A trail-blazing woman

 “with age comes wisdom” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is available as a  birthday card . © Annette Makino 2015

“with age comes wisdom” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is available as a birthday card. © Annette Makino 2015

Today I mailed this “wise owl” card to my great-aunt for her 109th birthday. No, that is not a typo. Helene “Helli” Stehle was born to a butcher and his wife on December 6, 1907, in Basel, Switzerland.

But longevity is by no means the most remarkable thing about Helli. This pioneering woman first achieved fame in Switzerland as a stage actor playing strong characters. She has always been a vibrant, strong-willed woman with a great zest for life, so I can imagine how riveting her performances must have been.

She gradually began working in radio, performing and directing plays and reciting poetry for Basel’s state-run radio station, Radiostudio Basel. With the outbreak of World War II, all her male colleagues were called to active duty. So in 1939, Helli became Switzerland’s first female newscaster. She was soon widely known through the region; when she was out in public, strangers would recognize her by her voice.

She eventually became the chief newscaster and a mentor to many younger journalists. Meanwhile, she continued to act in and direct radio plays until her retirement in 1967. She is now Switzerland’s oldest living actor.

My great-aunt never married or had children—in those days, only single women were allowed to work in state jobs. But she had one great love, Otto Crone, a calm and quiet actor who grew up in Russia. He eventually moved into another apartment in Helli’s building; over their decades together, Helli learned to speak Russian.

When I was eight, my adventurous aunt joined my family as we travelled around Japan, soaking in the communal baths and sleeping on the floor in traditional inns. On train rides, she and I enjoyed many conversations in a secret, nonsensical language we made up called “Bochisch.” And she would perform comic vignettes for my sisters and me again and again on request.

Deep into retirement, she continued to travel. On one trip to Russia, her suitcase got lost on the flight over, and she gamely spent the week wearing shirts borrowed from the gentlemen in her group. She took gymnastics and Russian conversation classes well into her 90s, and had a circle of dear friends, many of them much younger.

 In 1939, Helli Stehle became the first woman newscaster in Switzerland, for Radiostudio Basel. She is seen here in 1955.

In 1939, Helli Stehle became the first woman newscaster in Switzerland, for Radiostudio Basel. She is seen here in 1955.

When Helli turned 100, the Basel radio station threw a big party in her honor where she was warmly feted. A few months later, she finally moved into an assisted living home, but she gave an interview as recently as 2010, on the occasion of her 103rd birthday.

Back in 1999, when my grandmother turned 100, her birthday party was attended by a Basel city official. He joked with my grandmother that he would be back in five years for her 105th. Ever witty, her sister Helli replied to him, “Ah, but whether you will still be around…?”

My grandmother lived to a ripe old 104. Who would ever have thought that her little sister would beat that record by five years and counting?

However much longer my dear aunt Helli sticks around, she has inspired me and countless others through her example as a powerful, creative woman, forging her own path.

leaping waves
all the strong women
before me

warmly, Annette Makino

UPDATE: Helli Stehle died in Basel, Switzerland on August 27, 2017. She was 109.

Makino Studios News

Mother's sculpture show: My mom, Erika Makino, took up sculpture around age 80, and now, at 88, she is showing her clay and cement pieces in a solo exhibit. The show opens this Friday, Dec. 2 in Ukiah, California (details in this Ukiah Daily Journal article).

Free shipping through November: Use shipping code FREESHIP2016 for free shipping in the US through this Wednesday, November 30 on orders of $15 or more from the Makino Studios Etsy shop. There you will find my 2017 calendar, laser-engraved wooden keychains, holiday and everyday greeting cards and signed prints.

Arcata Holiday Crafts Market: My only public event of the holidays, this fair includes many local artists and craftspeople, plus music and food. It runs Saturday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 11, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Arcata Community Center, Arcata.

Pierson Made in Humboldt Fair: You can pick up my calendars, cards and prints at this fair of crafts and specialty foods handmade in Humboldt County. It runs through Dec. 24 at Pierson Garden Shop, 4100 Broadway Street, Eureka.

Election Edition

 “redwood time” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is also available as a  greeting card  or print. © Annette Makino 2016

“redwood time” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is also available as a greeting card or print. © Annette Makino 2016

Apparently there is some sort of election coming up. Lately I’ve been grinding my teeth at night and, although this could be one of Hillary Clinton’s secret conspiracies, I prefer to blame it on Donald Trump.

campaign sign
the dog registers
his opinion

Last weekend I attended the wonderful Seabeck Haiku Getaway in Washington State. Sprinkled among the presentations and activities, there were several “Write Now” sessions in which we had five minutes to draft haiku on a particular topic. Here are a couple from a session on the elections:

swing state
leaves land on both sides
of the fence

kissing the baby still undecided

This is truly one of the most bizarre, unpredictable and ugly U.S. elections ever. Each day has brought new revelations and accusations. It will be very hard to heal the nation after this divisive process.

campaign season
geese practice leaving
the country

But when I look out my window at the forest outside, I am reminded of another time frame, where a four-year election cycle is no more than a breath.

redwood time . . .
the steady journey
from earth to sky

No matter the outcome on Tuesday, I am rooting for common sense, compassion and a sense of perspective.

warmly, Annette Makino

(“campaign sign” was first published in Haiku News, Vol. 1, No. 44, November 2012)

Makino Studios News

Senryu award: I’m honored that this poem, which I wrote in Japan, recently won third place in the annual Gerald Brady Awards for Senryu held by the Haiku Society of America (HSA). (View all the winners plus judges' comments):

sacred shrine
worshippers raise
their selfie sticks

Haiku award: And this haiku won second honorable mention in the HSA’s prestigious Harold G. Henderson Awards for Haiku (View all the winners plus judges' comments):

our easy silence
every puddle
sky-deep

 Annette Makino’s  2017 mini-calendar  of art and haiku features animals, landscapes, and other scenes from nature. The calendars are $11.99 plus tax and shipping on Etsy.

Annette Makino’s 2017 mini-calendar of art and haiku features animals, landscapes, and other scenes from nature. The calendars are $11.99 plus tax and shipping on Etsy.

Free shipping through November: Use shipping code FREESHIP2016 for free shipping through November on orders of $15 or more from the Makino Studios Etsy shop. There you will find my 2017 calendar, laser-engraved wooden keychains, holiday and everyday greeting cards and signed prints.

Arcata Holiday Crafts Market: My only public event of the holidays, this fair includes many local artists and craftspeople, plus music and food. It runs Saturday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 11, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Arcata Community Center, Arcata.

Pierson Made in Humboldt Fair: November 15-Dec. 24. Ongoing fair of arts, crafts and specialty foods handmade in Humboldt County. Pierson Garden Shop, 4100 Broadway Street, Eureka.

Exploring art in old Japan

 “maple leaf” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper and digitally edited. It appears as a page of a 2017 calendar of art and haiku. © Annette Makino 2016

“maple leaf” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper and digitally edited. It appears as a page of a 2017 calendar of art and haiku. © Annette Makino 2016

Besides a grand family adventure, my trip to Japan earlier this summer (see Journey to Japan) was also an exploration of Japanese art and haiku—and a chance to stock up on hard-to-find art supplies.

A major highlight of the trip was a visit to a famous art supply store in Kyoto, founded by a painter in 1863 and still run by his descendants. At the one-room Saiun-do (“Painted Clouds”), I found the fine brushes, made of weasel hair and bamboo, for which I had spent years searching. I also scored a fragrant new sumi ink stick and several ceramic pots of special "gansai" watercolors that are found only in Japan.

Later, I painted the Japanese maple leaves shown here with my new brushes, delighting in their smoothness on the page. How liberating to find brushes that work with me, not against me!

Through sheer serendipity, I was able to see woodblock art prints by one of my favorite artists, Hiroshige, at four different museums around the country. Ukiyo-e (literally, “pictures of the floating world”) were hugely popular in the Edo period, when the merchant class enjoyed decorating their walls with prints of beautiful geisha, kabuki actors and landscapes. "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" by Hokusai is probably the best-known example of ukiyo-e in the West.

It is estimated that in the 1850s, four to five million ukiyo-e were printed every year! The visual style, in which thin black outlines were filled in with blocks of color, was the forerunner of manga (Japanese-style comics). It also deeply influenced the beautiful anime (Japanese animated films) by director Hayao Miyazake, among others.

 Annette Makino buys Japanese art supplies at Saiun-do in Kyoto, Japan in June 2016.

Annette Makino buys Japanese art supplies at Saiun-do in Kyoto, Japan in June 2016.

But it was only on returning home this summer that I realized how much my own art owes to ukiyo-e. Though painted on paper rather than carved into wood, my paintings typically consist of thin outlines of black sumi ink that bound areas of color. And my art, like Hiroshige’s in his day, is mainly intended to be printed and enjoyed by many, rather than hung in fine art museums.

I came to Japan to study the old masters—and found a part of myself.

rice paper moon
pine trees brush
the inky sky

Makino Studios News

North Country Fair: Humboldters, come celebrate the fall equinox at the 43rd annual North Country Fair on the Arcata Plaza this Saturday and Sunday! The fair runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. There will be 170 art and craft vendors, three music and entertainment stages, local food booths, activities for kids, and a daily parade at 1 p.m. Come visit my Makino Studios booth on G Street near Moore’s Sleepworld!

New2017 calendars: For the fourth year in a row, I have created a mini-calendar of my art and haiku. Featuring animals, landscapes, and other scenes from nature, the 2017 calendars have just come off the press and will debut at the fair. They can also be ordered through the Makino Studios shop on Etsy.

New keychains: I have designed two different wooden keychains featuring my art and haiku, one of a playful dog and one of a Humboldt redwood. These laser-engraved keychains will be offered at the fair this weekend and are also available on Etsy.

New card designs: Heirloom tomatoes, redwood forests, and river landscapes are the subjects of some of my latest greeting cards, due off the press this week. Check them out at the fair or the Makino Studios Etsy shop.

Seabeck Haiku Getaway: This fun and inspiring haiku retreat takes place Oct. 27-30 in Seabeck, Washington next month. I will be presenting on my trip to Japan with photos and haiku. I look forward to playing and learning with other haiku poets in a beautiful natural setting!

Journey to Japan

 “the time we are given” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. © Annette Makino 2014

“the time we are given” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. © Annette Makino 2014

Well, I’ve been back from Japan for almost a month now, and I still can't begin to describe this heart-expanding trip. Much as I had planned and anticipated the journey (see my last post, Eastward ho!), it was even better than I could have imagined.

Over three weeks in June, my family and I explored serene Zen gardens and bustling city streets. We spent one day hiking the ancient Nakasendo trail between post towns, and another day hiking through ten thousand vermillion torii gates at a shrine in Kyoto.

We climbed to the top of a 400-year old castle and we soaked in mountain hot springs. We shopped in glitzy malls, a temple flea market, and a tiny paintbrush store founded in 1863. At an alley bar with just nine seats, we heard a Japanese duo play American jazz. Inside the moat of a wooden castle, we happened on a free concert by a popular boy band. We hiked through bamboo forests and flew past rice paddies on bullet trains.

 There are about ten thousand gates at the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto.

There are about ten thousand gates at the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto.

We were mystified by the high-tech toilets with explanatory signs only in Japanese—a member of our party, who wishes to remain anonymous, learned the hard way that the big red button is not for flushing, but to call an attendant in case of emergency! One day at a busy Kyoto subway station, we encountered about a hundred massive sumo wrestlers, all wearing colorful summer kimonos and top knots.

We were amused by the odd English translations, like the restaurant offering “pig hormone soaked in a pot.” At the Meiji shrine in Tokyo, among the hand-lettered prayers for good health and high exam scores, we found one we could relate to: “I pray that America doesn’t elect Donald Trump.”

 Kenroku-en garden in Kanazawa is considered one of the top three gardens in Japan.

Kenroku-en garden in Kanazawa is considered one of the top three gardens in Japan.

Our 19-year old daughter Maya, whose main exposure to Japan had been the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki, kept exclaiming, “This is so frickin’ dope! It’s like anime, only real life!”

Our 14-year old son Gabriel ate everything in sight, from breakfasts of grilled fish and pickled vegetables to chunks of battered octopus passed among bar patrons. But he passed on the sardine tea offered at one ramen joint, even though the sign promised, “Tastes like a junior high student.”

 A Makino family cemetery in Kurabuchi, Gunma prefecture, goes back ten generations.

A Makino family cemetery in Kurabuchi, Gunma prefecture, goes back ten generations.

We also visited with my relatives, enjoying their warm hospitality and hearing about the Makino family's samurai ancestry.

A highlight was spending a day at Makino Brewery in the mountains beyond Takasaki, a business run by my second cousin which has been making award-winning sake for 320 years. Near the brewery, by a bamboo grove, is the Makino temple and a family cemetery where ten generations of Makinos are buried.

 Annette Makino takes in the peaceful garden at the Nezu Museum in Tokyo.

Annette Makino takes in the peaceful garden at the Nezu Museum in Tokyo.

The beauty of Japan flooded my mind and heart. I’m sure I will draw inspiration from this trip for years to come. It was a great blessing to celebrate Makino Studios’ fifth anniversary with this “bucket list” family adventure. Thanks to all who made this trip possible by supporting my artistic journey along the way!

the time we are given . . .
sparks rise through darkness
to join the stars

(tinywords 14.2)

 Annette Makino surrounded by husband Paul, daughter Maya and son Gabriel in Tsumago at the end of a day of hiking the Nakasendo trail.

Annette Makino surrounded by husband Paul, daughter Maya and son Gabriel in Tsumago at the end of a day of hiking the Nakasendo trail.

Makino Studios News

More Japan photos: If you'd like to see more images of our trip to Japan (mostly shot on my iPhone 6S), I've temporarily made this Facebook album public.

Summer retreat: The week of July 30-August 7, I’ll be relaxing and painting at a cabin on the Klamath River. If you would like to place an order through the MakinoStudios Etsy shop, please do so before or after that week.

North Country Fair: Humboldters, mark your calendars for the 43nd annual North Country Fair on the Arcata Plaza September 17-18! I'll have paintings, prints, cards and new 2017 calendars at the Makino Studios booth on G Street near 9th.

Eastward ho!

 “mountain meadow” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. © Annette Makino 2015

“mountain meadow” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. © Annette Makino 2015

At the Seabeck Haiku Getaway in Washington last fall, we started with a fun icebreaker: write down five items from your bucket list, then walk around the room and share with other participants. (For more about Seabeck, see The path unfolds.)

After the exercise, my daughter Maya and I compared lists. I definitely don’t share her dream of working a stint as a bartender! But it turns out that we both had the exact same number one wish: to travel to Japan as a family.

Meanwhile, Makino Studios turned five years old in March. Thinking about how to mark this milestone, I remembered the bucket list exercise. It occurred to me that the best way to celebrate would be to use some of my earnings to take our family to Japan. How fitting that a business that draws deeply from the traditions of Japanese art and haiku would enable us to travel there.

So we are off early next month for three weeks of exploration and adventure! This will be the first trip to Japan for our teens; it is the fourth trip for me and the second for my husband Paul. My sister Yoshi will join us for the first and last few days of the trip.

Our itinerary includes visiting Japanese relatives in Tokyo and touring the venerable 320-year old Makino sake factory in Takasaki. We’ll also see the Makino temple and a cemetery there containing family tombs from ten generations.

 My mother, sisters and I (standing, left) wear kimonos sent from Japan by my grandparents. (Santa Monica, California, 1969.)

My mother, sisters and I (standing, left) wear kimonos sent from Japan by my grandparents. (Santa Monica, California, 1969.)

I’m also excited to hike along the ancient Nakasendo trail in the Japanese alps, where stone tablets commemorate visits by revered haiku poets Basho and Shiki. We will soak in hot springs and explore Japanese temples, gardens, castles, and museums.

To experience Japanese life more deeply, we will mainly stay in ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) and a variety of homes booked through Airbnb. As lovers of Japanese cuisine, we are especially excited about the food! I imagine I’ll find much artistic inspiration throughout.

While the earnings from my art business are modest, the psychic rewards are incalculable. (I just don’t think I’d feel the same about bartending.) To all my store buyers, customers and supporters over the past five years, I bow in thanks.

salt breeze
all the countries
on my bucket list

warmly, Annette Makino

Makino Studios News

ukiaHaiku Awards: At the ukiaHaiku Festival on April 24, this poem of mine won second place in the Jane Reichhold International Prize, out of 412 entries from six continents:

unconcerned
with divorce rates
mating butterflies

And this one took third in the Dori Anderson Prize for haiku about Ukiah:

a row of raindrops
hanging on the clothesline—

manzanita blossoms

Newest stores: The list of Makino Studios card retailers now includes Down to Earth in Eugene, Oregon; Three Sisters in Ukiah; and Swish Healdsburg in Healdsburg, California. If there is no store in your area, you can order online through my Etsy shop.

Order by June 1: As I’ll be traveling in Japan, I will not be able to fill online or store orders between June 2 and June 28.

Connecting: I appreciate the kind responses to my last post, on International Haiku Day. You can get news, fresh art and haiku on my Makino Studios Facebook page and my Twitter feed.

Publication credit: “salt breeze” was published in Exhaling, the Seabeck 2015 anthology; it tied for second place in the Seabeck kukai (a haiku contest determined by participating poets).

Happy Haiku Day!

April is National Poetry Month, and today, April 17, is Haiku Poetry Day! In celebration, here is a sampling of haiku and senryu I’ve published over the past year. And if you’d like to try your hand at this subtle art form, you might enjoy “The Discipline of Haiku” by poet Michael Dylan Welch.

Remembering the Great East Japan Earthquake

 “when someone you love” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper, and digitally edited. It is available as a  sympathy card . © Annette Makino 2016

“when someone you love” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper, and digitally edited. It is available as a sympathy card. © Annette Makino 2016

I’m writing on the fifth anniversary of the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. It’s so hard to lose someone you love; multiply that grief by the nearly 16,000 people killed in the 2011 disaster, and the amount of suffering unleashed is overwhelming.

In addition, more than 200,000 people are still displaced from their homes, and the Fukushima nuclear plant continues to dump radioactive water into the sea.

And yet, we are such a resilient species. Japan is busy rebuilding, restoring and recovering.

My husband Paul happens to be in Hiroshima today, chaperoning a group of high school students. He reports that the city has emerged from the horror of the atomic bombing to become a lovely and vibrant place. The people of Hiroshima have transcended the nightmare of the past.

I’m sharing two paintings here. The piece above is a recent painting of an egret flying over a tilted marsh landscape. The words are adapted from a poem I wrote for my father after he died four years ago; he would have been 86 tomorrow. The piece is a close-up and personal portrait of loss. (See On Love and Loss and a Man Named Quantum.)

 “May a thousand cranes” is 9×12, painted with ink on rice paper. © Annette Makino 2011

“May a thousand cranes” is 9×12, painted with ink on rice paper. © Annette Makino 2011

I painted the piece of flying cranes, left, in March 2011, a couple days after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Along with my first-ever blog post, A Prayer for Japan, it interweaves my personal connection to Japan with a prayer for healing and recovery.

warmly, Annette Makino

Makino Studios News

New card designs: I have been busy painting, and just got eight new card designs back from the printer! You can find them in my Etsy shop or view them in my online gallery. They are also making their way into stores.

Kamome, The Boat of Hope: Two years after the tsunami, a small wooden boat from a high school in Japan washed up in Crescent City, California, about 75 miles north of Arcata. The Extraordinary Voyage of Kamome: A Tsunami Boat Comes Home tells the story of how the boat has linked two communities across the Pacific. Thisbeautifulchildren’s book was written by Lori Dengler and Amya Miller and illustrated by my friend Amy Uyeki.

Japan in June: My family is heading to Japan for three weeks in June! This will be our first trip there together. We are still planning our itinerary, but I am very much looking forward to finding new ideas and inspiration for art and haiku.