Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Our Tapestry Weavers South group decided to enter Woven Gems with a group challenge called "Bedazzled" and I've been dazed trying to decide upon a theme. The whole concept is so foreign from my thinking about subjects and images--I'm a blue jeans person, not glittery. But I remembered a bead weaving of orchids (fits my concept--nature!) that I'd done a year or so ago. I've intended to incorporate it with a tapestry, as I have a couple of earlier pieces--but just haven't gotten around to it.

SO, I thought--OK, now's the time to use this bead weaving and weave a bedazzling frame to surround it! I decided on a pretty simple geometric surround using gold metallic yarn along with a deep red wool into which I wound thin red metallic yarns. The deep, dark red sort of matched the small amount of burgandy in the beading.

My husband, when he saw it last night, said that he felt the contrast of the deep red was too much...he'd rather have seen a slightly different gold to contrast with the gold I used...more like one would actually see in a gilt frame. I like his suggestion--won't work with piece, of course, since it's "history" now. But, that idea is certainly one I'll put in the cooker for the future.

To add the beading I wove to the point where I wanted the bottom edge of the beading to be placed. Then I took the beading threads to the back of the weaving and tied them together around warp threads.

The beading then hung down, upside down and backwards, while I wove the rest of the tapestry up to the point where I added the top of the beading. There I again took the beading thread to the back and tied ends around warp ends. I finished it by weaving the remaining part of the frame over the top.

So the beading is woven into the tapestry. I chose to do the central part of the tapestry, between the frame edges, in a deep blue/purple with a couple of metallic threads included. Although this is seen only a bit at the bottom and top of the bead weaving I wanted it to be a clear visual separation between the frame and beading.

I used a dark blue/purple cotton seine twine warp, sett at 14 epi. The weft was a single gold metallic and three fold of the Shannock wool, along with two strants of tiny metallic thread.

Working on this was quite HARD on the eyes...first, I find it hard to see the up/down of the dark warp. Then, taking the teeny and unruly beading threads through to the back and actually making my fingers work in combination with my eyes to get the darn things tied securely was a challenge!

Anyway, so be's done, except for the special back mounting method needed. I plan to work on that later today and maybe get the piece in the mail to our member who's collecting all the TWS works to ship off to FL.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I'm back from JCFS with a few small skills to use with my body in my weaving. The main thing I learned was about posture while weaving--not just "sit up straight" but rather to think about the three different areas of the spine (cervical, thoracic and lumbar) and how those should function as a unit when bending. The instructor also made it clear that the head should sit on the top of the spine, not dangle in front or back of it.

We also began each day with what she called "constructive rest" -- lying on our backs, with knees bent and feet at hip socket distance apart. She also mentioned another position that she called the "dugout pose"--when sitting, to spread your feet and bend forward from the hip joint, resting arms on thighs--not slumping the spine but bending it as a unit.

She also worked with us to have us feel a lifting up of our spines when standing, again keeping the head at the top of the spine rather than hanging forward.

She said that when we feel we're in a position that's uncomfortable to attend to what's happening, pause, then either change something or take a break. She acknowledges that not everyone can always get on the floor for constructive rest at points but she mentions that almost all could do the dugout pose for a short while!

She also talked about balance of the body--shoulders and hips, for instance. And about the arms, legs, hands and fingers as appendages...they should hang loosely. She discussed "softening" the muscles on the skeleton.

She watched the video I'd made of myself while weaving on the big tapestry and made a few suggestions that I'll try out today. First, she mentioned I should move closer to the tapestry and to keep aware of my spine--not to slump forward to see what I'm doing. She also mentioned to move my awareness around a bit--I do tend to be so focused on the particular few inches that I'm working on that I'm sure my head is locking in place.

And, the most FUN part of the two days was the exercise ball she had in the class! I've never bounced or rolled around on one of those before and it felt just great!! I've got to get one for the studio right away...if anything from the workshop makes a difference for me it may be my getting on a ball a few times every day to loosen myself up from the tensions that build up while weaving!!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

John Campbell Folk School class this weekend

I'm taking a class in Alexander Technique this weekend at the Folk School. I'm hoping to learn method(s) for the ways in which I use my body while tapestry weaving that will allow me to weave without having the pain I often do.

I've heard many good things about the technique and am looking forward to the experience! Of course, spending time at the Folk School is always a treat. It's been a long time since I've been a student there--had my first weaving class at JCFS in about 1974 or 75. I've taught there many times since the early 1980s although I'm not on the schedule for 2008. Instead, I'm teaching a week-long class at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in September of this year as part of my teaching schedule.

Last year I decided to concentrate my teaching to the NGCSU classes and private teaching at my studio and to include only one class away from home. I've been able to have much more studio time for my own tapestry--with good results, I feel.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Rain, rain and more rain--thank goodness!

As I post this I can hear the rain falling on the skylights at my home studio--a wonderful sound after having so many dry days here during 2007. I don't know our total rainfall (or snowfall) since the first of the year but our small reservoir has filled up almost to the level it should be.

Rainy day is a good one to spend in the studio. I made progress on the tree tapestry today, getting to the top edge of the sky at the left. I'm posting a detail to show both the piece in progress and turned, as the tapestry will hang. So far, I'm pleased with the play of shadow across the limbs...what I hoped for as I made the painting.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Time for tea and a fireplace

Cold days need warm fireplaces and hot tea --even if the fire happen to be a gas log fire.

And, oops! Didn't vacuum the rug before the photo op--does a fiber person work here? Or maybe a purr-son who sheds??

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Another day, another snow...

Well, yesterday brought another snowfall. This one was light and not too much lay on the ground. It's bright and cold here today!

The large tapestry grew a bit yesterday; I'm about 3/4 of the way through the piece. My deadline for finishing is by the second week in February. The Piedmont Craftsmen new members exhibit will be held in March and the work is due by February 29. Since the finishing steps are always time consuming I need to finish the tapestry soon.

I'm also working on the Woven Gems piece at my home studio and it's probably also about 3/4 complete. I've added the beaded piece by tying the warp ends of it through to the back of the tapestry. It's hanging down the front, waiting until the background tapestry is high enough to take the ends back in. Sounds more complicated than it really is (except for being able to SEE and MANIPULATE the tiny ends of the beading warp!)...and I'll post a photo of that sometime soon.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snowy night in Georgia!

We had our first significant snowfall of the winter, starting around 6 p.m. last night! It fell intermittently throughout the evening and gave us about 2 1/2-3" of beautiful cover. It's dripping now, melting away pretty fast although the ground is still white.

Schools are closed in the area--since we're in the South the road equipment is sparse and a number of the side roads get icy and stay that way for a bit.

The views of the snow are from the inside looking out (obviously!) since I haven't gotten myself together to be outside yet.

Studio note--my husband had surgery on Monday of this week so I haven't been working too much at the studio. I did have time to begin my Woven Gems small tapestry and hope to get back to it later today. I'm using a bead weaving as the basis for the piece, incorporating it into a tapestry "frame" being woven with metallic threads...our TWS challenge for the exhibit is "Bedazzled" and, so far, the effect is way more dazzling than I usually weave!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Thought I'd post the inspiration for the waterlily tapestry. It began as a quick watercolor sketch I did last June when I was staying a few days at Sapphire.

I began weaving with blocks of color areas, using 6-strand cotton embroidery floss, two fold. I simply was using color seen in the pond as visual references--weaving squares, rectangles and other assorted shapes. I soon became stymied because I do so much love to work with my interpretation of "realism."

I decided I would make a cartoon from the sketch. I had no tracing paper with me but found the notebook paper I had along was thin enough to see through, if I held the both the watercolor sketch and the notebook paper up to the window to use the sunlight as a make-shift light box.

I stitched the notebook paper cartoon onto the back of the tapestry while weaving and referred to both the watercolor sketch and the real lily in the pond while I wove.

I used a dark blue/purple warp, set at about 12 epi. The tapestry was finished with a half-Damascus edge, so the warp shows at the very ends of the weaving. Because it's dark, though, it isn't distracting--or at least I don't think so!

I had a close encounter with a hummingbird one day as I was beginning the weaving that maybe I'll mention at another time--one hummingbird that almost became weft!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I want to see how the new photo of the waterlily looks online. I tried several ways to photograph it yesterday--outside in natural light, inside with incandescent light and my camera set for that, inside with flash, outside with flash, outside with sunlight (too late in the day and sun was way too low....).

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Tapestry progress

The new tapestry is growing well now. I'm working in the tree and that gives me a great deal of pleasure to make color decisions with each change of value. Since I'm using 5 strands of wool, three thicker and two thin, I can create interesting variations with the yarns. I really like the effect of the thin in combination with the thicker Vevgarn since it doesn't show up in a consistent way--sometimes it's buried beneath the heavier yarn, other times it peeks out, and it can also seem to be the dominant effect in the bead of the weave.

It seems almost like drawing with Prismacolor pencils.

I tried out the movie feature on my digital camera the other day as I wove. I put the camera on the tripod and turned the camera on, sat down at the loom and started weaving. The still shot of me weaving here is the view of the movie. I wove to the end of the bobbin--which took me through the blue shape at the left and then turned off the camera. When I downloaded the file, it was quite large (600+M) so burned a DVD and deleted the file from my Mac's hard drive. This is only my second experience in using the movie feature of my camera and it was fun!

I realized, as I played back the video, that this was the first time I've seen myself weaving tapestry! Of course I'm watching what my hands are doing as I'm weaving but not really seeing an overview of the process. It was interesting to see that the movements of my hands are rhythmic, I am moving along at a steady (although not speedy) pace, I seem to be making corrections and decisions as I work...all of those things are done automatically as I weave but seeing them happen was just fascinating.

My husband and I watched me weave for the 10 minutes of the clip...about as much fun as watching grass grow for some folks, I know, but for us it was quite interesting. In fact, even though we've been married for 25 years this spring, he said he'd never really watched me weaving tapestry before! That was quite amazing to me but, then's not really a spectator sport, is it?! Of course, he's seen me weaving--but usually at demonstrations where I'm also talking to folks, showing them what I'm doing. What he meant was that I was simply engaged in what I do for several hours if there was no one else around and I was just working (and, indeed, that's what was going on!).

He made a comment that someone purchasing a tapestry might like to have a copy of the weaving process... interesting concept and I'm going to think about that more.

Someone recently mentioned the YouTube of Ibolya Hegyi showing her weaving tapestry and discussing her work. It was quite a treat to see what she was quickly she was weaving and the scale of the tapestry--quite large, the warps were very small, the weft bundles of tiny yarns blended together.

Her work is very ethereal. Her tapestries have been in most (maybe all) of the ATB exhibits and I've had the opportunity to actually see several of them. Such beautiful tapestries!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A new semester at my school

Monday will be the first night of the spring semester at NGCSU . This term I'll have all upper level students, those who've had either the first level in the past fall or those who are in their second or third class beyond the beginning level. Weaving is one of the studio options for art majors; occasionally there are also students from other areas who take the course. And ever so often, a retired someone will audit the class.

In the fall semester I decided to focus the study on plain weave and a few of the many, many variations that might be done with the simple over and under interlacement. We began with warp faced, using inkle looms. Next, the students were introduced to the floor looms, threaded straight draw for 4 shafts, with the intent to do balanced weave. There were a number of variations for methods explored with that long warp, including inlay, supplemental warp and weft, clasped weft, and warp painting. Basket weave was added and near the end of the warp one or two students asked what would happen if they used shafts other than 1-3, 2-4 for plain weave or 1-2, 3-4 for basket weave. So, although my plan was for plain weave to be the focus the beginning notions of twill began to surface.

The last study was weft faced, with a long warp planned to both study several methods and to create a hanging. For design consideration they were to choose color and texture inspirations from one of three sources: another art work, from nature, or from something in popular culture. They were also asked to set up a narrow warp on a copper pipe loom and shown a few basic tapestry techniques.

In the last two weeks of the semester they were asked to design and weave two projects based upon their choice of methods experienced throughout the semester. While the time was short for those there were several pieces that were outstanding. All the students grew so much in their abilities with weaving in the 16 weeks of class and I was happy with their progress. I'm looking forward to seeing at least half of the class returning for this upcoming semester!

This slide show includes work from all, if only detail shots. Most of my photos taken on the final night were too blurry to use--another lesson learned: take my tripod!

AND, to follow up the frantic rush to get my work submitted to the New Fiber exhibit--I got it in the mail around 2:30 p.m. yesterday! Fingers crossed to see if the work will be accepted.
I haven't submitted for juried exhibits very much in the past couple of years since I've had work in a number of invitational shows. However, this year one of my goals is to push myself to enter more juried exhibits. I feel tapestry is immensely under represented in exhibitions and all of us who do tapestry have somewhat an obligation to put our work out for viewing. I know I'll be accepted sometimes and rejected other times--but that's the way it goes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2008 begins ...

The new year started windy and cold. I'd hoped to submit three entries to New Fibers 2008, a juried survey of American contemporary fiber art sponsored by the Fiber Arts Network of Michigan --

Slides or digital images are acceptable. Of course, I don't have slides OR digital images of the works I'd thought of submitting, all pieces related to the Agent Orange body of work. And the deadline for postmark is tomorrow (yes, I know, I know...why not pay attention to dates and I wouldn't find myself in this situation yet again...but....)

So, I rush around this afternoon--out in the freezing wind, stapling up my gray fabric on the side of the garage, and hurrying back and forth into the house to get pieces, take them out, stick them up, focus and shoot (trying to alternate between having gloves on and then off to adjust the camera and press the shutter release, holding down the edge of the gray fabric that I didn't get to with the stapler so it wouldn't whip up in front of the piece being photographed).

I just downloaded the shots and I may have some acceptable ones. Now, the next issue is that my version of Photoshop (Elements--not the full version) doesn't convert to CMYK color--as required for the entry. OK, I can use the full version at the weaving studio at school, I think...but that's going to have to be tomorrow since it's already after 7:30 p.m. and it's too darn cold to go back outside again! The current plan to rush around in the morning to store the files on a zip drive, take it to school and load into Photoshop, convert to CMYK color and burn a disc to send off, getting it postmarked before the post office closes tomorrow, Jan. 2--the deadline.

In the midst of all the rushing to shoot the AO images, I also photographed a few other pieces that I want to have available to send to other shows. I'm not happy with most and will reshoot but one detail of the last water lily was interesting:

The whole tapestry is about 6" w x 12" long, begun at Noel & Patrick's place and based upon a small, loose watercolor of one of the waterlilies there. It's woven about 10 epi and with two strands of cotton embroidery floss. I used a dark blue cotton warp, a Borgs seine twine I'd gotten in Grand Rapids at Convergence in 2006. This was the first colored warp I've used and I liked it quite a lot. I've since ordered a couple of other darker colors from Laura Shannock and have a small weaving underway on a deep red warp.

For smaller pieces I often use half-Damascus edge for the warp finishing, letting the warp show at each edge of the tapestry. White warp works for some pieces but with darker weft at the edges I haven't been totally happy with that effect. The dark warp worked just great with this piece and the other tiny ones I did on the same warp before cutting it off.