Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Sumie and Baybayin

My Japanese brush painting teacher says that on good days, her work is inspired from above.   On bad days, it’s all due to her.  I finally had a good day in sumie class, resulting in the paintings below.  It was ironic that I was extremely stressed at work that day, and when I hit my limit, I swore to myself that I would leave for my class instead or working long hours.  In class, I focused on grinding the ink, a meditation unto itself.  As a scientist by trade, I tend to overthink instructions.   This time, I relaxed and played, even experimenting with a signature.   Japanese artists sign their work using a stamp in red ink, the Kanji characters symbolizing their personality. I asked my Japanese classmates to make a Kanji character for my name.  Unfortunately, my name (Rachielle) is not easily translated nor pronounced in that language.   So I dove into my own history and to my delight, discovered an indigenous form or writing.  Baybayin is experiencing a revival in the Philippines, instilling pride in the culture before colonization.

Combining sumie and native Baybayin, indigenous (pre-Hispanic) Filipino writing 

Grapes in sumie Japanese brush painting.   The signature spells my maiden name, Ragasa, in Baybayin.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Yarnbombing for the Cure - It Takes a Village

Tweety and Sylvester
My friend Michelle and I have been ardent advocates of breast cancer awareness for a long time.   We walked the 60 miles from Del Mar to Downtown San Diego on separate occasions, and support our Team United for Jo year after year by fundraising, stalking and supporting their walk.  There are many reasons to walk, and their names are Jo, Florie May, Marge, Jane and Shalou.  Many women and men who have battled breast cancer; some of them won, and several lost.

This year, we gave Tweety Bird, our usual support stalker car, a new partner!  Meet Sylvester, the pink yarn-bombed car for the San Diego 3-Day Walk for Breast Cancer!
Cheering on walkers at Sunset Cliffs.  San Diego remains to be the most popular city to do the walk.  Can you believe this is a usual November day?

It started with a pile of granny squares crocheted by Jo's mom Auntie Meng from Washington state

We used butcher paper to make patterns.  When all pieces were done, they covered my entire living room!

This panel was done by Marie from heaven.  A coworker had donated her late mom's yarn stash, and this was a partially done sweater panel.

My partner in crime, Michelle

A seagull photo-bombed us!
My pride and joy!  Craftivism at its best.  We used zip ties, fishing lines, magnets, yarn to connect the pieces.  We made sure to make it safe for driving on the streets.  It was so much fun to see the smiles as people saw us drive by! 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

My Immigrant Blanket Story

My kids once asked me, "What is the difference between an immigrant and a refugee?"

An immigrant moves to another country to live there permanently.  A refugee escapes the birth country because of political or religious persecution.  Events such as war displace a country's citizens and endows them with a refugee status.

photo credit: Don Sheffler

My blanket displayed at the Smart Museum in Chicago

Can you spot the red,white, blue and yellow blanket?

In a recent visit to Washington D.C, a friend of mine went to the Smithsonian, and posted on social media a picture of a plaque describing why there are many Filipinos in the United States.
photo credit: Eric Leones

I immigrated to the United States in 1989.  Later in the year, the Cold War ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall.  As a teenager, I witnessed the upheaval of Philippine society with the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.  To this day, these two events define my perception of People Power.

In the summer of 1989, I landed in Los Angeles to the sound of the stewardess announcing,"Welcome to Los Angeles.  It is 8:00 pm."  I look out the window in disbelief. It was still light out, how could it be night time?  In the Philippines, the sun sets at 6 pm.

I carried two large bags woven from native hemp material.  In those bags, I packed as many clothes, books and souvenirs.  I realized that they were too heavy, and I stopped to eye a long train of dollies. After some thought, I reached into my pocket and relinquished my one and only dollar to the slot, releasing a dolly to ease my burden.  Thus, I arrived to America totally penniless.

My mom and uncle picked me up from the airport. "Did you receive the money I sent?" asked my mom.  I shook my head.  Back then snail mail took weeks, and wiring money was unheard of.

Although I spoke English and was armed with a college education, I was not immune to the prejudices that immigrants experience.  I still remember the first time I walked into a supermarket.  I was looking for oatmeal, and asked the clerk where I could find Quaker Oats.  In the Filipino language, our vowels are rounded, A-E-I-O-U are pronounced as such.  So the clerk heard "Quacker" when I asked for  "Quaker."  He finally understood what I meant when I said, "It's the oatmeal with the picture of an old man with a blue hat."

Even among Filipinos, there is a fine line between the locals, who were born here, and the FOBs. My cousin, although he was kind to me, explained that my accent gave me away as "fresh off the boat."

"But I came by plane," I protested, showing him the Philippine Airlines spoon that I kindly asked the stewardess to keep as a souvenir.

Acculturating took many years, and it still continues to the day.  Some people think that the US is the greatest country in the world, with well-meant intentions as they welcome immigrants "to the land flowing with milk and honey".  What they do not know is that people like me are lactose-intolerant, and honey is not as sweet as sugar cane.

Twenty eight years later, I realize that I have been in the United States longer than I have lived in my native country.  I had come to love the country because this is my life now, the country where my children are born, and the country that  rewards hard work and perseverance.

In the ongoing debates about immigration,  many have spoken for the refugees and for the immigrants.   In social media, a new term has arisen - craftivism.  One calls for 3200 blankets to comprise 2000 miles, representing the border between the US and its southern neighbor.   Each blanket, measuring 40" x 40", will be displayed in the Smart Museum in the University of Chicago.  After the exhibit, the blankets will be distributed to a new immigrant or refugee.

I started with the colors red white and blue - the colors of the US flag.  Then I realized 3,199 other people might have that same idea.  I decided to include the sun and stars from the Philippine flag. Coincidentally,  while crocheting, I listened to an audiobook called "Forty Autumns,"by Nina Willner,  which chronicled the stories of her family separated by the Berlin Wall.  How timely is the reminder that instead of building walls, we must remember the famous challenge. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

This is my blanket, the fusion of my two cultures.

Monday, July 17, 2017

I Can Yarnbomb That!

There is something about being out of place that sparks joy.  I still remember the first time I ever saw a yarnbomb. I didn't quite know what to make of a tree wrapped in its own sweater in the middle of summer.  I realized that the closest storefront was a knitting shop.  To this day, I smile whenever I think of that quaint tree in San Luis Obispo.

Many years later, I heard that this type of graffiti is called yarnbombing.  I spotted flyers at the local libraries asking for contributions.  I submitted a few knitted pieces that wrapped a bike rack and a bollard. A knitter since childhood, I had recently learned to crochet. At the Rancho Penasquitos Library yarnbomb,  I found the perfect spot for my very first  granny squares - the gate to the trash area! If I could make a glimmer of joy in someone's dreary task, I had done my job!

Bollard at Rancho Penasquitos Library

A Skeleton for Katie

Granny Goat Square

Recycled yarnbomb - the pink stripes originally hugged a bike rack at the Carmel Mountain library

Trash gate at the RP library

Submission to the Yarnbomber's Dreamer Project in Tucson, AZ (2017)

My daughter titled this creation "Hanging by a Thread"

My first Blue Ribbon at the San Diego County Fair, Del Mar, CA 2017

Yarnbombed rocks - someone said she liked the concept of showing the appearance of softness, but having inner strength and substance

Ruth Lake yarnbombs

My father's Crucianelli guitar, all broken and sad, inspired me to yarnbomb it and give it a proper shroud

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Wedding Tree in Old Poway Park

My most ambitious project to date - the Wedding Tree at Old Poway Park.  If you're ever in Old Poway Park, take a moment to enjoy it.  Take a picture and tag it with #weddingtree #oldpowaypark.  This park is a special place for my family, with memories of birthdays, lazy days, Civil War reenactments, Trainsong festivals, old fashioned-Fourth of July and Christmas.  Making the wedding tree hopes to keep the rustic, 1860's feeling.  When you're at the park, please also look for the Sweater Tree across the creek.   My friend Sara yarnbombed it.  She is an inspiration to me, as well as all the women in the Knitting Group.

Note: Material used is 100% cotton so that the tree can breathe!
To read more about yarnbombing and trees:

Fitting the pieces on the wedding tree
Fitting the pieces on the wedding tree
Fitting the pieces on the wedding tree

Tree of Love

Keeping with the theme of Old Poway Park


Monday, July 4, 2016

Yarnbombing Makes My Heart Happy

Happy Fourth of July!
 Prettifying a drainhole in this California drought
Giving a plain tote some character
Shrouding my father's broken Crucianelli guitar
Shrouding my father's broken Crucianelli guitar
Giving a tote bag a new life
One day, this will hug a tree, or a boulder….

Repurposing old CDs

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Yarnbombed Prayer Pole

Have you seen a prayer quilt? It has loose threads that can be tied in a knot, and as one ties a knot, a prayer is made. I can't quilt, but I can ‪#‎yarnbomb‬. We have a tipu tree that weathered a storm, and almost got uprooted in the last round of strong winds. Here it is in its wintering phase, buttressed by a few cinder blocks and staked. It looked so sad that I wanted to cheer it up.