We have yet to enjoy the pleasure of meeting Kiranada in person but when she first inquired about teaching at FC I admit that I squealed with excitement…I’m a Gemini and nothing is more exciting to me than something I’ve never seen before, so Ro-Kata jumped off the application like a neon sign. After Googling Japanese stenciling I went back to read Kira’s website…tingles! This year she will be teaching Japanese Ro-Kata Silk painting on Saturday…sadly for those who haven’t pre-registered, the class is already sold out.
I am defined as a fiber artist; someone who loves to see that flowing dye on thirsty cloth and a waxy barrier of Japanese rozome batik. This has defined my work for 35 years. Two decades of life in Asia have changed and refined my vision. My background is in Art, Surface Design, Asian Art History and Education with degrees from Mass. College of Art, Arizona State University and further graduate study at Seika University, Kyoto, Japan. While I am a native New Englander, travel is part of my life and I have lived in Florida and Arizona in the USA, as well as Iceland, Costa Rica, Spain, Indonesia and an extended 18 years in Japan. It was there that I discovered the Japanese version of batik while researching resist techniques and the costume of Japan. From studies in Kata-zome, Shibori, tea ceremony and kimono, it was Rozome, or Japanese wax-resist that held my interest as I discovered the myriad ways the Japanese Masters used to apply wax on silk for their dynamic wall screens and hangings. My studies and writing resulted in a book contract with Kodansha International Publishing Co. The World of Rozome: Wax Resist Textiles of Japan was published in 1996, and released as a soft cover and recently, as a revised and updated CD version. And, another side of my life found me in 2009, in the mountains of Spain where I was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order, became Kiranada. Now I coordinate the Contemplative Arts program at Aryaloka Buddhist Center (Newmarket NH) as well as teaching Surface Design at my alma mater, Mass. College of Art and Design, Boston.
Three Dream Projects:
One very special dream project of the past tied my love of travel, fiber and spirituality together by creating a healing Prayer Shawl or Kesa for each continent in the new millennium. With the help of many friends, the seven Kesa went out to the continents and were later exhibited in Japan, the USA, Central America, and Europe. This immensely satisfying and moving project is now in the permanent collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem MA. You can see them and hear an interview about this project on http://www.betsysterlingbenjamin-com.
A recent educational dream project was completed in time to carry to the Kuala Lumpur Batik Conference in Malaysia where I was asked to lecture on Rozome. Students have often been asked for a DVD of my demonstrations or process that they could carry home for inspiration. At last, in 2011 a 53 minute DVD on the Ro-Kata – Wax Stencil process was completed. Working with wax and intricately cut stencils to produce repeat and single images was something that I discovered in Japan and have worked with personally for over 25 years on kimono, obi, screens, wall hangings and scarves.
My future dream project is to have a One-Year Solitary Retreat, a completely quiet time for meditation and reflection, alone and by myself. I have yearned for this for many years and it seems to be coming to fruition in the future. I will be departing for Sudarshanaloka Retreat Center, in North Island, New Zealand next summer and hope to return refreshed, invigorated and further along that path of enlightenment.