Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sparkling Sticks

A happy cover in Matsumoto!  
I don't know what it is covering but I like it.

Luscious Lava 
(These will be posted on etsy today!)

This started from a look at the view out of our apartment in winter.  Now that spring has sprung, I realize that my image of spring in my mind isn't much different from what it actually looks like in Japan: colorful, bright and busy.
Here's a painting is progress.  My paintings and jewelry are very sparkling lately, and starting to grow long bits.  Are they roots?  Fallen trees?  Chopsticks?  String on a Sumo wrestler's costume?  Rays of light radiating from Buddha?

Time to post new earrings on etsy!  

Friday, April 25, 2008

God's Handmade Clothing

This is a god-like figure called Jizo.  S/he is a god for unborn children and early, unfortunate accidental deaths in Japan.  Local people make clothing (usually sewn cloth) as a gesture like clothing the children as they try to make it to heaven.  The children try to build a tower out of stone to climb up to heaven.  Every time the children go back down to get more stones from the river, something (a devil-like figure?) knocks the tower down.  Another story on the theme of noble hard work.  In Japanese, very hard work is referred to as "bone-breaking."  Someone crocheted clothing for this figure and the eleven others around it at a shrine Mikel and I passed on a walk.  The crochet work was probably bone-breaking in itself.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Up and Down

Up and Down.  
Down the slide.

Hello from the bottom of a butt-burning slide in Anan-cho!  This is an AMAZINGLY fun slide made of hundreds of cylinders that roll as you slide over them.  It made our behinds feel a little like they were on fire but the fun was totally worth it.
Up and Down: These fish are now floating over the pond by our apartment for Kids Day.  At night, with the full-moon light, these fish and their reflection look like a giant zipper connecting the sky and water.  
Up: paintings (in progress) by Mikel behind an explosive, planet-like sculpture I made a few months ago (that should probably come down soon).
Up: The full moon over the mountains in Japan.

Down:  I spent so much time looking down at my new felted bits and recycled paper I made into funky plates that my neck hurt.  The only way to fix that is yoga.  It's easy to remember to do yoga when my body gives me not-so-subtle reminders.  
Down:  So much stuff on the floor in our studio.  The desk in front is Mikel's.  Do you like our little fridge?  The white thing on top is a rice maker.  Genius invention!  

Lately I am really feeling fiery and inspired in the studio but quite irritated that I can't finish a freakin' painting!  Finishing anything is the hardest part for me.  Starting things is the easiest.  I never fear the "blank canvas."  I always fear the piece totally full to the brim with too many things to say.  How do I choose?

Goals of the week:  Don't get down!  Ride the fiery wave and use the momentum to finish two paintings and start working on my website!  Make choices!

Monday, April 21, 2008


This is a structure I pass on my way to the Iida.  It is being built/created by a man who I usually see wearing pink spandex.  He continues to add interesting elements; a Japanese flag, ladders, signs advertising for Udon (thick Japanese noodles), giant bottles, etc.  if you look closely at this slightly out-of-focus image you can see this artist sitting at the table in front of his masterpiece-in-the-making.  I don't know if he really wants to sell Udon (no one ever stops, and this structure is more like a collection of poles than a building where one would eat)  but his structure is beautiful and his creative practice is inspiring.                                                                        

Check out this tree!  The building is a Shinto Shrine in our town.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Let's Handcraft Fert!

It might seem like the title of this blog entry is spelled incorrectly, especially for those of you who know that my talents do not include spelling, but I meant to spell it that way for this reason:

I had a choice between buying a felting needle that said "Let's Handcraft Felt!" and the "Engrish" version. Japan is full of amazing Engrish and whenever I get a chance to collect some amazing Engrish, I do! Check out for many great examples. If you like to make found poetry or collect ridiculous t-shirts (like the one I gave my sister Jaime for Christmas-- sorry Jaime! It was too good to pass up...) Japan is the place to be.
Japan is also the place to be if you want to buy what I like to call a "yellephant."

For 100 yen this beauty can be yours, too! Along with countless cheap-but-too-cute-and-weird-to-resist things... Okay, maybe I am the only person on earth who would cherish a putrescent-yellow, plastic watering can that's shaped like an elephant and doesn't even work properly.

So let's just folget about it and just handcraft fert and water our prants!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Concert of the Bees

Hello from Niino! This is one of the villages we teach English in.
The weather is warming and the flowers are blooming.

This is pretty much how I feel about it:

My handsome artist husband and I took a little trip to Iida last weekend to eat a Japanese potluck with our friends Eric and Mai. Eric has been studying the traditional Japanese instrument, the Koto, for about three years. He gave a beautuful performance after dinner, playing songs about Spring.

One song was called, "The Shape of Spring." Here's one of my ideas for the shape of spring:

This is the time to sit on the "pink carpet" made by fallen flower petals, drink sake and pretend that we aren't overworked and under appreciated... okay, not us: Mikel and I are enjoying our jobs and we are appreciated by our coworkers. But in general, people are WAY overworked here. If we drive by the school at 9pm, we can expect to see the teachers' room light on.
When I stand under a cherry tree, all I can hear is a concert performed by bees who are perhaps as busy as my coworkers.

Craft Land calls my name when I am at school all day! After school today I will be able to work on my newest jewelry-making technique: felted beads. I love it! I finally bought pre-dyed wool at a craft store in Iida and I am addicted. I am interested in making plant-like shapes to compliment my already organic jewelry. I can't wait to see how the texture of wool contrasts my other materials. I don't have any wool incorporated into jewelry yet, but here is a pair of recently made earrings:

I think they have a good mix of the spooky cuteness that I see everywhere in Japan.
Mikel and I listened to a good Studio 360 (an NPR podcast) about just this kind of cuteness.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sakura Season

Cherry Blossom season is here and my hubby is back after three months in the States waiting for his visa. Finally we're together and a new school year in Japan has begun. Cherry blossoms are symbolic of beginnings and endings; of change. We can't believe how many trees bloom here; not just cherry trees but Japanese plum trees and some bright yellow ones that I don't know the name of. We have joked that the flowers aren't really real but hand made and glued perfectly to the branches in almost unnaturally dense clusters. Such dedicated work would be a very Japanese thing to do.

Another thing we have been enjoying is finding spring veggies called fuki. We pick them on our walks to eat for dinner. We have mastered fuki tempura. Our poor hearts... It's pretty much the only way to eat fuki and it's so delicious!! (of course everything is delicious if it is fried...)

Lately this has been a good example of my studio time. Lots of Harry Potter on the ipod and lots of time on the floor cutting, gluing and painting. Here's a new one:

The painting really is the wonky shape it appears to be. Other than breaking out of a rectangular shape, I am making an effort to add more space into my paintings. I've been told (by really everyone) that the space will help emphasize the crazy, condensed parts. Although I am stubborn sometimes in taking such good advice, I am finally giving it a try.

I have started to make more Jewelry too, sparked by a commission request from Chicago. Here is what I made for her:

I have a new spark for my future as a self-employed artist. Working a 9-5 job as an English teacher has its benefits (income, excuse to live in another country, etc.) but sometimes it is a little difficult because it feels like my real life in on hold. I need to keep my energy up and my dreams for the future flowing. It will make my time here now even more rich than it already is. It's a good thing that Mikey is back. The one percent of the time when I am not my usual optimistic self, he reminds me of his dreams and our dreams together and it keeps starting new fires in my passion.

Check out new jewelry on my Etsy page soon!
Keep the passions alive!
Drink wine to balance out fried food!
Read The Time Traveler's Wife for a superb love story!