Insights from Shiho Masuda, Gift Wrapping Expert Extraordinaire
Below are some excerpts from Shiho Masuda's blog on Wrappedrockz.
If you had the chance to check out the Mizuhiki course, you probably remember reading about some of the knots used in Japanese culture. These knots are usually made with Mizuhiki cords and are used in decorating gifts. But many similar knotting and weaving techniques are used in other crafts, such as basket weaving and wrapping rocks. Last year it was the first time I had found out about the latter. At the time, John Spayde from the American Craft Council was preparing an article about wrapping (read the article here) and had featured some of my work.
Betsy Bauer in her studio - Santa Fe, New Mexico
Amongst other artists showcased in the article was also Betsy Bauer - the remarkable woman behind Wrappedrockz.
A BLEND OF CULTURES Mixing intricate Japanese basket weaving techniques and naval knots, Betsy highlights the beauty of rocks and their natural symmetry. She is constantly inspired by the dramatic and rocky scenery of Santa Fe, New Mexico where she'd been living for 30 years. Her background in painting, drawing, printmaking, and interior design had fine-tuned her ability to work with shapes and colors. In 2019, she came across four contemporary artists on the west coast who were combining rocks and Japanese knots in their creations. She sourced some cane, dove into her rock collection, and taught herself how to weave and wrap rocks. Her own unique collection evolved, inspired by the Southwest desert and the rich culture of Santa Fe.
“It’s taken me my entire life to reach this moment in time of creating my rock offerings. I believe the earth chooses to release her secrets and each person receives the rock that reflects their individual spirit.” — BETSY BAUER
I was fascinated to learn the creation process of these keepsakes. Betsy chooses the right rocks to be wrapped from the local riverbeds, or during her outdoor trips. She then uses cane strips softened in water to wrap the rocks. As the cane dries, it shrinks and tightens around the rock, almost as if embracing it. You can see a glimpse of her work process on her YouTube channel, where she shares time-lapses of her wrappings. I was surprised to see familiar Mizuhiki knots recreated with cane strips on a rock. Of course, thanks to the thickness of the cane the knots are looking sturdier than their paper cords cousins. At the same time, they also have a delicate, minimalistic feel to them. The knot appears simple as if drawn on a small, grey canvas. THE WISDOM OF ROCKS IN CHINA AND JAPAN Rocks have been part of human life since time immemorial. In China, at the beginning of the 9th century CE, a deep interest in learning from the wisdom of rocks had taken the shape of petrophilia (admiration/love of rocks). Later on, the Daoist sages would revere the rocks as the very bones of the Earth. Confucianism too had an admiration towards natural elements that can embody moral qualities akin to human virtues. For instance, the resilience and bending of the bamboo trees in front of strong winds was an example of integrity and uprightness as a desirable moral virtue. In Zen Buddhism practices, rocks have a special place. The karesansui or “dry gardens” are particularly famous for their representation of still or moving bodies of water using pebbles. Unlike the Daoists who would admire nature for its wild wisdom, the Zen Buddhists were looking to go beyond it.
EMBRACING THE ZEN A Zen practitioner herself, Betsy brings her mind to a meditative state with each piece of wrapping. Sometimes it might take her weeks before she achieves the level of perfection she seeks. The natural, organic qualities of shape, size, and texture of the rocks inspire her.
“The fact that they are infinitely older than we are is humbling and opens up soulful creative energy for me to work with from the start. Some nights I go to sleep just seeing different rock shapes and forms and wake up excited to begin a day in the studio with the rocks” she said for the American Craft Council interview. Her art can also be found on display and for sale at the Museum of Arts & Design in New York and at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in New Mexico, along with other art shops and galleries in Massachusetts, Maryland, and Colorado.
I invite you to explore more about the wondrous art of wrapped rocks on Betsy's website and online shop. Here you will find both individual rock art as well as themed collections. Below you have a few more of her fascinating collections. Her Instagram and Facebook too are a wealth of creative inspiration.