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1  FIBER ARTS / Weaving: Completed Projects / First Weaving Experience - Placemat on: November 08, 2019 12:26:59 AM
On a recent trip to Yufuin with my parents, we went to a workshop to try weaving for the first time.  Basically the teacher set us up with some looms, showed us the basics, and then left the room and let us carry on!  We only did the absolute most basic things, but it was so fun and relaxing and hypnotic, I'm thinking of trying to find a weaving class or something that will let me occasionally come in to use their looms.

I know the edges are super wonky, but they actually don't bother me as much as I thought they might!
Behind my placemat, you can see the ones my parents made. We had a whole ton of colors to choose from, but Mom and Dad were both trying to match the kitchen decor from their house, so they used a similar color scheme.  I just went for whatever colors I felt like!

Here are a few progress photos with the looms because we had so much fun!  Since I've never done any weaving before, I have no idea if these looms are very different from ones in other countries. Are these distinctly Japanese somehow, or kinda universal?  No idea, but I had a great time!

I'm so lucky that my parents were willing to indulge my love of crafting workshops during their visit to Japan! Smiley
2  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / My first kumihimo on: October 23, 2019 09:56:20 AM
Since I'm going to be leaving Japan at the end of this year (after living here since 2004), I've been trying to make the most of my last year here, and one of the things I've been doing is taking lots of classes of traditional Japanese crafts!  So while my parents were visiting this month, I took them with me to learn kumihimo for the first time in Kyoto.

I'll start off with the finished product: here's a long wraparound bracelet and a bag charm that I made!

We used these square bases called kakudai (this is my mom in the photo):

Apparently these aren't made much anymore, especially square ones as opposed to round ones, but they were SO useful! The work in progress was held taut above the work space, and the weighted spools kept the tension on each of the strings, which stayed neatly in place thanks to the square shape.

Here's a closeup so you can see how the strings overlap:

And if you're interested, here's a short video of me doing the relaxing, repetitive movements to braid the strings:

Seriously, it was SO relaxing and rather hypnotizing, and so easy!  There's no sound in the video, but the clacking sounds the spools made was really soothing.  I would LOVE to have one of these kakudai at home, but I'm not sure how practical it would be to find one and get it back to the states.  But at any rate I had a ton of fun trying it out!
3  COOKING / Recipes and Cooking Tips / Deco Sushi on: October 23, 2019 01:10:22 AM
I recently went to a deco sushi class, and it was SO FUN!  My parents and I each made two types of cute deco sushi, one with a plum blossom pattern, and one with adorable tanuki faces.  It took about three hours to finish both patterns, and even though we were all beginners, just by following directions we made amazing looking sushi that also tasted great!  Unfortunately this isn't exactly a recipe, mostly just pictures to show the process, but I should have the recipe we got SOMEWHERE, so once I find it I'll try to add it here!

First, here are some of my completed slices!

We started with the plum blossom pattern, which was surprisingly simple!

Our teacher had prepared our sushi rice (sticky rice with sweet vinegar) in advance, so that it was cooled to room temperature (but not in the fridge; she said that's a key point).  We mixed some sweet pink minced fish in with some of it, and measured out some balls on a scale to make the different parts. Then we wrapped five long tubes of the pink rice in nori to make the petals (my garden eel Kicchu is posing with some of these photos).

Measured out ingredients:

Kicchu spreading out the pink on a sheet of nori to roll up into a petal (scissors are just for him to stick on as a magnet, not used for the sushi!):

Rolling one of the petal rolls, wetting the edge with water to seal it (that's my dad in the background):

Then we stuck all the petal rolls around a center of stick cheese, and put stalks of pickled greens around the edges, and rolled all that up together in a big fat roll to make this:

...which we then cut to make this!

It's important to wipe down the knife and wet the blade with water between each slice, so you don't mess up the pretty cross section.
I was so excited at how perfectly these turned out!  The pickles, cheese, and sweet fish also went really well with the vinegared rice.  They were very tasty!

On to the next one!  This pattern is for a cute cartoonish tanuki, or raccoon dog.  They're often depicted wearing leaves on their heads as little rain hats, so that's included in the design too.  Here are the ingredients after we cut stuff, and mixed and measured the rice:

The brown rice includes katsuo furikake (a rice topping made of smoked tuna flakes) and ground white sesame, and the black-ish rice contains ground black sesame.  Up above you can see a small bologna sausage, a cucumber, stick cheese, and a pickled burdock root.

Next came some rather complicated wrapping, some bits with no rice at all, just nori around the other ingredients. It was time consuming, but not at all difficult as long as you had detailed directions (or a nice teacher coaching you along!).

When we finally cut into this one (sometimes cleaning the knife more than once for each slice 'cause it was so thick!), we got this!

At this point the eyes were just white cheese, and looked a little scary, so last we used smiley face hole punches (made specifically for making cute food) to cut eyes and mouths out of more nori, and decorated the faces!

So here's the whole set that I made myself!  And my parents' were just as cute!

This was a really fantastic class (Cooking Studio Colore in Osaka if anyone's interested) that I would wholeheartedly recommend!  The tanuki sushi tasted amazing as well!  I will try to find the actual recipes to share later too.
4  NEEDLEWORK / Needlework: Completed Projects / Rainbow Face Hoop on: September 17, 2019 06:06:27 AM
Here's a hoop I made for audio in the Make Me a Rainbow swap.

I got my inspiration from this print that I saw on audio's pinterest: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/sixteen-woman-sandra-silberzweig.html?product=art-print

I hadn't made a hoop in quite a while and it was really fun just adding details and choosing colors as I went along, trying to use as many different colors as possible!

Hmm, looks like I only took one progress pic this time:

This was also made entirely from my stash (except for a new needle I had to buy because I lost mine).  Sometimes I feel like I really shouldn't accumulate so much stuff, but it's soooo handy for making things like this!
5  MORE ART, LESS CRAFT / More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works / Lotus Leaf Painting #2 on: September 11, 2019 12:20:03 AM
I got the chance to make another lotus leaf painting, this time with Himapan Japan. I wanted to experiment with layering and mixing colors more this time, and here's what I came up with:

I'm so happy with how it turned out!  I made it with the colors of my parents' guest room specifically in mind, but am starting to wonder if I shouldn't just keep it myself... ;P

Here's the canvas before I worked on it.  I chose one that already had gold leaf on one of the leaves.  Ignore the tubes of paints; I was trying to plan out the colors for the leaves but ended up changing my mind anyway!

Here I am working on it:

And here it is painted but not glazed yet:

And me and a friend with our finished paintings:
6  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Goldfish Decoration on: August 30, 2019 01:45:22 AM
I recently made this goldfish decoration at a little mini workshop during a weekend trip with friends.

I forgot to take any normal progress photos, so instead, please enjoy this tutorial by Maccha the sea turtle!  Maccha was actually made for me years ago by storerboughtcreations and appears frequently on my silly plushie blog, which is what these photos were taken for.

First we cut out some blue rayon (this particular stuff is meant to look like chirimen, a gorgeous crinkled Japanese fabric but that stuff is expensive and also FRAYS LIKE NOTHING ELSE I HAVE EVER SEEN!!!  In fact it almost disintegrates!!) for the water.  Apparently pinking shears are the key to keep it from fraying (not sure how well this works with real chirimen).  We glued the water to the background (these are actually coasters from the 100 yen store, with a bit of twine on top), and stuffed a bit of polyfil under it to add some texture and volume.

Next we cut out fish head shapes from cardstock, put a tiny bit of polyfil on top, and then covered them with rayon which we sewed closed on the back.

We then cut out more parts of the decoration out of rayon and attached everything with glue, applied by toothpick.

And there's the final product!  The bubbles are just thick paper, punched out with a hole punch, and more of the same paper was used for the "stamp" at the bottom.  That's not actually a 3; it's a hiragana "ro", short for the Japanese pronunciation of my name.  

The whole process was a bit slow and fiddly but not nearly as difficult as I'd have thought, so I hope to make some more designs on my own!
7  MORE ART, LESS CRAFT / More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works / Eel Haiku on: August 08, 2019 08:54:00 AM
This one's a little silly, but I'm actually really pleased with how it turned out so I'm gonna share it anyway. Smiley 

This was another item for Gish (goofy annual international scavenger hunt game/charity event).  The assignment was to write a haiku about an animal on the IUCN Red List, along with a drawing or origami version of the animal.  (one of the least absurd Gish items ever!)

I figured since they were asking for Japanese art forms, I may as well do it in Japanese!  I composed the (very, very informal, to the point of silliness) haiku myself, but this beautiful penmanship was actually done by the teacher at the giant calligraphy workshop I attended during Gish week!  She was SO kind to humor me and write this out!  Haiku normally include specific words referencing the seasons and have other rules as well, but I only followed the 5-7-5 syllables rule.

The haiku reads:
Zetsumetsu kiki ya
Yabai nen

Or roughly:
Little eel
Oh sh**!  (Or "yikes," or "oh no!" or any number of other possible translations)

It's also in the Osaka dialect, because that's what I speak. Smiley

After I took my notebook home with the haiku in the teacher's amazing handwriting, I drew some eels with some brush pens and scrapbooked it all together on some Japanese paper.  The eel decoration posing in the corner of this photo is also hand made, but not by me (and it's made out of sacks used in the sake distilling process, which is pretty awesome!).

I chose the Japanese eel (nihon unagi) for this project because I adore eels, mostly because of my silly eel plushie photo blog, https://www.instagram.com/katsuyukimoray .  I hope the Gish judges like this as much as I do!  By the way, while the Japanese eel is a species of concern, its numbers ARE increasing due to human effort to conserve them!  Hooray!
8  MORE ART, LESS CRAFT / More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works / Giant Brush Calligraphy on: August 07, 2019 06:57:00 AM
Oh my goodness, you guys, this was so exciting!  I recently got the opportunity to try out something I've admired for a long time - giant brush calligraphy!

A friend of mine works at a tourist location in Kyoto that offers various cultural experiences taught by experts in the field.  Up until now they've done things like teaching how to swing a katana and cut through tatami, and various other things.  But they're planning to start a new service - teaching giant brush calligraphy - and my friend asked if I could come be a test customer for them, giving them feedback on their trial class which I could take for free!

Here I am with my first and only attempt:

First we each chose a character we wanted to write.  I chose "yume," which means "dream." We ground and mixed our own ink on the ink stone. Then, with a professional calligrapher teaching us, we practiced writing the character a few times on paper with a normal sized brush.  Even this type of more standard calligraphy is really hard, but I was pretty happy with my last practice sheet:

On the left, I've written my name in hiragana, one of the Japanese phonetic alphabets.  It looks weird to me because my name (and almost any foreign word) is usually written in the other phonetic alphabet, katakana.  Hiragana: ろうら vs. katakana: ローラ But hiragana is prettier and that's what the teachers told me to use. ;P

Then the staff held down a big piece of fabric and the teacher coached as I drew the character again with this HUGE brush!  You only get to dip it in the literal bucket of ink once, and then just have to go right on down and finish the whole character in one go, so it's extremely difficult.  The brush is so loaded at first it's drippy and unwieldy and you have to move fast to not just make giant puddles, but it's still nearly out of ink by the end so you have to be careful.  And of course drawing this large on the floor is WAY different from drawing with a pen-sized brush!

Finally, while this was hanging up to dry, we carved the first hiragana in our names into an eraser stamp, which we used to "sign" the work, along with the workshop's stamp.  Here I am stamping my piece:

That's not a 3, by the way; it's a hiragana "ro," short for "Roura" (Laura).

The perfectionist in me desperately wants to try this a few more times until I get a bit better at it.  It also dripped a little because it wasn't blotted enough before hanging up to dry (but that's one of the reasons they had a free trial lesson, to figure things like this out!).  But overall I'm really happy with it!
9  NEEDLEWORK / Needlework: Completed Projects / Mailbox Monster on: August 06, 2019 04:12:59 AM
So, last week was Gish (ridiculous international scavenger hunt game/charity event), and it finally got me crafting again!

One of the (over 200) items to fulfill was #52: Create MAILWHES, The Most Amazing, Intimidating Letterbox The World Has Ever Seen: a mailbox so amazing, so intimidating, so horrifying that your mail carrier will never dare leave you another piece of junk mail again. There must be teeth around the mail slot or opening.

It took me hours and hours (of desperately cutting corners and trying to work sloppy, because I am usually a veeerrrrryyy slow crafter and I simply didn't have time to be!), but after a few days of very little sleep I finally came up with this!

There it is on the mail slot on my door, spitting out unwanted junk mail! ;P

I decided I wanted it to be styled a bit like a Japanese oni (ogre or demon), but I didn't really have an exact image in mind; I just kinda kept adding features and figuring it out as I went along.

First I just threw together some red fabric (which would NOT iron flat, darnit!) and fleece from my stash, figuring the layer of fleece would give it a little texture and help it hold its form, and cut out a hole measured to fit the mail slot:

Then, since the part that seemed the most important was the teeth, I worked more on the mouth:

Next came eyes. The irises are made from a dragon patterned fabric leftover from a costume project some years back.

And the finished product.  I figure monsters are allowed to be a bit wrinkly. ;P  Full disclosure: I was totally running out of time at the very end of the week, so the horns are just pinned on to the back and not sewn closed at all.  Shh!  

Almost everything in this entire project is from my stash; the only new material is the faux leather I used for the nose, which I picked up in a packet of five colors for 100 yen (~$1) while shopping for various props for the scavenger hunt.

A lot of the stuff I've made for Gish in the past has just been recycled afterwards, but I love this guy so much I wanna keep him! I can't decide exactly what to do with him yet though.  I didn't measure at all when I started so I have no idea if he's a good shape or size for a pillow case (doubt there's a form he would fit, and not sure how I'd sew the edges together), so maybe just a wall hanging?  And should I put something in the back of the mouth?  Things to ponder.

In the meantime, more junk mail, you say? P-tooey!
10  MORE ART, LESS CRAFT / More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works / Lotus Leaf Painting on: June 01, 2019 07:35:37 AM
On a recent trip to Singapore (which was AMAZING), I went to a workshop to paint lotus leaves!  It was actually just me and the two coaches, who showed me a few possible techniques and then let me choose any colors and techniques I liked to paint over the wonderful panels they'd prepared for me made of real lotus leaves.  

The paints are acrylic. I used a combination of brushes, sponges, and my finger to get a variety of textures.

I left a couple of the leaves blank, because I love their natural color and patterning as well, and then borrowed a stencil to make two dragonflies, which I then touched up a tiny bit with a little bitty brush.

Here I am with my (mostly) finished paintings! The coaches are going to varnish them (or possibly already have?) and then mail them to my parents in the states, so when I move back stateside at the end of the year I can pick them up and use them to decorate a new apartment!  Eek!

The whole thing took between three and four hours to do, and was SO relaxing and fun.  I hope I have the chance to do it again sometime! 

Honestly the leaves were so pretty on their own I was really afraid I'd ruin them, but I'm actually quite happy with how these turned out! Can't wait to see them on my future wall!
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