Saturday, January 29, 2011

Japanese Saki-Ori (Sakiori) Weaving: an illoominating experience

By blind chance yesterday I stumbled across the ACROS cultural events website. ACROS is a multifarious venue, home to everything from a convention center to shopping floors to fast-food burgers to the Fukuoka Symphony. They feature cultural events in the second floor Takumi Gallery, and the event that's on right now (through tomorrow) is about Sakiori. I knew nothing about Sakiori (in fact, until I got to the exhibit, I mistakenly thought it was Hakata-ori, or Hakata fabric) but I knew it was textile-related, so I wanted to go, because hey, that's what my master's degree is in.

Sakiori, it turns out, is old-tyme Japanese recycling. Weaving means taking threads that go up and down (warp) and filling them in with threads going left and right (weft). In Sakiori, the weft threads are shreds of rags salvaged from other garments: in fact, saki means rag and ori means weaving (as in Hakata-ori, above, or weaving from the city of Hakata). Sakiori was a way for peasants to repurpose old fabric into something useful and warm. The end result is rather tweedy in texture. Most authentic old sakiori (see here and here) are plain because they were meant to be durable work garments, but just like crazy quilts, they could be made fancier if the artist had the time and resources. Modern sakiori is quite organized and beautiful because it commands a nice price as a traditional handicraft.

The ACROS exhibition was part art display, part sale gallery, and part demonstration. Here's the lady demonstrating the sakiori loom:
The sling on her lower back is made from sakiori and holds the end of the fabric you're working on in your lap. I say "your," but really, I eventually mean "my." We learned long ago that Rule #1 of Asian public events is Call On The Foreigner, so it should come as no surprise that shortly thereafter, I found myself being cinched into the loom and put to work. Being the goofy foreigner is like an automatic "Pass go, collect $200" ticket. Not that I object: after all, it got me on the loom and weaving, right?

(To be perfectly fair - we were the only people under the age of 50 at this exhibition. American handicrafts ladies probably would have pulled me out, too.)

My fumbly attempts to weave and understand Japanese directions were evidently a highlight of the morning for the septuagenarian Japanese set. The lady next to Justin had her mobile phone whipped out and filming within about five seconds of me sitting in the chair. I wonder if I'll end up on Youtube.

Here are Justin's videos of the same:
What do you think? More or less awkward than Justin putting on a kilt?

And some still shots, for posterity:

All in all, I'm completely pumped by our ACROS experience. I learned something new and had a great time. I've looked over the calendar of events and the next one I think I want to try is the decorative embroidered ball exhibition the week of Feb 14. Any coworkers, holler if you want to go along!

Hong Kong

I went to Hong Kong last weekend for an International Baccalaureate workshop (more on that later, perhaps)--here are some photos from the trip.

The workshop venue:
 The mountain behind the workshop venue:
 The other end of the mall by my hotel, where I ate most of my meals:
Which concludes our grand tour of everything Justin saw in Hong Kong. Yeah, you can bet the romance of "going to Hong Kong . . . ON BUSINESS(!)" wore off pretty fast. The workshop itself was pretty demanding, and both the venue and my hotel were on the outskirts of the city. Add to that the fact that I still had a full week's worth of lesson planning to do in the evenings, and there just wasn't time to get out.

Oh, well! They certainly aren't paying me to go sightseeing, are they?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The awesomely creative and yet utterly terrifying world of middle school poetry

Student has selected "danger" as a poem topic and is working on symbolism, i.e. "dangerous like a sharp knife." Justin goes over to check on list of "dangerous" analogies.

Student's List:
1. Hockey
2. Poisonous bees
3. Viking robots.

Justin: "Viking robots?"
Student: "Yes, they're like regular robots, but they come and sack your city, like Vikings."
Justin: "I see."
Student (earnestly): "They're very dangerous."

Now I'm going to have nightmares about a giant mechanical version of Stinger from the Columbus Blue Jackets laying waste to swathes of Fukuoka while wearing a double-horned helmet. Thanks a lot, student.