Tuesday, August 18, 2009

San Jose History in Animation Workshop

Ever since I read about an archeological excavation of the walled Chinatown of Heinlenville in Japantown, San Jose, I have been brewing ideas on how to explore the amazing rich history of this area in art. At first I conceptualized a dance piece in which I would create the sets from fragments simulation excavation artifacts, but then over the past month or so I have been thinking more along the lines of animation. I teach simple stop motion animation in elementary schools and conducted a few workshops this summer. I now visualize creating a lesson plan that invites the student to look at archeological artifacts and bring them to life through the stories of people who lived in and have memories of Heinlenville and Nihonmachi.

I envision the children creating their animated stories with clay and drawings. Above: I created a rough animated sketch of a bowl fragment becoming a bowl from which strawberry emerge from the porcelain pattern and Chinese workers grow out of the double happiness symbol. Many of the Chinese who came to San Jose worked in the Strawberry fields.

Above: sample shoe box with frame and pottery inside. I envision groups of children creating a shoebox diorama in which the archeological artifacts emerge from the fragments and transform to tell an intimate personal story of past lives in Heinlenville and early Japantown.

It would be fantastic to use actual fragments from the dig as reference images for such transformation sequences. And, of course, there would be music as well as narration which would give more information on the history. I can see a half dozen artifact come to life somehow and offer a small intimate detail of life in Heinlenville or Japantown, little stories that give a taste of life in these communities.

Above is a super rough storyboard I created inspired by a quote I read on a bench in Nihonmachi, San Jose. Narration is by my nine year old son. There are benches throughout San Jose's Japantown etched with quotes from individuals relating stories of the old communities. This quote caught my eye as it talked about children watching a man making noodles by jumping up and down on a pole. I just couldn't visualize this process so I researched it. How do you jump up and down on a bamboo pole? I found this amazing video on bamboo noodle making. It shows how it is done, it takes hours to do and it is both a beautiful and brutal process.

Below: bench in front of the Ken Ying Low building in San Jose's Japantown.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Japanese Purse Workshop

I am designing a Japanese purse making workshop for Serentripity Learning Vacations that will be conducted at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum and at the residence of Yoshi of Yoshi's Restaurants/Jazz Clubs. I will be conducting these workshop once in September, November and December.

The hour long workshops focus on the reuse themes in Japanese textiles such as boro (work clothes made of stitched together scraps) and sashiko stitching. The base of the purse is a recycled plastic sushi tray. The embellishments reflect a blend of contemporary Japan with the creative thriftiness of Meji era Japan: plastic sushi grass stitched alongside mini shoyu bottles, pearls, and Japanese Delica beads. Regarding the base fabric, we will use recycled Filipino noodle bags (thank you Anne Marie!) overlayed with organza silks. This use of recycle fabrics and materials is a theme common in my work as I am greatly inspired by the Japanese Hawaiian Plantation culture of my father's family.

I have also created several manga "kawaii" characters that participants can iron onto the fabric of their purses. Contemporary Japanese manga and the recent "Kawaii" graphic style movement have roots in Japan's reaction and expos
ure to U.S. culture during its occupation after WWII. A great reference book about this period of transformatio in Japan is Embracing Defeat. I found this book fascinating because for me it pinpointed some of the sources of divergence in culture and perspective between Japanese Hawaiians and Japanese in Japan.

Below are these iron-on characters. They are decorated with fragments of vintage Chinese and Japanese food wrappers. I created them in Photoshop and used bits of wrappers I scanned from my collection.

Below: A butterfly iron-on image created from my Asian food wrapper collection:

I have created a prototype purse. The cord slider is a mini shoyu bottle (in the shape of a pig). The thick red cording my father picked up for me a few years ago in China.

This purse below has the ima
ge of a kiri leaf which is of historical importance. It is a bombing leaflet that the U.S. forces dropped on the Aleutian Islands when the Japanese occupied them during WWII. It alludes to the early falling of Kiri leaves which is a bad omen in Japan. These leaf leaflets warn the Japanese soldiers that their efforts are futile. It also was ironic imagery as there are no trees of mention on these sparsely vegetated islands. I included this image on my purse as the end of The War led to the absorption things Western in occupied Japan. It lead to modern Japan's embrace and zeal for all that is new and marked it's separation from Japanese in diaspora who clung to the thrify Meji Era ways. This purse mixes these two directions.

Detail: Sushi grass and mini fish shoyu bottle embellishment. The shoyu bottle is stuffed with pink produce netting to give it color.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Haiku Project for Asian Art Museum

Last week I completed another art/education project for the San Francisco Asian Art Museum's Lords of the Samurai exhibit. This was probably the most fun of all the projects for me. I love attempting to write haiku and children enjoy playing around with this type of poetry, too.

There was a fantastic article in The L.A. Times a few weeks back about the role of poetry in the history of a particular samurai line. The article's
dramatic opening describes the saving of the Hosokawa samurai clan from certain defeat in battle. The samurai leader Yusai Hosokawa was deemed such a valuable poet that the emperor stopped the battle and saved a highly artistic samurai clan in the process.
Here is the article:


Below is my craft project for the museum. It will be posted on the Asian Art Museum's website (scroll towards the bottom) in a few weeks.

This above haiku project is fun to do with children for Poetry Month in May.
Here is a great children haiku book for reference:
Haiku Picturebook for Children
I know there are other good children haiku books out there, but I really like this one because the illustrations are great and it has both the Japanese and the English translations.

Final Animation Camp Screening

This morning we had the screening of all four of the summer camp animations. I am having difficulty posting the final flash animations on the blog, perhaps the sizes are too big. At any rate, I have posted the final animations on my YouTube site.

Here is the Vanity Animation:

Here is the Teamwork Animation:

Here is the Funny Crazy Animation:

Here is the Discoveries in the Garden Animation:

We were very fortunate to have Raquel Coelho as a guest speaker. Ms. Coelho is an Animation professor at San Jose State University and has worked at many animation house in The San Francisco Bay Area. She shared her puppet making process with the children and parents. She was a wonderfully engaging speaker and she had a lot of materials to share.

Below: Some of the puppet making materials Raquel brought in.

Below: Puppet figure from one of her books.

Raquel also brought some of her beautifully illustrate
d children books from Brazil. The illustrations were photos of lovely shadow boxes depicting in puppets the history of theater from around the world. For the conclusion she shared with us a wonderful short animation she worked on called Moon Girl. Below: Raquel brought in one of her shadow box pieces. This one depicts the famous photographer Eadweard Muybridge.