Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Third week at West Dean--Thanksgiving tomorrow

I haven't posted in a few days because the time is flying by with many things to do. But it's 8 p.m. and I've decided not to go back to the studio tonight because is so cold!  So I thought I'd spend some time with iPhoto and select a few photos from the past few days to post.

I am away from home for the first Thanksgiving that I can remember and I hope my husband has a great time with friends and family tomorrow. I'll be going to an aesthetics lecture in the morning and then to the studio for the afternoon. Many of the U.S. students are having a Thanksgiving meal tomorrow night but I'm not going to that. The reservations were made by those who were here during the first six weeks before I arrived (although I'm sure I could find a place)--but choosing to come to this six weeks session means I've also chosen not to have a Thanksgiving celebration with my own family & friends. I'm sure the other U.S. students will have a great time together tomorrow night--but I'll have a great time at dinner with everyone else, being very thankful that I'm here at this place and in this time--a once in a life-time experience for me in which to be absorbed.

Last Saturday I rode into a nearby town, Midhurst, with LouLou... here she is as we began the trip. She drove to town with another student from the tapestry & textile art program, Diana; her daughter, Meg who was visiting her for the weekend; Warren (who's in the stringed musical instruments program), and me along.
Here's a shot of Warren, Meg and Diana (who you can just see through the car seat headrest) in the back seat of LouLou's car as we began the trip
We arrived in a short while and LouLou found a place to park right away. We began walking the streets looking in local charity shops and antiques shops, as well as a few other places from which we needed supplies.
I didn't stop here but the pigs in the window were too good to pass without a photograph
Marmaduke's proved to be a wonderful place to wander and wonder. Warren found a great vintage top coat and I think a few other things were bought, as well...

... here are Diana and her daughter, Meg, checking out.
LouLou left us in Midhurst and we continued to shop. We caught the bus back to West Dean in time for lunch.
Later on Saturday I put a warp at one side of one of the large scaffold looms in the studio, then got the leashes on the next day.
I've not yet started weaving on this loom but will probably be ready to do so by tomorrow or Friday. I've been working on more samples in the meantime, along with several other things on the schedule.

Friday, November 19, 2010

West Dean -- another day

It's so hard to believe that I left home two weeks ago today! Only four more weeks here for me now although my colleagues in the T & TA studio will be here for the rest of the academic year (and some beyond) as they finish their degree programs. The four others in the studio-- Erica, Diana, LouLou and Magenta--have accepted me into their midst with hospitality. They all made me feel quite at ease immediately. All are quite willing to share with each other and with me, the newcomer. I appreciate their kindness very much.

Today we had photographers from the college in to photograph the new space for Tapestry & Textile Art and also of us, working in the space. I took a few photos as they were working--here they are shooting Diana at her area:

And they took several closer shots of her hands as she worked:
These are a few more photos of my four cohorts as they worked today--
Erica is working on color sampling for her piece. Earlier in the week she dyed several of the yarns she'll be using.
LouLou is working on a sample based on the line drawing that's on the wall in front of her. It's a wonderful organic line that she's weaving in varying textures including a "scringy" line... see her blog to read more about it...
Magenta is nearing the end of a shaped tapestry; she's weaving on a dark blue warp with a bit lighter blue as weft.
Here's my loom with the second version of the sample yesterday... lights are better but still too dark, in my opinion. I turned the loom around and set it up again to weave the third version...

and here it is as I left tonight...

there's sampling of dark mixtures on the right side. I'll do more sampling for the mid-range and light mixtures tomorrow and I hope to finish the third version by Sunday.
And, finally... a few photos from my walk over this morning. It was cold but NOT raining! I took a few minutes to look at the glasshouses--a few details of those. I've yet to walk inside one of the several that are here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

West Dean Tapestry Studio--a visit to the Professional Tapestry Studio today

I took part in a visit to the Professional Tapestry Studio today along with a couple of the class members and several outside guests. The studio is only open for visitors for a brief time each week as the work of the weavers is very demanding. The Tapestry & Textile Art students must also maintain a schedule for going to the Professional Studio to obtain yarn if more than what's available in our studio is necessary. To hear a description about the current projects then the scheduled visitation time must be adhered to. So between 1:30 and 2:00 p.m. today I was at the Professional Tapestry Studio. Photographs aren't allowed there but here are photos of the brochures that are available to anyone about the studio...
This side of the brochure describes the postgraduate courses available. I'm in the 6 weeks Foundations of Tapestry and Textile Art part.
The Professional Tapestry Studio works to commission for both private and corporate clients. According to the brochure, the tapestries by the studio are found in the Henry Moore Foundation, The Victoria and Albert Museum, and Stirling Castle, among others.
The studio is engaged in a many year project to recreate seven of the few surviving sets of medieval tapestries, theme of Hunt of the Unicorn, for Stirling Castle in Scotland. This is being done both in Scotland at Stirling Castle and at West Dean, under commission to West Dean Tapestry Studio.  The tapestries for this commission are being woven on a low warp loom at West Dean. We saw only bits that were exposed of the current tapestry of the set.

Earlier in the day I took part, along with the other students from the Visual Art program, in an aesthetics lecture by guest lecturer, Dr. Carolyn Wilde. Her topic today was "Intention and Interpretation" and this lecture was two of a three part series that began before I arrived. I'll be here for her next lecture to take place next week and have readings to do before then. Her lecture was very thought provoking and it was quite challenging to follow along since I'd read only one chapter of the suggested extensive readings list before hand.

In the afternoon I made a short walk to the West Dean General Store for a few supplies like toothpaste, dropped those things off and then walked the other direction to the studio. It was raining again today... seems that the bright days are only punctuation marks for the cold and rainy days! I think we've had four days of sunshine since I've been here--and it's hard to believe I arrived eleven days ago.

I continued to work on my second sample from the sketch--my goal was to get the light values light enough. But when I got back to the studio this afternoon I saw that those light values seems not yet to be light enough! I thought I might stop and start over but decided to muddle on and then re-do it yet again once I see what the final result is. I should be able to finish it tomorrow and re-warp the loom for the try. Maybe I'll only be weaving and re-weaving this cartoon for the next four weeks while I'm here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

West Dean again

Of course, any post I make right now will be West Dean, won't it?

Today dawned bright but very frosty.  The sheep didn't seem to mind munching on icy grass, though.  Perhaps a bit of sorbet for breakfast for them?

Walking to the studio this morning was wonderful... no rain to slog through.  Cold but when wrapped enough enough that doesn't matter so much...

There were wonderful views of ice crystals on leaves and branches throughout the garden on the way to the tapestry studio:

Diana and I walked through the grounds a bit in the later morning... here's Diana photographing the leaves of a willow tree:

And here's more of what Diana and I saw as we walked:

But, yes... we all got work done, as well!  I finished a value study strip and began weaving the second version of the cartoon from the earlier post.  Diana is well into a piece she's working on; Erica and Magenta were both in the dye room today to do dyeing.  We're all very busy, even through the outside was tempting today.  

Tomorrow begins with aesthetics lecture at 9:30 and going until noon.  Maybe studio time later in the afternoon... am not quite sure about the rest of the schedule yet.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

more from West Dean

A few supplies await in my window for when I'll need them later. The instant coffee is for the mornings; the fruit is to be taken to the studio for afternoon snacks; the Fisherman's Friend packet of "traditional menthol eucalyptus lozenges" is a hedge which I will hope not to have to use!
A view of the end of the Orangery where we had drawing class last week.
One of the Tapestry & Textile Art students, Magenta, works on her drawing at the Orangery.
Another of the T & TA students, Erica, works on a drawing at the Orangery... note the fish in the pan at her feet, the subjects for her drawing.
The Orangery and the Church beyond... at one of the few sunny moments during the past week.
My space at the studio on Sunday before I cut off the first sampler.
Diana working in her space on Sunday, Nov. 14.
Erica working in her space at the studio.
My first sampler is finished on Sunday... and as I compare it with the original from which I worked I see that the lights aren't light enough. The dark and mid ranges are OK but the lights in the weaving are much too dark. I've re-warped and will weave the same cartoon again this week to attempt a better match of value.

A few of my figure drawings from Richard's modeling session last Tuesday.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

West Dean College Tapestry & Textile Art--a grand adventure

When a dream comes true how does one write about it? I'm not quite sure but will begin and see where it leads me.

My dream to study tapestry at West Dean College began almost two decades ago when I first started hearing about the program. Was it in one of Archie Brennan & Susan Maffei's workshops where I first learned about West Dean and the tapestry course? I really can't remember exactly when and where I first became aware of it. Once I did, however, I began to dream. I wrote away for information about the program many years ago. I pored over the beautiful brochure I received--and I filed it away. I mentioned it to students whenever asked where to study tapestry on a longer term basis.

Years passed with West Dean as a distant tune playing in the back of my mind, even though I didn't even know all the words or even the melody. Whenever asked what I'd like to do to develop my tapestry abilities further, I'd always say I wanted to study at West Dean someday.

When I learned that a tapestry friend, Barbara Burns, was going to West Dean my interest really perked up. But... always I had the thought--could I really do it? Could I afford it, both in time and money? The program isn't inexpensive and being away from home and my responsibilities there for even the short time of six weeks--considering both things was daunting.

But, you know... there comes a time when one must say-- "Do it or shut up about it!" Earlier in this year I decided I'd pursue this dream--or stop dreaming it. I talked to my husband about it and, with his encouragement, I began the process of application.

Over the past six months I've had several conversations with kind folks who've helped me in my decision making process.  Barbara Burns, for instance.  She showed me her wonderful photos from her time here while we were at an ATA workshop in Santa Fe in the summer and gave me much advice about what to expect.  Cheryl Silverblatt, who I met in Lincoln, Nebraska during the Textile Society of America Symposium in early October, was also encouraging (she'd studied at West Dean as had Barbara).  Very important in my process of understanding about West Dean were Pat Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Visual Art and tapestry tutor; Diana Scarth, one of the tapestry & textile art students; and Sue Powell, the Academic Manager for West Dean.  Each one gave me encouragement, answered every one of my many questions quite thoroughly through e-mails, and all were instrumental in my making the decision to come for this study.

Some turns in the road caused me to reconsider along the way... but... on Friday evening I boarded a Delta jet heading, non-stop, to London ...

... and Saturday morning, November 6 at around 6:30 a.m. a non-stop flight from Atlanta, Georgia landed at Gatwick airport with me on board.

I found my way, with help, to the train for Chichester... and from Chichester, with help, I found the right bus to drop me off at West Dean (if you're interested, it's the No. 60 Bus to Midhurst, ask the driver to let you off at West Dean College).

I walked the 1/2 mile or less to the main house at West Dean with my rolling carry-on and was visually and spiritually amazed the whole way there. The South Downs are so incredibly beautiful and the Edward James Foundation is part of the heritage of the area. I'm just learning about Edward James and what his impact has been on art throughout the 20th century--and his legacy beyond. This estate is impossible to describe in words... I'll try to show images over the next few weeks of my time here--but these will only give a small sense of what I'm experiencing.

The main house

and the view from the house

My room...

... and my space in the studio... ready for work last Sunday!