I woke up in the middle of the night from the sounds of rain: finally! Heat makes me tired and I was dreaming a lot lately about mountains covered in snow, icy air, snow melting in sunny spots, water dripping.
One of our favourite experiences while in Japan was a little hike through the snowy mountains between the villages of Kurama and Kibune, only half an hour train trip away from Kyoto. We visited Kurama-dera and several other shrines on the way, had really special shojin-ryori (temple food) meal at Yoshuji and soaked in Kurama onsen, surrounded by mountains. I remember vividly the steam rising from the hot mineral bath, the snow melting on the thatched roof above, drops falling into the water from the roof edge, silence.
I mentioned we were getting together with Belinda and Alex for some indigo dyeing last tuesday. We had to hide from the hot sun in the shade of a tree. Greens and blues, all different shades on different pieces of fabric, developing, like prints in the darkroom. I didn't really know what to expect, so any surprise was welcome. You can sort of see in the next photograph how the hanks of yarn, dipped one after another in the bucket, are gradually changing color from green to blue and some of the in-between shades are so pretty and impossible to describe, I wish there was a way to stop the process and fix that color.
And then once the fabric is dry, the color is completely different again. I think we are pretty hooked, there are so many things to experiment with, to try and alter the final result. And yet the fact that so much is outside of your control, the uncertainty itself is addictive.
Belinda, Alex and I are going to try indigo dyeing today, so I wanted to show you Aizenkobo Indigo workshop I visited while in Kyoto. It's a little tricky to find, but totally worth it, even just for the opportunity to see inside a traditional japanese craftspeople house, that served as a workshop and living quarters for three generations of dyers. They have beautiful natural dyed sashiko threads for sale, weaving yarns, and of course indigo dyed fabrics, including some antique linens. This is one of the fermentation vats in the back garden.
We found Foil gallery a couple of streets away from Aizenkobo by pure chance, I didn't know there was one in Kyoto. Foil is one of my favourite publishers, they specialise in art and photography books, Yoshitomo Nara and Rinko Kawauchi are some of the artists on their list, so it was amazing to visit and buy a couple of books. There is a beautiful cafe in the same building called Marble, filled with light, vintage furniture and pot plants, but sadly menu was in japanese only and seemed too hard to decipher.
Quiet a few of my favourite volumes are published independently by small press or artists themselves, so I am biased. It feels especially fitting for Pia to choose self-publishing and a local printer for this book, as Little Treasures is a deeply personal project, celebrating handmade gifts she received from her friends close and far after her daughter Laly was born. If the fundraising campaign is successful, the book is to come out in April. I really truly want it to happen, so that I can hold a copy of this beautiful book in my hands, celebrate Pia's courage, and perhaps see a few more people inspired to go ahead and publish their own book. Below are a few questions about the project Pia kindly agreed to answer.
How did having Laly in your life affect your creativity?
Having Laly in my everyday has affected my creativity in every possible way - it's as if my imagination has opened up to a whole new, limitless level...perhaps awakening the sleeping child in me. I have so many ideas that have stemmed from just spending time with her, holding her, and being generally consumed by her. But that has also affected my creativity - being so consumed by her means I have far less time to actually be creative!
I love that in the book you are sharing some of the things you made for her, together with handmade gifts made by other people. I assume you have less time now, when you are able to pick materials and tools at will and make things on a whim. Is your head flooded with ideas you would like to realize when you get a chance?
Absolutely. It can be incredibly frustrating because I am torn between wanting and needing to spend so much time with her, and just wanting to lock myself in my studio room and get cracking on all these amazing projects I've been thinking about. Once Laly goes to bed at night I usually start work but then I am so tired from the day's activities that I should really be spending that couple of hours resting. It's really hard to find the best balance.
How different are things you want to do or make now? Have your perspective shifted?
I've always liked the idea of doing short, quick weekend or evening projects, and if anything that desire has become much stronger as my spare time is even less than ever before. Having said that I understand the need for slowness, especially when it comes to raising a family, so I am more mindful of letting things be, and letting ideas develop with time rather than needing to do everything now.
In a few words - what was involved in the process of creating images for this book? Did you mainly photograph inside your house, using your own collection of props?
Yes all the images were taken inside my home, mostly when Laly had her day naps as I only use natural light. There is a large window that lets through all the afternoon sun so the floor near that window became my surface for shooting. I used simple, neutral coloured fabric backdrops with varying textures, and petals and leaves for props. In post production I layered some of the images as I love double-exposures to create that dreamy, magical feeling.
You still have a few days to pre-oder your copy of Little Treasures: Made by Hand and ensure that the book gets printed. And in case you were wondering about that beautiful delicate paper flower in the photo above, Pia made it to decorate Laly's room, but you can have your own too, because Pia also created a giant paper wallflower kit to help raise the funds for the book. You can read more about it on Pia's blog and order one via Pozible.
Let's support self-publishing and printing beautiful books locally, shall we?
All images in this post are copyright Pia Jane Bijkerk.