloth but also the garden.  The days aren’t quite long enough in this season.

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