Japan with the Chigyo Sisters, Part 1

Japan with the Chigyo Sisters, Part 1

The Background: It’s a complicated story as to how I ended up going by myself to Japan on a tour with the Chigyo sisters. I’ve known these talented women since 1984 or so. They were just starting out, as I was, in the textile world. I met them through my friends, Sheri Brautigam and Carol Watanabe. They are practitioners of a stitching technique called Sashiko and bring a cutting edge yet traditional flavor to their work.

A few of the draws to visit Japan were the Temple market in Kyoto, the almost Living National Treasure Indigo dyer, plus, can we just say–the food and hot springs!!

Kyoto: We were based in Kyoto in an old Ryokan (traditional inn) named Togetsu run by two sisters, Kuniko and Fukiko, and from there traveled to different islands.

There 6 other tour-ees were: Helen Garrison from New York, a vibrant 80-something year old, Micki Lippe, based in Seattle, a jeweler, her husband, a brain researcher, and son Eric, a free style photographer plus New York graphic designer, Lorraine Ferguson and her daughter Zoe, a tech wonder. It was a perfect size for this type of group, worldly, intimate and cultural.

The first full day there we visited sister Toshie’s house where we took a workshop from a master calligrapher named Ryunosake Uno, assisted by a neighbor, Isogawa. It was a delight to be taught by this elegant man, and to practice the gliding with ink and brush in ways we don’t usually do. The day was full of camaraderie and delicious food Toshie and her husband, Muni, made. Their house was hand crafted with timber from the Olympic Peninsula that aged for 20 years and used no nails.It was wonderful to be outside in the country to see the straight, tall cedar trees and landscape of this place.

Naoshima

The next day we took the Bullet train (Shinkansen) to the island of Naoshima. Naoshima is home to 3 world-class museums, one being set into the hill. The Chichu features only 5 works of art. One is the building itself, by Tadao Ando, a brutalist structure that plays with natural light and mysterious ways to view the open gardens. There are 3 James Turrell light displays that lend an otherworldly color glow to the grey cement walls. The third work is by Walter de Maria and features enormous granite balls the size of rooms, perched on a wide stairway. There are gold columns on the walls and they look like large trophies on display.

My favorite piece was the Monet room. Taking off your shoes to don silent slippers, you enter the light filled room on small marble tiles. On each wall is a Giverny painting alone and majestic. The light is soft, yet bright and allows you, when up close, to see the strokes of the master, his under-painting so modern, the colors of the work so rich. It is meditative and works as sensory combination: the quiet of the space, the lusciousness of the paintings and the white yet soft quality of the light. They do not allow photography in the museum.

Kyushu: The nest day we explored the fishing village where there are “art” houses to experience, before we headed to Kyushu, taking a ferry, 2 bullet trains and 2 regular trains! The first night stayed we in an 18 generations old Samurai’s compound in Yanagawa. We had our first Kaiseki: meaning 13-18 course dinner!

Indigo

The following day we made the pilgrimage to the workshop in Karume of National Treasure Hiroshi Tanaka, (He passed away a week before we visited) his wife, Mamiko. His son, Toshiaki Tanaka, is carrying on the art of Kasuri, the process of tying threads to create a resist, dyeing them in indigo, then weaving them into traditional and modern designs.

We made shibori hankies, and dipped them into the embedded dye pots, and watched the son, who is working to become a master treasure himself, twist and aerate the yarns. We saw how to tie off the threads to create the patterns. I still marvel at this process, which I will never truly understand! We ate a nice lunch, we shopped some of their wonderful products, said our warm goodbyes and piled into the van and sped off to Yufuin.

 

Yufuin

This part of Kyushu is mountainous and full of thermal activity. We were headed to the Kamenoi Hot Springs, a luxe ryokan/onsen. We all had our own rooms with private tubs streaming with HOT water. There is an art to bathing in Japan, especially in an onsen. I live for bathing and this was sublime, after I figured out how not to scald myself!

On our way to the hot spring we stopped at an art opening organized by 3 brothers: one, a master basket maker, the second a calligrapher, and the third a photographer. A very arty scene, it was lovely to be in an environment with other local artists, showing masterful work. I fell in love with each of their work. The calligrapher’s was playful and I appreciated his mark making and composition. The baskets were formal yet modern, the shapes pleasingly iconic. The photos were of trance dancing in Nepal, rather dark subjects, so oddly out of place, yet fascinating.

Dinner that night was an immense meal. We were still learning the way to not overeat, everything a temptation of strange and wonderful tastes. Then, to soak and sleep on the floor!

Onta

The following day we visited Yashuhiro Takami, the basketmaker. He and his wife showed us how to prepare the splitting of bamboo and wrestling it into a shape. Some of his large work is quite abstract in a wabi sabi sort of way. He is a reticent man, but produces elegant work.

As was suggested by a friend and also the sisters, I had made some small thread pieces to offer as gifts for the artisans we visited. Plus chocolate! It was very satisfying to be able to give something back to each of them as a way to honor them for their generosity and mastery.

We had the afternoon off and visited the town of Yufuin where I had my only ramen soup of the trip, in a small shop run by a modern couple. I tooled around with Helen who, thank god, knew what the name of the ryokan was because we got terribly lost and without her knowing we would still be there today! That was our second time getting lost and her remembering where it was we were staying!

On our way back to Kyoto we stopped at a small village called Onta, where the entire town makes a certain style of etched pottery. The kilns look like old Roman structures and each family has a gift shop and production of slightly varying patterns. In order to pound the clay they use the river water to fill up weighted logs, so there is a distinctive pounding sound as you go around to each compound.

For lunch we stopped in the middle of nowhere to eat the best food in a café run by a modern couple. I don’t know how they are surviving. They presented the food in local Onta dishes, each offering more beautiful and delicate, vegetarian food grown right outside the window. They had a curated selection of the dishes for sale and I bought a few of the nesting small plates. It was easier to see them in a smaller quantity.

Headed back to Kyoto…

The Flush Project

The Flush Project

Most of you know me as a clothing/surface design artist, which indeed I am. But throughout my working life I have sought fulfillment in other modalities; I did fabric for homes, clothing, explored fiber sculpture. All using and relating to fiber, fabric, color, and composition.

When my 92 year old mother, Elaine Badgley Arnoux, got hit with the inspiration to use toilets as a metaphor for what values might be flushed down with this current administration I got excited.

A couple of things. My mother is a visionary nonstop. And as she ages I keep thinking this might be her last project and wouldn’t that be nice for her to settle happily into her old age. Hah! So, when she talked about his project I thought, well if you can’t lick ‘em-join ‘em.  And also it would give me the chance to be in partnership with other artists (14 others as it turns out), plus my mom, and create something in a format that is completely foreign to me.

So I became the ad hoc secretary and organizer. Working with a group builds character! And the others stepped in to help lead and we are now moving towards completion.

A venue was found, risers are being built, our community is stepping out of the shadows into the light of day to express what angst and outrage we might feel.

Not everyone will agree. Maybe there can be discussions, maybe not. But I am hoping this creative endeavor might provoke change, raise awareness, and maybe even some laughter.

Cutting Linos

Cutting Linos

I had some friends over recently to make and play with silk screens. The daughter of Toni, Tarika, had never printed before. So while Toni and Peter were out making photocopies, I started playing with Diane Ericson son’s foam core and lino material. Which then led me to remember some old “Softoleum” that some kids had messed up and I hadn’t thrown away. I showed Tarika how to cut the lino and she had fun with that.

But later I wanted to play with those old linos. When I should have been making stock I spent the afternoon resuscitating these old linos and in fact using some of the “mistakes” as part of the pattern. The Softoleum is a marvelous product. It is thick and rubbery like a big erase, so very easy to slice. I was even successful with cutting circles. The immediacy of the process made me glow.

I kept printing and printing. Here are some of the results.

The Wheels are Turning

The Wheels are Turning

A deadline always helps! The Mountain View show is coming up-only 16 more days. What that means for me is a lot of production. But what it really means right now is having fun and doing  my process in a different way. A-real-one-of-a-kind-way. It means being moved towards a piece of fabric, seeing an image in my mind that excites me and letting that be my guide.

Some of the journey towards a finished piece starts awhile before. For example, my husband and I went to our lawyer’s office and in the lobby were these paintings. Bold and colorful they were, with wonderful markings. I took pictures and back at my studio enlarged them on my phone to highlight the graphics I loved. Then I did some sketches inspired by them, from which I made screens. The colors I mixed were enlivened by the paintings palette and bold color-blocking.

To change it up, I am using pigment on to top of my painted cloth. Previously, I would silk screen the dye, let it dry and then paint my watery ground on top. What I found happening was the printed image was getting muted and blurred. Granted, I sometimes loved the areas that would bleed. But now, especially with black, I am wanting a crisp black image as the final layer. Or printing with color as in the red dots.

I was moved the other day to print on some indigo; black dots give it a tone on tone feel,  while the white prints give it an interesting contrast. I’ll cut the pieces up for overlays.

It’s all in the details: Oscar de la Renta

It’s all in the details: Oscar de la Renta

My knowledge of Oscar de la Renta stems from the Sunday Chronicle society pages featuring the high society mavens. One in particular sported his designs faithfully with all the ruffles and frills. I was not drawn to pieces, feeling like they might be “matronly”.

My surprise, then, was to view the show at the de Young Museum, where I could see and delight in the detailing and cuts.

The styles also transported me back the heyday of the sixties: Kaftans with major beading! Dr. Zhivago look-a-likes! Pantsuits! All styles that were cutting edge at the time.

And the gowns! The gowns were what gave gravitas to the show: truly elegant and avant guard. From a fiber sculpture perspective, the layering and volume of the fabric was positively 3D, imaginative and playful: taffeta taken to the nines, tucked and ruched to our hearts content. He had a Marie Antoinette thing going, shepardess with under layers…

It is no wonder that the up and coming stars of the film and music industry are interested in dressing up in these elegant, womanly gowns. They are statement pieces. They enhance the female form, offering a new, yet old, fashioned way of being sexy.

Bravo Oscar- we will not forget you!

Style 2016 in Palo Alto/ Mountain View

Style 2016 in Palo Alto/ Mountain View

This year’s Style show went smoothly in spite of the rain. And we were happy about that. Attendance was high, I loved my neighbors. On one side was Slice lab, a couple of guys using a 3-d printer to create jewelry. Fun pieces, some necklaces looking like they were made of tiny bleached bones. And very reasonable prices. I bought one that is ivory colored looking like many rubber bands strung together. Can I just say it’s hard not to buy something from your neighbor?!

On the other side was Old House—Sandra Althouse, making ponchos and dresses from old cashmere sweaters and remnants of knits or velvet. She went on a Paris tour with Marcy Tilton and so we had to send Marcy a picture of us together. I ended up with a graphic black and white dress of unknown fiber content and a wonderful poncho gradating from dark blues to light robins egg blues. She got a terra-cotta scarf! A shout out to her son, Xander, who helped me schlepp my fabulous and very heavy mirror. I couldn’t have done it without him!

The clothes I worked so hard to make were appreciated and purchased by happy women. I am gratified when I have been at my creative edge to have the confirmation that the work is good, will be worn and give pleasure to the wearer and the observer.

And I will say again how wonderful it is to be among my peers, to be energized by what they are making and they by what I am doing. I need, and I think all of us who work in isolation, need a fertile ground to exchange ideas and gossip and love each other up. And eat fine Korean food!! We do need the audience and hopefully we will continue to have one. Thanks to Diane Master for providing the venue!

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