UPDATE: I had the best time in Japan and now I’m back in Minneapolis, living in a friend’s attic and working multiple jobs. Since returning, I’ve had a chance to set up an indigo vat at my brother’s house in Aberdeen, SD, made katazome paste on my own for the first time, and spent some time dyeing fabric with the stencils I cut in Japan. I’m looking forward to continued and in-depth exploration of indigo and stencil-dyeing.

ORIGINAL: Hey again (or maybe for the first time!). I’m Karin Knudsen, and I’m a surface designer/textile artist/maker living in Minneapolis. Join me as I study at an indigo and sericulture (silk worm) farm in Japan! I’m working/studying/learning at the farm in August 2013, then traveling in Japan for a few weeks.

I have intentionally or unintentionally been preparing for this trip for many years. First, I took classes on dyeing at the Textile Center in Minneapolis, and started dyeing my own fabric. (Before that, I used all commercially printed/dyed fabric in my work). Then I started painting on silk and using the painted fabric in stitched thread drawings. Like these. The work was influenced by Japanese prints and a class in woodblock printing (moku hanga) I took many years ago.

I thought a class on Japanese-dyeing looked interesting, so I took it, and then a class on stitched shibori. Pretty soon the Textile Center offered a class on katazome (paste resist dyeing) and that seemed interesting, so I took that too. Thanks to my encouraging boyfriend-at-the-time, I next learned how to make and decorate Japanese paper (washi, and origamizome and suminagashi, if you must know). For a random and fun project, I made 100 origami hummingbirds for a local ad company. Friends living in Japan brought back sashiko (embroidery) for me to try. I figured as long as I was doing these traditional Japanese art forms, learning some Japanese language might be fun. (Thanks Tetsuya-sensei and St. Paul community ed!). I’ve also tried raku (in a pottery class during grad school), and dyed with Bengala dyes (they were originally used to color and treat wood). 

That leads us to today, 2013. I’m in Japan to study indigo dyeing and sericulture at a farm. My instructor, Bryan, lives in a little mountain town about 1.5 hours west of Tokyo, where he raises silkworms and runs workshops on Japanese textile design techniques.

How did this happen? It went down like this:  I read his blog, he mentioned he could take students for a month-long sojourn, we emailed back and forth, and there you go. The internet is magic. (Not all of it though, you guys. I am still a Luddite at heart. You can bring a grouch to Twitter, but you can not make her use Facebook).

Have I worked with indigo before? No. I use chemical dyes when dyeing at home. Do I know anything about raising silkworms and reeling the silk? Nope. Do I think this is an amazing opportunity? Yes. Yes, I do.

This blog is where I will update you on this adventure. Got questions? Email me or leave a comment. Want to know what I’m up to day-to-day? Read the latest post. Need more information on the art stuff I’m talking about? Go to the “key art terms” page. Want me to bring something back for you from Japan? Well, we can talk about that.

Thanks for visiting! I’ll blog when I can.