Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Hambidge experience—once again.


I’ve been so fortunate through the past two decades to spend time at the Hambidge Center in artist residencies and become a Fellow of Hambidge.  As a Fellow, I’ve occasionally been able to fill in when someone has had to cancel their time.  This December one of those opportunities came up.  I went to Hambidge on December 1 but had obligations back at home for part of the time and so after a couple of days at the Center I went home for a long weekend.  I returned to Hambidge to spend December 6-13.

I was Margaret Studio this time and I haven’t stayed in Margaret before; it is compact, to say the least—the smallest studio on the property, about 250 sq. feet, I think.  The studio/apartment is at the left side of the photo and the screened pottery porch is at the right--more about that porch is below.


Panorama of Margaret Studio interior--cozy!
 I had room to set up a desk with my computer and printer (moved the laptop onto the top of the printer when I had meals or to do drawing…) and to put up my tapestry loom.  I brought along a folding table and a small rolling cart to hold yarns.  I had all that I needed in a working studio, in fact.


The other resident artists included several writers, a musician/composer, and a few other visual artists—eight of us during the week.  There’s always an interesting conversation around the dining room table in the evenings… that’s the only obligation of Hambidge residents—to come to the wonderful evening meal.  The rest of one’s time is spent in individual studios in any way one wishes.  Hambidge Center is a special gift to the artistic world and I’m grateful for every experience I’ve had there.

Dining room at the Rock House where we have evening meals.

Although I've been working with leaves quite a bit lately, while I was at Hambidge it was stones and the kiln bricks that began to catch my eye.  I made lots of photos of those on the property. 


My studio was just a few feet from the anagama kiln and the kiln bricks were one of the first things I noticed. 


During the week I completed a 6” square tapestry from a photo of some of the bricks in the chimney of the kiln.   

 I also began another 6” square from a photo of a detail of foundation stones at the Mary Hambidge house.  I’d like to complete several 6” x 6” tapestries based on other stone and brick photos I took while there. 


In the last few days I was photographed by one of the other residents, Jennifer Garza-Cuen, as part of her ongoing series about place and narrative.  The photo sessions were done at the side of the Mary Hambidge house with me in costume and with a prop chosen by Jennifer.  Maybe one day I’ll post a photo from that session, with her permission.  Here’s Jennifer’s website:

Jennifer also photographed me with my tapestry loom.  Spaces, especially larger and more empty ones, are important to her compositions and the loom photos were taken in the large and mostly empty screened porch of the pottery studio.   



Although I worked inside most of the time I was there, the last couple of days were warm enough so that I could actually take the loom out to the porch and weave there—and I wouldn’t have even though of doing that without the photo session there!


Now I'm home and the holiday season activities are tumbling down all around.  Weaving time is curtailed for a few weeks but I appreciate everything I'm doing and everyone I'm seeing so much.  The loom will wait for me.

Happy Holidays to one and all!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Beginning again... an oxymoron?

Well, maybe.  Yet a tapestry maker always has to begin again.  Tapestry is finished.  New warp goes on the loom, design is made (or sometimes that works in reverse--design first and then warp to fit the image), wefts chosen and one starts.  The empty warp gets filled up and hidden in the multi-part wefts that will create the resulting "picture in the rug."  The quote is from an elderly aunt who once when seeing a tapestry I'd woven of my grandmother ooh-ed and ah-ed over it, then said, "Now how did you get the picture in the rug?"  Needless to say, I was a bit stumped about how to explain it.  And I guess I've been trying ever since to help people who aren't familiar with tapestry weaving (or any weaving, for that matter) understand the process.

This time around, my new beginning is based on a painting I did while at the recent Lillian E. Smith Center residency.  I wrote about that image as it developed at this blog post.  I started weaving on the piece a few weeks ago and in the past couple of days have gotten to the point of major decisions about how to tackle the large expanse of background that's to be light--not quite white, not quite tan but something of both of those in light values.  I'm not trying to replicate the marks of the charcoal and paint that were in the original version on canvas but I want to activate the background in a way that is visually interesting and that also shows the marks and making process of weaving.

Here's how it looked on the loom yesterday afternoon when I left the studio:

The piece is 60" on the loom with a warp of 12/18 cotton seine twine, sett at 6 epi.  The cartoon is a simple line drawing of the shadow and leaf shapes from the original.

A closer view of what I'm going to do... I think.  I've woven in and taken out several inches so far but I think that this is the approach I'll be using throughout the background, different types of yarns used as wefts and woven in diagonal directions that sometimes reverse to form diamonds.  The small slits at the turns show up as tiny spots of shadow.  The slight differences in value and hue of the light neutral wefts give the background visual interest--at least that's what I'm hoping will happen and so far, seems to be working the way I want.

The weft is primarily wool but I'm also using hemp, linen, a silk-linen blend, and cotton bundled together.  Some of the yarns are quite small (the hemp, linen and a couple of the cottons) so I have 8-10 strands together in some bundles.  I'm using 4 strands of the wool.  When I combine the other materials with the wool, the number in the bundle varies.

It feels good to have a way forward.  A new beginning.  Again.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reception for exhibit tonight--and article just published

There will be a reception at 5:30 this afternoon for my small exhibit.  All the ducks are in a row for it... well, almost.  At least the rains have passed and it's a beautiful day. 

Coincidentally, an article I'd written for the British Tapestry Group's publication, Tapestry Weaver, was in the mailbox a couple of days ago.  In the article I'd discussed the designing process for the pieces that are in the exhibit and how important artist retreat experiences have been to my work.  Here's a scan of the article:

I've written before about how I value the times I've been able to spend in a residency.  I've had many stays at Hambidge Center and also at Lillian E. Smith Center.  Both are located in the beautiful north Georgia mountains that I dearly love.  I've applied to other residencies in quite different geographical locations, unsuccessfully so far--but I'll keep looking.  One of the things I'd like very much to do is find a residency situation in a large city.  NYC would be my dream place to go for an extended time to work in a totally different environment.  Chicago wouldn't be too bad, either!  An urban environment is so alien to my day-to-day life.  Sounds, smells, shapes--all would be totally different.  So would access to museums and galleries; days spent looking at art works without having to rush.  Keep looking and dreaming, I guess.  And applying when something comes up.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Leaf Fall--exhibit at University of North Georgia

Reception is 5:30--not later, as I'd mentioned in the previous post.

I have most of the exhibit up, just have details to attend to and then I'm back to the loom for the next tapestry to get moving along.  I glad to have the opportunity to show these paintings and the first tapestry based on the work I did while at Lillian Smith Center in early September.  Even thought the University schedule is such that the exhibit won't be open daily (Thanksgiving week is out) I'm still happy to see the paintings hanging.  Maybe a few people will get to see the work and give me some feedback!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Finished and ready to show

I completed the tapestry today with a warp finishing technique that Peter Collingwood calls "woven edge" and that's found in his book, The Techniques of Rug Weaving.  The book is my go-to for finishing methods for weft-faced weaving--as well as many other things, including soumak.  Here's a link to the section of the book in which the edge treatment is found in the online digital archives of weaving publications.  The woven edge description begins on page 497.

The tapestry is 29" high x 19.25" wide, with a linen warp sett at 8 epi.  The weft is wool and linen.  It will be shown with the painting on which it was based, and several other paintings made while I was at Lillian Smith Center in early September, in a small exhibit at the gallery in Hansford Hall at the University of North Georgia.  A reception will be on November 19 at 6:30 p.m. 

Tomorrow I hope to start on the next piece.  Maybe!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Cutting off a tapestry--always a happy occasion!

Yesterday I was happy indeed to finish the last of the border at the top of the tapestry that's been on the loom for over a month.  It's based on one of the paintings I made while I was at Lillian Smith Center in early September--

I described the stages of this painting in the post of September 8th.  It was the last large one I made while I was there and the first one I've used as a basis for tapestry.

I had a 20" wide linen warp on the loom, one I'd put on awhile back long enough to do a couple of tapestries.  I decided that the leaf cluster at the left side would be what I'd weave.  The painting was much larger than the warp width, so to make the image smaller I photographed it then resized and cropped the image.   I decided to use an approximate 3" border on all sides and I was going to weave that without a particular plan so I didn't need to include that in the cartoon.  That allowed me to make the leaf image 19" long x 12 3/4" wide.

I cropped the 19" x 12 3/4" image into four parts, printed those and then taped them together to make the size needed for weaving.

I printed a smaller version of the image that I put on the side of the loom to refer to sometimes while weaving--and the larger painting was behind the loom so I could also glance it when I needed to think about color choices when combining wefts.

I used warm and cool grays for the patterning of the border, starting out with remains of wefts from a tapestry called Because of Memory that I wove last year--also inspired by the Lillian Smith Center surroundings.  The background of the leaf cluster is made with random patterning of squares and rectangles of whites and light gray wool, with which I combined a single strand of thin linen from Silvia Heyden's yarns (I'd bought a lot of her yarns from her daughter earlier this year).  By including the yarn from Silvia I like to think that she was with me as I wove this tapestry--just as I feel Lillian Smith has been there with me in many ways as I find inspiration when spending days at the Center that bears her name.
Here's a closer view of the back side of the tapestry... see the thin white linen among the wools?

I finished the half-hitch to hold in the last of the weft late yesterday afternoon.  I unrolled it to be able to cut it from the top--in the photo you can see the difference in the size of the original painting behind the loom at the left and the tapestry.

I'll be putting in more hours before the tapestry is really finished... but taking a tapestry off the loom is always a happy occasion.  I'm always excited to see how the whole piece actually appears.  Yes, I see it as it grows but because I roll it up as the inches build I don't have an overall view until the cutting off.  

Today I spent time trimming weft ends and giving the tapestry a steam pressing.  Tomorrow I'll unpin it and begin the next stage or finishing off the warp ends.  After that will come mounting for framing.

And in the meantime, the next warp is ready to go!  I'm eager to start it and see where it takes me over the months ahead--leading me on to the next happy occasion of cutting off a tapestry.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Framing for tapestries

New and older tapestries--all framed now!

A couple of years ago I decided that many of my tapestries, even larger ones, look much better with a presentation more akin to that used for a painted canvas.   I've started using float (or floater) frames and having the pieces professionally done, after I stitched them to a mounting board, at Caroline Budd Picture Framing in Atlanta.  In the last post there was a photo as I was finishing up the bloodroot tapestry by stitching it onto the mounting board to get it ready to take to Caroline's.  Well... shortly after that was completed I stepped back to looked and realized much to my disappointment that the mounting board wasn't quite the right size.   It was too long by about 1/2" and too much of the mounting fabric showed at top and bottom.  Not much but still ... it wasn't right.

Well, after a major hissy fit and melt down (yes, it's possible to have both over something as seemingly unimportant as a tapestry mounting mistake) my husband convinced me to take the whole damn thing to the professionals.  And I did.  I turned it all over to their textile expert who works with fabrics and framing all the time.  She's also an textile artist so she totally understands not only the details for preparing textiles for framing but she also appreciates the work that goes into creation of pieces that come to her hands for her expert treatment.

My husband picked them up today and I was thrilled with the result.  Absolutely amazed at how a piece I completed in 2008 has now taken on a new presence and life by being mounted and placed in a float frame.  The quilt piece that I finished in 2011 has now been framed, as well.  And the hissy fit piece--the one that started this?  The bloodroot tapestry that I completed this summer now has a wonderful presentation in the float frame, mounted carefully onto a mounting board that's the RIGHT size for the piece.

These tapestries will be hanging somewhere here at our house in the future.  Right now they're going to sit where I can admire the framing job!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Well... time passes, doesn't it?

It's been over a month since I saw this beautiful sight on the last morning I spent at Lillian Smith Center--

Many days and quite a few miles have passed by since then but I'm still basking in the sunlight of that mountain top experience.  I hope I'll be spending time there once again in the future.  It's truly a special place.

Between then and now I've had a chance to see folks I grew up with when we had a class reunion.  I've gone to Asheville a couple of times--once to have photos done at Tim Barnwell's studio and another time to visit the Southern Highland Craft Guild fall show and to spend a couple of days at friends' place near Sapphire, NC (and photograph their bounty of Yates apples and some of the glorious surroundings).

I've finished the bloodroot tapestry mounting; started a tapestry based on a painting done while at the Lillian Smith Center and am almost finished with it; warped the large loom with a 60" wide warp to do a piece from another painting completed at the Center;

I've also taught a brief intro to tapestry for the weaving class at the university:

Oh... and had my tires rotated and oil changed.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Lillian Smith Center, I miss you already! And I haven't even left yet.

Day ten ends here at this wonderful place.  The light is getting lower... still not dusk but getting there.  Or as Bob Dylan might say, "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there"

Times of leaving home and family are bittersweet, whether I'm going to a retreat like this one or to teach a class.  Then the times of leaving the place I've been are also bittersweet.  I love being at home but I also love times away when I can see things anew, spread out, make messes and inconvenience only me if I leave them where I stopped working for the day.  And my work places can spill over into living spaces.  No TV.  Internet here at the Center in my cottage but that's a new feature since Piedmont College has taken over the place.   That's not often easily available in places I go to teach or have retreats--hasn't been before here at Lillian Smith Center.  Maybe that's a good thing.  Every minute of time I'm spending on the computer searching for what the particular oak tree was that I found leaves from the other day, or reading, posting, sharing and commenting at Facebook are more minutes away from the "real" work I need to do.

I'm not quite sure why I was called to do the work I do.  However, I realized a few years back, with tears falling as I came to a recognition in myself, while talking to a dear friend when he revealed he'd finally realized he was "an academic" and that was OK.  Suddenly, at that moment I realized I'm an "artist" -- always have been whether I knew or acknowledged it or not -- and that's the work of my life.  No... as I've mentioned before... I'm not an artist who's the once in a generation type.  Like Georgia O'Keeffe or like Frida Kahlo.  No, I'm only a person who has finally, as she nears the end of a sixth decade of life, realized that what makes me happiest and feeling the most purposeful in the world is when I can look around me and try, as best I can, to record the world that I see.  And only hope that some of reverence and awe I feel about the sacredness of being able to exist in the world might show in my work, whether it be drawing, painting or my tapestries.

This morning I had a beautiful gift from a tapestry friend.  She was kind enough to write me about a recent Facebook debacle.  I'd posted a rant about a current candidate for the 2016 presidential race who'd made yet another, in my mind, particularly ludicrous statement.  I was then so mortified that I'd gone ballistic like I had.  I was taught, as many of us are, "If you can't say anything good (kind, positive, etc.) then don't say anything at all." Well, I don't always keep that adage in mind.  I certainly didn't this time!  The next day after having it bother me all night,  I posted an apology for the raving post, deleted them and declared I was going to deactivate my FB account.  I had many lovely and kind words from many folks encouraging me to stay around and so I decided I would do that.  And just zip my lip when I read something I find particularly upsetting.  But as a result of this I'm taking kind words to heart and appreciating them so much.  Here's one of many lovely thoughts sent my way...

Elizabeth Buckley, wonderful tapestry artist who lives in NM, wrote this to me:
"As artists we need to be very protective of our head and heart space, our way of tuning in and being present to our environment and to the sources of inspiration, of beauty, and that to which we respond in awe.  How we are able to make the world a better place through our artwork, our teaching, our keeping alive another way of viewing and being present to life--all of this is dependent on our ability to stay connected and clear, tuned in to the pulse of life beneath the chaos and negativity.  I think this is so crucial now more than ever." (italics mine...)
This was such an affirmation of what probes at my spirit all the time... there is a pulse of life beating always in the world, in spite of our human conceits and frailties.  Elizabeth put it so beautifully.

Then, back on Facebook later today I saw a post by a wonderful writer, Candice Dyer.  She'd posted Mary Oliver's poem, Wild Geese, which I'd never seen before.  The poem seemed to be to touch a bit on that very indefinable I'm seeking when I look at the world around me, particularly the small parts.

Thank you both Elizabeth and Candice, for today's affirmations and inspirations!  And thank you, world of north Georgia, for having such a beautiful place to exist within.

Photos from today:

Finished this drawing of a hickory nut I'd started last night.

Saw mushrooms pushing up through the gravel when I walked...
... found a cluster of eight poplar leaves on the road as I walked... Fibonacci again.

Photographed a couple of the many beautiful pine cones in the yard.
Became entranced with gravel.
I've gotten the car loaded... this is just a preview of the rest of the stuff I put in afterwards--and more tomorrow!

Later this afternoon I finally took time to sit in one of the rocking chairs on the Peeler Cottage porch where I've sat many times in the past and drawn or painted.  Here's a sketch from several years ago:

And here's what I did today:

 These are in a "tree" book I got from Alice Schlein in late 2011.  It's a handmade book with one of Alice's beautiful photos of trees as the cover.  Most of the drawings and paintings I've done in it are of trees.  I love the book and it's almost full now.  I have some notes from meetings at the back of it and I'll probably gesso over those to be able to use all the pages for images.  Once I use those it will be time to get another of Alice's books!

And now, it's pouring rain here; it's not dark yet, but it's (really) getting there.  I've got to end my postings at this retreat time at Lillian Smith Center with a photo of the red door, of course.  Once again, thank you, Nancy Smith Fichter and Robert Fichter; John Siegal and John Templeton; Craig Amason and Piedmont College, and especially Ms. Lillian E. Smith, for a wonderful retreat center for artists.