Wednesday, February 5, 2020

YouTube conversation about "Streams and Strands"

In the last post I mentioned the two-person exhibit that Dianne Mize and I are having at the Sautee Nacoochee Cultural Center right now. The show, called "Streams and Strands," is there until March 1.

Dianne is a painter and teaches primarily through her online courses. She also has free "Quick Tips" online about many different facets of art making. Check out her website for links to her Quick Tips and other information about her courses. Her book, Finding Freedom to Create: A Painter's Roadmap, is one that I've recommended to students and that I often refer to for ideas about design and creativity.

Last Sunday, Dianne and I met with Roger Williams of SauteeLive, a video production company. Roger filmed our rambling conversation about our art making practices. Here's the YouTube link to that conversation. In the video each of us talk about a few of our works that are hanging in the show.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

January is ending ...

... and my tapestry diary for 2020 is progressing. I'm weaving my way through the eleventh year of this perhaps obsessive daily practice. And I still find that weaving every darn day on a tapestry diary is something that I need to do. Even a few minutes spent putting a little weft into a warp that I know will be on the loom for twelve months is rewarding. It's also rewarding to not have a lot of planning in the weaving other than the image chosen to accomplish within the span of each month's time.

This year the month's images are to be of feathers. The Emily Dickinson quote: "'Hope' is the thing with feathers--/That perches in the soul--/And sings the tune without the words--/And never stops--at all--" is one that's often with me in troubling times. It's one that I'm using a lot right now.

Here's January's hope:

The feather is from my friends' turkeys, dropped in the yard--not plucked!

Each day I'm weaving a rectangle of color selected from the natural dyed yarns. I have several values of brown and tans from the black walnut and the henna dyes. Those are being alternated with other hues. I'm throwing a die again this year to select the color.

One of the things that always amazes me is how much compression there is in tapestry weft as the passes above an area are woven. This morning I took a photo of the very obvious difference. You can see on the left the woven area and on the right how the white weft is higher, so far. When I weave in tomorrow's area on top of that it will press down to be level with what's at the left.

I've used wool for the background and thin linen for the feather, giving a contrast of color and texture. I've also used thin lines of wool as linear details in some part of the feather, and slits that are pulled open a little so that the shadow becomes the line.

Other things going on are a couple of tapestries that are in progress. This one is on my Fireside Cantilever loom. The warp is sett at 8 epi and is wool. The weft is from Weavers Bazaar, the fine size and I'm using it seven strands per weft bundle. The width is about 22" and it's being woven turned 90˚ to the image when completed.

 I have another warp on the Ashford tapestry loom. I haven't worked too much on it lately but I hope to complete it before too many more months pass.

This loom is at home in the room I've claimed as my studio. The other loom is in the "real" studio nearby.

Other things happening include weaving a small heart to be used (perhaps) in something online very soon. I put the warp on a pipe loom and a piece of paper behind it so I could photograph the steps of the weaving process. It remains to be seen if this will be effective in the way it's going to be used but it was interesting to photograph it in stages.

Dianne Mize and I have paintings and tapestries being exhibited currently in "Streams and Strands" at the Sautee Nacoochee Cultural Center near Helen, Georgia. The show is up until March 1. For March through April tapestries will go to the Sarratt Gallery at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. Later in the summer there will be other exhibits in which I'll have tapestries, as well. I'll post more about those later. Here are a couple of photos from my end of the hall; Dianne's paintings are at the opposite end. She and I were interviewed and filmed recently. I'll post a link to the video when it's available.

I was excited to recently learn that one of my tapestries has been accepted into the American Tapestry Alliance Biennial exhibit, ATB13. That exhibit, sponsored by the ATA, is one that features a variety of tapestries currently being done by tapestry artists from around the world. Each time the works are selected by a different curator; having different eyes and aesthetic sense for selections sometimes gives thought-provoking results. It will be interesting to see what this year's curator, Nick DeFord, has chosen.  I've entered almost every one of these shows and have gotten into some and not others. I don't think I'll be able to see the exhibit in person this year because of the distance of the venues for me. But there will be a catalog that I'll be eager to see.

Last year I decided to order a sketchbook from the Sketchbook Project of the Brooklyn Art Library. I kept the sketchbook on the kitchen table at the studio and often made simple line drawings when I sat down for an afternoon break and snack. Here's a page from the book. I mailed it back recently and it will be among the thousands of others at the library. I've ordered a new one and am eager to start drawing it it. My first one will be digitized and be available for online viewing. I don't have the link for that yet, however. This is quite an intriguing effort. I learned more about it at this episode of the Ephemeral podcast in the interview with the founder of the Sketchbook Project, Steven Peterman.

And finally, here's a selfie with my fragmented landscape. I needed a headshot for the ATB13 catalog and so this is what I sent.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

And so it begins again

A New Year.

Last year held highs and lows both personally and professionally. I won't go into any of those because I don't want to. Suffice it to say that I was more than glad to see the back side of 2019. Didn't stay up to see in 2020 but could hear fireworks in the neighborhood somewhere. I'm glad someone felt like celebrating. Their time is coming when the celebratory mood might be dampened. I don't wish it for anyone... but it comes for us all, those dark and trying times.

Even though the year was not the best ever I continued my tapestry diary practice and having that as a daily respite was a good thing. Some days I would only weave a single pass of weft but I was still practicing what gives me most pleasure in the world--weaving tapestry.

I even managed to finish a large tapestry during the year, one I'd started with the hopes of having it off the loom in just a few months. Instead it was on the loom for almost a year. I don't have a title for it yet. Based on a painting I made while in residence at Lillian Smith Center a few years ago it's the fourth tapestry I've completed from the several paintings done in about two weeks time at the Center. All are of leaves that are woven much larger than life. Maybe I'll post all of them together along with the paintings from which I worked at a later time. For now, here's the latest:

Back to the tapestry diary practice. It's something I've been doing for a decade now--weaving a small bit each day. In 2015 I decided to also incorporate a larger section of weaving among the daily parts. I began by doing four things throughout each month. I liked the finished piece but it really became a chore to accomplish four small tapestries each month, essentially what that turned out to be, in addition to the other studio work. In 2016 I changed the idea to have each month as a single design element within the multiple days of the year. Here's a link to several of my ten tapestry diary years at my website. I've continued that concept for the next years from then to now--and that's what I'll be doing once again this year. However, what I will weave each month for 2020 is still a bit of a puzzle for me. I have a couple of ideas... and I'll begin something soon. After all, it's already day 2 of the month of January! I must select my subject soon!

For last year I decided that I'd roll a die each day to determine the color I'd use for the daily part. I had quite a bit of the natural dyes remaining from an earlier tapestry so I put those into six color groups: red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and violet. I assigned each pip of the die to a color: 1=red, 2=yellow, etc. Each morning I threw the die and recorded the number that turned up, then selected from my several values of each of the colors what I'd use.

My subject for the year was flowers that were growing seasonally wherever I happened to be for a particular month. I started January with the Lenten Roses that were blooming outside the house then, followed by daffodils that were coming out in February here in north Georgia. It was quite interesting to see how much color there was in the natural world in the winter months. The only month that I didn't use a flower as the design was October. That was represented by a single black square. October was the month our beloved kitty died and I just couldn't bring myself to have any other image there.

Here's the whole thing when I cut it off on December 31, 2019. 

Next, comes the finishing of the back and the ends. I'm working on that for the next several days. There's an exhibit coming up soon and it needs to be completed to include in that.

Lots of ends to clip shorter and those near the edges to tack back with thread so they don't show when the tapestry hangs.

I have the warp for 2020's tapestry diary tied on now and have woven two days into the new year. For that process, I wound a three yard warp on the warping mill (I use 10/3 linen sett at 8 epi), then tied the ends of the new warp onto the remains of 2019. I've done that for several years; that serves two purposes--I don't have to totally re-thread the loom, thus saves time, and it also symbolically links the new year to the old. All of that was completed yesterday and I wove the first day of the new year as a green band across the bottom marked with one small line of a dark rust color to indicate month one of 2020.

Here's the new year's tapestry diary in the second day. Green band for January 1, brown rectangle for January 2. On and on it will go for the next 364 days. May this year be a good one for one and all.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

For tapestry--a great gift and a great loss. RIP Archie Brennan

October 31, 2019 marked the passing of one of the most influential voices and hands in tapestry weaving: Archie Brennan.

His tapestries and writings have affected thousands of people worldwide for decades. The insights and wisdom he shared made tapestry accessible to those who wanted to dabble in the process. He didn't downplay the weaver who wanted to "play" with the process. In fact, he said that he felt the grassroots movement of learning about tapestry in workshops and informal settings would be important to keeping tapestry alive, especially in the U.S.

Of course, he also challenged and aided in enhancing the abilities of those who were skilled with the medium. His ideas as written in catalog essays, articles, and discussed with workshop participants caused one to think carefully and critically about tapestry as an artistic medium. He was always questioning and yet always moving ahead with his own tapestry weaving.  Much more about his approach to tapestry can be found in the essays by Anna Byrd Mays who curated an online exhibit of Archie's work at the American Tapestry Alliance website. The link to that is here.

Over the years I have been fortunate to have had five learning experiences with Archie and his partner, Susan Martin Maffei, as I grew in my tapestry abilities.

My first exposure to Archie's brilliance with tapestry came in 1988 when I saw the World Tapestry Today exhibit that the American Tapestry Alliance had organized. It was in Chicago and his tapestry was called Princess Di meets a Medieval Lady. I remember standing in front of that tapestry for what seemed like hours, taking in each square inch of it in amazement at the technical virtuosity of the weaving. I was thoroughly taken with the juxtaposition of Diana and her first born, William, as if in a snapshot superimposed over a part of an ancient tapestry.

It was 1990 when I met Archie Brennan in person and for me, that was like meeting a rock star! That was in Washington, DC during the Handweavers Guild of America Convergence. I was working with Noel Thurner at her Norsk Fjord Fiber booth that summer. First Susan Maffei came by the booth and noticed the Norwegian Spelsau yarn that Noel sold. Later Archie and Susan both came through to look at the yarns again--did they buy any? I don't remember! I was so awestruck to meet him that the fact I'd seen him in person was all I recall.  Later during the week we were able to see an exhibit of his work at a gallery in the city.

In 1994 I finally had an opportunity to study with Archie. TWiNE (Tapestry Weavers in New England) hosted a retreat at Harrisville, New Hampshire with Archie and Susan. I was able to get away from my job for the short workshop. During that weekend I realized I'd found who I must study with as often as I could. Before I left I asked Archie if he and Susan would come to the South to teach. When he said, Of course, I immediately started thinking about how that might be able to happen.

It turned out that the Hambidge Center was hosting a few workshops during their off-season for residencies. I helped arrange for three tapestry workshop during the mid-1990s and in 1995 Archie and Susan traveled to north Georgia to teach a workshop at Hambidge.

Susan standing with Archie near Garden Studio at Hambidge
Over the next decades I took several more workshops with Archie and Susan. The most important experience with them came just a few months after I'd retired from full-time teaching at the university. They taught an eight-week session at Spring Concentration at Penland School of Craft  in 2001. Having that extended time with both of them was very important to me as I moved from full-time teaching employment and became what I'd wanted to be when I was eighteen--a full-time artist who used tapestry as her medium. I just had to wait thirty-two years to make that happen.

Archie working on one of the several tapestries he wove during Penland Concentration.
In 2010 I was happy to be asked to be part of the tapestry postcard project he invited 72 people to participate in. We each received a postcard he'd woven and were asked to write a message and return to him through the mail. More about that is described here.

My husband has long known how important my experiences with Archie Brennan have been. For our thirtieth wedding anniversary he said: "Do you think Archie would have any tapestries available for sale?" He wanted to give me one for the anniversary. I was thrilled, to say the least. Susan sent pages of slides of tapestries to choose from and after much deliberation, I selected the one that we both liked the best: Vacationing Wrestler.

And as an extra surprise, he also purchased a second of Archie's tapestries for that anniversary! I treasure both of the gifts so much. I continue to be amazed at Archie's command of technique. I also really love his approach to design--straight forward, direct, clear and graphic. Always acknowledging the weave structure and what tapestry can do best. Having both of the tapestries with me I can look closely, study the effects, and be inspired--and still amazed at the virtuosity--every day.

Although I haven't seen Archie in several years I was aware that his health was in decline. He was approaching his late eighties and everyone knew he wouldn't be with the world forever--none of us are. Still, getting the word on November 1 that he'd passed away the night before was sad news. I miss thinking that he's there at his loom weaving tapestries and sharing stories with friends. I am so grateful for what he gave me. And for what he shared with thousands around the world for over fifty years. My thoughts of sympathy are with his partner of many years, Susan Martin Maffei and the rest of his family. He will be long missed by many. 

Thank you for what you gave us all.

Rest in peace, Archie.