Sunday, February 26, 2012

Right now (8:24 a.m.) I'm sitting in an empty classroom at the university waiting for the start of the morning session of the Arts & Letters Conference. This year's theme is "Significance of Color in the Humanities and Social Science" and I'll be one of the presenters.

My topic is about my works done from a wish to understand about Agent Orange and its horrendous effects on humans and the environment--especially as it was used in Vietnam between 1961 and 1971. I have a personal reason for making the works that I'll discuss later.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Second of positive/negative feathers

I've gotten well into the second small tapestry using the positive and negative effect.  I reversed the tracing paper cartoon and also reversed the colors... now the feather shape is white and the background black.
Tomorrow, I'll do the same cartoon in a linear way with soumak.  I'm having a good time with this!

Even through these are being woven side-by-side, they're two separate small tapestries, 3" wide x 6" high.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Feather

Today, I'm working at the other end of the warp used for the three feathers that I finished yesterday.  I flipped the loom over and changed position of the open shed rod, and I put clamps at the top of the loom so I could hang the leashes from that.

The warp width is 12" but I'm splitting the warp on this side into several smaller tapestries.  I've gone through my feather drawings and settled on one that was a positive/negative study to start with:

But, I decided to cut the composition in half making an almost counter-change effect.  Here's where I stopped with a few minutes ago.  It's 3" wide and will be about 6" high and I should be able to finish it tomorrow.  Feathers are flying!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Three feathers--complete

It's still on the loom but I rotated the photo to the direction I intend for it to hang.  I'm leaving it on the loom for now because I'm going to use more of the warp... more feathers are coming up next, only they'll be smaller since there's not a lot of warp remaining.  I'll continue this exploration of soumak and also use this neutral color background.  The weft is a silk/linen blend and is sort of nubbly.  I'm using it three fold.  There is 20/2 worsted in the middle feather and also in and the black one, and some of the soumak lines use a 10/2 mercerized cotton.

Here's just the black feather and these soumak lines are in the mercerized cotton. 

Often I'm asked, "How long did it take you to weave that?"  And most of the time I have to estimate the weaving time... on this one, however, I know that it has been on the loom for fourteen days and that during that time I've been gone for eight days.  I've woven on the piece each of the days I've been here, even if only a few minutes on a couple of those days.  So... that's six days of weaving on this piece that's 12" h x 8" w, 10 epi, an average of four hours each day--that would be about 24 hours of weaving time.  Of course, the design is quite simple so I could weave more quickly than if it had more complex shapes.  

I don't really think about time it will take to complete when I start a piece... but, like I said, I'm often asked about the time involved.  Of course, putting weft into warp doesn't account for the time I spent doing the feather drawings originally (an hour or so each) or the time spent looking at them and deciding how to arrange them in the tracing from which I wove.  Then there are all those years of drawing classes and the workshops in tapestry weaving... how do all of those factor into the time I spent weaving this little tapestry?!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Inspiration from crows

Today I've made a bit of a change in the path that the feather tapestry was taking, inspired by a flock of crows (oops, is that a murder of crows?) making quite a ruckus outside the studio.  I think they were demanding to be part of the tapestry -- and so I listened.

I've worked with crows in tapestry in the past--in the mid-1990s, in fact.  One of my crow tapestries was selected for the Fiberarts Design Book V-- if you've got the book, look on page 172.  I wove at least five tapestries at that time with crows as featured subjects.  Two of the pieces were pretty large, about 54" square for the one in the book, and around 60" h x 36" w for another one.  The other three pieces were smaller ones.   Those were all done in the days before digital images.  I've got slides of most of the pieces but haven't scanned them.

Once again considering feathers, birds, and the inspirations that they can give is a good shift in thinking for me.  Thank you, crows, for coming to remind me of things I'd forgotten.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Moving along on the tapestry diary

Traveling again has put a dent in the daily weaving of the diary. We've recently been to Chicago, Milwaukee, Muncie, and Nashville on a trip to see exhibits. Those days away are represented by the 5X near the top left of the diary. We were back by late on the 14th so I was able to put that day in, then I was gone for the next two days for meetings in Asheville... hence, the 2X. I returned yesterday so was able to get 17 woven and I've just finished for the day: 18. I'm really enjoying adding the soumak to the methods I'm able to use. The linear qualities available with soumak are so freeing.

Here's the January and February, to date, diary before I advanced the warp this morning.

And... later today I'm editing this post to include what I've done today at the studio.  And that was to weave the second of the three feathers:

I hope the third will be finished tomorrow.  I've got ideas for the next feather tapestry already bubbling to the surface!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New Directions...

January was a month of challenges.  I left home for about two weeks early in the month when we had trees cut at our house.  Lots of trees.  About 50 trees.  They were Leland Cypress trees and we planted them in 1996.  In the years since they'd grown to over 40 feet high and were a wonderful, lush green screening around our back yard.  Until a year or so ago when they started dying.  According to a person supposedly in the know about tree life and death, the disease that was effecting them couldn't be arrested at this point.  So we had to take them out.

Trees have been one of my themes in art work for many years now.  It hurt my heart to know these trees were beyond saving and so, as a Hambidge Fellow, I was able to arrange a stay at Hambidge Center even through it isn't official residency season there during the winter.  That way I was able to leave town, leaving my husband to listen to the chain saws and chipper that ran for about a week.  Yes, I know, one can't always run away from what's unpleasant and hurtful.  This time, however, I did.

My stay at Hambidge was very, very good.  I was able to complete some things that needed to be done--both weaving and writing tasks.  The stay there was interrupted for a long weekend when I came home so my husband and I could travel to Nashville to see the Howard Finster exhibit there before it ended.  Then I went back to Hambidge for almost another week.  Oh -- and there was a trip to Asheville thrown in there when I went to the Southern Highland Craft Guild's Folk Art Center for a meeting in the middle of the month.

And the John Campbell Folk School class that I wrote about several days ago happened at the end of January.  When I counted the away days in the tapestry diary I found that I was gone for 17 out of the 31 days of January.  What a way to start off the new year--more days away than at home!

So here are a few things that are happening that are new directions for me and that the challenging month of January helped to bring about.  First, this piece that was done while at Hambidge:

The trees, of course, aren't new subject matter but the technique is, for me.  The "windows" that are in color are woven in twice the sett as the background natural color area.  I've never done more than a little bit of sampling with splitting the sett before but wanted to tackle it for this weaving.  Another difference with this piece, also, is that I didn't use a cartoon.  I had loose sketches of trees that I'd do each day while at Hambidge and I'd look at the sketch as it lay nearby to do the weaving.  The shapes, of course, are quite simplified and so that was possible to do quite easily.  The sett for the tree areas is 8 epi and the background/border area is about 4 epi.  The natural color is 12/18 cotton seine twine used two fold, in fact.  I didn't have white or natural wools with me so used what I had.  And I liked the roughness and boldness of the seine twine--an interesting contrast to the more delicate wool for the landscape/tree areas.

A second new direction is to follow up with the ideas that began to percolate while at the Folk School... the use of soumak to make linear effects in the tapestry.  I'd tried it out on a simplified tree that I showed in the earlier post but yesterday I decided to try it with some of my drawings of feathers.

I've got quite a few drawings of feathers in my sketchbooks and I decided to use tracing paper to copy basic lines from a few of those and to combine them to use as a cartoon.  I'm using soumak to "draw" the lines and a natural color as the background for the lines.  The sett is 10 epi of 12/6 gray cotton seine twine and the weft is several strands of linen/silk for the natural color and the same + a sort of graphite gray mercerized cotton as the line color.  I wove the first feather in about 3 hours today and I'm hoping to be able to weave the second one tomorrow.

All of these things make me happy... new directions to explore in my work and, I hope, a fresh way to look at what I choose to weave.  I learned while at my class at the Folk School that my work was rejected from the ATB9 exhibit but this time around I simply do not care.  I have less and less regard for the ability of jurors to make selections than I once did.  I hope my work will continue to grow and change and I have always chosen to enter whatever is my current concepts and approach.  Perhaps that isn't a good way to do it but that's my choice.  So, when ATB10 rolls around, maybe I'll enter or maybe not.  But I will always know that I am not weaving for a juror... I am weaving what needs to be done--from my heart. 

P.S. Check out Kathe Todd-Hooker's books, Line in Tapestry, Shaped Tapestry, and Tapestry 101 for lots of great info about a variety of methods for adding zest to your tapestry!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Moving along with the Tapestry Diary for 2012

January and the first four days of February, 2012

This process of acknowledging and and honoring each day that I live by weaving a bit of tapestry has become more than an addiction for me now--it's a necessity.  I'm now into the fifth year of this habit, if I count my Month of May, 2008, the first time I attempted the daily practice.

Now, what makes something a "necessity?"  A "compulsive power...." says my little paperback Webster's Dictionary.  I find that having a few minutes devoted to weaving a distinct bit, starting it and completing it each day, gives me an immense sense of accomplishment.  Yes, the bit I've woven is perhaps only 2" square, more or less.  But I followed through with what I've intended to do.  One more step in meeting an obligation--even if the obligation is one that I've set for myself.

Some of the qualities I value most in people are these:  honesty, dedication, loyalty, persistence.  I would like to know that I have some of these qualities.  By attending to my tapestry diary each day, at least I exhibit persistence.

Gray, damp, foggy today, the 4th of February.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Home again, Home again...

My, how time flies!  The month of January of this new year has already flown past and here we are, being swept away into February already... so much to catch up on and so much to do.

So... here goes with some bits and pieces of life as I know it.

First, the John C. Campbell Folk School class that I taught last week + weekend was just wonderful.  Seven students were with me in the class and all brought her own special personality to the mix of the week.  We "meshed" well, as one of the students put it.  My focus for the class was to introduce a few techniques beyond the meet and separate basics that I usually cover.  I advertised the class as sort of "doodling" with the techniques to see how the methods might work in planned ways in the future.  I'd asked that all of the students who came to the class know how to warp their looms and to have woven a bit of tapestry.  As it turned out, all the class participants have had sessions with me in the past, either at JCFS or elsewhere.  So they knew what to expect from me and I did from them, as well.

On the first morning, everyone warped their looms and were ready to begin weaving by the afternoon.  On each of the next days of the week, I introduced a different technique, beginning with good old pick and pick.  Eccentric weft followed on Tuesday, then soumak on Wednesday, twining on Thursday.  On Friday I included several options: weft chaining, rya, and clasped wefts.  Because this class was a week + weekend class, that meant we had a full other day (Saturday) for working.  We ended the class on Sunday morning with the show & tell of all students in the Keith House at 11:30.

Here are just a few photos from the many I took during the week.  They were so willing to jump in and try anything I suggested and that made the class exciting for everyone, in my opinion.

We began each morning with a "field trip" around the room to see each person's progress from the day before.

The daily morning walk-around gave us time to share ideas.

Overview of the room with a few folks at work

Phyllis's loom with previously planned cartoon and weaving underway.

Wonderful textures in Mary K's second piece.

Lots of eccentric weft, twining, and vertical soumak going on in Nancy's second piece.

Joann had a great idea for splitting off the size of the weft in vertical twining to make thinner lines in the tree branches.

Mary W's color sense is just beautiful... this is her second piece of the week.

Kirsten responded to the journey of the tapestry sampler and it turned into a story of time and space and place, or so it seemed to some of us.

Sidsel worked in tiny threads, blending beautiful blues for ocean and sky.

We proudly displayed our work on Sunday morning... a slide show of photos of working process throughout the week was running so visitors could see the weavers in action, as well as the finished and nearly finished work.  Yes, there are weavings at top and bottom of some looms!  That's a great way to save time and waste less warp... turn the loom over and weave from the other end.

And here's the wonderful group of weavers... L to R: Joann, Mary K., Mary W., Nancy B.  Sidsel M., Tommye, and Kristen M.

As I worked with Joann to see how the thinning of the weft would work for the vertical twining, I found that the method of either twining or soumak being taken in a vertical or almost vertical way could be very flexible.  Here's a small sampling I did on my demo loom.  I'm going to be exploring the use of a linear approach more in the near future--I want to see how I might be able to interpret some of my line drawings through this approach.  Quite exciting for me to branch out from good old meet and separate.  

More later...