Friday, October 31, 2008

Fabric shopping Bangkok style

The final textile adventure in Bangkok was a big one. We took the river ferry to Chinatown to experience the Sampeng Lane fabric market. The alley is about 4 ft wide and filled with people, merchandise and porters with heavily loaded hand trucks.

Mixed in were stalls for cheap trinkets and household goods of many descriptions. I did not buy much, just a few notions, because I could not tell the fiber content. I suspect if you shopped with someone who speaks Thai you could find some good stuff, but it was not that drastically different from fabric stores at home, except of course for the ambiance.

While we were in there the heavens opened and it poured rain. The awnings on both sides funnelled the water right down the middle of the alley. People huddled in shop doorways and clerks quickly covered fabric with plastic and tarps. When it stopped people just picked up and went on with their business.

At the end of the street was the Indian fabric market, filled with saris and fancy dance costumes. It was just a riot of color.

We saw these women operating what looked like a sidewalk alterations business with a treadle sewing machine on the sidewalk. Anybody who complains about inadequate studio space etc. just has no idea how hard it must be to live and work in downtown Bangkok, but it was such a rich experience visually.

These were iron-on appliques, but so prettily displayed. We saw so many butterflies in the wooded parts of Thailand, I suppose because of all the flowers.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pictures finally

Our internet connections have been kind of iffy so today I will add the pictures I have had to leave out. This is the cotton weaver's lovely place I described last time. The looms are underneath the house.

The little shelter is water vessels put out to welcome visitors, although from what I could tell they are the same kind of vessels used for dyeing.

This is the apparatus used for preparing silk warps, and a detail. As someone not a weaver I found this fascinating.

These are shots of Shinawatra, and the lovely batik I bought.

On the last morning along the Mekong the proprietor had several bolts of silk ikat and raw silk standing in the corner. He said he had bought them a long time ago. The hitch was that I had to buy the whole bolt, one of which was 10 meters, but they were a steal otherwise. When I decide how much I will need of the long bolt of soft brown and silver I will post a picture and open it up to share the rest with you all.

Yesterday on the way back from sightseeing we stopped at the Jim Thompson outlet. They had a bazillion colors of silk on bolts at $10/yd. I nearly went crazy limiting myself to the golds I was after.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chiang Mai Thailand

More textile adventures, this time with pictures. We drove with friends from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, which is really the center for crafts and fabrics in Thailand. We visited a village that makes bamboo umbrellas, and stopped at the factory of Thailand's second largest silk manufacturer, Shinawatra. We were greeted with little silk blossom boutonnier pins and refreshing drinks offered by pretty Thai girls. They had weavers working out back, weaving and preparing a striped warp and nice live demonstrations of silkworm cultivation and spinning. The native silk in Thailand makes a brilliant yellow cocoon, and the silk is a pale creamy gold. They raise Chinese white cocoons too.The shop was amazing and they let us take pictures. Prices for silk were about $ 15-$20/yd, comparable to what I pay for much poorer quality doupioni at home. They had lovely prints and batiks, as well as stylish finished garments.

The next day we drove to the farm of a woman who was considered a cultural treasure. It is now a museum with an active cotton weaving center. She almost single handedly revived weaving cotton as a cottage industry and all the fibers were dyed with natural dyes in lovely old ceramic dye pots. It was POURING rain so they had sent the weavers home. The looms were in the space under the lovely old stilted teak traditional house. We could not take pictures indoors. I will try to unpack some of my purchases soon and send pictures of them.

Tonight we are in a lovely retreat on the Mekong River, across from Laos. My former AFS daughter has just pulled out all the stops for this visit. I have to say my husband is being a really good sport about all this textile emphasis, as well as the food adventures. He is not wild about spicy food and fish, so I am the official taster.

Pictures added later.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jim Thompson

For those of you who love gorgeous Thai silk, the man to thank is a former architect and American military officer assigned to post war Thailand. He single-handedly revived a silk weaving industry that was on its last legs.He eventually settled here in a gorgeous home and garden nestled in the bustle of Bangkok. He made it from several one-room traditional building knit together skillfully and filled with his antique collection. He disappeared in the Malaysian jungle in 1968 when on vacation and no trace of him has ever been found. The home tour revealed a printing block in the Chinese style that I found fascinating. It was quite large, and you applied paint to it before laying the cloth on it, but the interesting thing was that it had a number of design elements that could be removed and replaced if you wanted to change color in the middle of a printing run.

The shop itself is a high end boutique place now. It reminds me most of Liberty of London, lots of ties, scarves and small gifts, but some lovely fabrics as well. We sneaked a couple of pictures, one of a pashmina shawl that took two years to delicately embroider, and was priced accordingly!

Today we leave for Chiang Mai. More textile adventures coming up there.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Inspiration from funny sources

I have an exhibit in two weeks in Takarazuka Japan. We are relaxing in Osaka, Japan tonight, having nearly killed ourselves getting ready to go. I had 16 new pieces photographed Monday AM. (whew!) They should show up on the web site pretty soon. A few things did not get finished but I am the only one who knows about them and I won't tell anybody.

In the airport today we saw something that inspired me greatly. It was a full wall pierced sculpture. At first I thought it was butterfly wings or something, but when we saw the whole thing it was clearly the bottom of Spanish dancers, done in the style of papel picado, the Mexican cut paper used for decorative banners. I have cut stencils in this style before and they are really great fun. Look at the interesting lattice pattern that ties the images together.

More from Japan and Thailand soon. All sorts of textile adventures await me!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I am sorry this has taken so long. I have been struggling with the spam rules. Lots to learn apparently. The sun is out and my garden is not looking too bad after our recent rain. Last night I bribed a group of friends with indigo panels to sew the bindings on the last three quilts, to save the wear and tear on my arthritic thumb. I can cut stencils all day with my right hand but the left hand complains if I have to sew bindings on.

I delivered a custom noren the other day. Noren are door curtains. You see them in pictures of many businesses and restaurants in old Kyoto, often in indigo. They are suppposed to separate the calm interior fom the dust and noise of the street. I was amused to read somewhere recently that you should choose a restaurant with the dirtiest noren because it suggests lots of customers have been going in and out. They are still commonly used in homes as well, to provide visual privacy along with ventilation in small spaces. They can be short, to decorate a doorway, or almost floor length. They are changed seasonally. Summer noren are usually made of hemp or ramie (asa). Winter noren are often heavy cotton, dyed with indigo. I love the form, split in the middle with some faggoting or hand stitching to hold them together at the top. The ones I make are usually about 40 inches long, because they are more often used as wall hangings and that is a good proportion if I use traditional 14 inch wide fabric. I can get wider fabric too.This one uses a stencil of the Three Sisters and another of a Ponderosa Pine tree. The asa takes the pigment dyes so smoothly. I love working with them.This one uses a stencil of the Three Sisters and another of a Ponderosa Pine tree. The asa takes the pigment dyes so smoothly. I love working with them.

Monday, October 6, 2008

One down, umpteen to go

I am delighted with the positive response to my debut post.

Thought you might like to see the next project. This is the first new piece in a series I call "Collector's Items". I love the variation in the natural world. One fossil, one diatom, one dragonfly is not enough. I need the whole collection. This dragonfly in an Oregon native. In researching them I discovered that there are only two basic architectures for the pattern in a dragonfly wing. I cut two pairs of wings and several different bodies, so I can put them together in many different combinations. This blue skimmer is about 18" across from wingtip to wingtip. The finished piece is not photographed yet. I dyed a linen silk blend fabric from Exotic silks, using mostly my watercolor soy dyes, with a little added acrylics for details.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Why am I doing this anyway?

As a busy studio artist actively engaged in the art of katazome I could be called crazy to start a blog, but there is just so much to share! I have a pretty nice web site with a lot of finished pieces, and a brief description of the process, but the day-to-day work and the development of designs is beyond the scope of a web site, especially when I have to depend on my long-suffering husband to keep it up to date...... Right now I am in the throes of completing a lot of new quilts and noren (Japanese door curtains) to take with me to Japan for an exhibit coming up in early November. It has been raining outside so you should see the bathroom festooned with drying fabric!

Having had a full summer of teaching and getting our daughter off to college I am running behind! But this trip is going to be so fabulous that it seems a pity not to get the blog started now so I know what I am doing when we have internet connections over there. I am sure there are a lot of "bells and whistles" that I will learn to add as time goes on. Right now it is just the basics.

I finished dyeing the last quilt top today and will deliver it to the machine quilter tomorrow. Thank goodness for Linda's good instincts, which match my vision so perfectly. I would die for a long-arm machine at times like this, but I can't justify the expense or the floor space for the amount of time I would use it, so when I get in a crunch I unashamedly rely on her skills.

This is a detail of the big quilt she finished yesterday. It is silk doupioni overdyed with gray dye after I put the resist paste on. I have been cutting a lot of small stencils from organic patterns in the last several years and this is a sampler of all of them. I think I will call it "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral". Now I have to bind it......