questions big and small

Yesterday, I had a mini meltdown. It was triggered when I was faced with designing a small stencil for use with paste resist. I couldn’t shut off my brain long enough to draw an image, trust myself and my ability to envision something, and begin cutting. This design paralysis lead to questioning what kind of work I should be doing in general, and ended with asking myself what I are doing with my life and what the future holds. You know, the usual.

I was prepared for some meltdowns and revelations on this six week journey, given the uncertainty of my current situation and difficulty of travel in a place where you don’t speak the language and have’t been before. What I hadn’t anticipated was so much questioning of my own artistic vision and capabilities. I mean, I do enough of that at home. Couldn’t I just trust myself for once?

After two days in Tokyo last week, it was back to the house to continue working on pieces to indigo dye. Normally, the planning stage takes me a bit of time as I work out a general pattern and lay it out on my fabric. But here, I felt stymied. Maybe it was the influx of so many new ideas and directions. (I could do stitching, I could do wrapping, I could do stitching and then do wrapping and then re-dye with a different wrapping! I could dye in indigo and then in persimmon, I could stencil paste on the fabric and then dye, I could weave on the the back-strap loom. I could look at Bryan’s books, I could sketch out ideas.) I was stuck in the problem of too much choice.

Maybe I felt lost figuring out my place in the wave of creative people. Bryan holds classes here three days a week, for short and long-term returning students. Some visitors come for the afternoon, because they have heard about him or read his blog, or are designers looking for indigo ideas and inspiration. Some are weekly regulars, who have been coming here for months or years like pilgrims to a holy site. Some, like me, are here for a longer term stay to study and absorb. Everyone has a different level of expertise or experience with textiles. And almost everyone seems to know exactly why they are here and what they want to know. Everyone but me.

Why did I travel all the way to Japan from Minnesota? To learn about indigo, to learn about Japanese textiles, to study with an actual silk farmer, to see Japanese textiles in person, to pick the brain of someone who has probably forgotten more about Japanese textiles than I will ever know. I have specific goals to be sure, but I’m also guided by unspoken, underlying goals. Like this: Figure out my place in life and what to do next. Or this: Set out on my next artistic path. Or this: Find a place to set up shop and teach what I know.

Because of these goals, and because I set high expectations on myself (like designing and cutting a nice stencil on the first try, even though I’ve never done it before), it became clear I have a lot riding on this trip. My hopes are high.

Realizing this, I calmed down and gave myself a break. Probably the most important thing I can do in Japan is leave myself open to possibility and not shut any doors to potential paths. I’m here to study and learn everything I can, but it’s okay if I leave not knowing lots of things, like exactly where I’m headed.

Late last night, I drew something out and started cutting my stencil image. (I’ll post pictures of that some other time.) And today was a better day. I walked the dogs, learned how to reinforce my stencil, and pasted my first fabric. I designed and marked a new shibori piece. I opened myself to making mistakes and learning from them and didn’t expect perfection or life-changing insights.

I’ll be back to posting process pics soon, and raving about how beautiful it is here. But this once, I needed to document this other artistic journey that I am on. Thanks for listening.

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