Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Value of the Handmade

One of the things I love most about Japan, is the immense variety of handmade crafts that continue to be done here as well as the continued appreciation of them.  I do understand that some of these traditions are not necessarily being handed down to the younger generations.  A few of the artists that I know personally do not have children that want the family business.  Some have assistants that they have trained that will continue the craft.

A few weeks ago was the Arimatsu Shibori Matsuri (festival).  I didn't get to go last year so jumped at the chance to go with our Japanese teacher and her husband this time.  I didn't even know it was scheduled, so I'm so glad they invited us.  Shibori is a type of fabric manipulation used when dyeing fabric.  It was probably handed down from China, but Arimatsu developed it's own style and was set along the Edo trail, which was the road from the capital of Tokyo (Edo) to Kyoto.  Arimatsu has a 400 year tradition of the shibori trade.

The streets and shops were swamped with people buying discounted shibori ready made and fabric yardage.  There were food booths (of course) and craft booths where you could learn several different craft techniques.  It isn't entirely handmade any longer.  Small tools have been developed to make it a less laborous process.

I ended up buying only a handmade and hand dyed linen scarf.  It was dyed with natural ingredients, the green was rosemary, blue was indigo and pink was madder.  Here is a description of madder.  The lovely lady that I bought it from had a henna rinse in her hair.  Ken says that's a "no go" when I mentioned getting a henna rinse myself. I think the scarf is so beautiful.  It has already softened up from wearing it.  

Here are some photos of beautiful fabrics at the festival.





This display was incredibly impossible to photograph.  It was in a gym so there was that distraction, but it was stunning the way the light played off of the fabrics.  



These are coasters I made for Mari's birthday.  They are made from vintage Yukata (summer cotton kimono) fabrics that have patches and stitches and seams.  She was actually with me when I purchased the fabrics over a year ago. Because the fabrics were rustic, I decided to do Sashiko stitches in a heavier weight thread with more of a rustic, primitive feel to them.  I love how they turned out and she did too.  I've learned recently that the traditional Sashiko indigo and white colors were used because it was illegal for commoners to wear bright colors or large ornamentation during the Edo period.  That is why most of the designs are small and the colors are blue and white.  This came from a book with the history of Sashiko that another Mari gave me.  It's called The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook by Susan Briscoe.  

Recently I asked a friend from the UK to teach me how to do EPP (English Paper Piecing).  Another friend joined in and we were taught this lovely piecing technique.  


I made a coaster for myself out of my little flower.  


Since I've been talking about Sashiko, I thought you might like to see how I mended my jeans recently. I used an iron-on patch on the back and then sewed some Sashiko stitches for reinforcement.  This idea is referred to as "visible mending".  Google it and you'll see lots of ideas.  I think it would've been easier if I would have used regular fabric instead of iron on.  That was difficult to stitch through.  But, I did and I read that they will be so strong that the fabric around it will be weaker.  So, we will see how these hold up.  In the mean time, I think they look cool.  Okay, so enough about Shibori and Sashiko for now.  We've had lots of company in June and so I've taken so many sightseeing pictures as well.  Maybe that will be my next post.  Or flowers.  
Our sensei and her husband, Keiko and Akio.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit,
Karen


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Wow, It's Almost June!!

Sorry for the silence these last few months.  I knew they would fly by.  Last March we were talking about all that was on the calendar for the next few months.  We had a home leave trip planned for April for two weeks.  The following week I was helping decorate for another wedding at our church.  Four days after that we had guests arriving.  They left today and now in two more weeks our oldest daughter and son-in-law come for a two week visit.  We blinked and the time has flown by.  Soon, too soon, it will be the end of June and we will have only two more months in Japan.  

I'm trying to take it all in.  There are goodbye lunches, dinners and picnics being held every weekend it seems.  All the while there is still uncertainty about what happens once we get home.  We are just trying to take things one day and a time.  What good does it do to worry too much about it. God always seems to have another plan.  It's usually superior to our own anyway.  

Here are a few photos from our recent months.


We went on a couple of hikes around our house.  It's an entirely different kind of beauty in comparison to Japan.  But, everywhere you look, there is something gorgeous.  

This is the only part of the garden that looked good.  So much work to do when we return!
Do you remember this place?  It's been awhile hasn't it?
I came back to help this lovely lady get married.  I was sweet and simple, but still took a lot of work.  What a blessing to be able to contribute to this special occasion.  

Our guests arrived soon after and we hit the ground running.  They are from Malaysia and she was one of our foreign exchange students that we hosted several years ago.  We hadn't seen each other in 12 years.  The sensei really gave us some special treatment and took us to his favorite lunch place.  

Last Friday I got a message asking if I wanted to go with my photography group to the fish market early in the morning. My company was so excited so we headed out at about 5:30 am. This was definitely not my normal environment for photography but it was very fun and quite a learning experience.   


He's using the longest knife I have ever seen. 


They went off and did their own thing in Kyoto and Osaka for a few days.  Such great kids and so helpful and considerate.  When they returned, we visited the Aquarium.  My husband hadn't been there yet either.  Along with it was the Fuji Antarctic Exploration Vessel that was in commission for 18 years.  




With that I'm going to swim off and go eat some Mexican food.  Yes, we have one good Mexican restaurant here.  Basically it's a bar with about 4 tables, but that's beside the point.  Until next time. . . 



Friday, March 17, 2017

The Shift

There is a shift in the air.  Expat life is mostly fun and amazing as you have probably noticed. What I don't mention often is when it's frustrating or downright difficult. Expat life is full of goodbyes.  It seems like many we have met or gotten close to have left or are leaving before we do.  Thankfully there are a few close friends that will be here till after we leave.  We are in a season of goodbyes.  Matane means "see ya later".  A Matane party is a goodbye party.  They are bittersweet.

I have one young friend leaving at the beginning of April.  She asked me and "S" to take pictures of her and her daughter in kimonos.  "S" is a much more experienced photographer than I am.  It was super fun to watch how she works a portrait shoot and especially how she handles a toddler.  I don't think I want to do portrait photography, but I really did enjoy it.  Although I felt inadequate and was sure nothing was going to turn out.  I thought I'd show you some of my favorites.  As you can tell, I prefer more candid shots.  This little one looks just like her daddy.



There were also amazing Ume trees (plums) blooming, so I got a few pictures of those while I was there.  This is our last Spring in Japan and I want to savor every moment of it. Ken and I will be traveling to Kyoto and Hiroshima at the end of March which should be beautiful this time of year.  


This week I went to another Matane party for my two young friends that are leaving.  It was a Karaoke party with toddlers!  It was really fun and again, I took my camera. Oh yeah, there were Moms there too.  



 I can't even get enough of this cuteness!
Goodbyes are hard.  I treasure these sweet friends.  Thankfully, I will see some of them again because we will be moving from California to Texas when we return.  Many are going to the same place.  If you've followed me here long enough you'll realize that this means we will be selling our beautiful home and relocating.  That is a hard one.  But, no matter how we plan our days, they don't usually end up the way we think.  God has much better plans than we can ever dream of.  So we are trusting in His direction one step at a time.  


"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to proper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

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