Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 2011-tapestry diary complete today

Although my tapestry work is in the doldrums right now, it seems, my daily weavings are progressing.  This year each month is being done on a separate warp, contrasting to the years 2009 and 2010 when I worked on one warp for all twelve months each time.  Each month also is not the same size or with the same method of marking the day.  I'll be warping a frame loom shortly to be ready to begin June.  I'll be away for a couple of weeks later in the month (more about that below) so I'll want to be able to take the loom along with me.

Here's the month of May, 2011.  Below it is the month of May, 2008--the one that got this whole obsession started.

May 2011
May 2008

The doldrums mentioned concern my seeming inability to move forward with designing for my tapestries in any meaningful way.  I haven't felt good about any of my work for quite some time now... in fact, as I look back through journals and notes it seems that the last piece I really was excited about was the one I call Leaf Dance.  

This one was quite different for me in that it was more abstracted than most of what I'd done before.  While it was still based in nature it was much more expressive of feelings about the shapes inspired by natural forms rather than an attempt at a more pictorial representation.

Try as I might I've just not been able to come back to the intensity of that piece.  I've struggled with many ideas over the past many months.  In fact, I was struggling while at West Dean last fall--I'd hoped to return from England with a fresh way to see my world and to respond to it.  But--it was only me who returned... same as I was before, facing the same challenges and uncertainties.  And here I remain.

But... I've got to work in the studio each day.  I have to be here in case lightening strikes--or in case I get an idea that may seem worthy to pursue.  I've continue to weave... the tapestry diary pieces, of course.  But that only takes a few minutes each day.   I've woven quite a few new samples for classes.  I wove the small piece that I noted in the last post.  I started (and have now stopped) a larger piece on my 60" wide loom.  I have a small piece underway on my teeny loom.  I've also done a floor cloth, made many drawings, and hundreds of photographs of the world around me.  Yet my ability to move forward into something that seems worthwhile is at a standstill.

I listened to an interview with Frank Stella when I walked this morning from the NPR program, "On Point" (May 25, 2011).  Near the end of the discussion Stella said that an artist has to work on something that matters to him:  He says about artists:  "... they all worry about what they're doing... quality is still important, how beautiful it is is still important... it has to look good to the artist himself before he's even willing to show it to somebody else."  He also said that (you) "... have to make something that you care about, if you believe in it enough, you like it enough, then you can communicate with others...."  That comment, that I have to make something that I care about, that I believe in, hit home for me this morning.  That's what's lacking in my work right now, I feel.  My love of nature and natural forms is still with me.  But I need to move away from depending on those for my compositional fodder-- I can enjoy my surroundings without feeling frantic that I have to "see" my next tapestry in each bit of my landscape.

I'm working again on the wool warp that I resleyed after cutting off the small tapestry noted in the last post.  I'm recycling a design that I did many years ago in batik form, an image from a quilt I have that one of my grandmother's made.  I've woven with this quilt as inspiration for three other tapestries, the largest one at 24" square (I called it Quilt Square, in fact).  Here's a detail from that:

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)

So... simplify I'm doing.  Making big changes, I'm doing.  Nature will continue to inspire me but my visual response to it will happen when it feels right--not when it's being forced, as it is now.  

Retreat times are coming this summer, one sooner than the other.  I learned last week that I'll be able to go to Lillian Smith Center again for a couple of weeks.  I spent time there last summer for the first time--that was the location of the red door that I photographed each day while in residency there.  I'll also be going back to Hambidge Center in late summer.  Retreat times always help clear my head and I'm hoping that the jolt of the time away that's coming up soon will be just what I need to help me move past this time of low creative energy.  Simplify, make big changes.  See what happens.


  1. Tommye, I love the new May piece! I hope to see it on exhibit somewhere. It seems 'meaningful' to me somehow.

    I know what you mean about struggling with seeing things that excite you enough to spend time weaving them. I recently read that this is common for artists, and is a 'crisis of meaning.' Supposedly, what we do after such a crisis will be in a new direction and a step up the 'growth ladder.' I am hoping so!

  2. Will we see a triptych of that "red door" that we watched last summer? That was so much fun to watch!

  3. your tapestry diaries are always so inspiring!

  4. Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    Crisis of meaning is a good way to describe what I'm feeling, Kathy. I do hope there will be a step up rather than down at the end of this! And I do also hope there's an end somewhere!!

    I might peek into room behind the red room this summer... or maybe not. Probably just has garden tools since I saw the wheelbarrow leaning against it one day last year. How boring would that be to find our??

    Thanks, Sarah, for saying the tapestry diaries are inspiring. They've become routine now and I constantly have to work at ways to make them novel for myself. I'm starting June with an approach of chance... as suggested by Archie Brennan. That should keep me entertained for the month!

  5. Oh, Tommye, what a profound & soul searching post! I am off to write you a big, long email about this!