Please forgive me for the belated Happy New Year to you. I hope you had a good holiday.
I had a good relaxing New Year’s Day with my sons. The New Year celebration is the biggest holiday in Japan. I have been trying to maintain the custom here as much as I can. The first meal of New Year’s Day is a feast. In Japan, I used to prepare it with my mother and sisters, starting a few days before. Now I usually cook a small portion of that traditional special food on New Year’s Eve and have it for brunch on the New Year’s Day. We had mochi, which can be translated as sweet rice cake. It is pounded sweet rice and very gooey. When it is thinly sliced or made into small pieces and cooked fully, they are called rice crackers. The main dish of the the first meal of the year is ozouni, a soup with mochi in it. The broth and the ingredients vary depending on the region of Japan. What I grew up with and cook for my family is Kantou (Greater Tokyo area) style. Its base is kelp and bonito (fish) and there is chicken, daikon radish, and carrots in it with baked mochi. I put a snow pea on top in a bowl instead of mitsuba (a kind of Japanese herb) as an additional color to make it good looking. I am grateful that my sons look forward to this meal with me every year. The past several years we have had friends over as well, but this year it was just the three of us. I enjoyed spending the day catching up on each other’s lives, chatting with our family in Japan via Facetime, watching a movie, and just talking in Japanese all day.
Last year I tried teaching a course on Japanese Culture at a college for a semester. I was so nervous and stressed about it. It was all a learning experience, however, I decided to focus on my own teaching through SAORI Worcester this year. I will have a Japan tour at the end of May and a studio members’ exhibition in July. I was invited to talk and give a workshop for Boston Weaver’s Guild in October, on top of which I have several more events lined throughout the year. Does this sound busy enough already? I am so happy to have such things I am able to be excited about.
I will continue gardening and playing the piano. I will continue getting involved in community movements. Developing my English skills is another priority in this year.
I wish you all a fulfilling year. Life is a continuous journey of learning and letting go. I would like to be more attentive and to cherish things I can not see, but which remain in the heart.
It’s time to post the announcement for the next year’s tour. I can not believe this will be the 7th SAORI Worcester’s friendship tour. Each one has its unique character to me. I am so grateful that there never has been any serious accident or issue during the tour. We have never had earthquake or typhoon either although throughout Japan there have been so many natural disasters. Although I have gained experiences, I do need to have cooperation from tour members to make it a successful journey. Thanks to the past tour members it seems to me that there are variety of talents to make the tour a fun, exciting, and memorable one to everyone.
I look forward to new one in 2017. We will visit Misao Jo, the founder of SAORI, Kenzo Jo, the loom designer, Eiji Jo, the director of SAORI Hiroba and so many others.
In Yufuin there was a huge earthquake this spring. People in Flora House were alright but visitors got decreased which made an impact on the business. I hope our visit encourage them to keep going.
I am longing for the smiles of many familiar faces and smells of good food and rice fields. Will you join us for the special experience next late Spring?
I was so happy that I successfully grew a small butch of indigo plants in my tiny yard this year. This was third time that I attempted. Indigo required a lot of water. I asked my friends to be indigo sitters while I was traveling in Japan in May. When I came home, I kept making sure to water them every other days.
In mid Sep. I decided to dye with the flesh leaves. I picked leaves which were three times the weight of the silk scarf I was going to dye.
The scarf was about 20 grams and the leaves were 60-70 grams. I put them in the blender with 700 ml room temperature water and mix them for a minute.
It came out just like foamy mattcha tea. Looked so delicious! I used a laundry net to drain the dye water into a bowl and put a silk scarf gently into the bowl.
I was mixing the scarf by hands in the bowl so it would dyed evenly. My hands got dyed, too. lol
Two minutes later…
Five minutes, ten minutes and fifteen minutes passed…
Rinsing the scarf changing water three or four times in a sink, the color remained and appeared brightly.
The color had changed so dramatically in front of my eyes that I was touched deeply by the magic of Indigo nature. I am sincerely grateful for all the science and crafts that people had discovered to pass on generations.
I will plan to plant more seeds next year to share this experience with all the studio members! Indigo rocks!!!
I have tried planting indigo seeds in my yard for few years and have never succeeded. I thought it was not warm climate for indigo to grow here in Massachusetts.
Last year when I was Artist in Residence at Searsport, ME in August, I saw beautiful indigo plants growing healthy in the dyer’s garden. Yes, this ocean camp ground has an artist studio and a dyer’s garden in the camping site.(Searsport Shore Ocean Campground) I picked the fresh leaves for my experiments. Although the dye experiment didn’t come out in a way I expected, I enjoyed doing it. And it made me realized that the reason that indigo seeds didn’t come out in my yard was not temperature. Since then, I researched more how to grow and how to dye with fresh leaves to determine to try it again this year.
I waited and waited for the frozen temperature to go away for a long time. This past winter was way too long and bitter for all of us. In April we had two days we had snow. Finally I planted the seeds I got from Japan at the end of March and kept them moisturized everyday. After two weeks, the seeds started sprouting! Hello, my babies! They are currently inside in my kitchen floor. I might need thin-out and replant them in a couple of week.
I am dreaming of the indigo dyeing!!!
It would be challenging to keep them growing while I am away to Japan. I have few people to take turns to watch them for me. I will cross my fingers….. I will report about my babies in June.
(I have a picture of the indigo, however my technical limitation, I can not figure the error of the uploading it here. It will come soon, I hope.)
These past couple of weeks were eventful for me. I lost a key to my mailbox so I needed to put a note on the mailbox asking mailmen to leave mails inside the side door. My iPhone got recovery mode right after upgrading the phone and it didn’t function as a phone. I brought it into Sprint store and Apple store. They could not help me. I was not able to use the phone for three days. When I realized most of my pictures were saved in a different place safely, I restarted the phone which meant that all the data would be lost. On top of that, I was locked out myself at home. All my keys were in the kitchen table. I was in a hurry to open the car door, I noticed I was in trouble.
It is my nature that I am forgetful. All my adult life I have been working on it and I thought I have building a skill not to forget important things. But these incidents reminded me of what I came to this life with.
I learned so many lessons from my mistakes. That’s why I can help others by telling that it would be OK. It’s really true that I had a great feeling of liberation when I could not use my phone. There was nothing bad happened. I had time to read and do other stuff. I had to borrow my friend’s phone but it was fine.
On my weaving journey I made so many mistakes, too. Especially the first few years of my teaching SAORI at my apartment, I made many mistakes. Let me tell you a story. I used to make my own warp for trial sessions. I usually set up 120 threads and 13 meter long. One day because I was in a hurry, after threading to the reed, I wound the 13 meter warp without threading heddles. When I tied all the warp to the tying rod over the front beam, I noticed there were no harness on the loom. After I thought through every possible way to avoid taking the warp off the reed, I had re-threaded all the warp both heddles and the reed. This is just one example of my mistakes. For all these years I also experienced many unfortunate events that my students had.
Now I know all the mistakes would nurture new skills and ideas. That’s why I have many tips when something unexpected things happens. I don’t like to give suggestions and information to people who are beginner weavers since they have great innocent ideas. But I am grateful to be able to warn them when they are going to go too far.
I recall a SAORI kai (gathering) at loop of the loom studio in NYC that I attended several years ago. People had talked about Wabi-sabi as an element of SAORI weaving. I remembered that I was confused by how people understood Wabi-sabi because it didn’t sound the same as my understanding. Then I happened to watch this Japanese TV show called “Cool Japan” a week ago on Youtube. In this show several foreigners who were living in Japan discussed about different aspects of Japanese culture and this particular show focused on Wabi-sabi. It was very interesting. It made me think more deeply about Wabi-sabi, Japanese beauty. It’s true that it’s hard for a person to analyse its own culture because he/she feels that he/she gets it while he/she is living in it and he/she never has had time to define it with words. I felt exactly like that.
Then it continues, Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.
Naturally SAORI weaving fits in this category! Misao Jo is clearly influenced by Zen Buddhism principle.
My weaving has still my ego in it in many levels. That’s why I keep pursuing my practice to remove that and keep trying to weave with Mu-shin (absence of self-nature). Misao said SAORI is a weaving with Mushin.
The show is about 44 minutes. I recommend anyone to watch when you have time.
Worcester is the snowiest city in the US now. There are huge mounts of snow at every corner of streets and drive way entrances. We had three huge snow storms in two weeks then one after another while the temperature has been single digit to 20F. My back room is colder than a refrigerator. It’s great to think about walking narrow streets in Japan in May which is a blooming season.
I remember that my dad used to say that he wanted to be a tour guide in Japan for visitors from other countries once he retired. Every day he was used to listen to the radio program of English conversation lessons with me when I was in a middle school. Unfortunately he passed away before he realized his dream, however I feel like he has been with me while I guided the tour for all these years. In 80’s my dad had organized a small tour group of family (my mom, her sisters and their familymembers) to Paris. It was very rare for a Japanese business man to take such a long day off but he did. He used to tell us a story with gesture how he was terrified to had realized that he forgot to re-confirm the flight back home. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and I enjoys guiding tours and I did had those moments on my tour in the past, too. I can write a book about those moments some day.(lol)
This year’s tour is going to be my 6th Japan tour. Each one is very different and memorable to me. Although the details of the itinerary has been made by tour members, I have few places I always go (or at least tried to go) on my tour.
One is Flora House, Yufuin, Oita prefecture. It is a family business B&B in Kyusyu island in south. You can see this Mt. Yufu from a big bath house through a window while soaking your body in a smooth warm tub.
Another one is Studio Yuu, Himeji, Hyogo prefecture. It is a SAORI studio and a workshop for young women with developmental problems. This was a time when each weavers showed us their work in progress at the studio.
Another one is Mom’s Hand, Kakogawa, Hyogo prefecture. It is a guest house of Mr.& Mrs. Fukushima. They grow many flowers and vegetables all around their house and feed us with them from their garden.
I am looking forward to the new adventure in May this year. The deadline of the deposit is Feb. 22nd. If you would like to jump in, you are welcome to do so.
It’s been more than three months since the last time I updated the blog. I feel terrible not to update this periodically. I love writing from my childhood and I keep writing journals even though I have some long period that I had not written in the past. Well, I usually write in my native language which is Japanese. So it is challenging for me to write a blog in English. I appreciate that people read this blog looks like three grader’s composition. However, I believe that there are people out there who are curious about my studio and my work. Improving English skill is one of many things that I would like to do. I know I can use this opportunity to practice it so I decide to write once in two weeks now on no matter what. It’s never too late to have New Year resolution, right? I will write this blog as our studio record/ my weaving project record.
One month has passed in 2015 and I have already been blessed in so many ways despite a big life change. My older son Asa enjoys his college life in Hampshire, Amherst, MA. Now my younger son Nori flew to Japan on Jan. 6th planning to stay there for a half year. He enrolled to Tokyo Shure, an alternative school in Tokyo where I used to work before the marriage.
I was lucky that I didn’t have to worry about Empty Nest Syndrome because I had a big show opening on Jan. 15th “Harmony/?” at Worcester Center for Crafts. There are 6 tapestries and 6 wearable items in the show along with Sumiyo’s painting and ceramics and Tomo’s glass work. Thanks to many supporters, the opening reception went wonderfully. It was a huge turn out. Sumiyo, Tomo and I were overwhelmed by it. The show runs through Feb. 28th. If you have not seen it, please come to visit. I really appreciate your sincere feedback.
In 2015 I started a new program called “the Study Group” for people who have a loom at home and want to work on same assignments together. This is my long year dream. It is a 6 months program for one cycle. In this way we all can study and experiences of 6 assignments (1 assignment for a month) together. Some members have been our studio members for more than 6 years, some have been more than 4 years and some are relatively new. It doesn’t matter. The first assignment was weaving with one color. Oh, what a interesting fact that no one had similar interpretation. Everyone had a story for the work or two. We will show our results at our studio exhibition in July. The most important part of this group is having each other who support everyone’s own journey and learning process.
At last, I finally put the curtains at windows of the studio. My previous intern Alana helped weaving materials two years ago and Annie recently sewn strips. Now the studio looks more cozy. Outside of the window is a huge snow storm now…Stay warm and safe.
Recently the newsletter of SAORI Canada-US Association has come out. I submitted the story of Lonnie Edelen who is my former student. He was an intelligent teenager who used to have day dreams often. I mean during a class he often started a conversation about something which made me surprise. The topics must have been about animals, doctor who, universe and so on. He kindly explained what he was talking about so I could catch up what he was thinking. He eventually started sharing his experience at school and at home. One of the sweet memories that I have with him is that his conversation with two classmates, Felix and Marcel. They would not have met each other in this world except a SAORI studio because they all have very different back grounds and living styles. However, they cared each other and got involved the conversation about sewing. Lonnie has made a bow tie which he wore at the graduation, I believe. So I was very happy that he agreed to write about his SAORI story for the newsletter. Here it is.
SAORI Story By Lonnie Edelen (August 2014)
My name is Lonnie Edelen, and I am practitioner of SAORI weaving. My SAORI voyage started in Worcester at an art fair called “Start on the Street”. Walking with my family I saw a tent, and in this tent I saw an Asian woman (who I later learn is Japanese and is named, please let me spell this right, Mihoko Wakabayashi). In the front of the tent was a table piled high with woven goods. In the back of the tent were two looms that she was letting kids test out. I, being always curious, asked if I could try. She said yes. I sat down, and she showed me the basics. About forty-five minutes later my family realized this is one spot I was not likely to move from any time soon. I stayed there for the rest of the day. Sometimes a line would form behind me, and then Mihoko would politely ask me to get up and let other kids have a turn. I would get up and go stand in one of the back corners of the tent and wait. I waited for the line to cycle through and the tent to clear out. Then I would sit back down and start again. At the end of the day I went home and looking back found that I really enjoyed myself.
A few weeks later, after school one day I asked my mom if she could sign me up for weaving lessons at the SAORI Worcester Weaving Studio. She called and a guy picked up. (I later learn that the guy’s name was Nat.)
Mom: Yes this is Molly Edelen I was wondering if I could sign my son up for the beginners weaving course?
Guy: Well, are you sure? You could bring him in one day to see if this is something he’d like to do.
Mom: Well, he was with Mihoko all day at Start on the Street.
Guy: Oh! Your Lonnie’s mom! Sure we can get him signed up.
I began on my SAORI journey the next week, not realizing that it would last far longer than the six weeks of the beginners’ lessons. I was one of those people, who because of a lack of confidence felt this insistent, and illogical need to win or get things right, but when I sat down to weave the need went away and has not come back. I think the reason that I don’t feel a need to win in SAORI is because there is no way to win, the end result is not the objective. It is my belief that the real goal of SAORI lies in the process. I feel it is the nature of the SAORI style to create an atmosphere that encourages a free flowing state of mind. I have now gained enough self confidence to realize that the insistent, and illogical need to win or be right only diminishes my existence.
I not only went back for the next course, but I insisted on a project that Mihoko warned me would take a really long time to complete and she was concerned that I might get bored before I had completed it. Well, I didn’t get bored and I made a full length coat that I still wear. What is great about weaving is that it is a meditative activity and after doing it for a while I am able to get in to a rhythm and it’s like I don’t even notice time going by on progress being made until I stop for a break.
Another of the biggest reasons I won’t ever get bored with weaving is the seemingly endless possibilities, of course these possibilities can make it hard to decide what to do next. Then again, I am convinced that if I keep doing this for the rest of my life I’ll never stop learning new techniques. It is for this reason more then any other that I’ll never get tired of SAORI weaving.
I’ve made many and varied items in my time using the SAORI style of weaving. Among the things I’ve made are: scarves, shawls, table runners, place mats, napkins, purses, card holders, mobius scarves, and wall hangings. Of all those I enjoy making the wall hangings the most. I’ve also used a great variety of yarns in my work including: cotton, linen, hemp, nettle, wool, mohair, chenille, bamboo, and silk. I do my best to avoid using synthetic fibers. Personally I think the natural ones feel much nicer to weave with, and they will eventually break down and nourish the soil which will then feed the plants and animals from which natural fibers come. Synthetic fibers, on the other hand will be filling our landfills forever.
Four years after beginning my SAORI weaving journey, in my senior year in high school, I was thinking that I’d like to take a break from formal education. I also knew people were beginning to think of graduation gifts and I wanted to avoid getting a bunch of nicknacks, or worse THE PEN! Knowing that my family would soon be moving to rural WV where there would not be a studio to go to keep weaving, I asked if everybody could pool their resources and get me a SAORI loom so that I could keep weaving. I talked with Mihoko and my family about starting a weaving business and everyone was really supportive.
I am currently living with my family on 7 acres in the backwoods of Hardy County, West Virginia. My weaving business, called Backwoods Weaving is just over one year old and growing. I am in a juried cooperative called Lost River Artisans Cooperative and I have items on consignment at both their outlet and the Lost River Trading Post, in Wardensville, WV. At the trading post I do demonstrations at least once a month. I have experimented with styles and ideas, yet I keep going back to the basics of SAORI, so I am working to become a registered SAORI weaving studio. I also have had many inquiries about teaching others to weave so I am applying to Akiko Jo for this privilege. I sometimes dream of having a van and setting up a traveling SAORI studio, a van with several looms and lots of yarns, so that I can share the joy of this type of weaving throughout rural WV.
I am entering my sixth year of weaving, and I always tell people that I am never bored and though I’ve been out of school for over a year, I haven’t worked a day yet. Weaving on my SAORI loom knowing that “I am not a machine,” remembering that Sa comes from the word Sai and means that everything has its own dignity, and ori means weaving, I feel that all is as it should be. And never have I gotten tired of telling this story when asked, “So how did you get started doing this?”
You can reach Lonnie Edelen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Basic Course is 6 2hour classes. Most people take one class in a week and finish the basic course in 6 weeks. Some come intensively like taking few classes in a week so they can complete the course in a couple of weeks. Every courses of my studio doesn’t have a starting date. People can sign up and start their class any time all year around. I usually suggest people to come once in a week at least specially at the beginning of learning. Otherwise they won’t remember what they learned at the last class.
People make a scarf size piece (8 inches wide & 6 feet long) in the basic course unless they have a specific work in their mind. I teach from scratch even for 6-years-old or 78-years-old. The students learn how to wind and set up their own warp thread, how to weave, techniques and tricks, and how to tie the fringes to finish the piece. Some weave so quickly. Some take a long time to choose color they use. Some weave very carefully. Some just go to town from the start.
In this summer I had 2 young men who took the basic course. This time was a second time for both of them to take the 6 class course. So they had a project in their mind, a bag. It’s amazing to me how well the young brain works. Also, I was impressed by their powerful concentration as well. They were not taking the classes together although they were in a same class once in Saturday morning.
Class 1: They wound warp and started sleying into a reed.
Class 2: They finished sleying and threading to the harness. They completed setting up the warp on a loom.
Class 3: They wove.
Class 4: They finished weaving. They brought the fabric home and washed.
Class 5: They brought the fabric back to the studio. They learned how to use a sewing machine. They sewed and cut the fabric, applied interfacing, and started putting things together.
Class 6: They made handles/a strap and putting all together to complete a bag.
I have been developing patterns that people can sew easily over years. I learned so much from teaching. Both Arthur and Jacob enjoyed learning how to use a sewing machine. They were so careful to make one step a time. I am so proud of them. Looking at their satisfied faces, I thought I should make a textile camp for kids (and adults ) in near future. This kind of experience gives any one so much pleasure and understanding how things are made. And they can enjoy the finished work in daily life.