Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and the student
are located in the same individual.
– Arthur Koestler
Inspiration may be a form of superconsciousness,
or perhaps of subconsciousness – I wouldn’t know.
But I am sure it is the antithesis of self-consciousness.
– Aaron Copeland
Japanese washi, organic indigo dye, gold and indigo embroidery threads, found object
The eye of desire dirties and distorts.
Only when we desire nothing,
only when our gaze becomes pure contemplation,
does the soul of things (which is beauty) open itself to us.
– Hermann Hesse
itajime shibori on cotton fabric, indigo, beads threaded on copper wire
I wonder if it’s possible to express genuine creativity if there’s anything left to lose.
I mean, if one’s still protecting a self-image – which inevitably involves need for acceptance and security – then one’s creative work (and life) will be constrained. It will be limited to that which will please (or shock), and/or provide means of support.
Imagine the radical creative freedom of having nothing left to lose! Of walking into the studio – or your life – that naked. Of just turning up with no notions of how anything should turn out…
Imagine being so committed to the truth of your creative practice that you’d destroy your entire body of work. That’s what artist and writer Jerry Wennstrom did.
After producing a large body of work, at age 29 he set out to discover the rock-bottom truth of his life. For years he questioned the limits of his creative life as a studio painter. After destroying all of his art and giving away everything he owned, Jerry began a life of unconditional trust, allowing life to provide all that was needed.
Also see Jerry’s page the awakened eye website.
handmade Japanese washi, indigo dye
arashi shibori on canvas, indigo dye, cotton gauze, pottery fragment
offering to aizen-myoo
460 x 460
dip-dyeing, braiding, painting, stitching, assemblage
Japanese washi, indigo dye, cotton threads, bamboo stick, cardboard box
Hiroyuki Shindo’s indigo vats are set into the ground in groups of four in the traditional manner, with a small hibachi at the center of each group to keep the earth warm in the freezing winter months. [See song for Shindo-sensei]
The organic vats are fed with saki, rice bran and honey. Indigo dye-baths are similar to a yoghurt culture – they are alive and they must be fed. They are sensitive; kept happy they will produce a range of blues from soft turquoise to the deepest tones of a moonless night. Eventually they will become exhausted, the quality of hue they produce will deteriorate and they will die. Then the residue will go on the garden.
High up on the studio wall sits a little altar with a dip-dyed washi kimono and other offerings. I ask Shindo-sensei about this small shrine.
“The first dip in the fresh vats at New Year is always offered to Aizen-Myoo, the protector of the vats,” he explains. The small dip-dyed kimono was Shindo-sensei’s first dip for that year, and the other offerings of riceballs and saki are replaced daily. This very contemporary Japanese artisan takes no chances …
This is my small offering to Aizen-Myoo, tucked up in a wonderbox*. The washi was dyed in Shindo-sensei’s vat, and the background cloth is a fragment from a Kyoto market. The cotton threads braided to make the ‘rope’ were also dyed with organic indigo.
* My wonderboxes are little altars where the small and often overlooked miracles of life get to find a home. I’ve been making them for as long as I remember – the earliest ones were hidden inside shoe boxes and you had to peek through a tiny hole to view them.
song for Shindo-sensei
550 x 920
ai-zome (indigo) and shibori dyeing
hand-woven ramie, bamboo, cotton cord,
Hiroyuki Shindo is internationally famous for the indescribable indigo hue he achieves from his fully organic vats. (So organic that when they are exhausted, he uses the residue to fertilize his organic vegie patch.)
During my sojourn in Japan on a Study Fellowship from the NZ Arts Council I joined him for a workshop at his home in Miyama, three hours from Kyoto, learning some of the idiosyncrasies of biodynamic ai-zome dyeing: feeding the smelly green vats with honey, rice bran and sake, offering prayers to the deities that watch over the vats, wallowing in wonder at the quality of the color that appeared on the cloth as the air reduced the dyestuff…
In the work shown above, the background fabric is hand woven ramie, dip-dyed in one of Shindo-sensei’s vats. I worked a shibori border on the piece of cloth that would become the panel. The small red object is a silk-wrapped prayer votive from a temple shrine.
Shindo-sensei’s ai-zome vats
Ai can mean indigo blue or it can mean love. Watching Shindo-sensei at work and seeing the results of his patient labors, one has the sense that, in his life, the two meanings merge into one.
Shindigo Space 07
Hiroyuki Shindo – aizome and shibori
Shindo-sensei’s home in Miyama