Tuesday, March 24, 2009

this and that--and a lot of both

The past few weeks have been quite busy with assorted tasks and trips. I realized the other day that I hadn't posted to my blog lately and then got too busy to proceed in that direction! So, here's a tossed salad of what I'm up to... and almost all are indeed "works in progress."

Let's see, where to begin. I noted the completion of a wonderful experience with a recent tapestry class here at my studio. Since then we've continued to keep in touch and have started a private blog together to share more about tapestry. I've got several private blogs going and those are each good for specific purposes.

I also mentioned, in the last post, the jacquard woven fabric I'd gotten--design originating in a loose charcoal sketch I made while at the last Hambidge Center retreat. I'm still contemplating what to do with it but have cut one off from the others. Today I'm going to do some other things to that piece... maybe cut it into strips and reassemble it using the back and the front sides together since the back and front are positive/negative of each other.

I also posted earlier about completing the oak leaf tapestry a few weeks ago although it's still on the loom (enough warp remains to work on another small piece.) Since then I've re-tied onto the Tissart loom with the remnants of the warp from the black walnut tapestry. I've started weaving on it with left-over wefts from past tapestries and also using handwoven fabrics cut into thin strips. I'm hoping to develop the warp into a suitable piece for an upcoming Piedmont Craftsmen exhibit that has a recycled/repurposed focus. Interesting things are happening with the thin strips of handwoven fabric... they're turning into a chenille-like weft with fuzzy ends. I've got several pieces of yardage bits remaining from my days as a fabric weaver in the 1980s and 90s so have dug them out and had fun cutting them up--after all, what good are they sitting in storage boxes?

I've tried several other things by cutting and reassembling other previous handwovens, too, but I'm not happy with any of those results yet. Still have a bit more manipulation of the cloth to go before I might like the efforts, I think.

My tapestry diary continues to grow--I've been able to work on it each day except for those few days that I've been out of town. Those times are marked with the white blanks and I sort of like the spots of those showing up, sprinkled around and about within the color blocks. I continue to be challenged with ways to indicate the day as the month grows older! This morning, for instance, I wove 24 pick and pick dots... not too hard... but yesterday's 23 were more challenging. I'm still putting 10 days across the width of the warp and realized a few weeks ago that I can count the number of days I've woven by counting up the left selvedge X 10, plus however many I've woven in the next series across. I'm so mathematically challenged that that certainly wasn't something I planned ahead of time!

Spring break was last week at NGCSU so I didn't go to my weaving class the previous Monday or Wednesday. The students have critique of a project tomorrow night and when I left the studio at 9 p.m. yesterday, several were still frantically weaving away. This is a good class but have fallen behind in work and now the crunch is on to complete everything before the end of the semester on April 22. This semester will be my last one spent teaching at NGCSU--at least for awhile. I'm ready to spend more time in my studio and with other short-term teaching stints.

About other teaching--I have two classes scheduled at John C. Campbell Folk School in the future. One will be August 9-15, 2009 and the other from March 28-April 3, 2010. I'm also planning a two or two and a half week class at Penland for sometime during 2010. That date is yet to be determined but I'm looking forward to teaching at Penland again--last time was summer of 2001. I haven't yet planned teaching dates at my studio but will probably try something like the recently completed three session class again in 2010.

Now... about other opportunities for exploring weaving that I'll be part of in the upcoming year. I traveled to Knoxville, TN this past weekend to meet with Chicago based artist Anne Wilson. She was at the Knoxville Museum of Art for an initial meeting with textile folks from Tennessee and other southeastern states. She described her upcoming exhibit at the museum, scheduled to begin in January 2010. Her exhibit concept concerns the hand production of woven fabric and will involve many people, to wind bobbins and to also create a woven striped fabric during the course of the exhibition. Her work is exciting and quite innovative, taking the concepts relating to the creation of textiles to levels beyond the making of fabric. I'm excited to see what develops with this venture and also to be part of it in a small way.

And I have a tutorial with Bhakti Ziek on my calendar; that's going to take place at her studio in Randolph, Vermont in early May. I've been intrigued, even quite puzzled about jacquard textiles for quite a few years now. Not puzzled in the sense of how are they made but in that the technology has developed to the point that individual artist/weavers have access to small jacquard looms and may use them in a studio setting--not a mill. I've read a number of articles over the past decade about artists using this technology, and have also visited exhibits in which jacquard woven fabrics have been shown along with other handwoven fabrics. I haven't yet figured out what to think about these textiles, some of which are quite beautiful and others only so-so--just like the other textiles exhibited. And most often these jacquard woven textiles have been labeled as "tapestries." That term is one I have, in my own understanding and use of the word, limited in application to those "handwoven weft-faced textiles made up of discontinuous weft."

So this use of the word tapestry for jacquard woven fabrics has alternately galled me, puzzled me, concerned me, intrigued me. How should I consider and feel about these textiles? Is my response to them simply being colored by my ignorance of what goes into the making of the fabric? Does the small studio jacquard loom, like the TC-1, put the hand of the artist/weaver back into the textile in the way my personal preference demands? And if it does, why should I get my back up when I see works woven with this means exhibited along side more "traditional" tapestry works--or woven works in any method, technique or medium, in fact?

One of the Shuttle, Spindle & Dyepot issues last year (Summer 2008) had as the cover feature an article about the artist, Bhakti Ziek. As I read the article and studied the images I realized I was really being moved by her work--and all of the images featured were listed as handwoven jacquard. Her comments about her approach also resonated with me--one was: "It does feel like weaving chose me... now it is a deep passion....It has become my metaphor, my way of seeing and understanding the world." At the end of the article was noted that she offers tutorials at her studio and her e-mail address was given. I though, "What the heck, I think I'll e-mail her to ask about the tutorials...." and now I'm heading to study with her for four days in May!

I still don't know how to feel about these kinds of weavings but I believe the experience I'll have actually working with Bhakti and her TC-1 loom will help enlighten me. After all, that's all that I'm seeking with most of what I do with my work--enlightenment with a small "e!"


  1. Tommye, You certainly are starting a number of new adventures. I look forward to seeing where they go. I like the chenielle fabric like look while you are playing. That is interesting! I'm also interested in where the jacquard weaving takes you!

  2. I've nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger award. I've enjoyed your tapestries and your process so much I wanted to send others your way!