detail from a weave

SAORI at Shizuka

There is something mythological about Prue Simmons—one senses that if you spent enough time in her company you might rise like a phoenix from the ashes of your boring office job.

Prue is the founder of Dyeing to Weave, a SAORI weaving and natural dye studio based out of Clunes in the Central Highland of Victoria. Prue was at Shizuka Ryokan last week to teach a three day SAORI weaving workshop.

The Japanese word SAORI comes from ‘sai’ meaning individuality, and ‘ori’ meaning weaving. SAORI differs from other forms of weaving. In traditional weaving regularity is the law, an irregular thread is considered a mistake, whereas SAORI weavers celebrate the accidents, the unexpected colours and textures.

“When you get to explore your own creativity you tap into your inner spirit, and what makes you unique.”- Prue Simmons

Prue Simmons

“I wanted to take people on the same experience as I had in Japan.”

Entering the building I noticed a dozen freshly dyed fabric objects slung over the bridge entrance drying in the sun. Shizuka’s dining room was an explosion of colour. In the corner was a table covered in spools of thread. There were half a dozen looms with half woven projects emerging from them, baskets of llama wool and examples saori clothing. At a dining table sat Prue and her colour army of weavers enjoying a Japanese feast.

In 2007 Prue was volunteering in remote parts of Japan and “going whereever the whim took me”. She was wwoofing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) on an island and the season was coming to an end but she didn’t want to leave Japan. Somebody mentioned that they had a friend who lived in the mountains in Naka who needed help building a pizza oven. Prue arrived to find an old wooden school house in an Arts & Craft Village devoted to traditional Japanese handicrafts. To thank her for her help building the pizza oven Toyomi Harada taught Prue SAORI and indigo dye techniques.

thread_webMisao Jo invented SAORI in the late sixties. Prue explains, “Misao grew up as a very traditional Japanese woman, learning all of the traditional crafts, such as the tea ceremony and ikebana. It was all very precise, very perfect.” But one time Misao was weaving a Japanese belt and saw that one of the threads was missing. Looking at the belt she realised that the mistake was pleasing to behold. She showed it to a person running a weaving factory who dismissed it as flawed and worthless but this did not deter Misao who had an inherent sense of the value of the handmade object. Prue says, “She did not see it as a mistake, but as human uniqueness.” Misao thought that what made the flawed obi interesting must be the result of something hidden within herself. She suspected that the obi’s beauty was a result of escaping conventional thinking in order to express herself. “Everything that you do on the loom is meant to happen,” says Prue.

SAORI look at Shizuka Ryokan with weaving project

SAORI weavers follow four slogans: 1) Consider the differences between a machine and a human being 2) Be bold and adventurous 3) Let’s look out through eyes that shine 4) Inspire one another, and everyone in the group

From Naka Prue returned to Melbourne and took up SAORI as a hobby “to destress from a stressful job.” Prue is a zoologist by trade but she kept returning to Japan to study SAORI under her mentor Toyomi Harada every year. Eventually she decided to leave the stressful job (running a world conservation program), and in what Prue describes as “a push in the right direction” she was made redundant. Together with her partner Prue moved to the country and started White Stone Farm, where they raise llamas for fleece. With values grounded in permaculture, community and sustainability her medium of choice for weaving is llama, alpaca and sheep fibres.

By this stage Prue wanted to teach SAORI. She requested Toyomi’s permission and was asked to live with the SAORI masters in Japan for an extended period of time in order to undergo extensive training. Prue was advised that she would “need to fit the SAORI family” and was warned that even by the end of the training she might not be accredited to teach. Prue went to Japan and immersed herself in study. The gamble paid off, she is now one of only three accredited SAORI teachers in Australia.

The SAORI three day workshop is “great for both beginners and seasoned SAORI weavers” who Prue says “often find that they have their loom at home but life gets in the way. That’s the power of SAORI, it allows people to step out of their daily lives.” Looking around at the people weaving everyone seems to have entered into what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls an “optimal experience”, a flowing state of consciousness during which people experience deep creativity and focus.

table of coloured threads

“When you get to explore your own creativity you tap into your inner spirit, and what makes you unique.”- Prue Simmons

Prue’s practice brings together the philosophy of SAORI, natural dyes, upcycling and repurposing and aims to “offer people an opportunity to discover their individual creativity and relaxation through workshops and studio sessions in the time-honoured activities of weaving and dye.” You can observe the “meditative process” that is Prue weaving in this video produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. There are upcoming SAORI workshops at Shizuka. Dates to be announced.

workshop participants eating lunch

Workshop participants were treated to traditional Japanese cuisine skillfully prepared by former Shizuka owner Margaret McConvill.

 

 

 

Staff and owner of Shizuka Ryokan with one year anniversary cake.

One Year Anniversary

It is one year since Catherine Defina took over Shizuka Ryokan from Peter and Margaret McConvill. Pictured here is Yuri, Margaret McConvill and Catherine Defina.

 

"buy fresh. Buy local." Painting of fruit, vegetables and a rooster.

A farmers’ market, a picnic and some wallabies at dusk.

You might be in for a treat—your visit to Shizuka Ryokan may coincide with a local farmers’ market.

Here is a plan: Start the day at Shizuka with a traditional Japanese breakfast then pop down to a farmers’ market to purchase some delicious local provisions. Next take a picnic rug (and some empty bottles for filling) to the Hepburn Mineral Springs and have yourself a picnic. Laze around. Read books. Eat too many olives then retire to Shizuka for a late afternoon nap followed by some pre-dinner drinks on the deck overlooking the wallabies and the currawongs.

The following is a list of farmers’ markets near Shizuka:

1st Saturday of the month

Daylesford Farmers Market

Daylesford Primary School, Vincent Street

9am – 1pm

Woodend Farmers Market

High Street Woodend

9am – 1pm

1st Sunday of the month

Castlemaine Farmers Market

Mostyn St, Castlemaine

9am – 1pm

2nd Saturday of the month

Ballan Farmers Market

96 Inglis St, Ballan

9am – 1pm

Kyneton Farmers Market

St Pauls Park, Piper St, Kyneton

8am – 1pm

2nd Sunday of the month

Clunes Farmers Market

Collins Place & Fraser St

9am – 2pm

3rd Saturday of the month

Trentham Farmers Market

Trentham Town Square, Trentham

9am – 1pm

To learn more visit the Australian Farmers’ Markets Association.

SAORI loom with red thread

SAORI Japanese weaving workshop

Shizuka Ryokan will be rife with creativity and sustainability this November during a three day SAORI Japanese weaving workshop.

The philosophy of SAORI is an interesting one. The word SAORI comes from ‘sai’ meaning individuality, and ‘ori’ meaning weaving. SAORI is markedly different from other forms of hand weaving because the weaver is encouraged to make mistakes. In traditional hand weaving regularity is the law, an irregular thread is considered a mistake. In SAORI things are very different.

SAORI weavers follow four slogans:

1) Consider the differences between a machine and a human being
2) Be bold and adventurous
3) Let’s look out through eyes that shine
4) Inspire one another, and everyone in the group

Japan is renowned for the wabi-sabi philosophy, which can be loosely defined as a world view centered on the acceptance of imperfection. The wabi sabi aesthetic is in evidence at Shizuka Ryokan. For example, upon arrival guests receive green tea in an irregularly shaped Japanese cup. The style of the Japanese pottery is called hagi ware; the cup is rustic and simple looking, with unrefined textures and is beautiful because it is flawed. The philosophy of SAORI weaving is the same. SAORI weavers celebrate the accidents; the unexpected colours and textures.

Misao Jo invented SAORI in the late sixties. She was weaving an obi, a Japanese belt, and found that one of the threads was missing. Looking at the belt she realised that the mistake was pleasing to behold. She showed it to a person running a weaving factory who dismissed it as flawed and worthless but this did not deter Misao who had an inherent sense of the value of the handmade object. She deliberately made a belt with many flaws and showed it to the owner on an obi shop in Osaka who thought it was wonderful. Misao sensed that the aesthetic quality of the flawed obi must be the result of something hidden within herself. She realised that the obi’s beauty was a result of escaping conventional thinking in order to express herself. SAORI weaving was born.

The SAORI workshop at Shizuka will be taught by Prue Simmons, founder of the Dying To Weave SAORI Studio. Prue is one of only three SAORI teachers in Australia. She learned traditional Japanese weaving and natural dye techniques from Toyomi Harada in the mountains of Honshu, Japan. Prue is interested in sustainability, natural dyes, upcycling and environmentally friendly textiles. Prue and her partner run White Stone Farm in Central Victoria. On the farm Prue raises llamas and uses their fleece to weave beautiful pieces.

The SAORI retreat runs Thursday 23rd – Sunday 26th November 2017.


Further exploring:

ABC profile of Prue

Video (in Japanese) of SAORI process

Wikipedia explanation of wabi sabi

Writer's Festival August 4-13

Words in Winter

A wonderful writer’s festival is happening right on Shizuka’s doorstep next month. Words in Winter is an annual literary and arts festival held across Daylesford, Trentham, Clunes and Maryborough. This year marks the fifteenth year of Words in Winter with a theme of Origins. Daylesford guests include award-winning author Don Watson, investigative reporter Louise Milligan, human rights advocate Julian Burnside QC, novelist Arnold Zable, local illustrator and children’s author Michelle Pleasance and singer-storyteller Mara Ripani. Accommodation at Shizuka Ryokan during the festival is still available but is booking fast.

15628947385_52982b6d0d_z

It’s QOSY here!

Travel bloggers QOSY visited Shizuka Ryokan.

“Although our stay was only one night, we left breathing deeper, thinking slower, and much more mindful. The atmosphere of the retreat coupled with the bushland setting made for one of the most rejuvenating get-aways I’ve ever experienced.”

Read the full review here.