Monday, August 31, 2009

2009 North American Taiko Conference

After my trip to Vancouver at the beginning of August, I headed down to Los Angeles, for the North American Taiko Conference, held every two years on the American west coast. This is my fifth time attending and although it's great to be with fellow taiko afficionados in any setting, the conference just feels like it's "home" when it's in LA's Little Tokyo. I love it there!

There were a few less participants this year - a sign of the economic times we are in - but as always, it was a lot of fun and luckily for me, people were still interested in bringing home some taiko jewellery with them!

I made a bunch of these okedo taiko, the drums that need holes in the "skins" (that's the two flat circles on both ends of the barrel), that JF so patiently drills. They are then all tied up in traditional katsugi okedo style, which is when the drum is worn and played slung across the body.

I then make the okedo wearable by putting them on leather necklaces.

These are the other kind of mini taiko I make, nagado taiko.

You can't see them so well on lovely Paige who is pictured below, but she is wearing my wee little taiko earrings and the matching necklace. She performed at this year's Taiko Jam concert with Kishin Daiko.

Here is Kishin Daiko with the members of Arashi Daiko who attended this edition of the conference. Kishin member, Darren Endo, did a super job as the coordinator of this conference - woo hoo, way to go Darren!!! He is also a most beautiful persona to behold onstage - a powerful player with true stage presence, expression and tons of heart. He's definitely one of the highlights of this year's conference for me - a very generous and complete performer.

My ongoing taiko inspiration is Molly Kitajima, seen below, jamming on the plaza in Little Tokyo. I blogged a little about her after the 2007 taiko conference in Seattle; you can read all about that here. This time I had a chance to chat with her a little, and found out she was born in Vancouver, BC, where my parents were also born. She is an amazing woman and still going strong.

There is a comfort I find when talking to Japanese Americans, who are just as familiar to me as Japanese Canadians (I'm talking about people of Japanese descent born in the US or Canada); I especially enjoy meeting nisei (second generation JA's and JC's, my parents' generation), maybe because it feels like I'm talking to my family, but there is just an ease there that I cannot describe. Perhaps it's a sense of community and fellowship, shared experiences, and other things that are are simply understood without saying anything, but it's just very comforting.

These are some other women who play in a taiko group with Molly; they claim to be of a "certain age", but I don't believe them. Annie (in black) asked about my tattoo, because she says the members of their group were all thinking of getting tattoos too. Are they cool, or what?

Here's my Molly again, getting down and into her solo... I STILL want to be like her when I grow up.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jean-François!

It's my honey's birthday today. He is doing his second level reiki class today, sort of a birthday gift from me, but more of a gift for himself to himself. Our good friend and community mentor, Terry Yasunaka, studied under the same reiki master and recommended him to JF. He was really looking forward to today's class, and gave me a reiki treatment last night.

Here he is preparing to drill all the holes in my mini taiko drumskins. You can tell he takes his dremelling job seriously.

Since my late mom and JF had birthdays just 2 days apart, we would celebrate their b'days together - they would usually have to share a cake, but sometimes would each get their OWN cake! Here they seem to be happy sharing this one (sorry, it's a bad scan, but I love the pic). I think this was in 2002.

JF is far from perfect - and who would want to be with a perfect person, that would just be annoying - but he is one of the nicest people I know. Thoughtful, generous, caring, sensitive, intuitive and open-hearted. And hilarious. He is the best partner, husband, supporter, fellow cat-parent, craft assistant and friend I could ever hope for. And he's all mine! Well, so to speak...

We'll be going to dinner at my cousin's house later on today, yay! Happy Birthday Schmoo!

Friday, August 28, 2009

New stuff in my shop... and a Friday cat!

Been taking some new photos of stuff for my Etsy shop. I love this cast iron teapot that my sister Nancy gave to me many years ago. However, it is a bit of a drippy pourer, so using it as a prop or background for my jewellery seems to work. What do you think? Still working on the white balance as you can see - same pot, different tone in different pics. Good texture though, don't you think?

Night blossom earrings

Sushi platter necklace and maki earring combo

I'll be listing these Hawai'i earrings shortly...

Square sushi platter necklace

Morning blossoms earrings

And it IS Friday, so I have to blog a little about a cat...
Embarrassingly, I cannot remember this cat's name; I'll have to ask my friend Michio to remind me - she is the sweetest wee little thing and is 16 years old! Isn't she in great shape? Have I ever met a cat I didn't like? (* her name is Minette - how could I forget that?)

I'm really proud to say that I got the cat-loving (and animal-loving) gene from my lovely mom, who would have turned 83 years old today. We went to the cemetary which made me happy and I only cried a little. Happy Birthday Mom!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My growing obsession: glass lampwork beads

There are certain artisans and crafters I've admired online, and it's always a bit of a thrill to meet them in person at a craft show or event. Over the last couple years, I've become more and more interested - obsessed even - with glass lampwork beads; the whole process and technique and the finished product absolutely fascinate me. Although I enjoy working in polymer clay, the end result in bead form is less sturdy and long-lasting than a properly annealed glass bead.

On Etsy I discovered an artist named Ikuyo, who makes the most breathtakingly lovely beads; I love the colours she uses, the shapes of her beads and her trademark murrini (glass cane slices) in her bead designs. She also sells on ebay, under the username "ikuyoglassart".

My sister Nancy bought several beads from Ikuyo, including this pair that was in my list of faves, that she had sent to me as a gift - is that a sweetie of a sister, or what?
Here are some of my favourites of Ikuyo's sold beads on Etsy:

In Ikuyo's Etsy shop you can see that she lives in Coquitlam, BC, which is the suburb of Vancouver where my brother, Mike, and his family live. I contacted her before going to Vancouver at the end of July, to find out if her beads were available in any Coquitlam or Vancouver shops. Unfortunately not, but funnily enough, she lives around the corner from my brother and is good friends with his next-door neighbour! Small world. So she generously invited my sister Nancy and me to her studio in her home, to see how she makes her magical beads. We were so excited!

My crafty niece, Mariko, also came along, since she was as curious as we were to see how Ikuyo creates all that loveliness. Above you can see Ikuyo using the flame to make a bead. Since I'll be taking some lampworking classes (finally!) this fall, I was also interested to see how her studio is set up and what kind of ventilation I would eventually need. Not quite sure how I could pull that off in our little apartment, but I'll worry about that later.

Here is Ikuyo with her giddy fans/groupies. My brother Ron has said several times that Japanese women (or nikkei women, which are those of Japanese descent living or born outside Japan) are all the same height - it just might be true. Mariko is lucky enough to have some of her mom's Scottish genes and has surpassed the 5'2" ceiling.

Ikuyo let us look through her stash of finished beads and to our delight, we were able to purchase some, and she gave us many as gifts. So generous of her! Look at all my lovely beads! We stayed there a really long time, rummaging, oohing and aahhing. Sistah Nancy alleges I elbowed her out of the way when I spotted a bead I wanted. Although I can safely say I did NOT use my elbow, I don't totally deny trying to dominate the bead-foraging space...

Another wonderful glass artist...
At the Powell Street Festival, where Nancy and I were crafty vendors, we have also ogled the gorgeousness of Minori Takagi's beads. You can see them in all their intricate splendour here.

In 2007 at the Powell St. Fest I fondled her beads. In 2008, I returned to see her, only to fondle her beads once more. But earlier this month, August 2009, I had decided before I even got to the festival, that I was going to not only fondle every one of her beads, but make a purchase. I bought not one, but the TWO lovelies you see here. I love wearing them. And fondling them.

This fall...
Along with some jewellery classes on wax casting and basic metal working, I'll be taking a lampworking class or two in the coming months. I'll let you know how it goes. Either I'll embarrass myself and set my hair on fire, or I'll fall in love with lampworking and become even more obsessed.

Either way, yikes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More on my trip to British Columbia...

I'm so proud of my family.

My siblings and I are taking the promise we made to my mom (and indirectly to my dad too, of course!) to heart - we stay in touch with each other by email and see each other when we can, but it's not that often since we live scattered across Canada.

However, selling at the Powell Street Festival in Vancouver for the past three summers has meant I can see my two brothers who live close to Vancouver. And my sister in Edmonton has also been selling at the festival for the past two summers so I get to see her too. The first time I did the festival in 2007, Nancy surprised me by showing up without telling me (although the rest of the family knew, including my husband!) - there was a lot of screaming and tears at the airport when we first saw each other. We can be pretty loud.

It has now become a tradition (can three years in a row make it a tradition?) that after the Powell Street Fest, we go to this amazing Japanese restaurant in Coquitlam, close to where my brother, Mike, and his family live. Good Japanese food and sushi is easy to find in Vancouver - everything is so fresh. I'm jealous. There are maybe a handful of good Japanese restos here in Montreal (maaaaybe), everything else is mediocre at best. Anyway, this place, Shyun, is wonderful and Mike and his family go there pretty regularly. Here we are after our scrumpy meals have been wolfed down. Looking forward to eating there next year again!

My sister Pat (my only other sib here in Montreal), supplied the surprise factor this year, by just showing up at the festival! Picture lots of hooting and hollering going on in front of our tent that you see in the pic below. Good thing she showed up with her boyfriend early in the day, or we would have scared customers away with all the shrieking. Did I mention we can be pretty loud?

Here we are on the ferry to Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, to see my oldest bro Ron, who just retired in April, and his family. I know it's no big deal for people who take this ferry all the time, but I just love this ride!

We took another small ferry from Nanaimo to Gabriola Island to do some kayaking - what a perfect afternoon! Here's my niece Emily, patiently waiting to leave the dock.

And below you can see Ron and Nancy practicing their strokes in the bay before we headed out to more open water.

JF had the camera, so this is shot below was taken while I was paddling alone against the crazy current, just before it nearly swept us into these rocks. That's what you get for trying to get closer shots of the seals (hey, we're city folks).

Here's one little guy on his own, click on it to see it a little bigger! There were sooo many seals and little babies; our guide was saying it was a good year since there was enough fish to feed all the moms and pups.

Here are the paddling siblings! Mike and Doug, you HAVE to join us next year!

JF and I can't go anywhere without taking this shot at least once. Awwww!
We are seriously trying to plan for a six-sibling and families vacation at some point. JF is aiming for Japan, but I'd be happy out on the west coast again, which is a little more affordable if we want to do this in the next couple years. This year, we had five of the six sibs... maybe next year? Ahem, Doug?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vancouver's Powell Street Festival 2009

Every time I go to Vancouver, British Columbia, I think "Hmmm, I'd be happy to stay here..." I totally understand why two of my brothers have been living there for 30+ years. It is a beautiful city - the perfect blend of urban living in the most gorgeous setting, with greenery, mountains and the coast. Sigh... the coast...

Who in the world would want to leave this? AND the support for crafters, artisans and all things handmade is incredible. I kind of think we might end up living there one day... one day. Above is a shot of our kayaking trip around Gabriola Island - it was such a great day! I'll write about that another time.

This is my third time selling at the Powell Street Festival, our nation's biggest Japanese Canadian festival. It was on August 1st and 2nd, and while eastern Canada was living through a cool and rainy summer, Vancouver had gotten our hot and steamy weather. My brother Mike wouldn't let anyone in his house use the oven for over a month because it was too hot!

The festival days were great though, and people came out as always, to taste some delish Japanese food, watch some traditional and non-traditional Japanese entertainment and happily for us, do some shopping. Above are some of the artisans' tents; you can see how dry the grass is from lack of rain. My sister Nancy, who was also a vendor again this year, and I shared the corner white tent in the left of the photo - lots of traffic!

Here I am, behind my table, preparing someone's purchase, and below, you can see Nancy in action. She made some snazzy baby bibs to go with the adorable booties she did so well with last year; she also had some gorgeous scarves and tote bags, along with her lovely pearl jewellery.

Another shot of our tent...

And the entertainment... here's a duo from Okinawa, Japan, amazing costumes!

Kenny Endo's ensemble, from Hawai'i, with special guest Kaoru Watanabe of New York. A mind-blowing set!

Last year I had photos of little dogs in their finest festival wear. This year, this man came to my table and I had to take a picture. I had a good snicker, but I know if my cats would let me, I'd probably try this with them too. With Chibi and Ebi tho, not a CHANCE!

Final thing of note at this year's Powell Street Festival. Festivals are fun, right? The worst thing that could happen is a little sunburn, right?

Well, at Japanese festivals, people parade around hauling an omikoshi, or a portable Shinto shrine (supposed to carry some form of deity), and it's essentially a mini-building on huge pillars or beams. Festival goers line up under the beams to cart the omikoshi around and sometimes people stand on the shrine to challenge the carriers and shout out a rhythm or pace. My husband, Jean-François, volunteered his services this year - you can see him on the far right with the wide-open mouth, enthusiastically doing the peace sign.

J-F was quite a bit taller than most of the other omikoshi carriers, so he had to either bend forward a little, which was hard on his back, or bear much of the weight when he was standing up a bit straighter. He came back to see me and Nancy at our craft tables, his white t-shirt red with blood on his right shoulder. He had to go and see the medic, and altho he was embarrassed (had to happen to the tall white guy!), it was indeed, an impressive and rather icky wound. The top layer of skin was completely worn off!

Ewww! Owww! He had a hard time showering and sleeping for the next several nights, but it healed well. A memorable festival wound.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tadaima! I'm home!

I guess thinking about my blog doesn't really count as blogging, right?

All the photos I took during my trip to Vancouver and Los Angeles had me thinking, "This will go into my blog"... Oh well, I should know myself by now. Thank you for coming back for a peek!

My last entry saw me looking downright pathetic - haggard and a little green-skinned. That's what too much coffee and no sunlight will do to you. Be my witness. (clickable for full effect)I also realized how taiko (Japanese drumming) really does keep me in shape - not playing taiko for a couple weeks and my arms turn to mush. Actually my whole body turns to mush, or I should say more mushy. But I'll blog about that another time.

Anyway, I'm feeling a lot better now, after having a couple weeks to recover from the trip and the lead-up time to it. It was that lead-up time that killed me. Preparation, production and that other p-word that keeps following me through this life: procrastination. I wouldn't have been so exhausted if I had just paced myself. This comes back to me over and over in this business, but as usual, there's Sandra slamming her head against the wall once again, "DOH!"

While I was out west, my lovely friend, Rhiannon, was selling for me at home here in Montreal, down in the Old Port at Matsuri Japon, a one day Japanese festival. I cannot thank her enough for the amazing job she did. Thanks so much, Rhiannon! This is a photo taken by Jo-Ann, and I didn't even ask for permission to use it - hope it's ok, Jo-Ann, let me know!

I'll write again, with more pics and trip info. I'll be doing a thorough cleaning of my studio to get ready for fall and upcoming production for the holiday season. Eeep!