Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Creative Reading...or Reading for Creativitity -- ATA blog tour!


I’m happy to be part of the American Tapestry Alliance blog tour this year. My blog topic is about how books, catalogs of exhibits, and other print media all play a role in my quest for design inspiration and ways to enhance my creative process. 

I once thought the answers to all my questions about creativity and inspiration were probably in a book—I just needed to find the right book. I was always eager to dig into any book with a topic of creativity, creative process, ways to become more creative, as well as books about design. I also loved to read about other tapestry makers--especially if the books were biographies or memoirs about their particular creative journey.  For years, I've checked out books, purchased books, borrowed them from friends, and pored over books in libraries--all in the search for the answers.

My reading corner at my studio. 
A couple of my home bookshelves.
When I came across The Mind’s Best Work by D. N. Perkins a few years ago, I hoped it held the secret of how to come up with novel ideas. But what I learned instead from Perkins was that there isn’t a secret, magic formula for “being creative.” Instead, it results most often from—work!


Writers often say: “You have to show up every day…” and that’s true for me in my visual work.  In my own art making, I’ve found that the process of first digging for inspiration and then developing it further into images is sometimes painful, sometimes joyful but can only be accomplished by action.  I have to have confidence that the daily effort will help me to discover some of the potential that lies in my assorted ideas, and that I’ll eventually find images to express those concepts.


A closer view of the book shelf.
And more...
I now know that reading a book will not “make me creative,” but I usually find encouragement in the writing.  And it often turns out that the author suggests pointers I haven’t yet discovered. For instance, a couple of books I’ve found that have helpful suggestions are The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and Drawing on the Artist Within by Betty Edwards.

I began the practice of daily writing that Cameron calls “morning pages” in 2009. Since then, sitting down with a cup of coffee and my favorite fountain pen to write three pages has become an important part of my morning ritual. I’ve found this habit to be a great way to combat the niggling anxieties of my life by getting them onto the page and out of my head.

Favorites for morning pages ritual: spiral bound notebook, Lamy fountain pen, and strong black coffee in a Bob Owens mug!

I’ve also used the morning pages much like a diary to recount previous day’s events and sometimes I jot down ideas about ongoing tapestries or make planning notes for classes I’ll be teaching soon. I feel being faithful to writing the morning pages has enhanced my tapestry making (and my life in general) by helping me to both sort out negative thoughts and to generate positive ones.


In addition to the private morning pages notebooks, I also have journals I don't mind sharing with others in which I mull over current tapestries in the making—and anything else that happens to wanders through my mind. I have found that writing helps me elaborate ideas as I design for tapestry by giving me a way to clarify my thoughts while I’m developing the concepts for a tapestry more fully.

A few of my many journals from the past twenty + years.
Drawing on the Artist Within by Betty Edwards has excellent suggestions for visual exercises. In fact, I like this book better than her Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Several of her exercises were particularly helpful in pushing me out of my typical approach to designing when I was struggling with an idea that I just couldn't resolve into a cartoon.

One of Edwards's recommendation was to make quick gesture drawings from photos, with a timer set for one minute. The photos I worked from were ones I’d taken of emerging fiddleheads and I dearly wanted to design a tapestry based upon those young, developing ferns. But I just couldn’t seem to get it right by looking at one or two photos and making a painting--so much visual activity in the forest floor was in those photos and I couldn't seem to simplify!

The rapid gesture drawing activity forced me to loosen up and become less concerned with detail. Instead, I could see the energy of the spiral growth of the fiddleheads and I responded to that in lines I quickly scribbled. Later, I refined the images by scanning them and printing several versions of each one that I developed further in value studies. Several tapestries resulted from the momentum I gained by looking for the photographs in different ways in those fast sketches from Betty Edwards’s suggestions.

Charcoal gesture drawings made from my photos of fiddleheads
These are some of the value studies made on the scanned versions from the charcoal sketches.
These two turned into tapestries.
Spring Profusion, 31" x 25" wool and cotton
Once Upon a Time, 40" x 25"
I've also gained so much inspiration from reading about the creative journeys taken by other artists, especially those of tapestry artists.  I have Woven Color by Carole Green and James Koheler, a wonderful look at James's life and work.  Others are The Tree of Lives by and about Jean Pierre Larochette and Yael Lurie; Christine Laffer: Tapestry and Transformation by Carole Greene; Nezhnie: Weaver and Innovative Artist about Muriel Nezhnie by Linda Rees; Weaving a Chronicle by Judith Poxson Fawkes; and Helena Hernmarck: Tapestry Artist by Monica Boman and Patricia Malarcher.


Last year, Rebecca Mezoff self-pubished a small volume about her month-long artist residency at the Petrified Forest.  She document the tiny daily tapestries she did while she was there in a Blurb book that I love to flip through, see the tapestries and read her comments about finding the inspiration for and weaving the little pieces.

Rebecca Mezoff's Petrified Forest National Park, Artist-in-Residence Tapestries.
Finding sources of inspiration and ways to sustain creative flow are distinct challenges for me—and maybe for you, as well. Sometimes taking time to sit down with a book that’s an old favorite and that’s been on the bookshelf for years is nice to do. Maybe while flipping through the pages you’re reminded of the wisdom contained within both the book--and yourself--and that’s all you need to spark a burst of creative energy.

Other times, maybe seeing pieces included in an exhibit catalog will energize you. Perhaps you bought the catalog when you visited the exhibit and you’ll be reminded of how the works looked in person. Friends may also mention a book to you. In fact, your online social networks are great places to learn about new books—just recently on Facebook I found out about the beautifully inspiring publication, Joy: Yellow is the New Blue by Jilly Edwards and a copy of it now lives on my bookshelf (when it isn't in my lap being pored over!)


I've subscribed to several publications for many years and keep the old issues to revisit.  Although it was only published for a few years in the 1990s I enjoy going back to issues of the International Tapestry Journal to reread articles.  Unfortunately, I don't know how one might find those any longer--if anyone has that information, it would be wonderful to find out!

One of the benefits I've gotten from being a member of British Tapestry Group is receiving their Tapestry Journal in the mail.  I love VAV, the Scandinavian weaving magazine.  And I also subscribe to Surface Design Journal and to Fiber Art Now.  I've been a member of Handweavers Guild of America for years and their publication, Shuttle, Spindle and Dyepot is among my magazine copies, too.  I have most of the copies of the no-longer-published Fiberart Magazine.  And many other fiber journals--it's amazing how many tapestry articles there once were in Handwoven magazine in the 1990s.

Of course, I can't leave out the American Tapestry Alliance and many of the back issues of the newsletter, Tapestry Topics, at their website at this link.  

These are just a few of the many files of magazines that are both at home and at my studio.



I love hard copies of any reading material--yes, I do go to the Internet daily to search for information and to travel down particular rabbit holes that open up. But I just don't get the same sensual response from a laptop or phone screen as I do from sitting down with a publication in my hands. Even the smell of printing ink can be intoxicating when the new magazines arrive!
 
I’ve posted a selected bibliography of books to which I’ve returned time and again in the left margin of the web view of my blog under Books I Love. And, here’s a link to my most of my studio books at Library Thing: http://www.librarything.com/catalog/tmscanlin

The ATA website also has a book list compiled by many members at this link: https://americantapestryalliance.org/tapestry-education/books-on-tapestry-weaving-technique/


The online digital archives of weaving materials also holds a wealth of information.

I hope your design routine will include time for you to sit with a good book about art, design, tapestry weaving, nature studies--or any other topic that grabs your attention and that may inspire your thoughts.  And now that I've written this I think I'll select one of the books from my shelf that I haven't gotten down in awhile and see what I might find to shift my thinking!


And... don't forget to enter your name for the prizes that are being provided by wonderful folks as a thanks for following the blog tour! 
  
Here's how to do that:


THE BLOG TOUR

January 22nd: Molly Elkind: Collage as research

January 23rd: Ellen Bruxvoort - Vlog on Instagram about her design process

January 24th:​ Tommye Scanlin: Literature as inspiration

January 25th: Debbie Herd: Digital design tools

January 26th: Barbara Burns: Documenting your design for promotion

WIN ONE OF 26 PRIZES!

Follow all the stops on the blog tour to increase your chance to win one of the following prizes: $50 towards a Mirrix Loom, a Hokett loom kit, a Hokett Tiny Turned Beater, a project bag from Halcyon Yarn containing rosewood bobbins and a voucher for their online shop, a voucher for Weaversbazaar’s online shop, a free entry into ATA’s 12th international, unjuried, small format exhibition and a free one-year membership to ATA.

Here’s how to enter to win. Comment on this blog post then go here to let ATA know that you commented. The more blog posts you comment on the more chances you have to win so be sure to follow along. Ellen Bruxvoort is doing an Instagram video for the tour and if you respond with a photo or video on social media describing how you design tapestry you get five extra entries in the giveaway. Let the sharing begin!

To win another 5 entries into the giveaway enter to exhibit in The Biggest Little Tapestries in the World, ATA’s 12th international, unjuried small format exhibition, and then let us know that you entered by going here by Sunday January 28th. For this exhibition all entries get accepted to exhibit as long as your tapestry fits within the size requirements!

The Biggest Little Tapestries in the World, ATA’s 12th international, unjuried small format exhibition is open to all weavers. We invite entries which fit more traditional definitions of tapestry, and also entries that expand upon the core principles of the medium as they explore new techniques and processes. Multimedia work is welcome. The Biggest Little Tapestries in the World! will hang July 2018 at the Northwest Reno Public Library, 2325 Robb Drive. The entry form (intent to participate) is due February 15, 2018. The tapestry, and an image of the tapestry is not due until March 31, 2018. Find more details here




ABOUT AMERICAN TAPESTRY ALLIANCE

The American Tapestry Alliance is a nonprofit organization that provides programming for tapestry weavers around the world, including exhibitions (like Tapestry Unlimited), both juried and unjuried, in museums, art centres and online, along with exhibition catalogues. They offer workshops, lectures, one-on-one mentoring and online educational articles as well as awards, including scholarships, membership grants, an international student award, and the Award of Excellence. They also put out a quarterly newsletter, monthly eNews & eKudos, an annual digest. Members benefit from personalized artists pages on the ATA website, online exhibitions, educational articles, access to scholarships and more.

You’re invited to exhibit! The Biggest Little Tapestries in the World, ATA’s 12th international, unjuried small format exhibition is open to all weavers. We invite entries which fit more traditional definitions of tapestry, and also entries that expand upon the core principles of the medium as they explore new techniques and processes. Multimedia work is welcome. The Biggest Little Tapestries in the World! will hang at the Northwest Reno Public Library, 2325 Robb Drive. The entry form (intent to participate) is due February 15, 2018. The tapestry, and an image of the tapestry is not due until March 31, 2018. Find more details here




Sunday, January 21, 2018

A New Year--A Fresh Start!


Happy New Year... several days weeks after its beginning!  I hope it's starting off quite well for everyone.  I've gotten the 2018 tapestry diary underway and once more this year I'm choosing to incorporate a pictorial image I spend a month's time on within the daily parts shown by squares or rectangles.

The warp is linen, sett 8 epi.  Wefts are the natural dyed wool, used two strands together.
My theme for this year's images will be sticks and stones.  I began with a pecan stick I picked up in the back yard early in January.  I made a painting of it and resized it for the cartoon.  I'm choosing to use only natural dyed colors in my 2018 tapestry diary because I still have a LOT of the black walnut and the henna dyed from last year.  I'm adding to the range of colors with other dyes.   So far, this month I've dyed with indigo, Osage Orange, and madder.  Some of the indigo dyed yarns made up parts of the shadows while black walnut was used for the stick, along with a little bit of indigo top dyed over very light black walnut to try to achieve a color similar to lichen.

Madder
Osage Orange
I'm also working on the tapestry I began back in late October thinking it would be one that was quickly woven... wrong!  November and December were both packed with activities, including the hand surgery I had on December 12 that slowed me down a bit.  Anyway, I'm back to it and hope I'll be finishing it soon.


The cartoon for this tapestry is from a block print of a feather I did a few years ago.  Interesting to interpret from one medium into another one, hoping to keep some of the spirit of both.

AND! Please join me and several other tapestry weavers this week as we participate in the American Tapestry Allicance blog tour.  Here are details--hope to see you back with me on Wednesday and take a look at the posts by everyone else, starting tomorrow!

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THE BLOG TOUR
January 22nd: Molly Elkind: Collage as research
January 23rd: Ellen Bruxvoort - Vlog on Instagram about her design process
January 24th:​ Tommye Scanlin: Literature as inspiration
January 25th: Debbie Herd: Digital design tools
January 26th: Barbara Burns: Documenting your design for promotion

WIN ONE OF 26 PRIZES!
Follow all the stops on the blog tour to increase your chance to win one of the following prizes: $50 towards a Mirrix Loom, a Hokett loom kit, a Hokett Tiny Turned Beater, a project bag from Halcyon Yarn containing rosewood bobbins and a voucher for their online shop, a voucher for Weaversbazaar’s online shop, a free entry into ATA’s 12th international, unjuried, small format exhibition and a free one-year membership to ATA.

Here’s how to enter to win. Comment on this blog post then go here to let ATA know that you commented. The more blog posts you comment on the more chances you have to win so be sure to follow along. Ellen Bruxvoort is doing an Instagram video for the tour and if you respond with a photo or video on social media describing how you design tapestry you get five extra entries in the giveaway. Let the sharing begin!

To win another 5 entries into the giveaway enter to exhibit in The Biggest Little Tapestries in the World, ATA’s 12th international, unjuried small format exhibition, and then let us know that you entered by going here by Sunday January 28th. For this exhibition all entries get accepted to exhibit as long as your tapestry fits within the size requirements!

ABOUT AMERICAN TAPESTRY ALLIANCE
The American Tapestry Alliance is a nonprofit organization that provides programming for tapestry weavers around the world, including exhibitions (like Tapestry Unlimited), both juried and unjuried, in museums, art centres and online, along with exhibition catalogues. They offer workshops, lectures, one-on-one mentoring and online educational articles as well as awards, including scholarships, membership grants, an international student award, and the Award of Excellence. They also put out a quarterly newsletter, monthly eNews & eKudos, an annual digest. Members benefit from personalized artists pages on the ATA website, online exhibitions, educational articles, access to scholarships and more.

You’re invited to exhibit! The Biggest Little Tapestries in the World, ATA’s 12th international, unjuried small format exhibition is open to all weavers. We invite entries which fit more traditional definitions of tapestry, and also entries that expand upon the core principles of the medium as they explore new techniques and processes. Multimedia work is welcome. The Biggest Little Tapestries in the World! will hang at the Northwest Reno Public Library, 2325 Robb Drive. The entry form (intent to participate) is due February 15, 2018. The tapestry, and an image of the tapestry is not due until March 31, 2018. Find more details here




Sunday, December 31, 2017

Out with the Old! In with the New!


Happy, happy New Year to one and all.  I cut off my 2017 tapestry diary earlier today and here it is! 


The warp for my new one is on the loom shown at the right in the photo.  It's ready for me to begin anew tomorrow on another year-long adventure in tapestry, day by day.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017 is ending in a few days... and so is my 2017 tapestry diary



I'll be finishing the ninth of the year-long adventures in what I call my tapestry diaries.  My husband happened to catch me and my cat as I finished weaving the day this gray morning (although the sun has now peeked out from behind the clouds).  I'll post the completed and cut off 2017 tapestry diary in a few short days!  Until then... here we are, Tommye Scanlin (in front of the loom) and Raymond Purr (behind the loom)--in case you didn't know who was who:


By the way, I recently wrote a post about my tapestry diary practice for my Tapestry Share blog.  Here's the link to that.