Monday, January 29, 2007

Vicarious Pleasures: A Trip to Kyoto

I am incredibly fortunate to have a wonderful friend, Jean-Pierre, who has been living in Japan for over fifteen years now. He is the generous source of my collection of kimonos and the fabrics I have been using in my bags. He recently went on a trip to Kyoto, and sent me these pictures.

He visited an imperial villa, Shugakuin, that was away from the hustle of downtown Kyoto. The grounds are so lovely.

This is the market at Kitano Tenmangu, where J.P. bought some more kimono for me. He says that some of the stalls are disorderly, with just a big heap of cloth to rummage through, and some are very organised.

This is a garden at a temple near Shugakuin.

He had lunch at this restaurant, which he said was very cool, like being in a private home.

Thank you for sending these pictures, J.P.! They keep me going until I can make my own trip to Japan.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Reincarnation of Cloth

The bowling bag continues to evolve. This one is a cotton kasuri (ikat) fabric reclaimed from a kimono found at the temple market in Nara.

It is lined with a very nice quality kasuri scrap that was once part of a summer kimono, and has pockets cut from a piece of stencilled cloth, probably a summer yukata.

I added a couple of beckoning cat charms. For more on the lucky beckoning cat, check out Wild Ink.

Another view of the inside. I am happy with how the design is coming, just a little more tweaking with the handles and it will be launched into the world. Originally intended as a knitting bag for smaller projects, it would also make a really cute handbag. I love to think that the women who originally wore the kimonos the cloth came from would smile to see how the cloth lives on.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Birds

I'm in total agreement with Serena Fenton's latest posting here . I do love the bird images we are seeing everywhere, but they are becoming too conventional. I know a trend is dead when I go to the mall and see birds and leaves printed on T-shirts at Suzy Shier.
But it is also interesting to consider why a particular image resonates with the times. Birds traditionally symbolize spirit, a link between heaven and earth, and our desire to break free of earthly concerns. Looking around me, I often despair of the pointless consumerism that abounds, and wonder if it is possible to change our way of living in time to save the planet.
One way of reading the proliferation of bird and nature images in pop culture is that it reflects our desire to be more in tune with nature. The cynical side of me says that owning a t-shirt with a bird and some pretty flowers printed on it is just more thoughtless consumption, and isn't likely to change anything. Or that we have lost our connection to nature and are left with mere signifiers. But I prefer to remain hopeful - I do believe that people care about the environment, they just are overwhelmed and don't know where to start. All that endless shopping is sheer denial.

And on that bleak but hopeful note I have two recommendations: George Monbiot's "Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning" and the film "Children of Men", in theatres now. Both are passionate and truthful and despairing and hopeful.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mama's Got Some Brand New Bags

I have been plugging away in the studio and have come up with a couple of new designs. Even with my graphic design background, I underestimated how long it takes to come up with something I'm happy with. I'm playing both roles here - the creator, and the suit that comes in and says, "I would like to see this changed, and this, and this." Then I have to go back and figure out how to do it. And how to stay within my self-determined mandate of using recycled materials as much as possible.

This tote bag evolved from a slightly larger size, scaled down to fit the average 13.5 inch width of kimono fabric. The polka dot knit trim comes from a sweater I found at the Sally Ann. These bags will inevitably be unique, since I rarely have enough fabric to make two the same. This slows things down somewhat, but appeals to my low boredom threshold.

My artist brain is also at odds with business brain. I love to go through the stash to find the perfect complementary fabric, but now I'm nagged by the business side saying, "You're taking too much time. Just choose and get on with it!" I like the challenge of coming up with an efficient solution to a problem, but it seems like I've no sooner solved one problem and another, completely different one appears.

But I was quite pleased when my costume designer studio mate walked in, picked up the just finished bowling bag and said, "What a cute bag!", without realizing that I had made it. Now if I can just get that kind of validation from customers!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Start the Revolution

"Resist fashion. Manufacture your own brand. Embrace
tradition. Learn from history. Shatter the present.
Create the future. Stitch by stitch, we can and will
change the world. The revolution is at hand and
knitting needles are the only weapons you'll need.
Stop making scarves, start making trouble.
Consume less.
Create more.
Knitting is political.

These are the words of Lisa Anne Auerbach of Steal This Sweater fame. They inspired me to do something I've been kicking around in the back of my mind for a while - start a knitting gang. There are quite a few knitting groups in Vancouver, but none in my neighbourhood, and, as far as I can tell, none that are specifically interested in knitting as a political act.

My friend Conrad was keen on the idea too, and he has been building a web page for us as well as offering his home for the first meeting, which will happen in the next couple of weeks.

Part of what got my ass in gear was the comment of a Vancouver civic official who recently got herself splashed all over the media with her opinion that women should be allowed to carry concealed weapons. She said, "Some people knit. I like to shoot guns." The utter foolish narcissism of this woman aside, it was a provocative comment. I don't share her belief that women carrying guns will make the streets safer, however I do believe that more people knitting in the streets will make our communities both safer and happier. And, as Conrad says, "Happy people make a healthier planet."

We are loosely based on the inspiring model of the Revolutionary Knitting Circle founded by Grant Neufeld in Calgary. Read more about them and some of their wonderful actions here.

Want to join? Or start a group in your own community? Send me a comment.