Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive


You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

... at least that's what Johnny Mercer wrote back in 1944.


Well, these days it's harder and harder to Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive but I think it's time to try.  The Negative simply doesn't work.  Mister In-Between, that old fence sitting son of a gun?  No need to mess with him (yes, gotta be a "him").

But before accentuating the positive, I will mention the very negative and tragic events that are happening in the Great Smoky Mountains.   Wild fires have been going on throughout the Appalachians for weeks now (in spite of practically no national news coverage about it).  Many of the fires that have now reached thousands and thousands of acres appear to be of "human origin" (read vandalism, carelessness, or out-right stupidity).  

The fires have been raging throughout North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, stretching resources thin.  Firefighters have come from all over the country to help battle the fires.  The extended drought conditions of the Southeast combined with the fall leaf season, plus several recent days of high winds and the fires have been extremely hard to contain. 

On Monday, November 28 fires that have been burning in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park since around November 23rd spread rapidly down the mountains to the tourist towns of Gatlinburg and nearby Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  Evacuations began on Monday night as the fires began to surround the Gatlinburg and thousands were quite literally fleeing for their lives in practically a gridlock of cars (if you've ever been to Gatlinburg you know there's a long strip of street with wall to wall tourist oriented businesses and very little in the way of exiting until you pass through the downtown area). 

Bill May, the Director of Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts located in Gatlinburg, was among those being evacuated.  He stayed as late as he was allowed and posted a few photos of what was happening at Arrowmont to his Facebook page as he was leaving.  He was able to get back to the campus yesterday and posted other photos.  With his permission, here are a few views from Arrowmont over the last three days.

This was taken around mid-day on Monday, Nov. 28.  The fires were still miles away and everyone was expecting that the town would be safe.  The smoke and ash was very much evident, however.
As Bill was leaving he was able to capture this quick view of one of the dorms at the campus in flames.

Here's what he found the next day.  One of the two dorms that were consumed in the flames.  A maintenance shed with tools and supplies also was lost to the fire.
But Arrowmont is mostly intact--the view this morning!  Arrowmont's extended family of creative people have determined that the school will rise from this like the Phoenix.  Below is a link for donations to this effort.
Here's what was posted on Arrowmont's Facebook page today, November 30:
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The fire destroyed three Arrowmont buildings – Hughes Hall Dormitory, Wild Wing Dormitory and the maintenance shed containing tools and equipment. All remaining structures on campus are secure. Information regarding additional smoke and heat damage is not available at this time. Power and phone service is limited.
“All Arrowmont personnel are safe,” says Bill May, “We have received many emails, phone calls, texts and social media posts expressing support and concern for Arrowmont and for the people in our community who have suffered loss. We are very grateful for our local and national community and the outpouring of support. Hope is not lost. We will rebuild.” Bill May is appointing a recovery team to assess damage and plan for the rebuilding of lost structures. We will inform the community when more information is available.
Arrowmont has received numerous requests regarding donations to support the recovery. To make a secure donation online, go to www.arrowmont.org and click the “donate” button. Send checks to Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, P.O. Box 567, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, 37738.
A link to news coverage of this is here. 

There is much rebuilding to do not only at Arrowmont but throughout the larger community of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge--as well as other areas in the Southeast that have been devastated by these wild fires.  And there is much sadness about the injuries sustained and especially for the several lives that were lost in the fires.   

Positive note?  Well, it's raining here right now.  And I hope it is at Arrowmont, as well.  And also everywhere over the thousands of acres in several states where there's still a wild fire burning.

Phoneix, Appalachia! 



Friday, November 11, 2016

Working with students... a way forward


I began writing this post earlier in 2016 and was waiting until I could add photos to it before publishing.  However, I'm going to continue it now and post with out the photos because it describes positive things.  I, for one, could use some positive thoughts right now following the election.  Teaching and making art are a couple of the ways I hope to make forward motion toward a more hopeful future.  Is this burying my head in the sand?  Perhaps.  But I have to keep anxiety and dread, despair and hopelessness at bay in my mind, as best I can.  Staying busy doing the things I love and that I'm somewhat good at is the way I must proceed for now.  So... here goes... thoughts about working with students!
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In 2016, I've been able to visit and share about my passion for weaving in seven different places in the Southeast.  The students I've worked with range in age from young college students to retirees. All of the people I've encountered in the classes and workshops are excited about their discoveries in weaving, no matter what their age.  This was so heartening to see and I hope their excitement will turn into a continuing passion for learning about textile techniques and creating works in fiber methods.  Of course, I hope that at least some of that creating will be in tapestry--but whatever they pursue will be grand as they'll be expanding the ranks of people carrying forward traditional textile techniques and making them their own. 

In March, I visited Berry College students who are part of the Viking Creations enterprises.  Joy Johnson, who works with the Berry students, loaned me one of the old Berry tea towels with the Dogwood motif, so I could examine it.  I wanted to be sure that my understanding of plain weave inlay (or laid-in as it's sometimes called) and what had once been woven was the same.

The sett of the towel appeared to be around 30 to 34 epi, with a very fine linen warp and the inlay with a cotton that was just a bit larger.  I decided to magnify the whole process so that it would be easier to demonstrate the method.  It would also be quick for the students to work through the whole dogwood motif and so I set up a practice loom for 10 epi to take to Berry for the workshop.

I left the loom with the students to finish off the rest of the warp.  A few weeks later,  I returned for the loom and was able to see the first of the towels they'd woven on their loom with a 30 epi sett.  (The students have now gotten the Berry Dogwood back into their production line--you can read more about it in the latest issue of Shuttle, Spindle and Dyepot.  Here's a link to the Berry College Weaving Facebook page.)

A week after I was at Berry, I visited Penland School of Crafts to spend a day with Mary Zicafoose's spring concentration class.  Mary had invited me to visit to show the students about setting up a frame loom for tapestry and to introduce a few of the techniques I use in my work, as well as to show examples of my tapestries.  We got the looms set up the evening before our full day of work, we spent the next day with meet and separate and hatching on a small sampler,  then I showed my slides on the following morning.

On my way home from Penland, I stopped at Warren Wilson College to visit the weaving studio and see what the Fiber Crew students had created with the small tapestries they'd begun when I spent a couple of days with them in January.  I was very impressed with the little tapestries they'd finished that were going to be part of a larger hand painted and handwoven linen fabric to be displayed in their library.

Later in the spring, I had a visit at my studio from the students in the weaving class at UNG.  I invite Jo-Marie Karst, who teaches weaving at the university, to bring her students to my studio each semester.  I also usually visit them at the school for a presentation or demonstration,  and I did so a couple of weeks later to show a Power Point about the Berry College student industries and their progress to bring back the Berry Dogwood motif to their weavings.

This fall semester I was invited to make a presentation to the students in the Appalachian Art Class in which I showed Power Points of both craft resources in the southeast (including the schools like Arrowmont, John Campbell Folk School, and Penland), and also images of my tapestries.

This year I've also had the pleasure of working with people who want to learn about tapestry in short workshops.  In February, I went to Raleigh for a brief workshop at ArtSpace with about a dozen people.  In May, I visited the Appalachian Arts and Crafts Center for a workshop, again around a dozen folks.  And in September, I shared about tapestry to eleven people at John Campbell Folk School.

All in all, I think there have been about a hundred people with whom I've shared my love of weaving during this year in classes.  That might not sound like many--but when you consider what a small field hand weaving is (with tapestry being just a teeny bit of that small field) and how many others these individuals may also share with... on and on it goes!

Breath deeply, think positive thoughts, weave tapestries, teach about tapestries ...  and move ahead! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

When in doubt, make big changes...


So said Steven Aimone in a workshop I had with him a few years back.  If I remember that, I usually find a way forward with something I've been struggling with.

In fact, I knew I'd written about this before and did a search through my blog for the phrase and saw it in a May, 2013 post.  I'd forgotten Archie Brennan's bit of advice that I also mentioned there: "When in doubt, simplify."
I'm taking to heart something Archie Brennan said at the recent workshop:  "When in doubt, simplify."  Also in mind is another quote, interestingly also beginning the same way:  "When in doubt, make big changes." (Steve Aimone)
 Over the past several days I've worked with many drawing/paintings and have been happy with some and not so pleased with others.  Yesterday, I spent most of the day re-examining them, deciding some were OK and those that weren't, I worked on.  I over-painted, washed away, reassessed and finally gave in to using white gouache on some to go back to lighter areas.  I just haven't yet found a light enough earth pigment to do what I want.  I'd wanted all of the work on these pieces to be from natural sources--but, after all, I'm the one making up the "rules" to follow.  And I can choose to change them if I want to.

The biggest change came with a large watercolor piece that I described in process in a previous post, the one on which I sprayed acorn dye over leaves as a starting point.  I just wasn't happy with the end result and yesterday morning I decided to try to wash off some of the dark area that I'd gotten from the iron/rust solution.  I took the painting to the cottage and ran water from the outside faucet all over it.  Nothing budged! At least I know how permanent that stuff is now.

All I could think of was "when in doubt, make big changes" and the biggest change I could make (other than ripping the paper to shreds and reassembling it--and yes, I thought of that) was to use white gouache to cover some of the dark.

And that's what I did.  While the paper was still quite wet I laid it on the porch and began to paint with the gouache and a large, flat brush.  Within about 20 minutes I had this: 


And I'm much happier with the image now.

The other large piece is OK, too.  Here's where I left it yesterday afternoon... didn't do any other work on it except to once more look at it from a different orientation:






I have one other idea to work on today.  It's my last full day here and I'll need to pack up the studio later in the afternoon.  But I want to begin (and maybe finish) one or two more things.