Monday, November 26, 2007

Mini and Compact

On our Christmas shopping adventure in Iida last weekend, we found this store, which is actually called Megane, the word for eyeglasses...strategic photography. Me means eye in Japanese.

This is a lovely shot of some fall colors by a Shinto Shrine. There were some old men tending the landscaping who thought we were pretty funny. The white shapes hanginging from the ropes are folded pieces of paper. Shintoism recognizes the impermanence in life. Even the shape of the actual shrine-- not in the photo-- mimics that of old nomadic tents. Mikel and I are both interested in what we perceive as the theatre of Shinto practice.

This is not an optical illusion. Mikel really was way too tall for this little door. Traditional Japanese architecture was not created so it was so convenient that one could almost ignore it-- how often do you notice the top of a door you are walking through in the USA? Or the ceiling?-- Here, architecture seems to be functional and intended for direct contact with the human body. I am so much more aware of how my body moves through space here. Mikel MUST be more mindful here or he would hit his head many times a day. He even has to duck to enter our bathroom!

Here is part of my new collection of mini food and household items. The detail is divine. They could never be sold in the USA because of lawsuits. I can`t believe I would have never known about these miniature collections had I not come here! EEK! I used to make little homes for my trolls that would have been strongly enhanced had I had these treasures. My future kids are lucky ducks!

Craft Land explosion! After a weekend of crafting and laundry, here`s our main room. This room serves as a kitchen, studio for both of us, laundry line, and now bedroom-- the rest of the apartment is too cold to sleep in!! There`s my cute hubby planning his next attack in the studio. He recently made a full-size, very realistic fox and three spooky crows which also share this room with us.

The whole room isn`t a wreck. Here is a shot from the opposite direction. Cute kitchen, eh?
ok, I`m off to write a store about a bubble-blowing elephant for my students--a regular day in Japanese Craft Land!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thirty Minute Sculpture

Just think of the things you can do in 30 minutes!
-decorate a pinata
-watch an episode of Peep Show
-ride the bus home from work
-clean the teacher`s room
-bake a marble cake
-eat just about anything
-make a pink, mini-mountain

...just a thought.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pinatas in Japan

I figured out how to get some photos in action! Yay. Here is the only photo of me from our crazy pinata day yesterday at Yasuoka Middle School. I was so amazed at the pinatas that the students made. Many were sculptural like this one:

The students in Japan wear these blue uniforms, as well as more fomal uniforms, to school every day. I think the blast of birthday color really brightened up the joint. We taught them how to sing Happy Birthday in Spanish--one of the many ways-- and made cake for them too.
Today I taught my first elementary school class. YAY! It was fantastic. I taught them the parts of the body so they could draw their own "Yokai-- monster-- bodies." I love teaching my own classes and I really enjoy the energy and curiosity of elementary school students.
This brings me to something that I think is very important: Last night, Mikel and I were discussing how important it is to be curious about the world. The people I have met who are curious about the world also tend to patient. If you enjoy the process of learning you will be patient with the process of other people`s learning. You will also be able to ask yourself if what you are teaching is remotely interesting to your students. It seems that usually, if something is boring to you, your students will be bored as well. Also, if you act annoyed and impatient with your students--or your own children-- you might kill their curiosity. People don`t grow into unhappy adults because adulthood is miserable. We are taught to be miserable.
I cannot craft when I am miserable.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pinatas and Calligraphy

Craft Land exists in our main room which includes our dining area, kitchen, and Mikel`s studio. We close this room off to keep it warm-- central heating is very un-Japanese. This room is now EXPLODING with color and papier-mache animals; Animals by virtue of my partner-in-making, Mikelou, and color thanks to Iida`s Hyaku yen store-- a fabulously Japanese version of a dollar store.
We will be leading a workshop about birthdays around the world, to junior high students on Tuesday. We took a train into Iida yesterday and packed two big camping packs with treats and decorating supplies-- glow bracelets, striped wrapping paper, dimensional stickers that look like my cat, Tiny One, and glitter, are just some highlights. I also bought soft green yarn and wooden knitting needles because apparently I left my hat and gloves in Vermont. Oops!
Today, after creating glittery worksheets, while watching The Usual Suspects-- which, anyone who knows me could have told me, is NOT my kind of movie-- we ventured out on a long walk to a friend`s house for dinner. After 45 minutes, and right before it started to rain, we were picked up by her husband, Katzuo Hirota, sparing us 6 kilometers-- about 4 miles-- of wet feet.
Madame Hirota, is a glowing, fifty-year-old Japanese English teacher who looks much younger than her age-- probably thanks to the local hot springs. She is also a fantastic cook with a flair for Thai dishes. She and her husband, an elementary teacher with a flair for eating Thai dishes, live in my dream-house. It is like an old body whose form reflects its long and useful life and the happiness of its occupants. Her house is what I want my body and life to be like. I wouldn`t mind it if her cooking skills somehow came with the deal... We ate and talked among their eight cats, all of us sitting at the table, on a heated rug, under a blanket. After dinner, they showed us a beautiful book of contemporary Japanese Calligraphy created by a young woman. As I looked at it, genuinely enjoying Calligraphy for the first time in my life, I thought, "I have no doubts about why I am an abstract painter."
Somehow, we left their house with a beautiful, old silk Jacket, a Japanese version of Ice Age and a refreshed look on life. Thank the universe of craftiness and cats because I have been stressed a bit lately; both because I am neurotic and because I have had a lot of work to do this week. I have been illustrating funny, Roald Dahl-like stories for my students-- I read them and they fill in various blanks as they listen. I have also been planning my first solo teaching at elementary school tomorrow. ALL BY MYSELF! AHH! If there is one thing that I have learned through my relentless neurosis, it is that every class can be both art and English class. I can teach anything using art. It feels integrated and I am a better teacher that way. Heck, it`s my specialty!

ok, seriously, Megan, this is way too long for a blog. Go and get some freakin` crafting done!
ok, I will.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Collecting Brilliance

There was not much crafting in Craft Land today because I didn`t spend much time at home. Instead, I watched dance performances by local school children in the nearby city of Iida. There were lots of tiny skirts, glitter, bright- almost neon- colored lights and fabric, intense music and traditional Soran dance performances. AMAZING!

The intake of fantasic experience did not stop there! Lunch at Kappa Sushi- including my favorite, green tea ice cream- and shopping for clothing are always inspiring in Japan. I am very fond of strangely used English so I bought a purple shirt that has a rainbow sewn onto it, an embroidered tree, and screen printing that says "All around us with love; Find the RAGOUT; Flows holy from the USA forest SKY; Spirit of 1968; Please face oneself and naturally; Just Fine; Happiness comes from everywhere you know."

Again, I am sorry for no pictures. You are really missing out. The shirt is intense and I`m totally going to copy its brilliance. In Craft Land I am always trying to copy brilliance that might stumble into my path. I collect other people`s brilliance to copy. If you have any, please send it my way... unless you don`t want me to copy it.

rock and roll!

ps. We also saw three REAL rainbows today.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Where are my Japanese Skills?

Oh no! I erased one of my blogs from a couple days ago. I was trying to edit it and I was guessing which buttons to push. I guess I pushed the wrong one...

Check out this review in SHE Unlimited Magazine. The Beauty and Style editors want to do a pruduct review of Beaded Weeds yay! I made a pair of earrings to send their way asap.

You never know what the great ice cream shop in the sky will dish out.

Friday is here! Usually I go out to Kappa Sushi-- a cheap and delicious Sushi restaurant where the food goes around on a conveyor belt--with other English teachers, but tonight I will attend a work party. Drunk co-workers are always good to practice Japanese with. Oyasuminasai!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Puppets and Painting

I spent all day at school working in the special ed class. The main teacher was at a conference so we made Shrinky Dink string puppets from images in story books. I love teaching art! Again, sorry for no photos here. We are still having computer issues.

After school I was jazzed to get to work. After a fantastic dinner made by Mikel-- inari, miso soup, fried tofu and wine-- I got down to some painting. Suddenly, I realized that the pieces I have been working on lately have reached the usual rough spot that my paintings hit after working on them for a while. My professor, Kevin Wixted, once told me that this is where painting really begins. Damn, painting is difficult!

As soon as I get the means, I will post a new piece or two. The colors are intense and they are smaller than I usually paint. I found superb little wooden panels at a store in Nagoya for an amazing price. I swear Japan makes everything that is cute and small.

Ok, time to check out some other crafting bloggers and keep the craft flow a-rockin`


Monday, November 5, 2007

Lamination Magic

Before I hit the hay, I want to express my excitement about the world of lamination. While I was creating some cards for an English game today at school--"This is Johnny Depp. He is my friend. He is nice to me..."-- it dawned on me that I have been totally missing out on the incredible world of lamination. I instantly threw some shiny dessert stickers in the machine. By threw I mean delicately placed them on paper and between the laminating plastic, then helped it go through the machine, trying not to wiggle too much with excitement. And, Voila! Plastic covered stickers...redundant? Maybe. Fun? Yes!

I also watched Patch Adams...a very good movie with nothing to do with lamination but everything to do with excitement and passion.

Any idea how lamination can be earth friendly?

good night!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Land of fried octopus balls

Has is really been since June that I have blogged? Crazy. Someday I will be a good blogger...not yet though.

I have been living in Anan-cho, Japan for five weeks now. I am an assistant English teacher in elementary and junior high schools. I love teaching. It gives me a fire for teaching workshops someday in the future. For now I am learning how to be a good teacher and how to speak Japanese. I have also been painting and crafting in our beautiful little apartment. We only recently got e-mail in our place, and it is only yet on an old PC, so pics will have to wait.

Japan is so inspiring! Mikel noticed that my new paintings are more brightly colored than usual. Maybe this is evidence of my inspiration. The landscape is dramatic and misty. The huge mountains seem to float in the mornings, and roads, winding around and around toward their destinations, are like horizons of stacked landscapes. It seems so far to me that the Japanese somehow work with nature to allow each element come into its own potential. It`s both messy and organized; Complicated, yet emitting the visual equivalent of a deep sigh that can only come from one who accepts who they are suposed to be. I could really learn from the latter.

Sorry (to the one person who accidentally came upon my blog and was bored enough to read it) for no images today. Soon!

craft out, Artie-farties!