Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Aomori Japan

I love Japan. I think this is about my 8th trip here and this time we are staying away from the most touristy areas. We had a few days in Tokyo before heading straight up to Aomori on the Shinkansen using our JRPasses. We have spent the last 4 days in Hirosaki which is the centre of the largest Apple growing area of Japan and the apples are enormous! Even the smallest Fuji Apple I could find at the supermarket fed 2 of us for dessert.

This area is also where a style of Sashiko called Kogin comes from. It’s basically a running stitch originally used to strengthen fabric and make it thicker and warmer as Aomori is very cold in winter.




These are Kogin pieces in the display cases at the Hirosaki kogin institute , 61 Zaifucho-Cho, Hirosaki.
We walked there in the pouring rain yesterday at the tail end of a Typhoon. The institute will organise a workshop if you have group , an interpreter would be helpful too .
There are lots of other shops selling Kogin in Hirosaki and you can buy a kit to make your own, from the fabric shop on Chuo Dori. Just veer right from
The front of the railway station/bus station. Head up the road till you see this big store 


The fabric store is at the front of the car park. 


It has quilting fabric, sewing fabric, sewing supplies, kogin and Sashiko kits, needles etc. The prices seem better than a similar shop in Aomori City, but I suspect that is because the rent is lower in Hirosaki.

The Aomori shop

Similar sorts of sewing fabrics, quilting supplies and knitting wool. The owner speaks English I think, the signs around the shop are bilingual. The address is
Across the intersection from
The Nakasan department store. Corner of Showa Dori and Nikoniko-dori.
You will see the Japanese fabric fat quarters outside the door. 

Most of the big department stores also have a Japanese souvenir department on one of the upper floors. The Nakasan in Hirosaki has a good selection of Kogin souvenirs and a lovely selection of indigo dyed clothing which I can’t afford but I love to look at.

In Hirosaki you can also visit the Kawasaki Dyeworks shop. If you are missing your cat then this is also a good place to spend time with a very affectionate black cat who loves people. I never saw out the back where the vats are, once again I think this might be possible with the help of an interpreter.

Hirosaki and Aomori City also have great displays of Neputa. These are festival floats made of wire and painted paper with lights inside.
In Aomori they look
Like this

In Hirosaki they are fan shaped and look
Like this ( see below)


I also liked the little goldfish made from
Paper and wire. Kids carry these in the annual Neputa parade.




Last time I came to Aomori I visited the Aomori Prefectural Folk Museum which had a good display of the different Kogin motifs. A very helpful lady translated the meanings for me. They were things like ‘mountain’ and ‘butterfly’.
Unfortunately the museum is closed till
Next March. This helpful sign is in the tourist office.

There is a lot more to see in this area. I travelled from
Hirosaki to Kuroishi on Saturday for a craft fair being held at the Kokeshi Doll museum. This was on the 21/22 October in 2017. I only bought three Kokeshi dolls, and two hexagon shaped fabric brooches. It was nice to buy things from
The actual makers rather than from a shop or museum.

To get to the Kuroishi Kokeshi doll
Museum take the non JR line to Kuroishi( you have to pay if you are in a jr pass because this is a private line) then ask the information office people how to get to the Kokeshi doll museum by bus. The bus doesn’t go very often so it’s a good idea to find out what time the bus comes back too! Take a small towel so you can soak your feet in the foot baths round the back where the shops are.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

100 days Project

We are now up to day 94 of the 100 days project. Within that 100 days I  spent 35 days on holiday in Australia stitching away in dimly lit motels and hostels. I had about 15 days to catch up when i got back but I'm pretty proud of having managed to keep going despite the time away. Here are some of the techniques I used during  the 100 days. This group of stitched squares was from when I was on holiday and didn't have access to all my 'stuff'.
playing with running stitch

Playing with running stitch after visiting Uluru


Tracks on the beach from hermit crabs

French knots after seeing the sand bubbler crab's sand balls.

The 100 days squares starting to add up
Today I discovered a new process (for me). Discharging indigo using potassium Permanganate.

painting on potassium permanganate thickened with Gum Tragacanth

Starting to change colour

The gum starting to break down, looks like black currant jam.

The fabric after it has been washed in a citric acid solution and then washed and dried.
It is exciting to try a technique I hadn't done before. The recipe is from this book by Susan Bosence.
Hand Block printing and Resist Dyeing. Published in 1985.

Potassium permanganate can be pretty toxic, don't dispose of it in the environment as it kills fish. It won't be good for your septic tank either. Use with care.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

100 Days Project - 100 days of Textile experiments.

Last year I hadn't even heard of the 100 Day project till all my friends seemed to be taking part. This year I signed up so for For 100 days I will be doing textile experiments and I hope that most will be inspired by architecture that I've taken photos of whilst I've been travelling. This is a link to my project .

I am working through some of the fabrics and art materials I have accumulated over the years. The first week I used Evolon.  This is a synthetic spun polyester and nylon fabric. It feels a bit like suede. The samples are approximately 6 inches square unless they shrink when melted or I start to run out!
I bought my Evolon from Village Books and Crafts in Palmerston North.

Day 1 - I  free motion machine stitched it then painted it with dilute indian ink and acrylic paint. It spreads a bit like watercolour paints.

Day 2. I painted two different pieces with acrylic paints and fused one shape on top of the other piece. The Evolon takes the paint well and it is easy to cut intricate shapes because it doesn't fray at all. It stitches like fabric but would be better if stretched in a hoop. Unfortunately my pieces were a bit small for that so I stabilised it with fine batting.


Day 3 I monoprinted by spreading the ink on a piece of glass and then laying the Evolon on top and drawing on the back of it. It is a bit blurry as the Evolon has filaments which sort of wick away the ink. Some people use it for making watercolours as the ink soaks into the fibres

This is an image of the full 7 days of samples together.

Day 4. I used some very old transfer inks to add colour. I am limited to blue, black and red as the rest have been lost over the 15 years since I bought them.

Day 5. I stitched 2 layers of Evolon together using a picture I'd taken of a window in Ahmedabad in India. Then I heated the stitched piece with a heat gun. At first nothing happened then it started to melt and finally became quite hard and plasticky.

Day 6. I did a different type of mono print by inking the glass then drawing into the ink. I then cut out the design and tried to add foil by using fusible webbing. The iron was too hot and I managed to melt the foil and the backing onto the Evolon. The background is hand painted cotton.

Day 7. I cut out shapes in the Evolon using a soldering iron then coloured the design using transfer inks. The design comes from a window screen in Ahmedabad.

So thats the end of the Evolon. Next week I will be working with Lutrador which I bought thinking I might use and never got out of the packet.

Advantages of Evolon. It takes paints very well, it can be cut into intricate shapes without fraying or tearing. It is strong and can be burnt to make very interesting shapes. I think it will be very useful for making costumes as well as for covers for hand made books.

Lastly - This is an interview of me by Charlotte Scott  the 'SlightlyMadQuiltLady".
Here is the link. Interview Clare Smith. Charlotte asked some great questions. She is interviewing all the tutors teaching at the New Zealand Quilt Symposium in October this year.



Sunday, February 26, 2017

A few things I've made in 2017 so far.

I used to say that I was a quilter, then i started saying I'm a textile artist. Now I do a whole variety of different things that have to do with textiles. It would be impossible to make a living in New Zealand as a textile artist so like many people I do a whole variety of different things to earn a living. These are just a few things that I have made this year so far.

Over the last two weeks I have been making seagull costumes for a theatre group. They will be performing  during the Capital E arts festival in Wellington. Its been a time of experimentation but also great fun. Thank you to Anna Maea Chitara for making the beaks.



I finished the seagulls yesterday so today I started work on a quilt commission. In this case its a Grandmothers Flower Garden quilt which I was given to finish. I did a similar job last year with an almost identical quilt. This one is for a man who inherited it from his Great Aunt. It is King bed sized was almost finished except for about 10 rosettes in one corner. I removed a row down one side and moved those into the corner. Next I will add borders and send it off to a commercial quilter to quilt, then I will add the binding.

Earlier this year I taught an indigo dyeing/shibori workshop for The Hutt Arts Society. Here are some of the dyed pieces that the students produced. Luckily it was a nice warm day although very windy which made it hard to work outside. Its been like that all summer really in the Wellington region.




The start of the year is also when all my classes seem to need class samples at once. These are for simple 'quilt as you go' classes at Nancys Stitch Studio in Wellington.
Shopping bag class sample for Nancys Stitch studio

Table runner using fabric I won  in a charity raffle  at Monterey Quilters

detail of quilt as you go table runner
I have also made a lot of piped cushions this year. I turn people's tapestries into cushions one day a week at Nancys Stitch Studio in Wellington. Its great to spend time in the shop, its a nice change from working at home alone.

Here are a couple more oddities made this year, I've made 3 of these giant wetas so far.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Textile Commissions, earthquakes and travel

Its about 4 weeks since I got back to New Zealand from India. Its taken me a while to process everything and also to catch up on various projects which I couldn't work on while I was away.

Since I got back we have had a large earthquake. Our house has suffered a few cracks which weren't there before, and my husband has been working from home as his office is closed until they find new premises. The day after the earthquake we had heavy rain which followed a few weeks of steady rain. the ground was waterlogged and that meant we had water leaking through the back wall of our garage so we spent several hours sweeping water out of the garage and trying to get things dry. A lot of horrible fabric was thrown away that day. It was all stuff which should have been sorted and thrown away years ago.

It was lucky that we don't live near the coast of New Zealand. In what the newspapers called 'the perfect storm' we had a strong earthquake followed by heavy rain at the time of the Supermoon. There was a tsunami then high spring tides because of the supermoon and the heavy rain. No wonder the roads were flooded especially around the coasts and there were land slides, and fallen trees. Its taken a while to get back to normal, although there are still a lot of government and private buildings in Wellington closed due to earthquake damage. One of our friends has been evacuated from their apartment in central wellington and has been unable to get anything out of their home for nearly 2 weeks.


Bitter Harvest 3. This is a wallhanging currently hanging at Pataka. Water has been running down the front  from the cups to make the dye in the blue patches run. It looks quite blurry now.

This small quilt is travelling with the OzQuilt exhibition in Australia.

This life-size model of a weta (a New Zealand grasshopper)has been at the Knitting and Stitching Shows in London, Dublin and Harrogate this year with the BugLife exhibition curated by Ann Kelly.
Its not easy to make money as a textile artist in New Zealand. I am usually working on a lot of different things at once. As well as making quilts I also make their costumes, tech quilt making and surface design, do commissions and complete projects for people.
Before leaving for India I was making costumes for the show The Merry Widow almost up till the day I left. I still have a lot of the costumes in my garage , I brought them home to wash, and I haven't been able to take them back to the costume store because no one knows whether the building is safe. Luckily the costumes were up on a table or they would also be wet.

Most of the time I work from home and it can get a bit lonely. So I also do 'finishing' for a shop. People bring in their completed tapestries and I make them up into cushions. Sometimes I get to make up beautiful needle cases or quilt shop samples.  I get to have some social time with customers and staff at the shop and the bonus is that I get paid.

I have been working on several collage litter bins for a commission and I recently completed a Grandmothers Flower Garden quilt for an elderly lady who is in her 90's.
No sooner had I handed over the first quilt than I got another half finished hexagon quilt which is almost identical to the first one.
The Grandmothers Flower garden quilt top when it arrived

The quilt after I moved some of the rosettes around and turned it into a single bed sized quilt
Lastly, some pictures from India


Gorgeous step well near Jaipur

Woodblock printing at Anokhi Woodblock museum

Elephant near Jaipur

Traffic on the way back to Delhi

View from the hotel window in Delhi. Cows, ice-cream vendors, cars and chaos

Beautiful architecture in the Lodi Gardens, Delhi

Coloured chalk for making rangoli patterns for Diwali
India was inspiring as well as confronting. 2 days after I left, Delhi had some of the worst pollution days ever, caused by Diwali fireworks and farmers burning off stubble in the fields. Then the large bank notes 1000, and 500 rupee notes were withdrawn suddenly over night making it very hard for tourists and locals alike. At the end of my holiday I would have loved to have stayed in India for longer but now I am very glad I left when I did. Maybe I will get a chance to go again when things have settled down.

Textile Commissions, earthquakes and travel

Its about 4 weeks since I got back to New Zealand from India. Its taken me a while to process everything and also to catch up on various projects which I couldn't work on while I was away.

Since I got back we have had a large earthquake. Our house has suffered a few cracks which weren't there before, and my husband has been working from home as his office is closed until they find new premises. The day after the earthquake we had heavy rain which followed a few weeks of steady rain. the ground was waterlogged and that meant we had water leaking through the back wall of our garage so we spent several hours sweeping water out of the garage and trying to get things dry. A lot of horrible fabric was thrown away that day. It was all stuff which should have been sorted and thrown away years ago.

It was lucky that we don't live near the coast of New Zealand. In what the newspapers called 'the perfect storm' we had a strong earthquake followed by heavy rain at the time of the Supermoon. There was a tsunami then high spring tides because of the superman and the heavy rain. No wonder the roads were flooded especially around the coasts and there were land slides, and fallen trees. Its taken a while to get back to normal, although there are still a lot of government and private buildings in Wellington closed due to earthquake damage. One of our friends has been evacuated from their apartment in central wellington and has been unable to get anything out of their home for nearly 2 weeks.


Bitter Harvest 3. This is a wallhanging currently hanging at Pataka. Water has been running down the front  from the cups to make the dye in the blue patches run. It looks quite blurry now.

This small quilt is travelling with the OzQuilt exhibition in Australia.

This life-size model of a weta (a New Zealand grasshopper)has been at the Knitting and Stitching Shows in London, Dublin and Harrogate this year with the BugLife exhibition curated by Ann Kelly.
Its not easy to make money as a textile artist in New Zealand. I am usually working on a lot of different things at once. As well as making quilts I also make their costumes, tech quilt making and surface design, do commissions and complete projects for people.
Before leaving for India I was making costumes for the show The Merry Widow almost up till the day I left. I still have a lot of the costumes in my garage , I brought them home to wash, and I haven't been able to take them back to the costume store because no one knows whether the building is safe. Luckily the costumes were up on a table or they would also be wet.

Most of the time I work from home and it can get a bit lonely. So I also do 'finishing' for a shop. People bring in their completed tapestries and I make them up into cushions. Sometimes I get to make up beautiful needle cases or quilt shop samples.  I get to have some social time with customers and staff at the shop and the bonus is that I get paid.

I have been working on several collage litter bins for a commission and I recently completed a Grandmothers Flower Garden quilt for an elderly lady who is in her 90's.
No sooner had I handed over the first quilt than I got another half finished hexagon quilt which is almost identical to the first one.
The Grandmothers Flower garden quilt top when it arrived

The quilt after I moved some of the rosettes around and turned it into a single bed sized quilt
Lastly, some pictures from India


Gorgeous step well near Jaipur

Woodblock printing at Anokhi Woodblock museum

Elephant near Jaipur

Traffic on the way back to Delhi

View from the hotel window in Delhi. Cows, ice-cream vendors, cars and chaos

Beautiful architecture in the Lodi Gardens, Delhi

Coloured chalk for making rangoli patterns for Diwali
India was inspiring as well as confronting. 2 days after I left, Delhi had some of the worst pollution days ever, caused by Diwali fireworks and farmers burning off stubble in the fields. Then the large bank notes 1000, and 500 rupee notes were withdrawn suddenly over night making it very hard for tourists and locals alike. At the end of my holiday I would have loved to have stayed in India for longer but now I am very glad I left when I did. Maybe I will get a chance to go again when things have settled down.