Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Kasuri Foundation Course- Days 1 and 2

And so begins Kasuri, the real reason why I ended up in Japan. Kasuri is a resist dye technique, where threads are bundled, masked, dyed and when woven create wonderful patterns. There are three types of basic patterns you can achieve: warp, weft or warp and weft(double Kasuri). There are still some more techniques to create patterns by dyeing the warp directly on the loom, shifting Kasuri and others we may not have time to learn.

We started with an 80gram skein of ramie yarn. Ramie comes from the nettle family and is very commonly used in Japan, being similar to linen in it´s lightweight and fresh properties, and absorbs moisture quite well. Everything about Kasuri has to be very precise as seems everything in Japan. Measurements are to the millimeter or things just don´t add up, because mistake on top of mistake makes a big difference at the end of the day in Kasuri.

The first day involved lots of measurements, winding the warp and weft and tying the Kasuri pattern for both, leaving them ready for day 2 which was today when the yarn was dyed in a colour of our choice. The end result will be a set of coasters that show the various basic types of kasuri and seen above in the green samples. 

Working in the dye room was very exciting, but it all happened a little fast and if it wasn´t for the help our expert teachers it would not have gone so smoothly. In the end presented with hundreds of colours to choose from I chose a reddish orange that I named "Temple Orange" after the many temples and shrines I have seen painted a similar colour.

When it was finally time to remove the kasuri binding we were all relieved to see the supposed white we had started with. And as soon as it was all dry it was off to pre sleying the reed. This means that tomorrow we finish setting up the loom and with a little luck start weaving.

If you ask me, there seems to be a little monkey magic going on here.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Surrounds: Part 1.

Kawashima Textile School is located in a small town near Ichihara train station, in the Sakyo Ward of Kyoto. It is a quiet town, already considered countryside, with a river running through it. There are 2 supermarkets, shrines, well kept houses with manicured gardens and trained matsu, vegetable gardens, rice paddies and vending machines selling drinks on just about every corner.

Just about every house has a small vegetable garden. I was surprised to find the same things that I was growing back home, namely: potatoes, broad beans, peas, onions. Eggplant also seems to be a favourite and the pumpkins are starting to show their first leaves. All gardens are very organized and the plants are given plenty of assistance to grow straight or climb with the help of bamboo, metal or wooden sticks and various synthetic lines or ropes for guidance. There appear to be 3 ways of approaching the security of a garden. The first is to ignore it and leave it totally open and without any kind of barrier or protection. The second way is to completely surround, the sides and above, the garden with chicken wire or nets. And the third way is a little more extreme and employs several layers of electric fencing. I am not sure if it is people that are being kept at bay but perhaps and most likely it is the spider monkeys, wild boar and even deer that apparently inhabit the hills nearby. The list of animals keeps growing.

The rice paddies are my favourite part of the landscape and you´ll often see ducks wading in them. There are still some empty flooded fields which means that the rice has just been recently planted and in a nearby field there was still a little pallet of seedlings ready to go. From what I understand come October it will be ready to be harvested. At the end of one of the fields there is a house with a green roof shaped like the ones we saw in Miyama, but this one is not thatched but rather made from metal. Today I found out that it is a Buddhist Temple. On the road that leads to the temple there are posters with snakes. I´ll have to ask someone what they say, if there really are snakes around here too, or if this is just a nice way of the Buddhist Monks to tell you, "Stay away, if you can´t read Japanese". It certainly worked with me.

It has been raining all day. School starts tomorrow. I am very excited.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Japan, Little Indigo Museum, Miyama.

Japan. A day trip to the Little Indigo Museum in the Heritage listed town of Miyama. I take 5 photos from a distance and my phone dies leaving me with no camera or way of recording anything except with my senses. The whole place was filled with the overwhelming scent of clover flowers, simply delicious.

It was an extraordinary experience, a guided visit of the museum with demonstration of the indigo dye process by none other than Hiroyuki Shindo himself and his lovely assistant son. We also got to visit the museum gallery and Hiroyuki´s vast private collection of indigo dyed fabrics of various techniques and from several parts of of the world. Even though most of what was transmitted was in Japanese, the enthusiasm and love for the craft and maintaining the tradition alive was clearly understood.

Lunch was spent by a small cool stream filled with a myriad of dragon flies and tiny brown frogs. Food was what I could find at the shop that I could sort of understand. Bananas and some snacks. The whole place felt as though it was filled with some spirit that seemed very happy to have us there, revealed in the form of ants that attacked the banana peels in my backpack.

This seems like the beginning of a weird and wonderful adventure. When being shown around the school I was asked to always keep the door shut because otherwise spider monkeys will come inside. I admit I am a little tempted to leave the door open.

Tomorrow, phone charged... more photos to take. Weaving starts next week on monday. Can´t wait.